Florida Association for Women Lawyers celebrates 50th year July 15, 2001 Assistant Editor Regular News It had been a long 53 years since the first woman was admitted to practice law in Florida. The National Association for Women Lawyers had been around for 52 years. Anna Brenner Meyers, the first president of FAWL, and Judge Mattie Belle Davis thought it was high time women lawyers in Florida made their voices heard.Despite their steps in the right direction, women lawyers who practiced in the early 20th century still faced many challenges that seem almost absurd today. Women could practice law for 60 years before they were allowed to vote. Women lawyers faced all male juries until 1947, and it was 1975 before the U.S. Supreme Court ruled women could finally argue their cases before mixed juries.Judge Davis experienced most of the difficult times firsthand, and she has, as FAWL’s lead historian, nearly completed a manuscript of FAWL’s rich history. A History of Florida Association for Women Lawyers, 1951-2001 will soon be published by the Miami Review. From the state’s first female Bar president and Supreme Court justice, to FAWL’s vehement backing of the Equal Rights Amendment, the organization has much to be proud of, Davis said.At FAWL’s annual meeting in Orlando, outgoing President Barbara Eagan lauded Davis and her co-editor, Henrietta Biscoe, for all their hard work and dedication to the project. Davis brought a large scrapbook with her, incorporating news articles and FAWL Journals from the first 40 years of FAWL. The yellowed pages chronicled a wealth of events intrinsic to FAWL’s growth. At 91, Davis is working as hard as she can to incorporate information for the past decade in order to complete the book this summer.Davis also brought a typewritten copy of her manuscript, lovingly edited and scribbled on as she remembers facts to add. She plans to finish the manuscript in late July, then turn the book over for typesetting. The 2,500 copies of the soft-cover book will be printed under FAWL’s name with Judge Davis and Biscoe listed as the editors and compilers.Funds bequeathed to Judge Davis by her friend Emma Roesing, one of FAWL’s founding members who died in 1989, will be used to cover the cost of publishing the book.Some of the events covered in the book include the state’s first female DCA judge Susan Black in 1979; the advent of FAWL chapters in 1980; the first FAWL liaison to the Bar’s Board of Governors in 1982; the 1982 pact for Equal Rights Amendment funding; the 1984 fight for formation of a gender bias commission, which was accomplished in 1986; in 1985, Rosemary Barkett became the first state Supreme Court justice; in 1993, Patricia Seitz became the first female president of the Bar, and in 1999, Edith Osman became the second; and in 1998 Barbara Pariente became the second female justice on the state’s high court, and in 1999, Peggy Quince followed suit.For more information about FAWL’s history, visit www.fawl.org, or e-mail their executive director, Pat Stephens, at [email protected] Henrietta Biscoe, left, and Judge Mattie Belle Davis present FAWL’s scrapbook Florida Association for Women Lawyers celebrates 50th yearAmy K. Brown Assistant Editor June 30, 1951 is an important date for women lawyers in Florida. On that balmy day in Miami Beach, 27 female lawyers met officially for the first time as the Florida Association for Women Lawyers. The women sought to encourage equal footing for themselves in their chosen profession, and looked for fellowship and camaraderie in the male-dominated justice system.