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Lena B. Wilcox Mason
Lena B. Wilcox Mason 1869-1958 Ohio Northern College of Law Class of 1896 Ohio Northern University's "First Lady of the Law"
Lena was born July 9, 1869, on a farm in Washington County, Iowa. Her family moved to Colorado when she was still a child, and she did not attend school until she was 10 years old. At age 11 she became a member of the Children's Temperance Society in High Point, Iowa. For two years she took the job of teaching their doctrine to younger children very seriously. She graduated from high school in Greeley, Colorado, at age 19.
By 1891, Lena was a teacher in Port Angeles, Washington, where she taught an excess of 60 children. This is where she met and married Scott Wilcox. Scott was also a teacher. In 1893 Lena and Scott moved to Akron, Ohio, because of the death of Scott's father. Scott taught at the Streetsboro, Ohio, high school in 1893 and 1894. During this time, Lena attended and graduated from Hammell's Business College in Akron.
Both Lena and Scott enrolled in the ONU College of Law and graduated in 1896. During this time the Ohio Revised Statutes required that in order to take the bar examination, one had to have regularly and attentively studied law, either in a law office or a law school, for at least three years. In fact, six of their fellow classmates were not allowed to take the bar examination because they had not studied the necessary time.
Lena did well in law school and was admired and respected by her classmates. Scott was the law school valedictorian, and Lena, despite continued ill health, was reported to have "kept pace with the best in her class." She also suffered an accident during this time where her hands were burned so severely that she unable to write for some time. It was necessary for another student to write for her at the bar exam.
Notwithstanding this, she was specially commended by the bar examiners for her excellent work. Lena's classmates chose her as class poetess and to speak for the law college at commencement. Her address was on "Personal Liberty," and the University Herald declared that the college could "well feel proud of its representative." This was at a time when a woman speaking in public was an extremely unusual occurrence.
After leaving law school, Lena and Scott returned to Washington and taught at various schools. She and Scott also separated during this time. By 1905 she was remarried to George Mason in British Columbia, Canada. Lena continued to teach, raise her children, nurse, sew, cook and any other work that was needed, yet, there is no written record that Lena ever practiced law. The odds are that she did not.
Throughout the rest of her life Lena was involved in many women's rights groups and extended her education further by reading and the learning of several languages. Lena died at age 89 in 1958 in Sequim, Washington.
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