Powell Archives Web Exhibits

Women of the Law Class of 1975: Co-educational Pioneers at W&L


Women of the Law Class of 1975: Co-educational Pioneers at W&L



Download Fabricator's final proof of the exhibit. (18.0 MB)

Download The law school student newspaper began publication at the same time as the arrival of women students. Here is the complete first issue. Also included are two pages with stories related to co-education from later issues. (8.1 MB)

Download The first six women students are picture among their male classmates in the 1972 W&L Law facebook. (129 KB)

Download The women and their male counterparts as they appeared in the Placement Edition of the W&L Law magazine, "The Lawyer." (447 KB)

Download Article on the arriving female students from a 1972 issue of "The Lawyer." (223 KB)

Download Program from 1975 W&L Commencement plus articles and photos from the alumni magazine of summer 1975. (668 KB)

Download Numbers of women law students at W&L during the early years of co-education. (44 KB)

Download Sally Wiant, pictured in her Tucker Hall office, became a part-time student -- she also was a full-time law library administrator -- in 1972 along with the six full-time female students. (76 KB)

Download More "The Law News" coverage of the first women law students. (19.3 MB)

Download "The Law News" stories -- and one from the undergraduate paper, "The Ring-Tum Phi" -- on activities and achievements of women law students through the end of the decade. (18.1 MB)

Download Despite formidable obstacles, women students and W&L Law took to each other. By 1977, 39 entering students — over a third of the class — were women. Today there is virtual gender parity. In 1974, Debra Yarbrough became the first African American female student, the same year that a Black Law Student Association chapter was established at W&L. (29 KB)

Download 1975 saw Deborah J. Susman become the first woman editorial board member of the Washington and Lee Law Review. (28 KB)

Download In 1976, Anne Unverzagt became the first woman to join the faculty. (63 KB)

Download By 1977, 13% of the student body was female. That year’s official list of student associations for the first time included the Women Law Students Organization. It no longer listed the Law Wives Association. That year also included the selection of Mary Kay Depoy as the first female member of the university’s Executive Committee and the first woman Editor-In-Chief of the Washington and Lee Law Review. For more on Ms. Depoy see https://scholarlycommons.law.wlu.edu/powell_webexhibits/3/ (29 KB)

Download Other leadership roles were a bit longer in coming. It was not until 1985 that Julie L. Gregory was the first female elected as president of the Student Bar Association. (30 KB)

Download Another 13 years would pass before Beth Formidoni 1996, 1999L, was elected as the first woman Executive Committee president at Washington and Lee University in 1998. (29 KB)

Download In 1993, Sally Wiant, class of 1975, became the first female faculty member to be awarded tenure. (43 KB)

Download Pamela J. White, of the law class of 1977, is thought to be the first W&L woman graduate to be elevated to the bench. In 2007, she was named Associate Judge, Eighth Circuit Court, Baltimore City. (33 KB)

Download A previously unknown aspect of co-education coming to W&L Law, is the role played by Ruth Bader Ginsburg, now Supreme Court Justice Ginsburg. See the highlighted text beginning on p. 7 of the attached transcript from a 2020 AALS conversation with the Justice. (56 KB)

Download In 1997, a symposium at W&L Law School celebrated and examined the experience of women over the previous 25 years. Three women already mentioned in this exhibit, Kelly Faglioni, Sally Wiant, and Pam White, served as panelists. (905 KB)

Download On the 40th anniversary of women students at W&L Law, longtime and beloved faculty member, Uncas McThenia, spoke to "The Law News" about his memories of that time. (790 KB)


Few events in the history of the Washington and Lee University School of Law are as significant as the arrival of co-education in the 1972-1973 academic year. As a tangible tribute to the women of the class of 1975 on the 45th anniversary of their graduation, Dean Brant Helwig, with financial assistance from the school's The Order of Eight student society, set about producing a permanent exhibit in their honor.

Law School Archivist, John Jacob, and Dean Helwig did preliminary design work for the display. Gropen, Inc. of Charlottesville, Virginia lent their design and fabrication expertise to realize this tribute. It was to be installed in time for the 45th Reunion of the class of 1975, scheduled for April 2020. The corona virus pandemic of 2020, however, forced the cancellation of all such events.

This online version of the exhibit, therefore, appeared before the opening of its physical counterpart. It contains images and text from that exhibit, as well as materials that could not be included due to space limitations.

Anyone having photos, memorabilia, or other materials relating to the early years of co-education in the law school is encouraged to contact the Law School Archives.

Exhibition Date



Washington and Lee University School of Law, coeducation in law schools, admission of women to law schools


Civil Rights and Discrimination | Constitutional Law | Education Law | Law | Law and Gender | Law and Society | Legal Education | Legal History | Legal Profession

Women of the Law Class of 1975: Co-educational Pioneers at W&L