Sarmiza Bilcescu-Alimănişteanu

Sarmiza or Sarmisa Bilcescu (later Bilcescu-Alimănişteanu; April 27, 1867 - August 26, 1935) was a Romanian lawyer, the first European woman ever to obtain a license in Law from the University of Paris, the first women to obtain a PhD in Law in the world, and the first one in her country to practice law.

Sarmiza was accompanied to France by her mother, a self-avowed feminist. Having applied for University in 1884, she was given a poor reception at the Faculty; in the words of Edmond Louis Armand Colmet De Santerre, the Professor of Civil law, "We hesitated to award Miss Bilcescu the authorization she demanded, fearing that we would have to police the amphitheaters". She even complained that, after being ultimately accepted, the doorman had not being allowed to enter the University hall (feeling insulted, she pointed out that such behavior contradicted the Liberté, égalité, fraternité motto present above the gate). Nevertheless, after completing her first year of studies, Colmet De Santerre addressed the student body, mentioning Bilcescu's "relentlessness beyond all praise and exemplary conduct", thanking male students for having "welcomed her as a sister" (the speech was received with applause by the audience).

She received a license to practice in 1887. In 1890, when 71% of female students in France were of foreign origin, Bilcescu was also the first female European to obtain her PhD in Law, two years before the French national Jeanne Chauvin. Her thesis was titled De la condition légale de la mère ("On the Legal Condition of the Mother").

In 1891, following a campaign in her favor, she was admitted with full honors to the bar association in Ilfov County (which, at that time, also included Bucharest), which was presided over by the notorious lawyer and politician Take Ionescu. Aside from being a first in her country (in which women had traditionally been rejected on the basis of Roman law), this event was unprecedented in comparison to most European countries. The measure was notably welcomed by the Belgian lawyer and liberal politician Louis Franck, who deemed it "a major innovation". Sarmiza Bilcescu married Constantin Alimănişteanu six years after being admitted to the bar, and subsequently retired from her profession, while remaining active in feminist circles, and being among the founding members of Societatea Domnişoarelor Române (the Society of Romanian Young Ladies").

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