In 1974, nearly one hundred years after Mary Hall became the first woman to practice law in Connecticut, the state finally admitted its first African American female lawyer. Her name was Bessye Bennett.
Bennett was born in Prairie View, Texas, in 1938. She went on to study at Radcliffe College in Boston and later turned down acceptance into Harvard Law School so that her husband might earn his PhD in applied mathematics.
In 1964, the family moved to Hartford and Bessye taught in the public school system there. After receiving a master’s in education from Trinity College in 1967, she enrolled in the law school at the University of Connecticut. She graduated in 1973 and a year later became the first African American woman licensed to practice law in Connecticut.
Among her many other accomplishments, Bennett rose to vice president at Society for Savings and later established a private practice. She was also appointed deputy town counsel for the Town of Bloomfield and served on the board of Connecticut Natural Gas.
Learn More in Connecticut Explored Magazine
To learn more about the life of Bessye Bennett, read Constance Belton Green’s article, “The Trailblazing Bessye Bennett” in Connecticut Explored magazine.