About Esther H. Brocker, L'26 - Capital University Law School

About Esther H. Brocker, L'26

  • Esther H. Brocker was born April 21, 1883, in Lancaster, Ohio. By age 17, she was making money as a dressmaker. By 1916, Brocker was a single mother, working as secretary of the Hermann Manufacturing Company in Lancaster and assistant treasurer of the Hermann Tire Building and Machine Co. She then worked as secretary in the Deffenbaugh Law Offices in Lancaster. She also worked for the Department of Defense in Cleveland during World War I.

    In the early 1920s, Brocker made a bold choice for a woman and single mother of that time: She decided to go to law school.

    So, from 1922 to 1926, three nights a week, she made a 30-mile drive and took the interurban trolley to attend classes at Columbus School of Law, a predecessor of Capital University Law School. After 664 trips and nearly 40,000 miles, she became the Law School’s first female graduate on June 9, 1926 at age 42.

    Esther Brocker had attended St. Mary’s High School in Lancaster and for some time attended Ohio University in Athens. She enrolled in law school at a time when the American Bar Association’s recommended minimum standards for admission were two years of college work and three years of law studies.

    Brocker was not the first woman to attend Columbus School of Law. Other women had taken classes starting in 1918, 15 years after the YMCA opened the school in 1903 with a mission of making a legal education available to everyone, regardless of race, gender or background. But Brocker was the first woman to finish her classes and earn a law school diploma, along with nine male classmates.

    After graduating, Brocker stayed in Lancaster and opened a successful private law practice, handling criminal cases and probate work. She served two terms as Lancaster’s city solicitor, and was elected vice president of the Fairfield County Bar Association in 1960.

    She worked as an attorney until age 83, and died in 1972 at age 88. She was honored posthumously as an inductee into the Law School Hall of Honor in 2012.