Phoebe Couzins

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Phoebe Wilson Couzins
Phoebe W Couzins.jpg
Phoebe W. Couzins, ca. 1904
Personal details
Born(1842-09-08)September 8, 1842
St. Louis, Missouri
DiedDecember 6, 1913(1913-12-06) (aged 71)
St. Louis, Missouri
Resting placeBellefontaine Cemetery
ResidenceSt. Louis, Missouri
Alma materWashington University in St. Louis
Phoebe Couzins

Phoebe Wilson Couzins (September 8, 1842 – December 6, 1913)[1] was one of the first female lawyers in the United States. She was the second licensed attorney in Missouri and the third or fourth licensed attorney in the United States, and was admitted to the Missouri, Kansas, and the Dakota Territory bars.[2] She was the first female appointed to the U.S. Marshal service.[3]

Early life[edit]

Couzins was born to Adaline and John E.D. Couzins. John Couzins was the chief of police during the Civil War in St. Louis, Missouri. In 1884 he was appointed U.S. marshal of the Eastern District of Missouri by President Chester Arthur. Her mother was active in charity work and volunteered as a nurse during wartime. She actively contributed to the movement for women's suffrage.[4] Phoebe and Adaline were both members of the St. Louis Woman Suffrage Association, where Phoebe drew attention as a public speaker. They also belonged to the Ladies' Union Aid Society.

In 1869, Phoebe began her studies at Washington University in St. Louis law school and earned her L.L.B degree in 1871. Couzins became the first [5] woman in the United States to graduate from a law school. She was also the first female graduate of Washington University.[6] Couzins was licensed to practice law in the federal courts, Missouri, Arkansas, Utah, and Kansas. However, she chose a career in public speaking.


Even prior to beginning her studies, she was the Missouri delegate to the American Equal Rights Association meeting in New York. After graduating and establishing a practice in St. Louis, she wrote articles for Elizabeth Stanton and Susan B Anthony's publication, "The Revolution." Then, instead of practicing law, she rose to prominence as a suffragist. Like Stanton and Anthony, she opposed the Fifteenth Amendment. Couzins was described as a riveting orator and lectured across the United States. In 1884, she testified before the U.S. House Judiciary Committee on the legal status of women.[7]

The National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA) and the American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA) merged in 1890, and Phoebe was outspoken in her support of the NWSA leadership. This antagonized women in both organizations, locally and nationally. She also ruffled feathers as a Missouri representative on the Board of Lady Managers for the 1893 World's Columbia Exposition in Chicago. She had a job as secretary of the board, but attempted to dominate the meetings, and was fired. She sued for reinstatement, but lost.[6] Prior to her appointment to the Board of Lady Managers, she was a founding member of the Chicago women's group, the Queen Isabella Association.[8]

In 1887, Couzins became the first female U.S. Marshal in the country. In 1884, John Couzins became U.S. marshal for the Eastern District of Missouri and he made Phoebe one of his deputies.[6] Upon Phoebe's father's death in 1887, President Grover Cleveland appointed Phoebe interim marshal.[2][9] However, two months later, Phoebe was replaced by a man.[6]

Phoebe later changed positions and renounced woman suffrage and temperance, which was widely publicized in 1897. She then became a national lecturer and lobbyist for the United Brewers Association and actively protested prohibition. She lost her job with the Brewers Association in 1908, when she was about sixty-eight. She then returned to St. Louis, unemployed and disabled. She appealed to the federal government for a job and to the Brewers Association for aid. She also solicited friends for help. However, her friends support in 1913 came too late.[6]

Later years and death[edit]

Couzins died in St. Louis on December 6, 1913 in an unoccupied house at 2722 Pine Street and was mourned by only her brother and a few friends. Her funeral was attended by only six people.[6] She was buried at Bellefontaine Cemetery on December 8, 1913.


In 2000 Susan Frelich Appleton, J.D., was installed as the inaugural Lemma Barkeloo and Phoebe Couzins Professor of Law at the Washington University school of law.[10][11]


  1. ^ "Phoebe Couzins". Missouri Women's Council. Retrieved 2014-06-26.
  2. ^ a b Tokarz, Karen (2001). "Lemma Barkeloo and Phoebe Couzins: Among the Nation's First Women Lawyers and Law School Graduates". Washington University Journal of Law & Policy. 6. Retrieved February 22, 2016.
  3. ^ New York Times PHOEBE COUZINS DIES AT 72; First Woman Lawyer in United States Succumbs in Poverty.
  4. ^ "Couzins Family Papers" (PDF). Missouri History archives. February 2006. Retrieved September 12, 2016.
  5. ^ "June 15 Events in History". Retrieved 2014-06-26.
  6. ^ a b c d e f Corbett, Katharine T. (1999). In Her Place: A Guide to St. Louis Women's History. St. Louis, MO: Missouri History Museum.
  7. ^ "Phoebe Couzins (1839?-1913)". Picture History. Retrieved 2014-06-26.
  8. ^ Weimann, Jeanne Madeline (1981). The Fair Women. Academy Chicago. ISBN 0897330250.
  9. ^ "Phoebe Wilson Couzins". American National Biography Online. Retrieved 2016-02-23.
  10. ^ Nicholson, Ann. "Appleton first Barkeloo-Couzins professor; New chair honors two pioneering women lawyers". Washington University in St. Louis. Archived from the original on 2010-08-02. Retrieved 2014-06-26.
  11. ^ [1][dead link]