Gertrude Rush became a legal pioneer after pioneer after becoming the first Black woman to practice law in Iowa, and the first Black woman to lead a national co-ed bar association. Rush was born August 5, 1880 in Navasota, Texas.

Born Gertrude Elzora Durden, the future trailblazer moved with her family to the North as part of the exodus of Black families migrating to the Midwest, first settling in Kansas before ending their journey in Illinois.

Rush married attorney James Rush in 1907, studying law while working at his practice in Des Moines, Ia. She graduated from Des Moines College in 1914, taking classes concurrently from LaSalle University of Chicago via correspondence to earn a law degree. After her husband died, Rush passed the bar in Iowa in 1918, marking her first historic feat.

In 1921, Rush was elected to lead the Colored Bar Association, another of her firsts as the organization served both Black men and women in the legal profession. In 1925, Rush became a founding member of the Negro Bar Association, now known today as the National Bar Association, the leading organization serving Black lawyers to this day.

Along with law, Rush was also active in the fight for civil rights and the suffrage movement.

Rush passed in 1962.




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