The Celia M. Howard Story

Celia M. Howard (1876-1950) served as a charter member and President of the Elgin BWC local, District Director of District 11, State President of the Federation in 1932 and 1933, and a national officer of the National Federation of Business and Professional Women. 

She began her career after graduating from business college by serving as a secretary to Judge Philip Sullivan, a retired Judge who maintained an office in Elgin, Illinois.  Although she had not intended to enter the world of law, through this job she developed a keen interest in that career field and moved from that position to become a secretary to the assistant solicitor of the St. Paul & Milwaukee Railroad.  From there Ms. Howard then became secretary to Judge A. Carpenter in the Federal District court. 

During her job with Judge Carpenter, Ms. Howard became determined to become a lawyer.  She first applied to law school at Harvard University and received a scholarship, but was denied admission because Harvard was at that time an all-male university.  She refused to be deterred from the study of law, and applied to and was granted admission by the John Marshall Law School.  Ms. Howard was the only woman in her class and graduated as valedictorian.  Throughout her career, Ms. Howard had in her offices the framed Harvard University scholarship, and the Constitution of the United States.

Ms. Howard was admitted to practice before the Illinois Supreme Court, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, and the U. S. Supreme Court.  Ms. Howard is believed to the first woman allowed to practice before the U. S. Supreme Court.  She was respected throughout her career for her judicial mind, her power of concise analysis and her integrity.

Ms. Howard’s accomplishments were many, with a sincere devotion to humanitarian and civic work, particularly the Red Cross.  She was a gentle woman with twinkling good humor.   She endeared herself to all because of her loving and straightforward simplicity.  She was also an avid mystery reader. 

The Celia M. Howard Fellowship was created at the 1948 State Convention to give financial assistance to train well-qualified Illinois women for study in the field of Diplomacy.  Delegates at the 1949 convention set a goal of $100,000 to be raised by clubs in two years.  In 1950 a trust was created and implemented for perpetuating the fund.  And that year the first award of $1,000 was made to Mary Winbigler Coriden of Monmouth, Illinois for study at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.  Miss Howard lived to meet her. 

The Celia M. Howard Fellowship Committee has the task of selecting institutions, setting standards, reviewing and interviewing applicants and annually selecting the awardees.  Recipients of the Celia M. Howard Fellowship represents inspiration, integrity, and high purpose, a fitting tribute to the person for whom the Fellowship is named.