Recognizing a Female Dominated Profession
for Women’s History Month

The Notary profession in the United States has been female-dominated for decades. Although women have outnumbered men in both the Notary and Professional Signing Agent professions in recent history, women have fought and taken great strides for their working rights to be where they are today.

Before the colonial era, women were exclusively housewives and caretakers of their families. According to a Supreme Court ruling in 1872, “The paramount destiny and mission of a woman are to fulfill the noble and benign offices of wife and mother. This is the law of the Creator.” However, in the colonial United States, women were only allowed to hold positions traditionally held by men because of a labor shortage. A woman could even hold the office of Notary Public when inherited to her during this time. Once the United States established independence, women could not hold office. Most laws surrounding women’s working rights were dependent on their marital status. As the country evolved and began moving west, women could hold more jobs and positions in office and outside of the home.

One year after it became an official state, Michigan publicly appointed the first female notary. Missouri Governor McGlurg was a strong advocate for Women’s Suffrage and appointed the nation’s second female notary Redelia Bates in 1869. In the same year, women received the right to vote in Wyoming, followed by Colorado, Idaho, and Utah. Women began voting and holding office as early as 1925 in these states.

One of the first and most impressive female notaries was Clara Shortridge-Foltz. Foltz and her husband moved to California from Indiana with hopes and dreams of a better life. Her dream not only changed her life, but it paved the way for female notaries. After her unfaithful husband abandoned her, Foltz began working in the office of a local judge and began giving public lectures for women to support her five children. Foltz wrote the “Woman Lawyer Bill” that permitted women to practice law in California. Through her hard work and dedication, Foltz became the first woman to be appointed a Notary Public in California. She then became the first woman to pass the California bar and practice law on the West Coast. Foltz was also the first deputy district attorney in the United States, the first female prosecutor to try a murder case, the first woman to serve on the State Assembly’s Judiciary Committee, and the first woman appointed to the State Board of Corrections. Foltz is more famously known as one of the original suffragettes, casting her vote in 1911. She was the first woman to attend Hastings College of Law. She worked as a lecturer and a writer and founded publications independently. Foltz pioneered the concept of public defender and, at the age of 81, ran for Governor of California in 1930. Clara Shortridge-Foltz’s feminist efforts created a domino effect for women’s rights in the United States.

Although Foltz became the first female licensed Notary Public in the 1890s, progress moved slowly for women’s rights. In 1928, almost 30 years after Foltz became a Notary Public, only 25 states allowed women to hold office as Notary Public. In 1955, 12 states still barred women from holding this position, and some restrictions remained for as long as 1971. However, women began to dominate the field of notaries as early as 1948. Today, upwards of 80% of Notary Publics and Professional Signing Agents are women and over 85% of Notary2Pro graduates are women. Female Notaries and Professional Signing Agents continue to push the envelope and fight for fair opportunities and equal working wages, just as the many powerful women before them.

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