Jessie LaFountain Bigwood

Bigwood
Bigwood "VT Law School"

Time Period

1860-1910

Subject Categories

Government / Politics, Law

Notable Facts

First female lawyer to pass the Vermont Bar Exam in 1902.

Personal Information

Date of Birth

1874

Date of Death

1953

Primary Residence

Burlington

Historical Significance

Jessie Bigwood became the fist female attorney to pass the Vermont bar exam in 1902. No woman was admitted to the Vermont Bar for another 10 years, and it would be another 18 years after that before the passage of the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote.

A Vermont State historic roadside marker has been established in Bigwood's name at Vermont Law School in Royalton.

Jessie Bigwood was born in Plattsburgh, NY and grew up on Loomis St. in Burlington. She attended secretarial school at Burlington Business College and worked as a government reporter at Fort Ethan Allen in Colchester/Essex, VT. She went on to study law through a special course at Boston University and at the office of V.A. Bullard in Burlington. She later had her own office in Burlington for several years.

When Bigwood won her first case at Chittenden County Superior Court, the local newspaper reported that she "was not in the business for fun".

In 1907, Bigwood was chosen as the "Worthy Grand Matron" of the Vermont Chapter of the Order of the Eastern Star, a fraternal charity organization.

Jessie Bigwood married Frederick H. Bigwood in 1898. In 1908, they moved to Toronto.

Organizations or Movements

  • Vermont Bar Association
  • Order of the Eastern Star - Winooski Chapter

Occupations

  • Lawyer

Education

  • Law Degree-Boston University
  • Burlington Business College

Additional Information (Bibliography)

  • Women's Legal History Biography Project Link

  • Order of the Eastern Star Link

  • Vermont Historic Roadside Markers Link

  • VHS Finding Aid Link

  • Duffy, John, eds. "Jessie Bigwood." In The Vermont Encyclopedia. University Press of New England, 2003.

Additional Images

Jessie Bigwood and her historical marker. Photo Courtesy of the Vermont Historical Society and The Vermont Book of Days
Jessie Bigwood and her historical marker. Photo Courtesy of the Vermont Historical Society and The Vermont Book of Days