Clara Hapgood Nash, admitted to the Maine bar at Machias in 1872, was the first woman in New England, and only about the fifth in the country, to achieve that status. It was not until 1899 that a law was passed in Maine prohibiting discrimination in the admission of attorneys to the bar based on their gender. Shortly thereafter two other women became attorneys: Helen Knowlton of Rockland (1899) and Belle Leavitt of Sanford (1900).
Attorney Paul H. Mills characterized her background in a 2002 interview:
Her husband [Frederick C. Nash] was an attorney. It was obvious she had worked with him in his practice. She actually lived in Columbia Falls, which is a town outside of Machias. She, like most of the early women attorneys and even men attorneys at that time, read law in another person’s office under an apprentice system.
In 1873, she was active in the women’s suffrage movement in Maine. According to Shannon Risk, “A woman named Clara Hapgood Nash, who, one year earlier in 1872, had been the first woman lawyer admitted to the Maine Bar, led a petition drive from Columbia Falls.”
In October of 1873, Mrs. Nash appeared in court for the first time to make opening remarks in a jury trial, another first. Later she and her husband moved to Portland and then to the Boston area. Their son, Frederick Nash, also became an attorney.
She authored a volume of poetry in 1909, entitled Verses.
Source: “Historical Research and Early Maine Women Attorneys: Part Two.” Interview Archives. July/August 2002. An interview with Paul H. Mills in Farmington, July 17, 2002. http://www.lawinterview.com/interviewmaster_archive_07_02.html
“Clara Hosmer Hapgood Nash.” Strangers to Us All: Lawyers and Poetry. West Virginia Network. http://myweb.wvnet.edu/~jelkins/lp-2001/nash.html
Frances E. Willard and Mary A. Livermore, editors. A Woman of the Century: Fourteen Hundred Women in All Walks of Life. Charles Wells Moulton, 1893; reprint, Detroit: Gale Research Co., 1967), 531 (a brief biography of Clara Hapgood Nash)
Nash, Clara Hapgood. Verses. Cambridge MA University Press. 1909.
Risk, Shannon M. IN ORDER TO ESTABLISH JUSTICE”: THE NINETEENTH-CENTURY WOMAN SUFFRAGE MOVEMENTS OF MAINE AND NEW BRUNSWICK. (Thesis (Ph.D.) in History–University of Maine, 2009.) [University of Maine, Raymond H. Fogler Library, Special Collections] (Note: includes references to Clara Hapgood Nash.)