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Catharine Gouger Waugh McCulloch (1862–1945)

Women as Law Clerks manuscript, detail, c1887. Papers of Catharine Waugh McCulloch. Schlesinger Library.
Handwritten manuscript (detail), ca. 1887, of essay "Women as law clerks." Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute.

Suffragette and lawyer Catharine Gouger Waugh McCulloch was born near Ransomville, New York. The family later moved to a farm near New Milford, Illinois; she attended the village school and nearby Rockford Female Seminary, graduating in 1882. In 1885 she enrolled in the Union College of Law in Chicago, precursor to Northwestern University Law School, and upon completion of the course (1886) was admitted to the Illinois bar. After further study at Rockford Seminary, McCulloch was awarded a BA and then an MA in 1888. Her master's thesis, "Women's Wages," would be published and widely reviewed. In 1890 she married Frank Hathorn McCulloch, a fellow law student with whom she then practiced law. They had four children.

Before her marriage, however, McCulloch struggled to gain a foothold in the legal profession. In a document thought to have been written in 1887 titled "Women as Law Clerks," she writes about her struggle to obtain a clerkship after her graduation from law school.

As legislative superintendent of the Illinois Equal Suffrage Association (1890–1912), McCulloch was active in the movement for women's rights, seeking state legislation permitting women's suffrage in presidential and local elections not constitutionally limited to male voters, a bill that was passed in 1913. She was also instrumental in the passage of Illinois legislation granting women equal rights in the guardianship of their children (1901), and raising the legal age of consent for women from 14 to 16 (1905). She served as legal adviser (1904–ca.1911) and as first vice-president (1910–1911) of the National American Woman Suffrage Association. McCulloch died of cancer on April 20, 1945.

Digitized Archival Materials

Papers of Catherine Waugh McCulloch

  • Folder 59, ca.1887–1889. Includes "Women as Law Clerks" manuscript, reviews of "Women's Wages" (clippings), and pages of earlier Dillon Collection inventory containing list of speeches and articles.

Full Collection Citation

Catharine W. McCulloch, Series VI of the Mary Earhart Dillon Collection, 1869–1945. A-68, folder 59. Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.

Electronic Finding Aid

McCulloch, Catharine Waugh, b. 1862. Series VI of the Mary Earhart Dillon Collection, 1869–1945: A Finding Aid (M-133, reels E13-25; A-68). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe College, Cambridge, MA.

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Other Resources

  • Bureau of Vocational Information, see folders 141-144, correspondence with women lawyers opportunities for women in the legal profession, 1914-1920.
  • Women's Legal History Biography Project. At the time of McCulloch's admittance to the Illinois Bar in 1886, there were only 100 women lawyers in the United States. The Women's Legal History Biography Project at the Robert Crown Law Library, Stanford Law School, has identified more than 380 pioneer women lawyers and is an essential source on the history and biography of women lawyers in the United States.

The manuscript and archival materials selected for Women Working can be used for research, for the creation of class projects, or to illustrate secondary works. In some cases the items are drawn from larger collections at Harvard. Most of the digitized selections from collections contain a range of materials providing a broader context for understanding the subject.