Alta M. Hulett, born on June 4, 1854, in Rockford, Illinois, learned how to operate the telegraph at ten years of age and went on to become an operator. Fascinated with the legal profession, she then became a teacher and studied law in her leisure time.
In 1872, 17-year-old Hulett, after passing a required exam, applied for admission to the Illinois bar; she was rejected based on her gender. So, she went to Chicago and managed to pass a bill through the state legislature that gave women the right to practice law in Illinois. In 1873, she was admitted to the bar and became Illinois' first female lawyer.
Due to falling health, Hulett relocated to California, where she became one of the first women to practice law in San Diego. She was here until her death on March 26, 1877, at age 22.
On October 24, 1957, 80 years after her death, the Women Lawyers of San Diego County (an organization that seems to no longer exist) installed a new tombstone in her honor, located at division 3, section 1, lot 14, grave 3, in Mount Hope Cemetery.
In 2004, the Illinois bar issued its first Alta M. Hulett Award, an annual honor bestowed on women attorneys in America.