Lulu Northcutt: ‘The First One’

Lulu Northcutt’s 1924 yearbook photo at the University of Kentucky. (Photo used courtesy of UK Rosenberg College of Law.)

City’s legal conference room to bear name of female legal trailblazer

COVINGTON, Ky. – Covington’s Lulu Northcutt made headlines in a March 6, 1929, article in The Kentucky Post newspaper by doing what lawyers generally do – she filed an action in court.

What made that filing newsworthy was that this action, the article stated, “was said to be the first” filed by a woman in Kenton Circuit Court. The headline didn’t hedge on the status, boldly declaring, “The First One,” with a smaller headline underneath noting, “Initial Suit Offered to Court by Woman Lawyer.”

Such was news of the day.

Northcutt, the article explained, had filed for an action for divorce for Mrs. Lucille Cole against Winfield F. Cole, alleging cruelty and seeking the restoration of her maiden name, Huffman. Until then, Northcutt’s name had only appeared on joint petitions alongside the names of her brothers – and colleagues – Johnst and Richard.

To acknowledge Northcutt’s trailblazing, the City of Covington’s Legal Department is adorning its conference room with her name, just in time for Women’s History Month.

The search for ‘the first one’

Cassandra Zoda, the City’s Senior Assistant City Solicitor, shepherded the effort. To identify the first female attorney in Covington, Zoda reached out to Krysta Wilham, MA, the Local History & Genealogy Programmer at the Covington branch of the Kenton County Public Library.

“Ms. Northcutt frequently made the news in Covington for her accomplishments and contributions to local organizations, including being the first woman to file a lawsuit in Kenton Circuit Court,” Zoda said.

Research further showed that Lulu Agnes Northcutt was born in 1899 to Charles and Betty (McAtee) Northcutt in Kenton County. She graduated from the University of Kentucky College of Law in 1924 and was chairperson (1930) and president (1928) of the Covington Business and Professional Women’s Club.

She also served as secretary of the Northern Kentucky University of Kentucky Alumni Club in 1929 and was a member of the Women Lawyers’ Club of Cincinnati.

“City Hall has a tradition of naming conference rooms after people important to Covington’s culture – Duveneck, Roebling, and Farney,” Zoda said. “So, this seemed like the perfect opportunity.”

Northcutt, in keeping with her history, will be the first woman to hold that honor at City Hall.

‘Milestones for women’

Zoda herself is not stranger to notable "firsts" for women in Covington.

“Shortly after I started in the Covington Legal Department, City officials took the opportunity to commemorate the significance of the first woman to ever serve as our City Manager, Loren Wolff,” Zoda said. “It felt very special to work here at that time and inspired me to find ways to draw attention to other milestones for women in Covington’s history.”

City Solicitor David Davidson concurred that recognizing Northcutt is the right move.

“It’s about time,” Davidson said. “Michelle Obama said, ‘If there’s one thing I’ve learned in life, it’s the power of using your voice.’ If she is right about that, then Lulu Northcutt used her voice.”

For Zoda, the opportunity to recognize and honor Northcutt is in keeping with what she finds most rewarding about working for the City.

“One of the most rewarding parts about working for Covington is its focus on diversity and honoring our local trailblazers,” Zoda said. “It is an honor to do work for the City in a room that holds her name.”

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