Judge Davis’ new book details FAWL’s history

first_img Judge Davis’ new book details FAWL’s history Associate EditorChampagne bubbled in glasses held high, as members of the Florida Association for Women Lawyers stood to toast Judge Mattie Belle Davis and celebrate the publication of her book on the history of FAWL.“Thank you for your foresight in preserving FAWL’s history,” said Wendy Loquasto, FAWL assistant historian in leading the toast at the FAWL luncheon, during the Bar Midyear Meeting in Miami January 17.“Thank you for your time and dedication in committing FAWL’s history to written form. Thank you for your generous gift in publishing this FAWL history book. We salute you!”From a wheelchair, 93-year-old Judge Davis was all smiles, clutching a splashy bouquet of flowers.“It just goes to show that you are never too old to begin a new project, and that having a project may be the best youth formula on the planet!” Loquasto said.Judge Davis happily autographed copies of the book she worked on for a decade and published with $10,000 left to her in a will from her good friend and lawyer colleague Emma Roesing, who died in 1983, a woman lawyer pioneer who graduated from Chicago-Kent Law School in 1916, at a time Illinois did not admit women to practice law.“I think Emma Roesing would approve,” Judge Davis wrote in the preface to the 256-page book, “A History of Florida Association for Women Lawyers 1951 – 2002,” that chronicles FAWL’s humble beginnings of 27 women gathered in Miami in 1951 to a statewide organization with 22 regional chapters and more than 2,000 members.“Today we give thanks for those who have come before us, and those who are with us today faced many challenges caused by seeking to participate in our legal system during times when the presence of women was strange and unwanted,” 11th Circuit Judge Gill Freeman, a past president of FAWL, said in the invocation at the luncheon.“These challenges have forced us, and those who came before us, to develop the strength, wisdom, and courage to become the best we could be.”Judge Davis was a self-educated lawyer who passed the bar exam in 1936, after serving as a secretary to lawyer Troy Davis, who helped teach her the law, became her husband, and law partner until his death in 1948. Judge Davis maintained a solo practice until 1959, when she became the first woman appointed to the Metropolitan Court of Dade County and served on that court and county court for nearly 40 years. Davis was one of the founding members of FAWL and president in 1957-58 and appointed FAWL’s Historian for Life in 1986.For more than half a century, Judge Davis had been saving newspaper clippings, programs, photographs, and newsletters documenting achievements of FAWL and its members. She pulled it all together in a book dedicated to the memory of Louise Rebecca Pinnell, the first woman lawyer in Florida (who died in 1966), to Anna Brenner Meyers of Miami Beach, who convened the first gathering of women lawyers in 1951 and became FAWL’s first president, and to Roesing, who came up with a resolution to organize FAWL.Among its pages are these glimpses into the past when women lawyers blazed a trail for others to follow and FAWL strengthened its political voice:• In 1955, FAWL President Rebecca Bowles Marks of Tallahassee sent an invitation to women members of The Florida Bar to attend the FAWL Annual Meeting, “with the assurance that you will not be a ‘sole femme’ among your masculine colleagues.”• In 1969, at the Centennial Dinner of FAWL, Florida Supreme Court Justice James Adkins, Jr., said: “Through the years, progressive women leaders have shown that a woman’s place is not only in the home, but in all walks of life. It is the responsibility of the women lawyers to show that their place is not only in the office, but in the trial arena, in the appellate courts, in The Florida Bar, in public service, and in public office.”• In 1981, FAWL President Linda Singer received a “consciousness-raising, teasing remark from a male colleague about FAWL being a sexist organization because it excluded male lawyers from membership.” Gender bias was eliminated from FAWL’s constitution and bylaws, and the name was changed from Florida Association of Women Lawyers to Florida Association for Women Lawyers to reflect its new inclusive membership policy.• At the National Association of Women Lawyers mid-winter meeting in Miami Beach in 1982, Samuel S. Smith, president of the Bar, spoke on “Breaking into the Gold Old Boys’ Network.”• Patricia Ireland, FAWL’s ERA chair and vice president in 1982, and the first FAWL Newsletter editor in 1980-81, became president of the National Organization for Women in 1991, a position she held until 2001. In 1982, women lawyers constituted one of the largest groups among 10,000 supporters to march in Tallahassee in support of the ERA. The legislature did not vote for ratification and the time expired on June 30, 1982.• FAWL President Debra Weiss Goodstone, 1982-83, wrote in her poem “Women in the Law” — “When was it that women first took the bar and have women lawyers come all that far? And how do they practice and what do they do? Have they made partner without bringing suit? And can they be mothers? If not, who will be? Can we live with grape jelly on a decree?”In her year as president, Goodstone noted that for the first time a FAWL representative was allowed to serve as a liaison at Bar Board of Governors meetings.