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Schwilck, Lucille (1904-2005)



  • Existence: 1904 - 2005


Lucille Schwilck was born on a farm in Wayne County, Iowa, in 1905. Schwilck attended a rural school through the eighth grade. Her father did not believe that any further education was necessary for girls. At age thirteen, following the marriage of her two oldest sisters, Schwilck took over the housekeeping chores for her family of six. Schwilck continued this routine for five years until the death of her younger sister in 1924 when Schwilck's mother announced to visiting relatives that Schwilck would be attending high school that fall. Schwilck later said that she thought more education would provide her with a way to earn a living without feeling compelled to marry "some man in need of a housekeeper."

Schwilck completed her high school course work in just three years and enrolled at Parsons College in Fairfield, Iowa where she worked up to fifty hours per week in order to pay her own way. Schwilck majored in Latin because it did not require long hours studying at the library, an impossibility with her work schedule. Graduating from Parsons College in 1931, Schwilck had a summer job as a traveling salesman and then spent a year teaching Latin, history and public speaking in a high school before registering for graduate courses in political science at the University of Iowa. Schwilck earned her M.A. in 1933 and found a job teaching high school. The following year Schwilck was offered a position as a graduate assistant at the University of Iowa, taking half her work in the law school. She continued teaching at a junior college during the year and attended law school during the summers until her final year when she quit her teaching post and devoted her time to her studies. Schwilck graduated in 1939, the only woman in a class of one hundred. She was unable to attend the graduation ceremony as she had already procured a job in Des Moines with the law firm Putnam, Putnam, Fillmore and Putnam and she was unable to get time off work to attend the ceremony.

At Putnam et al, Schwilck prepared appeals to the Iowa Supreme Court from the firm's personal injury cases around the state. She argued at least six of the cases herself. Eventually Schwilck built-up her own law practice specializing in divorce and separate maintenance suits for women. Schwilck took a job with another Des Moines law firm before passing the Civil Service exam and accepting a job in Washington, D.C. with the U.S. Department of the Interior in 1943. Schwilck worked for the Department of the Interior for the next twenty-one years. Her professional work is recorded in the files of the Department of the Interior of the U.S. Government and concerns rulings of the Department of Public Land matters, including railroad land grants, contracts for construction work in Alaska and the Virgin Islands, Bureau of Reclamation negotiations for the Yangtze River project in China and interpretations of contract provisions and expenditures.

Schwilck left the Department of the Interior in 1964 and spent the following twelve years traveling the globe and living in various foreign countries, including a stint teaching English in Chile. Schwilck eventually settled in Baltimore where she later taught English and citizenship classes at the YWCA (Young Women's Christian Association). In 1996 she received the Distinguished Alumna Service Award from the University of Iowa and experienced her delayed graduation ceremony. Lucille Schwilck passed away in 2005.

Found in 1 Collection or Record:

Lucille Schwilck papers

Identifier: IWA0679

1939 graduate from the State University of Iowa College of Law who worked for the U. S. Department of the Interior between 1943 and 1964.

Dates: 1986-2001