Women Trailblazers

Women Trailblazers Project

Women Trailblazers in the Law: Our Visions, Our Voices

The Women Trailblazers in the Law Project (WTP) captures the oral histories of women pioneers in the legal profession nationwide, memorializing their stories in their own voices and preserving their experiences and observations for future generations.

The women who entered the legal profession in the 1970's and earlier faced blatant discrimination and a variety of unique challenges and dilemmas. It is this history that Women Trailblazers in the Law is preserving – as told by the women who lived it.

Search for the Oral Histories of Women Trailblazers

The Project has taken the oral histories of over a hundred senior women who have made important contributions to the law and have opened opportunities for other women in the profession. Chosen primarily for their accomplishments and contributions, the senior women interviewed are from all areas of the legal profession: the judiciary, academia, law firms, government, corporations, and public interest organizations.  They are in cities and towns across the country.  Interviewing them are lawyer volunteers, selected and trained by the Project, who live in their communities.

The Women Trailblazers Project is unique.  While there are oral histories of women, including women attorneys, in libraries and archives scattered across the country, the Women Trailblazers Project is the only comprehensive nationwide project devoted exclusively to capturing, recording, and preserving the complete life histories of pioneering women lawyers as told by the women themselves.

The WTP collection is housed at two repositories: the Library of Congress and the Schlesinger Library at Harvard.

Now sponsored by the ABA’s Senior Lawyers Division (SLD), the Project was initiated by Brooksley Born, Chair of the ABA’s SLD Women Trailblazers Project Committee, and Linda Ferren, its Project Director, under the sponsorship of the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession. The Project is a Collaborative Research Project between the ABA and the American Bar Foundation.

Videos Featuring Womens Trailblazers Project

View C-SPAN Women Trailblazers in the Law Videos

Book Featuring Womens Trailblazers Project

Stories from Trailblazing Women Lawyers: Lives in the Law describes the lives and careers, triumphs and tribulations of senior women lawyers and judges as recounted in oral histories included in the Women Trailblazers Project’s collection.  This fascinating account of the experiences of women entering a male-dominated legal profession as featured in the collection was written by Jill Norgren, professor emerita of CUNY, and was published by New York University Press in May 2018.

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Articles Featuring Women Trailblazers Project

Memorializing the Work and Lives of Women Trailblazers in the Law 
Voice of Experience, Vol. 21, No. 1 (2009)
By Brooksley Born and Linda Ferren

The Rules of Engagement: How Women Attorneys Broke Law’s Glass Ceiling
Voice of Experience, Vol. 25, No. 2 (2013)
By Jill Norgren

A Message from the Chair: Meet Our Trailblazers
Voice of Experience (January 2016)
By Louraine C. Arkfeld

Feature: Women Trailblazers Project
Voice of Experience (January 2016)

Member Spotlight: Brooksley Born
Voice of Experience (January 2016)

You Can't Keep a Good Woman Down
Voice of Experience (June 2018)
By Norm Tabler

Women Who’ve Blazed Trails
Experience Magazine, Vol. 3. No. 3 (June/July 2018)
By Michael J. Van Zandt, Lee Smalley Edmon, Richard M. Leslie, and James L. Schwartz

Women Worth Knowing
Experience Magazine, Vol. 3. No. 3 (June/July 2018)
By Michael J. Van Zandt


The Women Trailblazers in the Law Project is a public service program of the ABA’s Senior Lawyers Division and Commission on Women in the Profession, who who are indebted to the generous financial support of its donors.

Trailblazer Obituary

Miriam E. Wolff, a lawyer and judge who was the first woman port director of the Port of San Francisco, died on August 27, 2018, in Los Gatos, California.  She was 102 years old.