'Berg to help honor Ohio's first female attorneys

Heidelberg co-sponsors marker dedication, historical presentation

TIFFIN - Ohio's first female Chief Justice, Maureen O'Connor, will be in Tiffin Wednesday, Oct.,23 to help the community honor the first two women lawyers in the state's history. A series of events that day will coincide with the dedication and placement of an Ohio historical marker recognizing the pioneering sisters, Tiffin residents Florence and Nettie Cronise.

Sponsors for the events are the Seneca County Bar Association, the Barnes-Deinzer SenecaCounty Museum Foundation, the Ohio State Bar Association and Heidelberg University.

The marker unveiling and dedication will take place at 3:30 p.m. on the Courthouse square. Among the scheduled speakers is Jonathan Hollingsworth, president of the OSBA. The city also will honor the sisters with an honorary street name designation of Court Street between Washington and Jefferson streets, as N. & F. Cronise Way.

Local attorney James Fruth, a Heidelberg alumnus, will emcee the dedication ceremony. Other dignitaries who will participate, in addition to O'Connor, are Seneca County Commissioner Holly Stacy, Mayor Aaron Montz, a representative from the Ohio Historical Society and attorney, Berg alumnus and trustee Elizabeth Smith, who will introduce the chief justice. The community is invited to attend, free of charge.

The ceremony will follow a 2 p.m. presentation at the Tiffin-Seneca Public Library by several senior students from Heidelberg followed by attorneys from Tiffin and Columbus who have researched the sisters. Rebecca Dickinson will give a historical perspective of their contributions, while Katelyn Hough and Leigh Barthel will the sisters in "A Conversation with the Cronise Sisters." Reflections will be provided by attorneys Hilary Damaser and Victor Perez, who has been instrumental in organizing the dedication event. The community also is invited to this presentation.

Earlier in the day, Heidelberg's Women's Leadership Initiative will host a luncheon as part of its "Early Success Speakers" series. Three young Heidelberg alumni who are practicing attorneys, Rebecca Denton Shope, Jennifer Coletta McHugh and Carrie Benedict, will give remarks and advice to studentsinterested in the legal profession.

Heidelberg will host a private reception at the Grammes-Brown House following the dedication.The Seneca County Bar Association also plans an exhibit dedicated to the Cronise sisters and their achievements at Bailiwicks Coffee Co.

The Cronise sisters have an important connection to Heidelberg. Florence Cronise graduated at the top of her Heidelberg College class in 1865. Annette "Nettie" Cronise attended Heidelberg; she moved on to State Normal School in Indiana. Both studied law at local practices. In 1873, Nettie became the first woman admitted to the Ohio Bar Association. Six months later, her younger sister joined her, and they opened their own practice in Tiffin.

Both sisters practiced together as N. & F. Cronise, Attorneys at Law, in Tiffin, operating the first woman-owned law firm in the state. Eventually, the two would either train or assist the next two femalel awyers in Ohio.

After her marriage to Civil War veteran and attorney Nelson B. Lutes, Nettie left the firm to practice with him as Lutes and Lutes. She continued to try cases with her husband, even as he developed deafness which he attributed to his war service. The two worked as a team, Nettie translating testimony so that Nelson could continue to practice in court despite his disability.

The Cronise sisters were nationally respected among their peers. Nettie was active in a number of professional organizations and Florence was civically active, serving on the local school board. She was an original incorporator of what is now the Tiffin-Seneca Public Library.

They were born in Seneca County and raised by their grandfather, Henry Cronise, a prominent local settler, state legislator and judge. Their childhood home still stands in Tiffin.

Nettie Cronise Lutes died in 1923 at age 80 in Tiffin and Florence Cronise died in 1930 at age 85in Philadelphia.

Posted on: 
Oct 15, 2013