The Chicago Bar Association 150th Celebration

The Chicago Bar Association, founded in 1874, has officially begun the yearlong celebration of its 150th anniversary. As the CBA marks a century and a half of championing justice, building connections, and making an impact, we have much to look forward to. Members will enjoy special CLE offerings and programming throughout the year, culminating with a grand celebration on May 10 in the Great Hall at Union Station. You can keep abreast of upcoming events at I also hope you enjoy the historical recaps that will appear in 25-year increments in the next six issues of the CBA Record . The articles will examine the CBA’s storied history and share interesting factoids about our association. I look forward to seeing you at a celebratory event this year, Beth McMeen, CBA Executive Director

CBA 150th Anniversary Celebration The Early Years, 1874-1899 By Lynn S. Kopon

T his bar year, 2023–2024, marks the 150th anniversary of The Chicago Bar Association! The CBA Record will celebrate the anniversary in each bi monthly issue this bar year, beginning here with the first 25 years. The schedule of events to celebrate our anniversary year can be found at The celebration will culminate with a gala event in May 2024, presenting a special moment to consider our history, remem ber our responsibilities, and commit to our future. Formation The CBA was organized in 1873 with three founding principles: to maintain the honor and dignity of the profession, to cultivate social intercourse among its members, and to increase its usefulness in promoting the administration of justice. As we review our history, we understand how these principles have informed the CBA’s efforts over the years in champi oning justice, helping our members, and impacting our Chicago community. Today’s CBA is not the same associa tion that was brought to life 150 years ago on November 3, 1873, when 42 men met in downtown Chicago: All 42 put their signatures to a docu ment underscoring a solemn intent: ‘The undersigned members of the Bar of the City of Chicago, believing that the organized action and influ

ence of the legal profession, properly exerted, would lead to the creation of more intimate relations than now exist, and would… sustain the pro fession in its proper position in the community, and thereby enable it in many ways to promote its own inter ests and the welfare of the public, do hereby mutually agree to unite in forming an association for such pur poses.’ This quote and the ensuing historical information are attributed to journal ist and author Herman Kogan’s book on the CBA’s history (Kogan, Herman, T he First Century: The Chicago Bar Association 1874-1974, Rand McNally & Company, 1974). We are indebted to Kogan for this richly documented story of the first 100 years of our association. The Association’s constitution was signed on March 14, 1874. The found ing principles of the CBA (to maintain the honor and dignity of the profession and to promote the due administration of justice) were realized with the CBA’s early efforts to bring lawyers into the pro cess of selecting judges. Foremost in this participation was the desire to remove the selection of judges from the winds of politics and to select candidates based on honesty, ability, and impartiality. In 1873, leading members of the Bar joined with involved citizens to successfully back five incumbent judges in a contest with little

Cover of Association charter. Source: The Chicago Bar Association

political interference. These early efforts to protect our judiciary began a long and illustrious effort by the organized bar to foster and protect an impartial and capa ble judiciary. Myra Bradwell: First Woman to Pass the Illinois Bar Exam In stark contrast to today, there were no women lawyers in Chicago when the CBA was formed. Kogan’s history recounts the story of Myra Bradwell and her publica tion, Chicago Legal News. Bradwell advo cated for equal rights for women, women’s suffrage, property rights, barring discrimi nation in employment, and admission of women to law school. She studied law and passed the exam before the Circuit Court Judge in Chicago and was certified to the

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