Felice Cohn

This entry was provided through a partnership with the Nevada Women's History Project.

Felice Cohn was an attorney, suffragist, specialist in land use policy, and the first Nevada-born woman to practice law in the state. She was born in Carson City in 1878 to prominent businessman Morris Cohn and Pauline Sheyer (daughter of Rabbi Jacob Sheyer). After studying at Stanford and the University of Nevada, Cohn graduated from the Nevada Business College in 1899. She reportedly took classes at George Washington Law School and was admitted to the Nevada bar in 1902.

Cohn was assistant to U.S. Attorney for Nevada Samuel Platt from 1906 to 1914. Cohn and Platt had much in common, including Carson City nativity, Jewish heritage, and Republican political affiliation. They differed on the issue of women's suffrage. Cohn addressed the state legislature on women's legal status and authored Nevada's suffrage amendment. After weeks of procedural roadblocks by its opponents, the amendment passed in March 1911. Cohn then formed the Non-Militant Suffrage Association, which worked to gain voter approval of the amendment in 1914. The legislative victory was credited to Cohn's deft political strategy.

Cohn was one of the first women admitted to practice in the U.S. Supreme Court (1916). She served three terms as U.S. Referee in Bankruptcy and as hearings officer for the General Land Office before entering private practice in Reno in 1922. By 1933 she had assisted in the litigation of over a thousand divorces, though she was on record preferring the three month residency requirement rather than the reduced requirement of six weeks, established in 1931.

Cohn was a candidate for state assembly (1924), Reno City Attorney (1927), and three times for Washoe County District Judge (1942, 1950, 1952), but was unsuccessful in all five bids for public office. Organizer and first president of the Nevada Federation of Business and Professional Women's Clubs, she served as an officer of many local and national organizations. Although Cohn never married, she was a lifelong advocate for legislation in support of children's and women's rights. She died in Reno on May 24, 1961.

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