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Esther H. Brocker

Esther H. Brocker

Esther H. Brocker, L'26

Trail blazer, leader

The path Esther H. Brocker, L’26, created while working to become the Law School’s first female graduate started in Lancaster, Ohio, in the 1920s and was built commuting back and forth to Columbus, three nights a week, over a four-year period. It was followed by a lengthy legal career that extended well into her 80s.

Brocker was born April 21, 1883, in Lancaster, Ohio. By age 17, she was making money as a dressmaker. She married in 1902, and her first child, Mary, was born and died in 1909. Her only living child, John W. Brocker, was born in 1911. By 1916, Brocker was a single mother, working as secretary of the Hermann Manufacturing Company in Lancaster and assistant treasurer of the Hermann Tire Building and Machine Co. She then worked as secretary in the Deffenbaugh Law Offices in Lancaster. She also worked for the Department of Defense in Cleveland during World War I.

In the early 1920s, Brocker made a bold choice for a woman and single mother of that time: She decided to go to law school.

From 1922 to 1926, she made a 30-mile drive and took the interurban trolley to attend classes at Columbus School of Law, a predecessor of Capital University Law School. After 664 trips and nearly 40,000 miles, she became the Law School’s first female graduate on June 9, 1926, at age 42.

After graduating, Brocker opened a successful private law practice in Lancaster, handling criminal cases and probate work. Her first office was above a bank in Lancaster; later, she would move her law offices to one-half of the house in which she had lived with her parents. She served two terms as Lancaster’s city solicitor, and was elected vice president of the Fairfield County Bar Association in 1960.

She worked as an attorney until age 83, and died in 1972 at age 88.

Brocker was not the first woman to attend Columbus School of Law. Other women had taken classes starting in 1918, 15 years after the YMCA opened the school in 1903 with a mission of making a legal education available to everyone, regardless of race, gender or background. But Brocker was the first woman to finish her classes and earn a law school diploma, along with nine male classmates.

Esther Brocker’s legacy lives on at Capital University Law School in the form of a new endowed fund at the Law School, the Esther H. Brocker Scholarship Fund. The initial goal for the fund, started with a $4,660 donation from alumnae Jane L. Miller, L’76, is to raise $25,000 by 2017 to fund scholarships for upper-class female students based on merit and demonstrated need. Until then, the school’s Women’s Law Association plans to provide funding to award modest scholarships.

In addition, Law School alumnae and member of the Board of Counselors Georgeann G. Peters, L’83, has approved the creation of a significant scholarship fund in support of the Brocker Fund. The Georgann G. Peters Women’s Law Scholarship, established with the commitment of a $5,000 contribution during each of the next five years.

To support the Esther H. Brocker Scholarship fund, visit our giving page, select "other" from the Designation Menu, and enter "Esther H. Brocker Scholarship.