Margaret Brent, the first woman to act as an attorney before the court of common law in an American colony, arrived in Maryland in 1638, along with two brothers and a sister. She quickly secured a land grant and engaged in many business ventures, including trading in tobacco, indentured servants and land.
Because of her many enterprises, she often appeared in court to force collection of debts and to protect her interests. She soon, however, was also appearing on behalf of her brothers and of other women landowners. And it is apparent that the courts did not know quite how to deal with this as she is often referred to in court documents as “Gentleman Margaret Brent.”
Maryland governor Leonard Calvert so respected her that he named her the sole executor of his estate, and although he appointed Thomas Greene to succeed him as governor, it was Margaret Brent who handled the affairs of state, including asking the assembly to transfer Leonard Calvert’s power of attorney for his brother, Lord Baltimore, to her. Once in possession of the power of attorney, she sold some of Lord Baltimore’s cows in order to pay the army Leonard Calvert had mustered, thereby averting a mutiny.
And it was 362 years ago this month that Margaret Brent attended a meeting of the assembly and rose to speak. She requested that she be given a vote because she was a property owner and a second vote because she held Lord Baltimore’s power of attorney. Although there were those who felt the request should be granted, more felt it should be denied because she was a woman.
As the political winds turned against her, Margaret Brent moved from Maryland to Virginia where she acquired a large tract of land, living there until her death.