SAN DIEGO — A new exhibit at Balboa Park is honoring the advancements of women in law and society. In this Zevely Zone, I met a new figure standing 10-feet tall at the San Diego History Center.
"Isn't she something?" asked Shelby Gordon, the marketing manager at the San Diego History Center. When the Lawyers Club of San Diego wanted to celebrate 50 years of female empowerment, they knew the perfect person to meet visitors at the door. "She is regal. I will say she is statuesque," said Shelby.
Her name is Justice. The golden statue stood tall on the San Diego County Courthouse in 1888. Times changed and so and did her name. "They told me to take the 'Lady' out because there is no need for that, there is no need for that, she stands alone. She stands alone for what she stands for, so there is no need to qualify her as a 'Lady' she is Justice," said Shelby.
The Lawyers Club's mission from the start has been advancing the status of women in the law and society. "Women were not in many cases in many cases recognized legally," said Shelby.
Who better to symbolize that fight than Justice? She now stands at the entrance of the exhibit. Justice is holding a sword to fight and the scales of justice.
In the 1940's, San Diego's legal community was mostly a man's world. According to the exhibit, in the 1970's, the law provided that husbands managed community property.
Women could not have credit in their own name and needed their husbands' written permission to open accounts. Domestic violence and rape arrests were rare. Many people considered domestic violence the parties' private business and argued the victim obviously liked it or she would have left.
These injustices angered and inspired a group of San Diego women attorneys, who became the founding members of Lawyers Club of San Diego. In July 1972, the first officers were elected: Judith McConnell, Christine Pate, Sharron Voorhees, Lynn Schenk, and Louise DeCarla Malugen.
But you know what they say about the wheels of Justice. "She sat in the county storage for a while, she was owned by an art dealer, and we purchased her in 1982," said Shelby.
The San Diego History Center really doesn't know how much she weighs or what she is made of. For a while, they weren't even sure how to stand her back up. There is a picture of a group of people scratching their heads as if to say how do we do this? "Right, and that was the purpose of the meeting was stop the head scratching and figure out how to get her up and placed," said Shelby.
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After the San Francisco earthquake in 1906, Justice was taken down from the courthouse because of concerns she would fall. It was perhaps foreshadowing for the women on their way who would really shake things up. "Sandra Day O'Connor, Hillary Rodham Clinton. Bonnie Dumanis, of course," said Shelby as she gave us a tour of the exhibit.
The Lawyers Club wants to honor every Golden Goddess who fought for equality. "We see it every time we vote, every time we apply for credit, every time we apply for a job," said Shelby. "Sounds like justice to me."
According to the exhibit, from 1907 to 1944, only 14 women in San Diego were practicing law. The Lawyers Club exhibit will be on display throughout 2022 at the San Diego History Center. Admission is free, but donations are appreciated. Visitors can view the exhibit Friday through Sunday from 11 am to 4 pm. For more information click here.
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