“I was even invited to sit at the awesome square Board of Governors’ table, which filled the room. Although, admittedly, it took a time or two before I quite felt comfortable pulling my chair all the way up. “.. . . And things began happening. William Henry, president of the Bar in 1982-83, asked that our members note their affiliation with FAWL on their committee preference forms so that he could appoint them. Women started regularly appearing on committees and commissions. We went from one woman chair of a committee in 1981 (me) to eight chairs in 1982.”• In 1983-84, Marjorie Bekaert Thomas’ term as president, FAWL moved into the space age with a luncheon honoring astronaut Sally Ride in Orlando.That year, Sandy Karlan, chair of FAWL/PAC (now an 11th Circuit judge), was busy trying to raise $50,000, and the fund-raising event was a party with the theme, “The End to an Era of Prohibition,” calling attention to the opening of membership to women in the formerly all-male Miami Club, a private business club in Miami.“The event achieved recognition for the PAC as an important voice on behalf of FAWL,” Thomas wrote in her annual report.• In 1985, the year Gill Freeman served as president, a FAWL program was the first formal exploration of gender bias in the courts, with former U.S. Congresswoman Bella Abzug (D-New York), giving a speech on “Gender Gap.” When Abzug studied law, only two percent of her class at Columbia Law School were women and Harvard had not yet opened its doors to women. A panel discussion on “Sex Bias in the Courtroom” was chaired by Karlan. FAWL committed to further study to eliminate gender bias in Florida.“Little did anyone know that as a consequence of that commitment, two years later a Supreme Court commission would be formed to investigate gender bias in Florida,” wrote Freeman, who would become vice chair of the Supreme Court Gender Bias Study Commission (1987-90) and chair of the Supreme Court Gender Bias Study Implementation Commission (1991-94).• In May 1986, when the FAWL State News published an article reporting that a 1984 Florida Bar survey found women lawyers are paid less, the Orlando Sentinel called it front-page news. The Bar survey, compiled at the request of FAWL President Mary Jane Nettles Henderson, showed a salary gap at every income category “proving that nearly twice as many women as men earned less than $25,000, and 44 percent of men earned over $50,000, compared to 11 percent of women.”• In 1985, Rosemary Barkett was sworn in as the first woman justice of the Florida Supreme Court. Karlan wrote: “Many women jurists had submitted their names for Supreme Court positions as they became available through the years. However, the time was not right until 1985. When we, as active members of the Florida Association for Women Lawyers, learned that she was being considered for a position on the court, we actively supported her appointment. Nothing can ever replace the pride that we experienced during her investiture.”• During Edith Osman’s term as FAWL president in 1989-90, (she became president of the Bar in 1999), a main issue for discussion was FAWL’s position on abortion. FAWL sponsored an abortion survey distributed to each FAWL chapter. As a result of the survey, the FAWL board passed a pro-choice resolution.• Of her term as FAWL president in 1991-92, Leslie Reicin Stein wrote: “This was a year in which FAWL actively supported women for positions in The Florida Bar and the judiciary. Pat Seitz successfully ran for The Florida Bar president-elect (first woman to do so), and we were there behind her every step of the way.. . . Justice Rosemary Barkett’s retention on the Florida Supreme Court was being attacked allegedly due to her opinions on abortion and crime. FAWL was able to mobilize its membership to support Justice Barkett’s retention (and she went on to become a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit). Meetings were held in each area to obtain volunteers and contributions were made to the FAWL PAC to be used to combat her attackers.”• In 1994-95, FAWL President Caryn Goldenberg Carvo noted “FAWL was instrumental in the passage of a disciplinary rule that prohibited exploitive sex between attorneys and their clients. Our educational programs the previous year, and our participation in the Bar committee that drafted the rule, provided valuable information about the significant risk to women if such conduct was not prohibited. The Board of Governors’ overwhelming approval of the rule sent a strong message to those attorneys whose actions have marred the integrity and honor of our profession.”As Loquasto said on the day FAWL members toasted Judge Davis: “FAWL’s history is a diverse one. It includes feminists, radical and otherwise, liberals, conservatives, solo practitioners, large firm partners, judges, and law professors. And let’s not forget the men who support us. Through this written history, the string that ties these varied viewpoints together is revealed: It is the search for equality for all people and the desire to create a more just society. We are indeed fortunate to have this history book, because it brings together facts never before recorded in an organized single source. It is priceless, like its author.” February 15, 2003 Jan Pudlow Associate Editor Regular News Judge Davis’ new book details FAWL’s historylast_img read more

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