A Court of Contempt
Fledgling lawyer. Notorious crime boss. A shocking bias against women in court.
Cora has battled hard to be Canada’s first female lawyer.
Desperate to destroy her, the all-male law society conspires to hand her an impossible case- represent Adeline Pitman in divorce court.
Cora knows two things Adeline doesn’t. In 1904, Canadian divorce courts allow husbands to keep a mistress with impunity and Adeline’s husband, crime boss Eli Pitman, kills any lawyer who dares to cross him.
Presented with an impossible choice, Cora must choose whether to abandon her career and run to safety or take her stand and go to war with a dangerous man.
Her choice will affect a nation.
In This Series...
Toronto, Canada, 1904
Canada’s first female lawyer, Cora Rood, knew that anyone who dared represent Eli Pitman’s wife in divorce court would face brutal and depraved retaliation from his hitman.
File in hand, trembling with anxiety, Cora knocked on Mr. Roth's office door. She chose him because of all the partners she worked for she believed he hated her the least. She tried to pull a mask of indifference over her face, because fear, like any other emotion, was not permissible in a lawyer.
“Come in.” His voice sounded like ice on iron.
“There must be some mistake.” Cora willed her hands to stop shaking while she presented the file for him to review.
Mr. Roth pulled his spectacles down onto the bridge of his nose and ignored the file in her hand. His eyes hardened. “What do you want, Miss Rood?”
“I think I have been handed this divorce case by accident, Mr. Roth. The Pitman divorce…I am sure you intended that for one of the other lawyers. A more experienced lawyer.” Cora’s voice sounded shrill in her ears.
“You wanted family law — we are giving you what you want.” Mr. Roth leaned back into his chair.
You enjoy this. Seeing my fear, you’re like all the others.
“Eli Pitman is the biggest crime boss in Toronto.” Cora’s voice shook with fear. “No one who goes up against him survives. This is career suicide at best, but I fear for my life…”
“Then you better be clever.” Mr. Roth looked down his nose at her and held her gaze with his own. “If you want a man to take this case, maybe it’s time you came to the realization that women aren’t cut out for the practice of law. No shame in giving up. You fought hard for what, five years? Screaming and shouting about equality? Only the suffragettes support you. Decent women think you are incurable. Hand that file in and admit defeat, give up on being a barrister, and go to work as a clerk.”
Cora didn’t reply. This was an all too familiar rant she had heard too many times. She tried and failed to let the words slide off her.
“I have a suggestion for you.” Mr. Roth put down his pencil and looked at her hard. “Get married, Miss Rood, have some children, let the men practice law. There is a reason you are the only woman standing here, asking for a lighter case load. The intellectual powers of women are inferior to men. You do not possess the intelligence or strength of will to be a lawyer. Women are emotional, not logical, and the law is all about logic.”
There was a time I would have fought you, but I lost my will to fight in a jail cell. You know as well as I do that I have to put up with your hatred and contempt for two more months until I finish my term so I can be sworn in as a barrister. I have no choices here, I can’t turn this down.
“It sounds like the decision is final.” She hated the defeat in her voice.
“I’m a busy man, Miss Rood. If you can’t handle this, if you’re too delicate for this, maybe we should reassign all your cases. We had no idea when we assigned this petition to you that your case load was so taxing.” He sneered at her. “None of the men are complaining about their work.”
“I can handle the case load.” She straightened her narrow shoulders and tried to sound hard, like him.
“We’ll see.” Mr. Roth looked back down at his paperwork, effectively dismissing her.
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A very well written story depicting a courageous young woman taking on the male dominated profession of lawyer in the early 1900's. Some of the events are disturbing and should be if you have any feelings, however they are widely present in our society and it is a good thing that some laws have been changed to deal with these issues. I enjoyed the character of Cora as she struggles to come to terms with a chosen path that challenges every aspect of her life. I love the variety of characters along side her in her journey, Sol is a softie at heart! Thank you Rebekah for a great read.