New England Law | Boston

A Women’s Law School

1908

Students surround school founder Arthur MacLean, 1938. Courtesy of The Boston Public Library, Print Department

As an institution tailored to women from working-class families, Portia Law School was sensitive to financial and time pressures, offering part-time enrollment. And when the state toughened requirements for law students, Portia added resources like a GED-equivalency program and college-level courses.

Out of financial necessity, particularly during the Great Depression, Portia Law School began opening up its programs to male students. Like their female classmates, the men were drawn to the school’s flexible approach and established reputation.

  1. 1908: First steps

    1908 First StepsArthur W. MacLean, a graduate of the Boston University Law School, agrees to tutor two women students hoping to pass the bar. He realizes that women seeking a legal education in New England have few options…and decides to the fill the void.

    MacLean poses for a studio portrait. Courtesy of the Boston Public Library, Print Department

  2. 1918: Becoming official

  3. 1919: First student organizations

  4. 1920: Changing rules

  5. 1921: Move to Beacon Hill

  6. 1926: Establishment of a Master’s program

  7. 1927: First publications

  8. 1930: First male graduates

  9. 1934: Founding of the Portia College of Liberal Arts

  10. 1939: Fully coeducational

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