3 pm to 5 pm
Towner Fellows’ Lounge
“Constructing a Female Dominion of Legal Aid: The Chicago Experience”
Felice Batlan, Illinois Institute of Technology-Kent College of Law
Chicago’s Protective Agency for Women and Children, founded in 1885, was one of the first organizations in the country devoted to providing free legal aid to the poor. Its elite and middle-class members were not trained lawyers but claimed that they had the authority to act as legal counsel, in part, based upon their class, gender, and whiteness. The PAWC defined broadly the legal services that poor women needed and understood such women’s exploitation as stemming from gendered institutional structures. Its vision and practices influenced and framed the larger development of legal aid organizations across the country, including the all-male Chicago Bureau of Justice. Yet a comparison of the two organizations demonstrates how differently professional lawyers as compared to women lay lawyers conceptualized legal aid, the efficacy of law, the legal system, and the legal profession.
Commentator: Joanna Grisinger, Northwestern University
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