Willebrandt, Mabel Walker


“Prohibition Portia”, “First Lady of the Law”, 1st woman Assistant Attorney General, enforced Prohibition, ran federal prisons & federal tax litigation 1921-29

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Type: Letter
Description: (1889-1963) Kansas teacher at 17, lawyer at 27 in Los Angeles, that city’s 1st assistant police court defender represented 2,000+ women in the next two years. After establishing her own law practice, she lobbied for women’s issues in California legislature. At 32 she was appointed by Harding as Assistant Attorney General heading the Justice Department’s division responsible for enforcing Prohibition, running the federal prisons and handling federal income tax litigation. In 1928 she argued more cases before the Supreme Court than all but three of her predecessors. Campaigning for Herbert Hoover in 1928 she was called Prohibition Portia. After leaving Justice she became a commercial aviation lobbyist and counsel to the Screen Directors Guild.

TLS on her 10 x 8 personal law office letterhead, Washington, September 18 1940, to E. B. Smith, Brighton Mass. , a brief but telling yet humorous letter: “Dear Mr. Smith: I can’t tell stories. My only virtue as a speaker is that I know it, and never try. So I have no favorite story. Yours very truly, [signed].” Apparently in response to a letter perhaps seeking a humorous anecdote about public speaking. Most uncommon autograph!

Condition: Very good

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