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Susannah, a Lawyer
From Tragedy to Triumph

by Ruth Rymer


It's the 1870s, and the United States Supreme Court declares that women are too timid and delicate to be lawyers.  Susannah Reed, recovering from a brutal sexual attack, and pregnant, is determined to study law and prove them wrong. Susannah's fiancé is in New York, establishing a law practice of his own, and wants Susannah to move to New York.  He is ok with the coming child, but he doesn't want his wife to be his competition...just a housewife and mother. That doesn't suit Susannah's plan at all. She goes to Chicago to stay with her brother's family, where there is a chance of being able to study law.

While the story had some slow sections, and was a bit repetitive at times, it was overall a very good historical novel, peppered with real historical characters.  Romance, murder and escalating suspense make it an entertaining novel.

Ruth Rymer accurately depicts the plight of young women of that era in Susannah, A Lawyer.    Susannah begins to study law with a firm in Chicago, but her relationship with the man she hopes to marry suffers as a result. Her infant daughter is a special needs child, and Susannah's status as a single mother in the 1870s is challenging. But Ted Nelson is a young attorney with the firm who mentors Susannah, takes her under his wing and coaches her.  Her sympathy is with some of the firm's female clients, and she successfully represents a battered wife who accidentally kills her husband; the accomplice in a bank robbery; and a young immigrant, earning the respect of the firm.  Her goal is to pass the bar exam and become a full-fledged lawyer, and the odds against that seem nearly insurmountable.

We tend to forget what a long way women have come in the last hundred years.  In Susannah's time, there were so many avenues that were closed to women. Options for earning a living were limited and challenging, especially for a woman like Susannah,  a single mother with a disabled child who was the result of a brutal rape. This book would be a good enhancement to the high school history curriculum.

The Book

Langdon Street Press
September 2009
Trade Paperback
1934938416 / 978-1934938416
Fiction / Historical / late 1800s USA
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The Reviewer

Beverly J. Rowe
Reviewed 2010
NOTE: Reviewer Beverly J. Rowe is's "Babes to Teens" columnist, covering topics related to reading ideas for the youth in the family.
© 2010