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Esther Rothstein, Class of 1949

Esther Rothstein was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1913. While she was employed as a legal secretary at the firm of McCarthy and Levin in Chicago in 1947, Rothstein was encouraged by Etha B. Fox to get her law degree. She worked full-time during the day and attended night classes at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, earning her degree in 1949. In 1955, she was elected partner at McCarthy and Levin, the first step of many which opened doors to other women lawyers. She was a founding member and president of the Women’ Bar Association Foundation, the first female president of the Chicago Bar Association, the first female trustee of the Illinois Institute of Technology and later a Life Trustee, the first female director of the Illinois Bell Telephone Company, the first female lawyer to be admitted to the Chicago Hall of Fame, and the first female chair of the American Bar Association Standing Committee. She served as president of the Women’s Bar Association of Illinois from 1961-1962. She devoted her skills to director positions with the Lawyers Trust Fund of Illinois, the Illinois Pro Bono Center, and Youth Justice Institute, and was active with community and civic groups, including the American Judicature Society, Women’s Issues Network, and Lawrence Hall Youth Service. For her tireless efforts, she was awarded the Women’s Hall of Fame Award from the City of Chicago, the Award of Achievement from the Girl Scouts of Chicago, the Distinguished Service Award from the IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, the Professional Achievement Award from the Illinois Institute of Technology, the Margaret Brent Women Lawyers of Achievement Award from the American Bar Association, the Women with Vision Award from the Women’s Bar Association of Illinois, the Distinguished Service Award from Chicago Legal Services Foundation, and the Founders Award from the Chicago Bar Association Alliance for Women. In 1991, she was quoted by the Women’s Bar Association of Illinois as saying “I, early on, became impressed with the benefits of legal training besides that of earning a livelihood. It also was a means for serving the community, of contributing towards making government more responsive and in meeting unmet legal needs of the less fortunate and indigent.” Rothstein passed away in 1998 at the age of 85.