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Ellen Spencer Mussey

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Ellen Spencer Mussey (1850-1936)

Ellen Spencer married General Reuben Delavan Mussey in 1871.

The Mussey's became well-known in the social circles of Washington. They personally knew many Presidents. They developed a law practice together, but Ellen was not allowed to enter law school. Why? She was a woman. There were no women lawyers at that time.

Not to be deterred, she studied law on her own, and joined her husband in a joint law practice. When General Mussey died in 1892,  Ellen easily passed the bar exam in Washington, and was admitted to the bar in 1893.

Shortly after this, she was appointed to be a Swedenborgian delegate to the Parliament of Word Religions. She presumably knew Charles Bonney, the Swedenborgian who inspired and organized it as part of Chicago’s World Fair.

Her law practice flourished, and she took on controversial cases. She campaigned to change laws that discriminated against women.

She wrote a strong letter to the New Church Messenger in 1898,

What a loss it would have been to humanity if Florence Nightingale, Clara Barton, and Frances Willard had been afraid of overstepping the bounds of womanly decorum. ... God made the bird to sing. He has made women to think and feel, and given them voices with which to be heard.

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