Ohio Historical Marker: State's First Female Lawyers

In 1873, Tiffin's Cronise sisters became the first women admitted to the Ohio Bar. At that time, Ohio laws did not provide for the admission of women attorneys. On April 4th 1873, Nettie Cronise applied to the district court. Despite vigorous opposition, leading local attorneys, including William Harvey Gibson and George Seney, supported Nettie's applications. Ironically, at the same time as Nettie's admission, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed Illinois' denial of admission to the bar to another woman based upon gender. Regardless, Nettie opened the door for the admission of women to the bar of Ohio. Six months later, Florence, Nettie's younger sister, was admitted. Florence was also the first female notary public in the state. Together the sisters opened the first female-owned law practice in Ohio, N. & F. Cronise.

On August 24, 1874 Nettie married former classmate Nelson Lutes and in 1880 the two began to practice law together as Lutes & Lutes. Nettie and Nelson raised three daughters, Evlyn, Elinor, and Lillian. Evlyn became a lawyer and joined Lutes and Lutes in 1905, five years after Nelson's death. Nettie attended Heidelberg College and graduated from the State Normal School in Illinois. Florence graduated from Heidelberg College in 1865 and was named valedictorian of her class. The two sisters attended a national gathering in Chicago of women at the World's Columbian Exposition in 1893. At the end of the gathering, Florence was elected president of the new National League of Women Lawyers. Nettie, who was nominated for the position deferred the office in favor of her sister.


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