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MSS 97-4

Inventory of the Papers of Elizabeth N. Tompkins


Collection of letters, diplomas, certificates, and awards (1921-1971) of Elizabeth Tompkins, first woman to graduate from UVA Law School in 1921.

1921-1971 [Inclusive]
.3 Linear Feet (1 archival box)

Scope & Contents

This collection is comprised of letters written by Elizabeth N. Tompkins during and immediately after her years of law study at the University of Virginia, and diplomas, certificates, and awards she received.

Collection Description

    Physical Description

    This collection contains 13 items.<extent>1 arbitrary_unit</extent>

    Conditions Governing Use

    There are no restrictions.

    Preferred Citation

    Inventory of the Papers of Elizabeth N. Tompkins, 1921-1971, MSS 97-4, Box Number, Special Collections, University of Virginia Law Library.

    Biographical / Historical

    Elizabeth Tompkins, born in Albemarle County in 1899, earned a bachelor's degree from Westhampton College and a master's degree from Columbia University before she applied to study law at Virginia in 1920. With the encouragement of her father, Tompkins, age twenty-two, became one of the first women admitted to the Law School. These letters indicate that her pioneering experience was not an easy one for her; however, she became Virginia's first female law graduate, finishing near the top of the Class of 1923. She was also the first woman to be admitted to the Virginia State Bar.

    Despite her high class ranking, Tompkins had trouble breaking into law practice. For two years after graduation, she clerked in Charlottesville for Judge R.T.W. Duke, Jr. Then in 1925, following the advice of Dean Lile, she moved to Richmond and began practicing law, first with H. Carter Redd and later with Carter L. Refo. She also served as commissioner of accounts for Hanover County and commissioner in chancery for circuit courts in Hanover and Richmond.

    Tompkins played an active leadership role at the University of Richmond, serving as president of the Westhampton College Alumnae Association and sitting for thirty years on the U. of R. Board of Trustees. Richmond awarded her an honorary doctor of laws degree in 1970. In 1981, two years after she had retired from law practice, Elizabeth Tompkins died at the age of eighty-three.

    Immediate Source of Acquisition

    This collection was donated to the Law Library by Mr. and Mrs. Carter Refo in April of 1997.

    Conditions Governing Access

    There are no restrictions.

fileElizabeth N. Tompkins Correspondence (4 letters) , 1921, 1923, 1924MSS 97-4, Box 1
itemCertificate to practice law awarded by the Virginia Board of Law Examiners. Tompkins was the first woman to pass the bar in the state, 1922MSS 97-4, Box 1
itemSix pins for membership, recognition or commemoration, 1957, 1971, n.d.MSS 97-4, Box 1
Class of 1923
itemDiploma for Bachelor of Laws from the University of Virginia School of Law, 1923MSS 97-4, Box 1
itemCertificate of member in the Thomas Jefferson Society of Alumni in recognition of fifty years of service to the University of Virginia, 1973MSS 97-4, Box 1