Eva Rose Pollack Glaser generally believed to be the first woman to practice law in DuPage County, Illinois, practiced for fifty-one years under the name "Eva R. Pollack".
Eva Pollack was born in Chicago, Illinois, in 1909, the oldest of eight children; six boys and two girls. Her father, Joseph Pollack, and her mother, Anna Dora (Weinstein) Pollack, were born in Lida, Russia, and emigrated to the United States through Ellis Island in 1909 to avoid Joseph Pollack’s conscription into the Cossack Army. Upon arrival in Chicago, Joseph Pollack purchased a horse and wagon and started business as a junk peddler while her Anna Pollack worked as a seamstress. Shortly after Eva’s brother, Reuben, was born in 1914, the family moved to LaGrange where they lived for two weeks in her uncle’s barn. They then permanently settled in Downers Grove, where the remaining six children, Hyman, William, David, Elmer, Evelyn and Jacob, were born.
Life for the Pollack family in DuPage County was difficult. In 1914, the Pollacks were the only one Jewish family in DuPage County. The family’s primary language was Yiddish, although Eva’s parents also spoke Polish. Joseph Pollack settled the family in a tiny frame house he purchased for $800 just north of the city limits at 4539 Linscott Avenue. He bought and sold junk — paper, rags, iron, metals. The family lived in extreme poverty. The children often wore the rags their father purchased. For many years, their home had no indoor plumbing and no electricity. The children were raised in the strict Orthodox Jewish faith, and Anna Pollack maintained a kosher kitchen. A rabbi came to the Pollack home each week to provide religious instruction. However, in spite of their poverty, the children played musical instruments; Eva played the violin. All of the children attended school in Downers Grove, and the family was close knit, relying primarily upon themselves as they were not well accepted in the community because of their poverty, their religion, and their father’s business.
As the oldest child, Eva was expected to assist her mother in the care of her younger siblings and the maintenance of the household. It soon became evident to her parents, however, that Eva was highly intelligent and that household chores were not her forte. Eva was valedictorian of the Downers Grove High School Class of 1926. However, when she expressed a desire to attend Northwestern University, her father stated his preference that she remain at home and continue to help her mother. It appeared that Eva’s hopes for a college education would not be realized. Learning of her aspirations and knowing that her father’s income was too meager to pay Eva’s tuition to Northwestern, the principal of Downers Grove High School entreated Joseph Pollack to permit him to obtain an interview for Eva at Northwestern University for a scholarship. With the principal’s recommendation — "She is a very unusual student and can be absolutely depended upon"— Eva obtained a full scholarship and entered Northwestern University in September 1926.
The family could not spare any money to assist Eva; from the outset it was necessary for her to earn her own room and board while attending Northwestern. She worked for the Hartman family in Evanston, seven days a week, doing whatever tasks they required. She primarily served as the nanny for their young children. The Hartmans provided Eva with a roof over her head and her meals, but she had no additional income. In order to visit her family in Downers Grove, her brothers gave her whatever money they had for her train fare.
After she completed her undergraduate degree in 1930, Eva was awarded a full scholarship to Northwestern University School of Law from which she obtained her Juris Doctor in 1933. Of the thirty-three members in her law school class, only three were women. She was a member of Kappa Beta Pi, a legal sorority. Eva Pollack was admitted to the bar of the State of Illinois on February 15, 1934.
After graduating from law school, the only offers of employment Eva received were positions as a secretary or a law clerk. Consequently, she opened her own law practice at 932 Curtiss Avenue in Downers Grove, and she maintained that office (except for a short period during World War II) until shortly before her death in 1985. During World War II, Eva worked on contracts for the government through the office of United States Representative Chauncey W. Reed from the 14th Congressional District.
In her law school entrance essay, Eva Pollack wrote that she wanted to specialize in criminal law. Unfortunately, she found that the criminal defense bar was predominately male and that very few criminal defendants would seek a woman defense attorney. Her criminal practice was therefore limited to traffic and misdemeanor cases. As was common in her time, Eva Pollack had a general law practice. She primarily represented women in divorce actions, handled probate and estate matters and real estate transactions, litigated civil and criminal matters, and argued appeals. According to Eva’s brother, the DuPage County Republican Party once asked Eva if she would like to be slated for election as a judge, but she declined the offer, asserting that she preferred her independence and her private practice. She was, however, an active member of the Women’s Republican Party.
Eva Pollack was generally admired in the legal community for her high principles and her legal capability. Her contemporaries (almost exclusively male) described her as "honest and reliable" and stated that she "worked hard for her clients." The attorneys agreed that she was "quite tenacious" and "aggressive in pursuit of her practice." However, there just was "not much camaraderie between men and women attorneys at that time." An attorney who knew Eva Pollack and her family said that she had "a hard life because her father was a junk peddler and used to buy rags on the street . . . Eva started out with practically nothing and got somewhere by hard work." At that time, women attorneys were a novelty and they were not accepted in the profession and Eva’s Jewish faith made acceptance even more difficult.
Eva Pollack was very active in professional bar associations. She was president of the Women’s Bar Association of Illinois in 1943-1944 and served as the chairperson of many committees. She was active in the DuPage County Bar Association, serving on its Program and Publicity Committees for many years, and she was an active member of the Illinois State Bar Association and the Decalogue Society of Lawyers.
Eva Pollack’s strict adherence to her religious beliefs prevented her from marrying outside of her faith. Her family states that she declined a proposal of marriage from Gordon Moffett (a DuPage County judge), her one-true love, because he was not Jewish. Eventually, in approximately 1955, Eva Pollack married George F. Glaser, a physician from Germany, seventeen years her senior, and moved from the family home in Downers Grove to an apartment on Lake Shore Drive in Chicago. Until her marriage, Eva Pollack and her younger sister, Evelyn, cared for their widowed mother. Eva and George Glaser had no children. After the marriage, Eva opened a second law office in the same building with her husband’s medical practice at Broadway and Belmont in Chicago.
As was the style of the day, Eva Pollack dressed in a very distinguished manner. The attire for a woman attorney was very formal: a suit, hat, shoes with matching gloves, and a gebot. Eva always wore a hat to make herself look taller even though she was 5' 7" and very slender.
Eva Pollack exemplifies the tenacious spirit and drive of an educated woman of her era. She rose from abject poverty and obtained a full scholarship to law school at Northwestern. Having accomplished that, she did what was for that age very revolutionary — she opened a solo legal practice in downtown Downers Grove — and she thrived in that environment. She donned her "legal attire" and tried cases in the DuPage County courthouse. Her presence was such a novelty that male attorneys would watch her every movement in the courtroom. And, in the end, she won their respect and their admiration by maintaining her independence, high morals, and impeccable principles. She was a true role model for the women attorneys who would follow in her footsteps.
Sources: Interviews with Hymen Pollack and Evelyn Cohen (Eva’s siblings) and DuPage County senior attorneys; admission records of Northwestern University; archives of DCBA; and the Chicago Tribune obituary.
Angela Imbierowicz is a Sole Practitioner in Hinsdale. Her practice concentrates in employment and civil litigation, corporate and real estate law. She received her Undergraduate Degree in 1967 from Northern Illinois and her Law Degree in 1985 from The John Marshall Law School.