In Chicago in 1893, for the first time in history, women lawyers were invited to participate with male lawyers and judges at the Congress on Jurisprudence and Law Reform, one of a number of Congresses organized in conjunction with the World's Columbian Exposition. By the 1890s, women lawyers had achieved considerable success for at least two decades in gaining admission to state bars in the United States, and their success provided important precedents for women who wished to become lawyers in other parts of the world. Yet, as Nancy Cott explained, although women's admission to the professions had been seen in earlier decades as part of the "cause" of women's equality, by the end of the nineteenth century, professional ideologies were beginning to create divisions between women professionals and the women's equality movement.

In this context, this paper focuses on the presentations of the four women participants in the Congress on Jurisprudence and Law Reform in 1893 as a "moment in time" to assess the extent to which they reveal this departure from concern with the women's equality movement and an increasing embrace of professional culture and ideology. Two of the women presenters were American: Mary Greene and Clara Foltz, and the other two included an English woman, Eliza Orme, and an Indian woman, Cornelia Sorabji. Significantly, neither Orme nor Sorabji had succeeded in gaining admission to the bar by 1893, although both had studied law in England. Notwithstanding these differences, the four papers presented at the Congress in 1893 tend to confirm that these women lawyers had already adopted an identity as members of the legal profession, and that their ties to the women's equality movements were becoming rather tenuous. In this way, the paper seeks to examine the competing identities of gender and professionalism among these women lawyers in the 1890s.