Elevate Difference

Belva Lockwood, The Woman Who Would Be President

In a moment of autobiographical reflection, Belva Lockwood once stated that while her work as an equal rights activist had failed to raise the dead, it had “awakened the living.” Jill Norgren’s biography of Lockwood, a little known but extremely important historical figure should and could awaken all of us to live a life of conviction and activism.

At 232 pages long, Norgren eloquently and succinctly educates the reader on the story of the first woman to ever be allowed to argue before the United Supreme Court, as well as the first woman to ever launch two full scale bids for this country’s presidency. Lockwood’s place in history is far less prominent than many of her contemporaries, such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton, but her contributions were significant and seem all the more important for study today as we witness a very legitimate bid by another woman for the United States presidency. As a woman who was deeply concerned with advocating for democracy, pacifism and equal rights, Belva Lockwood led a life defined by fighting for the causes she believed in and worked hard not only to further said causes, but at the same time had to support herself as a single widow of a young daughter. Lockwood turned her tragedy into an opportunity to exercise freedom and possibility with education and her voice. While little remains of Lockwood’s personal writing and documents, she used the power of the pen tirelessly during her life and much of her writing was published and documented.

Norgren’s writing is engaging and her narrative is accessible yet rich with fact. Like her other book The Cherokee Cases, which makes difficult United States Supreme Court case studies accessible and engaging; Norgren could inspire all of us to become avid readers of historical biographies. Jill Norgren took an obscure historical figure who left few personal papers behind, and gave us a portrait of a political hero. At a time when heroism in politics is scarce, one can’t help but read this book and recommend that we use Lockwood as an example that could awaken us to the possibilities and expectations we should have for those who desire to be a leader in this country.

Written by: Anna Utevsky, July 12th 2007