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McSWEENEY Lizzie J., Criminal Law Attorney 1890s DCL
Posted by: Kati McSweeney (ID *****2840) Date: May 05, 2005 at 05:17:36
  of 266

I am looking for any information on the McSWEENEY branch of my family tree. The following is nearly all I know about my maiden Great-Aunt Elizabeth "Lizzie" Jane McSweeney. Lizzie told Grammie that she was third cousin to Terence MacSwiney, Lord Mayor of Cork (political martyr). I have other more complete family history postings in the McSweeney Family Gen-Forum than what's below (I can't remember all the details offhand-LOL!). THANKS for any help you can give me! P.S. I have some old McSweeney photo cabinet cards I'm willing to share digitally!

I came across these websites that mention Lizzie McSweeney (my Great-Aunt). Aunt Lizzie practiced criminal law all her adult life in Detroit, Michigan. At the Detroit College of Law [DCL], she was in the first graduating class of 1893 and the ONLY female student for the first six years that the college was in existance!

MICHIGAN STATE UNIVERSITY [posted below in it's entirety]

CRIMINAL JUSTICE HALL OF FAME [scroll 2/3 of the way down, in the Milestones box] The year reads 1895, which is incorrect. The Detroit College of Law sent me their book on the first 100 years of the college which mentions Aunt Lizzie profusely in the 2nd chapter of the book and verifies the graduation year as 1893. Her picture is also in 1893's graduating class photo.

Elizabeth Jane McSweeney practiced law as "Lizzie J. McSweeney". Her nephew, Douglas (my Dad), couldn't pronounce Liza or Lizzie (her nicknames) when he was little so he called her Aunt Lillie. Lillie was then used interchangably with Lizzie for the rest of her life. Grammie told me that Lizzie's sister, Mary, called her Liza.

[NOTE: The following article lists 1893 AND 1895 as the year that Lizzie graduated from the Detroit College of Law. The second part is all that I've found (so far) on her long-time law partner & beau, Washington Irving Robinson, also of the class of 1893. Washington Robinson's photo is in Aunt Lizzie's photo album on this website-km]


First Female Student at DCL [Detroit College of Law]:

Miss McSweeney Starts the Wheel Spinning in 1893

MSU-DCL College of Law has definitely come a long way since its first calendar year in 1885. Sure, the school has changed locations and names since then, but in our opinion, the most significant change came in 1893, the year the first woman graduated from the law college. Miss Lizzie McSweeney was one of twenty-five graduates that year, and the only female. As we were going through the archives here in the library, we came upon a couple of articles from the Detroit Free Press pertaining to the first woman student at DCL. The article that particularly caught our attention was the one about Alfred Russell condoning the idea that a woman could be a lawyer. He was giving the welcoming speech to the incoming class and was pleased to see that no woman was present in the student body audience. He said, “[s]ome women are bright and intellectual enough but there are physical reasons why they can never win a great measure of success; they were intended by nature for another sphere.” Thank you Mr. Russell for you have summarized the reasons why we felt it was important to start a gender-based journal here at our law school. Professor Mecham addressed the crowd at Miss McSweeney’s graduation ceremony. He commented on “the necessity for law and the usefulness and dignity of the attorney’s profession.” Nowhere did he remark on the gender of these great attorneys, nor did he need to. Miss McSweeney was the first and only female to graduate from DCL in 1895. Today, over 100 years later, the wheel has turned 180 degrees here at MSU-DCL College of Law. The current student population consists of more females than males. Miss McSweeney’s legacy lives on, not only at MSU-DCL College of Law, but for female law students and lawyers both nationally and internationally. Gender issues are common in everyday modern society. A person’s gender is not just about biology; it includes the mental, emotional, and psychological makeup of each individual. Gender has no boundaries; it cuts across all decades, races, every national origin, and every economic status. Education is the best way to bring gender issues to the forefront, and what better way than a worldwide website devoted to the topic? Although women are still underrepresented in the legal community, the trend is moving toward balancing this inequality. Women now more than ever are becoming high-ranking partners at prestigious law firms as well has having high-profile jobs with state and federal governments. For a glimpse at the newspaper articles as well as a picture of Miss McSweeney, please see the link entitled “Detroit Free Press Articles from 1895” on the Table of Contents page.
1908: ROBINSON, Washington Irving, lawyer; born, Ogdensburg, N. Y., July 11, 1865; son of Charles Wesley and Elizabeth (McMartin) Robinson; educated in public schools of Detroit. Came to Detroit with his parents when six months of age, and is still living upon the farm (now within the city limits) upon which he was reared; has been in practice of law since 1888. Director Michigan and Ohio Electric Railway Co. Member Detroit and Michigan State Bar associations. Republican. Recreaton: Horseback riding. Office: 59 Buhl Blk. Residence: 1161 Grand River Av.

Owen McSweeney m. Hannah Dryden [Owen's mother was also Hannah; both of Owen's parents were b. in Ireland]


1) John Edmund McSweeney
2) Elizabeth Jane McSweeney d. spring 1947
3) Mary Ann[e] McSweeney d. elderly but prior to Elizabeth
4) Hannah McSweeney d. pre-teen/early teens
5) "Onie/Ownie" [possibly nickname for Owen] d. toddler
John Edmund McSweeney m. Bertie LeClare-Douglas [maiden name LeClare/Le Clare; adoptive/foster parents were Douglas. Douglas is the surname Bertie used until her marriage]


1) Eugene Clare McSweeney
Eugene Clare McSweeney m. 1923 Hazel Violet Murdock b. 11 JUN 1906 Gladwin Co., Michigan d. 11 JUN 2004 Apache Junction, Arizona


1) Douglas Clare McSweeney b. 31 OCT 1923 New York City, New York d. 13 NOV 1981 Glendale, CA [MY DAD]
2) John "Jack" Dryden McSweeney b. 01 JAN 1925 Detroit, Michigan d. DEC 1973 San Francisco, CA

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