Lavinia Goodell - Wisconsin's first Woman Lawyer

"Rhoda Lavinia Goodell came from a family dedicated to public service.  Her grandfather Goodell was a missionary to Constantinople; her father was an active abolitionist, temperance advocate, and supporter of women's rights.  What I wanted to convey in this play is that Lavinia Goodell is more than a name on a dusty list of Important Women in Wisconsin History.  She was a woman who desired to serve, but perhaps more importantly, more humanly, she was also just a woman who wanted to be able to use her gifts to the fullest degree possible, and if that meant taking on the patriarchy, well, then that's what it meant."   --Playwright Betty Diamond's notes from program

HPL Reference librarians attended a reading of a new play about Lavinia Goodell, the first woman to be admitted to the Wisconsin bar.  Wisconsin Chief Justice Shirley S. Abramson introduced the play and playwright Betty Diamond.  Here's the March 8, 2013, program cover:

Lavinia is one of several women depicted in a mural on the outside of the Rock County Courthouse building. Read about the mural dedication here.

Hedberg Public Library's Local History Database is an index to newspaper clippings and other materials in the library's local history collection.  Find references to Janesville's famous female lawyer on the search page to the
Local History Database.  Enter the words:  lavinia goodell in the search by Subject Heading box. 

The library's Janesville's Past collection of digitized materials points to other resources. 

For assistance, contact Reference Librarians at Hedberg Public Library 608-758-6581 or

-posted by sb

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