Belva Ann Lockwood (née Bennett), was born October 24, 1830 in Royalton, NY. The second of five children, Belva was not born into wealth nor status, she was raised as the daughter of farmers. These humble beginnings however did not deter Belva's ambition.
By the age of 14, Belva began her career as a teacher at a local elementary school. Belva spent many years as an educator or administrator and began raising awareness about women being paid less than men. She is an early advocate for women's pay equity.
In 1870, Belva attempted to apply to the Columbian Law School but was refused admittance because of her gender, with the trustees fearing she would distract male students. Later, Belva was admitted to the new National University Law School (now George Washington Law School) and completed her studies in May 1873 only to be refused her diploma, again because of gender. Not one to being deterred, Belva lobbied President Ulysses S. Grant, ex officio of the school. She was granted her bachelor's of law by the fall of 1873.
Belva went on to practice law, and became the first woman admitted to the bar of the Supreme Court of the United States in May 1879. Not done yet, Belva became the first woman* to run for President in 1884, and 1888. Although she did not win, Belva remained an advocate for women's suffrage and women's legal equality to name a few. Belva died in May 1917, two years before the passing of the 19th amendment in 1920, she had a 43 year career as a lawyer.
*Victoria Woodhull ran for President in 1872, however was not of the constitutionally mandated age of 35.