THE FIRST FEMALE LAWYER
Twenty-four hours after the promulgation in the Official Gazette of the law “having for object to allow the women provided with the diplomas of bachelor in law to take the oath of lawyer and to exercise, this profession”, Mrs. Petit – outstripping Miss Chauvin by a few days – took, at the hearing of the 1st Chamber of the Court of Appeal of Paris, presided over by Mr. Émile Forichon, the oath required by the law to be admitted to be registered at a bar.
This solemnity had put, yesterday, the Palace in revolution. Towards noon, the various Chambers of the Court and the Tribunal had been emptied, and lawyers and solicitors had hastily reached the courtroom of the 1st Chamber, which was already full.
Arriving, at about half past eleven, at the Palais, in the company of her husband, a member of the Parisian bar, Mrs. Petit was seated on the first bench of the lawyers, on the right of the Court, in the middle of the sixteen law graduates admitted to take the oath. Cute, graceful, her hair a little disheveled, the young woman, while holding in her hands her cap which seemed to embarrass her, was conversing with Me Maurice Bernard. On all sides, in the courtroom, one raised on the tip of the feet to see the “lawyer”, that her small size guaranteed, to a certain extent, against the general indiscretion.
At 12:20 p.m., the Court entered into session. Three magistrates, recently appointed, took the oath in the midst of a complete indifference. Finally, Me Léon Devin, who was standing at the bar, spoke in these terms: I have the honor of asking the Court to admit to the oath of counsel the law graduates whose names are listed below. The President of the Bar read out seventeen names. The name of Mrs. Petit is fourteenth.
Upon the request of Mr. Advocate General Jacomy, Mr. Piogey, the clerk of the court, read the formula of the oath: “I swear not to say or publish anything, as a defender or counsel, contrary to the laws, the regulations, good morals, the security of the State and the public peace, and never to deviate from the respect owed to the Courts and the public authorities.” Thirteen licensees, parade to the bar pronouncing an energetic “I swear!” most of the time. Then it was Mrs. Petit’s turn. The young woman raises her right hand, on whose fingers one can see several rings, and says: “I swear!” in a voice full of emotion.
When the last licensee has taken the oath, Mr. Forichon, the first president, takes note of all the oaths and, according to the custom, invites the new lawyers to take their places at the bar. Mrs. Petit took advantage of the council and waited, seated on the first bench of the lawyers, next to her husband, until the flow of curious people had stopped.
When the room is three quarters empty, the lawyer, still holding her embarrassing hat in her hands, leaves the audience and crosses a hedge of onlookers. One can then notice that the lawyer’s dress of Mrs. Petit – a dress that she would have made herself – is infinitely more elegant than the dresses of her colleagues. Why should feminine coquetry be disarmed under the toque?
Mrs. Petit then went to the Walty dressing room where she took off her lawyer’s dress. She soon leaves the checkroom in a city dress, an elegant dress against which no lawyer’s dress will ever prevail…
And during the afternoon, in the main hall, the swearing in of the new lawyer was the subject of all the conversations.