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Akin, Stella

Stella Akin was the first woman admitted to the Georgia bar - an amazing achievement considering she did it almost three years before women were granted the right to vote. From this pioneering beginning she went on to become the first woman to address the Georgia Bar Association, the first woman to argue a case before the Georgia Supreme Court, and the first woman to become a Municipal Court judge in Georgia - in her home city of Savannah.

Stella Akin was born on Christmas Day, 1897. She grew up in Savannah and was educated in the Savannah public schools. She worked as a private secretary for an attorney in Savannah, and at the young age of seventeen decided she wanted to read law in an attempt to become an attorney herself. She was encouraged by her employer and local judges. Just two days short of her twentieth birthday she was admitted to the Georgia bar, becoming not only the first woman to do so, but reportedly also the youngest person ever so admitted.

She began practicing law in 1918, and did so successfully - ultimately arguing cases before the Georgia Supreme Court. Akin also had interests outside the courtroom; she was one of the early organizers of the Equal Suffrage Party in Georgia, and when women did obtain the right to vote in 1920, Akin was one of the founding members of the Savannah League of Women Voters. She served as national vice-president of the Business and Professional Women’s Club, was the first woman named to the Savannah Metropolitan Planning Commission, and was an avid supporter of the arts and historic preservation in Savannah.

Her talent caught the eye of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who in 1933 appointed her to his “Little Cabinet.” There she served as a special assistant to the attorney general for seven years, before returning to her private practice in Savannah. Her career culminated in 1957 when she became the first woman in Georgia to be appointed as a Municipal Court judge. She held this position in her home of Savannah until poor health forced her retirement in 1968. She died on October 8, 1972.