Iowa native & legal trailblazer Grace Day featured in new documentary on IPTV

Posted: November 29, 2016

Iowa Public Television will air a documentary about legal trailblazer Grace Day who was born in Onawa, Iowa. Amazing Grace, a 30-minute documentary, explores the treatment of women in the legal industry in the Midwest from the 1940s through today. It will premiere on IPTV’s WORLD (.3) channel December 4 at 5 p.m., with additional airings throughout December. Check the schedule for all air dates and times.

Day, who practiced family law in Missouri for more than 64 years, was the lone woman in her law school class in 1948 and endured torment from her peers and professors. “Grace had no role models in her hometown in Onawa and no lawyers in her family,” said Heather McMichael, who produced the documentary. “Her parents owned the town shoe store in Onawa where Grace says she learned her work ethic. The fact that she became a lawyer at a time when the profession wasn’t open to women is a story in and of itself.”

After earning her law degree in 1950, Day married a man from Missouri and they settled in St. Joseph, Missouri. But her legal career didn’t come easily. For more than 30 years, she was the only woman lawyer in St. Joseph and had to start her own small firm because no law firms would hire her. She eventually joined a successful St. Joseph law firm that later became part of an AmLaw100 firm headquartered in Kansas City, Missouri.

“I was told by the law firms in St. Joseph at the time that their clients would not stand for a woman lawyer,” Day says in the film. “Most of the time, they wanted me to be a glorified secretary.”

Day went on to help countless people in Northwest Missouri with family law issues, earned many accolades including Missouri Lawyers Weekly’s, “Woman of the Year,” and became the president of the St. Joseph Bar Association. She gained national prominence as the international president of B’nai B’rith Women and made frequent trips to Washington, D.C., to meet with dignitaries including President Gerald Ford, Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger and Senator Edward M. Kennedy.

Amazing Grace was produced by former Kansas City television anchor Heather McMichael, along with Emmy® award-winning photographer and editor Jon Haiduk. The pair followed Day for more than two years, interviewing her family, her protégé, Missouri attorneys and judges, and students and leadership at her former law school in South Dakota.

“I don’t want to spoil the film, but one of the high points is when we return to her law school in South Dakota and she meets with the current women law students,” said McMichael. “The young women knew about her and flocked to her. She was a lot of fun to be around.”

 “Grace was an icon, plain and simple,” said Dan Boulware, a former colleague and friend.

Day passed away earlier this year at age 89 but did see the film play at her law school.

“She very much enjoyed seeing how things had changed and liked to think she played a role in changing the perception of women in law,” said McMichael.

For information about Amazing Grace, contact kclegaltrailblazers@gmail.com.