Nexsen Pruet Member Recognized for Impact on the Capital City
March 12, 2020
Nexsen Pruet's Victoria Eslinger, an award winning litigation attorney, has been selected as a Columbia City of Women honoree. Historic Columbia and the South Carolina Women's Rights and Empowerment Network, along with former SC First Lady Rachel Hodges, created the Columbia City of Women awards to recognize women who have made a significant impact in the Capital City.
"Vickie is a trailblazer who did and does break barriers, especially in the Columbia community" says Nikole Setzler Mergo, Columbia Office Managing Partner. "She has spent her life and career tirelessly advocating for women's health and equality and is known for fighting for underdogs of all backgrounds - and winning. This recognition is well deserved and we are thrilled to see Vickie and her accomplishments celebrated."
Excerpt From the Columbia City of Women:
Eslinger applied to be a Senate page, a sought-after position for law school students in the South Carolina state legislature. After securing sponsorship from four senators, she approached Senate Clerk Lovick Thomas with her application. Thomas, upon receiving it, patted her on the head, and replied: “But, you’re a girl.” Eslinger secured the ACLU’s help in filing suit. In response, the South Carolina Senate passed Resolution S.525, which allowed women to serve as “clerical assistants” and “committee attendants” but not as “Senate pages,” because of the dangerous tasks, such as visiting the State House at night, that the page position entailed. In response, Eslinger’s attorneys suggested: “the Senate need not fear for her safety because she has a brown belt in karate.” Eslinger eventually won on appeal in 1973, just months before her law school graduation.
After law school, Eslinger took a job at Legal Aid Services. In the early 1970s, legal aid attorneys could take any type of case, including fee-generating ones, if two other lawyers turned it down. Eslinger took employment and civil rights cases, including changing birth certificates for transgender women.
In 1977, Eslinger formed Eslinger & Knowles with Lucy Knowles, South Carolina’s first all-female law firm. The duo, who had previously had a difficult time being hired at another firm due to their gender, adopted the attitude that “we wanted to do the kind of cases we wanted to do.” One of these cases was representing professors in the suit University of South Carolina v. Batson et al, which successfully invalidated the lowering of the university’s retirement age from 70 to 65. The firm did so in style. According to Eslinger, “We had pink blue backs instead of blue backs. [We] used to have to cover your pleadings with blue papers, and we decided we would use pink ones so we could find ours at the courthouse.”
When asked by Historic Columbia what advice she would offer to young women today, she offered this:
"Learn to be a leader and don't care if people don't like you. The people you care about, whether or not they like you, are the people you love and you interact with every day. Otherwise you've got to be able to stand up for your principles. And the other thing I would tell them is what I tell all the young law students I talk to. I hope that you will live your life in such a way that every morning when your feet hit the floor, Satan shudders and says 'Oh crap. She's awake."
- Victoria L. Eslinger
To read Victoria's full profile, click here.
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