This spring, two trailblazing female attorneys will be inducted into the Alabama Women’s Hall of Fame. The ceremony will take place at the University of West Alabama and honor the lives and legacies of Mahala Dickerson and Alice Lee.
Both Lee and Dickerson are considered trailblazers in the field of law, challenging social barriers and pioneering change in gender and racial equality.
Alice Lee, sister of author Harper Lee, became one of Alabama’s first female lawyers in 1943. Five years later, Mahala Dickerson became the state’s first black female lawyer.
Born in Monroeville in 1911, Lee graduated from Huntington College in Montgomery and worked as editor of The Monroe Journal before making the decision to enter a profession largely dominated by men at the time– law. After graduating from the Birmingham School of Law, she began working as an attorney at her father’s law firm.
Following the success of “To Kill a Mockingbird” in 1960, Harper Lee became a household name among American novelists and a highly sought-after interview candidate for journalists. As her sister’s attorney, Alice Lee was well-known as the guardian of her iron-clad stance on privacy.
Alice Lee retired in 2011 at the age of 100, making her the oldest practicing female attorney in the US at the time. Lee, who died in 2014 at 103 years old, will join the Hall of Fame alongside her sister who was inducted in 2019.
Born into deeply segregated Montgomery in 1912, Dickerson traveled to Nashville where she graduated from Fisk University with honors. Then, she went to Howard University School of Law in Washington, D.C., graduating with honors as one of only four women in her class.
In 1948, she became the first black female attorney admitted to the Alabama State Bar. She practiced in Montgomery and Tuskeegee for three years until her career took her to Indianapolis, Indiana and she eventually settled in Anchorage, Alaska.
In 1959, Dickerson became Alaska’s first black attorney and one of only a handful of women practicing in the state. Her law practice often specialized in cases regarding civil rights, worker’s rights and women’s rights.
One of her most notable cases was an equal pay lawsuit on behalf of a female professor at the University of Alaska, one of the first cases concerning the wage gap between male and female professors at an American university.
The Alabama Women’s Hall of Fame induction will take place March 2 at 10:30 A.M. at the University of West Alabama auditorium in the Math and Science Building. The event is free and open to the public.
There will also be a luncheon afterward. Reservations are required and tickets will be $50. For more information about the ceremony or luncheon, contact Burnes at firstname.lastname@example.org or (205) 652-3856.
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