Education and Human Sciences, College of (CEHS)


First Advisor

Dr. Marilyn L. Grady

Date of this Version



Journal of Women in Educational Leadership, 2020

doi: 10.32873/unl.dc.jwel.195

ISSN 2379-2191


A DISSERTATION Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Major: Educational Studies (Educational Leadership and Higher Education), Under the Supervision of Professor Marilyn L. Grady. Lincoln, Nebraska: June 2020

Copyright 2020 Terri L. Deayon


The purpose of this historical case study was to explore the challenges, issues, life, and legacy of Grace Steinberg Day. The study was designed to identify the personal attributes, professional characteristics, and leadership qualities that Grace possessed. Grace Steinberg Day enrolled at the University of South Dakota Law School, in the late 1940’s (Campbell, 2016). Day was the only female, in the law class of 175 students, as well as the only Jewish student. She graduated, passed the bar, and ultimately launched a solo practice in 1950. During this era, women attorneys were not the norm and Grace endured a great deal of obstacles. She was forced to specialize in family law, representing women who often could not pay, since many clients were not interested in female legal representation. In spite of it all, Grace would go on to attain a multitude of leadership accomplishments and accolades.

Using the qualitative educational research methodology of historical portraiture, this study analyzes both personal and professional events in Grace’s life, as well as chronicled notable achievements. Portraiture seeks to blend artistic expression with scientific rigor to form an aesthetic whole. It is a method of qualitative research that blurs the boundaries of aesthetics and empiricism in an effort to capture the complexity, dynamics, and subtlety of human experience and organizational life. Portraitists seek to record and interpret the perspectives and experience of the people they are studying, documenting their voices and their visions – their authority, knowledge, and wisdom. The drawing of the portrait is placed in social and cultural context and shaped through dialogue between the portraitist and the subject, each one negotiating the discourse and shaping the evolving image (Lightfoot & Davis, 1997).

Data were collected primarily from October 2016 through June 2020. Data collection strategies included consulting individuals who knew Grace personally and/or professionally. These conversations with Grace’s family, peers, and colleagues, provided valuable insight into her personality, values, and leadership profile. In addition, several articles, interviews, and a documentary about Grace were used.

Advisor: Marilyn L. Grady