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FAWL to celebrate its golden anniversary.

The Florida Association for Women Lawyers, joined by the Virgil Hawkins Florida Chapter of the National Bar Association and the Equal Opportunity Law Section of The Florida Bar, will be celebrating FAWL's 50th anniversary at the Orlando World Center Marriott on June 22.

50 Years of FAWL

Fifty years ago, on June 30, 1951, 27 women lawyers from around the state gathered in Miami Beach for the purpose of determining whether to organize a women's voluntary bar association. Temporary Chair Anna Brenner Meyers presided over the meeting, and by the end of the day's events, a resolution had been adopted to form the Florida Association of Women Lawyers and Anna Brenner Meyers was elected FAWL's first president.

The 27 women who formed FAWL were: Anna Brenner Meyers, Mattie Belle Davis, Charlotte Kay Black, Emma Roesing, Edith Held Cooper, Herberta Ann Leonardy, Annabel K. Smith, Rebecca Bowles Marks, Esther A. Poppell, Vivian L. Scheaffer, Mary L. Esarey, Lucille M. Von Arx, Miriam Finney Sumner, Lenea Stromberg, Marjorie M. Varner, Ann Denio, Gladys Irene White, Pearl R. Ferer, Diana Coopersmith, Dixie Herlong Chastain, Clara Cain Gore, Dorothea M. B. Vermorel, Olive Bean Parker, Jean Davis King, Irene Redstone, Berenice A. Mackesy, and Lucille Snowden.

To paraphrase a famous slogan from the 1970s, "We've come a long way, Ladies!" Gone are the days of a small women's-only organization, consisting mostly of south Florida lawyers meeting only once a year. With a name change in 1981 to the Florida Association for Women Lawyers, FAWL opened its membership rolls to male attorneys and it now numbers 2,500 strong. It holds quarterly board meetings around the state and has an annual retreat at a posh resort. It fostered the birth of women's voluntary bar associations across the state by permitting "local chapters" to affiliate with the statewide organization in 1980, and it now boasts 21 local chapters stretching from the Northwest Florida Chapter in Pensacola, to the Jacksonville Women Lawyers Association, south to the Eighth and 10th judicial circuits, Central Florida Chapter and Hillsborough Association for Women Lawyers, and further south to Sarasota, Manatee and Collier counties on the west coast and Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties on the east coas t. FAWL employs an executive director and lobbyist, who monitors and lobbies bills affecting women, families, lawyers, and judges. FAWL also provides a legislative e-mail service to its members, which keeps them apprised of pending legislation. The FAWL president has a nonvoting seat on The Florida Bar Board of Governors. FAWL hosts CLE programs at its annual and midyear meetings, which are held in conjunction with The Florida Bar's meetings, and it publishes the glossy-style FAWL Journal on a quarterly basis. It maintains its own website (

FAWL would not be the thriving, successful organization it is today if it had not been fulfilling its purposes over the last five decades, which have included promoting the recognition of women's contributions within the legal profession and judiciary by presenting the FAWL Rosemary Barkett Outstanding Achievement Award to members such as Edith Osman, a past president who went on to become president of The Florida Bar; Judge Winifred Sharp, a past president who is an outstanding jurist at the Fifth District Court of Appeal and the first woman on that court; Ellen Freidin, who, in her capacity as Constitution Revision Commission member, spearheaded the effort to get the Basic Rights Amendment, assuring equality to women, included in the Florida Constitution; and Justice Barbara Pariente, another outstanding jurist who became the second woman to serve on the Florida Supreme Court.

In the 1970s and early 1980s, FAWL also promoted women's rights and the common interests of women lawyers by supporting the Equal Pay for Equal Work Bill in the Florida Legislature and the Equal Rights Amendment. It has improved the administration of justice through lobbying for passage of laws favorable to women, and by recognizing legislators, governmental officials, and others who have supported those laws through its "Friend of FAWL Awards," which have been presented to Attorney General Bob Butterworth; Senate President Toni Jennings; Senators Karen Johnson and Tom Rossin; Representatives Mary Brennan, Lois Frankel, Sally Heyman, Patsy Kurth, Ann MacKenzie, Sharon Merchant, and Debbie Wasserman Schultz; Linda Loomis Shelley, chief of staff to Governor Lawton Chiles; Florida Bar Board of Governors member Bruce Blackwell; and FAWL lobbyist Carolyn Pardue. And today FAWL continues to promote the diffusion of legal knowledge though its FAWL Journal and legislative e-mail service.

Let the Celebrations Begin

FAWL kicks off its Golden Jubilee Anniversary Celebration on June 21, during The Florida Bar's Annual Meeting at the Orlando World Center Marriott with a board meeting and happy hour. On Friday, June 22, you can start the day with "Breakfast with the FAWL Board" and a "Women's Health Update" presented by Pfizer, Inc., one of the sponsors of the day's events.

