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The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture

Margaret McVean (center) in her law office
(5829, Oklahoma Historical Society Photograph Collection, OHS).

McVEAN, MARGARET (1869–1938).

Oklahoma City pioneer lawyer Margaret McVean was born January 30, 1869, in Campbell County, Kentucky, to Stephen J. and Elizabeth Spilman McVean. After graduating from high school, she taught in a small school near Newport, Kentucky, and read Sir William Blackstone's Commentaries on the Laws of England in her spare time. At the turn of the twentieth century she decided to leave the accepted woman's career of teaching, and she entered the male-dominated, but more lucrative, law field. In 1902 thirty-three-year-old McVean graduated with a law degree from the University of Michigan, a prominent midwestern law school that first admitted women as law students in 1870. In 1903 she came to Oklahoma City, recently opened for settlement in the Land Run of 1889. She was admitted to practice law on the motion of a fellow Kentuckian, Territorial Judge James R. Keaton. McVean was the first lawyer sworn in on statehood day, November 16, 1907.

In addition to handling divorces she specialized in probate, title, and corporation law, typical areas of law for women in the early twentieth century. Women generally accepted an office practice rather than trial work, which required an aggressive personality in male-dominated courtrooms. One of her last cases involved untangling the estate of Col. Zack Miller, owner of the Miller Brothers 101 Ranch.

McVean joined the Oklahoma Bar Association in 1920 and served as vice president of the Oklahoma City Bar Association in the early 1920s. In 1937 she received the Oklahoma Hall of Fame award. Never married, she lived with her two sisters in Oklahoma City. She died of heart disease on July 28, 1938, and was buried at Memorial Park Cemetery in Oklahoma City.

Linda D. Wilson


Orben J. Casey, And Justice for All: The Legal Profession in Oklahoma, 1821–1989, ed. Odie B. Faulk (Oklahoma City: Oklahoma Heritage Association, 1989).

Virginia G. Drachman, Sisters in Law: Women Lawyers in Modern American History (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1998).

Harlow's Weekly (Oklahoma City), 9 September 1921.

Oklahoma City (Oklahoma) Times, 29 July 1938.


The following (as per The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th edition) is the preferred citation for articles:
Linda D. Wilson, “McVean, Margaret,” The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, https://www.okhistory.org/publications/enc/entry?entry=MC041.

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