UVA Law Marks a Bicentennial, and Centennial of Coeducation

Photo collage of UVA Law women

Photo by Julia Davis

January 29, 2020

Two historical milestones are converging at the University of Virginia School of Law in the 2019-20 academic year: The school is celebrating 200 years since its 1819 founding, and 100 years since the school first admitted women, in 1920.

The centennial of coeducation also coincides with the centennial of American women gaining the right to vote. States met the three-fourths approval threshold needed to ratify the 19th Amendment on Aug. 18, 1920.

In addition to three UVA Lawyer magazine issues marking the occasions and commemorating the school’s history, new Law School displays celebrate the milestones. The entrance to Caplin Pavilion now showcases historical images of women at the Law School, and a new website dedicated to the history of the school is online.

Several events throughout this school year and into the next will also celebrate the bicentennial and centennial. The bicentennial celebration kicked off with a commemoration of Gregory H. Swanson, UVA and UVA Law’s first black student.

Here are the stories behind the entrance display:

Anne Coughlin and students

Formed in 2011, the Molly Pitcher Project advocated for women in the military to be eligible for combat roles by laying the groundwork for a federal discrimination lawsuit. By January 2013, the Defense Department lifted the ban on women in combat. Members of the project were Helen O’Beirne ’13, Professor Anne Coughlin, Ariel Linet ’13, Rebecca Cohn ’13 and Kyle Mallinak ’13.

Frances Farmer

Law librarian Frances Farmer, who later served as director of the library, became the first woman to teach at the Law School in 1943.

Ruth Mason

Professor Ruth Mason, an international tax expert, joined the faculty in 2013.


Women playing softball

Women play in a North Grounds Softball League game in 1979.


Elizabeth Tompkins

Elizabeth Tompkins became UVA’s first female law graduate, finishing near the top of the Class of 1923, after matriculating in 1920.

Elaine Jones

Elaine Jones ’70, the first black woman to graduate from the Law School, later served as director-counsel and president of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund from 1993-2003. She was the first woman to rise to the highest leadership role within the organization. She was the graduation speaker for the Class of 2004.

Students walking in Clay Hall

Students walk through Clay Hall in the fall of 2016.

Lillian BeVier

Professor Lillian R. BeVier joined the faculty in 1973 and later became the first woman to earn tenure at the Law School.

Members of Women of Color

Members of Women of Color, pictured in 2019, include Noreen Reza ’21, Jia Anderson ’21, Kunchok Dolma ’21, Doriane Nguenang ’21, Nicole Agama ’21, Zona Hijazi ’21 and Rani Shah ’21.

Janet Mary Riley

Janet Mary Riley LL.M. ’60, the first female law professor at Loyola University New Orleans, was also the first woman to obtain an LL.M. from UVA Law.

Nancy Sparks presents oral argument at Lile Moot Court competition

Petitioner Nancy Sparks ’76 presents her argument during the William Minor Lile Moot Court quarterfinal round.

M. Elizabeth Magill

M. Elizabeth Magill ’95, the first female vice dean at UVA Law, rejoined the faculty and became UVA’s first female provost in 2019 after serving as dean of Stanford Law School from 2012 to 2019.

UVA Law bicentennial/coeducation logo

The logo celebrates the bicentennial of the Law School’s founding and its centennial of coeducation.

Shivani Patel and Yeeji Park

Shivani Patel ’19 and Yeeji Park ’19 participate in commencement.

Jane Castor with classmates

Jane Caster ’56 was the first woman elected to the editorial board of the Virginia Law Weekly.

Innocence Project faculty

Katie Clifford ’15, Innocence Project Clinic Director and Professor Deirdre Enright ’92 and student team leader Mario Peia ’15 gather in the studio to discuss their participation in the “Serial” podcast.

Admission Director Carole Spears and students

Admissions Director Carole Spears (seated) poses with the staff of the Law School Admissions Office, circa 1976.

Katie Barber and Megan Lacy

Katie Barber ’15 and Megan Lacy ’10 clerked for the U.S. Supreme Court in the 2018 term.

Risa Goluboff and students

Risa Goluboff became the 12th, and the first female, dean of UVA Law in 2016.

Mildred Robinson

Mildred Robinson was hired in 1985 as the first tenured black female faculty member. She is retiring in May 2020.

Gail Marshall

Gail S. Marshall ’68 became the first female assistant professor on the full-time teaching faculty in 1969.

Alana Broe on Human Rights Study Project trip to Nepal

Alana Broe ’19 traveled with the Human Rights Study Project to Nepal in 2019.

Janet Napolitano

Janet Napolitano ’83 visited UVA Law to receive the Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medal in Law during her tenure as secretary of the Department of Homeland Security in 2010. She also served as governor of Arizona and was the state’s first female attorney general. She is now president of the University of California system.

Virginia Law Women members

The 1984-85 Virginia Law Women student organization included (lying) Sarah E. Kiefer ’87; (first row) Brenda C. Karickhoff ’86, Catherine E. Basham ’86, Valerie Robin Randolph ’87, Theresa Ruth Wagner ’87, Celeste Regina Redmond-Smith ’85, Elizabeth “Liz” Espín Stern ’86, Marcia L. Pope ’86, Mary Koelbel Engle ’86; (second row) Rosemary Daszkiewicz ’86, Sarah Collins Middleton ’87, Norman S. Cherner ’86, Blaise Supler ’85 and Katherine Ewing Slaughter ’86.

Monica Grover and Hamna Ahmad study in the Arthur J. Morris Law Library

Monica Grover ’20 and Hamna Ahmad ’20 study in the Arthur J. Morris Law Library in 2017.

Learn more about women at UVA Law in this UVA Lawyer timeline.

Founded in 1819, the University of Virginia School of Law is the second-oldest continuously operating law school in the nation. Consistently ranked among the top law schools, Virginia is a world-renowned training ground for distinguished lawyers and public servants, instilling in them a commitment to leadership, integrity and community service.

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