Register early for the "Main Event" on June 22, FAWL's Anniversary Celebration Luncheon, which will feature Justice Rosalie Silberman Abella of the Court of Appeal for Ontario, Canada. Justice Abella is the epitome of what FAWL is all about. She graduated from the University of Toronto Law School in 1970 and practiced civil and criminal litigation until, at the age of 29, she was appointed to the Ontario Family Court in 1976, making her the first Jewish woman and first pregnant woman to become a judge in Canada. She was a member of the Ontario Human Rights Commission and chaired both the Ontario Labour Relations Board and the Ontario Law Reform Commission. She was sole Commissioner on the 1984 federal Royal Commission on Equality in Employment, was the Boulton Visiting Professor at the McGill Law School for four years, moderated the 1988 English Language Leaders' Debate, and co-chaired the 1992 Constitutional Conferences. She has 18 honorary doctorates, was the first woman to receive the Distinguished Alumnu s Award from the University of Toronto Faculty of Law, and she is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. Justice Abella has written four books and over 70 articles.

The focus of Justice Abella's keynote address at the luncheon will be "Fifty Years in Human Rights." Florida Supreme Court Justice Peggy Quince has said, "Justice Abella has that rare gift of storytelling. When she related the experiences of her father during the World War II, I could feel his pain and sorrow. We will have a rare opportunity to hear someone speak on human rights issues from a personal perspective."

In addition to Justice Abella, Edith Osman will discuss historical perspectives of FAWL, and FAWL's current president, Barbara A. Eagan, will present Golden Achievement Awards to women nominated by FAWL's Local Chapters. The list of honorees will no doubt include many of FAWL's "firsts."

President Eagan will also present FAWL's Fifth Annual Rosemary Barkett Outstanding Achievement Award. According to President Eagan, "The purpose of this award is to recognize FAWL members from all walks who have been particularly successful in overcoming stereotypes and making their marks as women attorneys. FAWL seeks to honor a diverse array of women with this award." This year's recipient is The Honorable Arthenia Joyner, who is the first legislator and first African-American woman to receive the award.

As explained by President Eagan, "The award is being presented to Representative Joyner because she has been an active champion of women's rights, particularly African-American women, since her college days and she has made inroads where few women, especially women of color, have trod. She is one of the first five African-American women lawyers in the state of Florida, and she was the second female president of the National Bar Association. She has been a longtime member of FAWL, an active member of the Hillsborough Association for Women Lawyers, and an inspiration to our membership."

The anniversary luncheon is also the time when FAWL's President-elect Susan Fox, a partner in Macfarlane, Ferguson & McMullen in Tampa who is certified in appellate practice, will be installed as president for the 2001-02 term by Judge Winifred Sharp. Commenting on her goals, President-elect Fox said, "In the coming year, I will build on FAWL's current success. In addition, I will focus on equal opportunity for women in the judiciary, particularly in nomination, assignment within divisions, and discipline." Other members of the Board of Directors who will be installed include: Siobhan Helene Shea as president-elect, Merideth Nagel as secretary, Debra Magid as treasurer, Lisa Kuhlman Tietig as treasurer-elect, Julie Koves as public relations officer, Dinita James as journal editor, and Lori Weems as membership director.

The 50th Anniversary Celebration continues after lunch with an outstanding four-hour CLE program entitled, "We've Come A Long Way." The Honorable Gill Freeman, Circuit Court Judge in the 11th Judicial Circuit and a past president of FAWL, will speak on "Gender Bias in the Courts, Then and Now," which will be followed with a presentation by St. Thomas University School of Law Professor Amy D. Ronner entitled, "Women Who Dance on the Professional Track (Themes from Young v. Hector)." The program continues with a segment presented by leading women judges, including Judge Winifred Sharp, on "How Women Have Improved the Judiciary," and it concludes with an inter-generational panel of distinguished women lawyers, including Allison Bethel, Marcia Cohen, Michelle Ku, Claire Luten, and Liz Rice, who will discuss "Perspectives of Our Times: How Far We've Come; How Far Still to Go." Women law students may attend the seminar at a drastically reduced rate.

A registration form for the day's events is provided. The luncheon is anticipated to be a sell-out, so be sure to reserve your seat by registering early.

All the day's events are presented by FAWL in conjunction with the Virgil Hawkins Florida Chapter of the National Bar Association and the Equal Opportunity Law Section of The Florida Bar, and Pfizer, Inc., is providing a major sponsorship.

In this day and age, when women comprise 28 percent of The Florida Bar and 50 percent of new law school admissions, one can easily look around and see women in positions of power in the Florida legal community. The legal scene was very, very different, however, fifty years ago when women were fewer than three percent of Florida's 3,758 lawyers. Join FAWL to reminisce on the history of Florida's women lawyers and to celebrate their accomplishments and progress over the past 50 years.
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Author:Loquasto, Wendy S.
Publication:Florida Bar News
Date:May 15, 2001
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