Margaret and Margaret: Two Women of Color Breaking Barriers in Law

Wilson-Margaret-Bush_90-347-16On 29 March 1943 Margaret Bush Wilson became the second Black woman lawyer in Missouri. In 1948 she became the first black woman from St. Louis to run for Congress. She founded the Model Housing Development Corporation of St. Louis. In June 1968 she was appointed Director of the St. Louis Model City Agency.

In 1956 she was on the executive committee of the St. Louis NAACP and served as president from 1959 to 1962. From 1963 to 1966 she served as president of the state NAACP. In 1975 she became the first black woman Chairman of the national board of the 400,000 member NAACP and served from 1975-1984. From 1986 to 1988 she taught at St. Louis University Law School and received multiple honorary degrees from various universities, including Washington University in St. Louis.

margaret-Echigoshima001Margaret Echigoshima’s family members were some of the 120,000 civilian resident aliens and U.S. Citizens of Japanese background that were sent to internment camps. She had finished three years of law school in Seattle when the government forcibly relocated. In 1942, she was the first graduate students to be released from Minidoka Relocation Center to continue her education. Washington University accepted her, and so she traveled alone to St. Louis in order to finish her studies.

Margaret Bush Wilson and Margaret Echigoshima passed the bar at the same time, in March 1943.

A few months after passing the bar, Margaret Echigoshima told the St. Louis Post Dispatch, “Law is a difficult profession for a woman at any time. But when you’re not only a woman but Japanese, you’ve got a double hurdle to jump.” She was a member of the Women’s Bar Association of St. Louis and the District of Columbia Bar Association. After working for a law firm in D.C. for three years, she went on to do freelance work for different groups under contract with the Federal Government.


Washington University Women’s Law Caucus, Spring 1989

About the author

Miranda Rectenwald is Curator of Local History, Washington University Special Collections. More info.