Elsijane Roy, University of Arkansas, School of Law, Arkansas State Department of Revenue, Supreme Court of ArkansasThe journey towards gender equality within the Arkansas legal profession was slow to progress, as it was in most states across the nation. In 1873 the all-male state legislature voted to restrict the legal profession to men only. This law held until 1917, which was shortly after the legislature granted women the right to vote1.

Lizzie Fyler of Eureka Springs is the first documented woman to have practiced law in the state. She studied within a local law firm, but was turned down when she applied to the bar in 1882. In 1885, the Fourth Circuit judge allowed Fyler to practice in his court by way of a constitutional provision that provided a needed loophole. 

The first licensed female lawyer in Arkansas was Sarah Shields, in 1918. She was a graduate of the Kentucky Law School, moved to Hope to practice, but soon left for another state.

Arguably the most accomplished female across the history of Arkansas’ legal profession is Elsijane Roy (pictured). Roy, a Lonoke, Arkansas native, earned a Juris Doctor from the University of Arkansas School of Law in 1939. From 1939 through 1965, Roy spent time in private practice, as an attorney for the Arkansas State Department of Revenue, and a Supreme Court of Arkansas law clerk. Then in 1966, she became the first female appointed as a judge in Arkansas. Roy’s career peaked as an Associate Justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court, and then in 1977 when she was nominated by President Jimmy Carter to a joint seat on the United States District Court.2

While the gender of lawyers in Arkansas certainly still skews male, much has been accomplished, and more will be accomplished!

1 https://www.pressreader.com/usa/arkansas-democrat-gazette/20151101/283665413637648
2 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_first_women_lawyers_and_judges_in_Arkansas



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