“At the time of her death, Miss Goodell was in debt to me in the sum of $50.”

“At the time of her death, Miss Goodell was in debt to me in the sum of $50.”

Kate Kane, January 1881

When Lavinia Goodell drafted her will in July of 1879, she no doubt believed that her estate would be divided exactly as she specified, and she probably did not expect anyone to file spurious claims. Unfortunately, her will was challenged and her friend and fellow Janesville attorney, Kate Kane, filed a claim against the estate.

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“In evening, drafted my will.”

“In evening, drafted my will.”

Lavinia Goodell, July 4, 1879

In 1879, approximately nine months before she died, Lavinia Goodell spent part of the July 4th holiday drafting her will.

There is no indication that she had previous wills. Both of Lavinia’s parents had died in 1878. She had drafted their wills. Upon their deaths, Lavinia inherited a goodly sum of money and, being a meticulous planner, she no doubt wanted to make sure that when she died, her estate would be distributed precisely the way she wanted. (Read the entire will here.)

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The death of Wisconsin’s 1st woman lawyer

The death of Wisconsin’s 1st woman lawyer

Rhoda Lavinia Goodell (May 2, 1839-March 31, 1880)

In the early morning hours of March 31, 1880, Lavinia Goodell died in Milwaukee. She was just a month shy of her 41st birthday. Lavinia had left Janesville in November of 1879 and moved to Madison, setting up her law practice there. She went to Milwaukee in January 1880 to seek treatment for her rapidly declining health at a Turkish bath establishment. When that treatment failed, she was taken to a private residence where she spent her final days. Her cousin Sarah Thomas was with her when she died of ovarian cancer. (Her attending physician, Dr. Eugene F. Storke, listed the cause of death as “cystilies from paralysis of detrusor muscle.”) The Janesville Gazette wrote:

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Posted by admin in Death/estate, Life in Wisconsin: 1871-1880, Illness, 2 comments