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Remarkable Women of Arizona: Sarah Sorin Part 2

This is a series on three remarkable women who helped to shape the Globe-Miami community and the State.

Sarah Herring Sorin, a pioneer professional, became a lawyer in Tombstone just ten years after the O.K. Corral gunfight. Born in 1861 and educated in New York City, her father, William Herring, opened a law office in Tombstone in the early 1880s. At first she taught school, considered a proper woman’s career back then, but resigned when her brother died. Sarah studied law under her father and was admitted to practice in 1892, becoming the first woman lawyer in Arizona.

Jacquelyn Kasper, retired research librarian at the University of Arizona’s James E. Rogers College of Law, has thoroughly researched Ms. Sorin and delivered an award-winning presentation at the Arizona History Convention in 2005. She is currently working on a definitive biography of the Arizona pioneer lawyer.  According to Kasper, Sarah Herring continued to study law at the New York University Law School and received her degree with honors in 1894. She then partnered with her father in the firm that would eventually become Herring and Sorin. As the economy continued to die in Tombstone after the flooding of the mines, Sorin and her father moved their business to Tucson in 1896.

In 1898 Sarah Herring married Thomas Sorin, a prominent Cochise County rancher, mineralogist, and journalist for the Tombstone Epitaph. The couple lived on his ranch near Tombstone for several years, but her husband was on the road with his mineral consulting business a great deal. After the birth of a stillborn child Sarah moved back to her family’s home in Tucson in 1902. She threw herself into to the increasing duties of their rapidly growing law firm.

The firm of Herring and Sorin specialized in mining company disputes involving what would be millions of dollars in today’s money. After a victory for the Copper Queen Consolidated in 1900, the Bisbee Review stated that much of the credit is due to the fine legal ability of this eminent lady. As the cases became more important, results were appealed to higher courts.

As a result, in 1906 Sarah Herring Sorin became the 24th woman to be permitted to practice before the Supreme Court, and the first from Arizona to do so. But although she was a groundbreaker in that respect, her views were often those of her era, and also the 19th-century West. Kasper cites an April 16, 1906 Washington Post interview where Sorin says she does not believe in the vote for women, nor does she belong to women’s clubs, but says that without a daily canter on my good horse my spirits and energies would fail entirely. It is the best tonic a woman can take. She was known for her diligent research, organization, and meticulous preparation and the rigorous exercise must have helped to clear her mind.

Working from Tucson for mining companies in Bisbee and Globe, the father-daughter team continued to rise in prominence. William Herring died just as Arizona gained statehood in 1912, and Sorin moved to Globe, where she represented the Old Dominion Copper Company.

In 1913 she became the first female in U. S. history to argue (and win) a case before the nation’s highest court by herself, with no male lawyer as a partner. Inducted into the Arizona Women’s Hall of Fame in 1985, her biography quotes a newspaper of the time as saying, The case was that of James H. Work against the United Globe Mining Company, a contest for the possession of the Big Johnny mine. As a result of Mrs. Sorin’s victory before the highest court of America, the Phelps-Dodge interests, owners of the United Globe, have undisputed possession of the Big Johnny and it is expected that they will proceed without delay to develop the mine, which gives rich promise.

The Tombstone Epitaph said Mrs. Sorin is at perfect ease in a courtroom and commands the respect of both judge and jury and wins the admiration of the bar for the graceful manner in which she handles her case.She is never at a loss for authorities, being so thoroughly prepared as to have references at her fingers end, and no matter how complicated the issue, she possesses that happy facility of elucidation that most generally wins for her client a favorable verdict .

In 1914, just a few months after she won the Supreme Court case, Sorin contracted a respiratory disease purportedly contracted from a Tombstone hotel room infected by the previous tenant, and died at age 53. She was inducted into the Arizona Women’s Hall of Fame in 1985, and continues to be one of Globe’s most prestigious citizens in the rugged, independent tradition of what she liked to call the Wild and Wooly West.

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