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NAWL History

NAWL Convention_1923 w Chief Justice Taft.jpg


Seated to the right of Chief Justice, former President, William Howard Taft, is Emilie Bullowa, President of NAWL 1923-24,
as well as Judge Mary O'Toole of Washington, D.C., Customs Court Judge Genevieve Cline, N.Y. and Phoebe Munnecke of Michigan.


NAWL Timeline |  NAWL Presidents

Timeline of Important Events

Arabella Babb Mansfield.jpg
Arabella Babb Mansfield
(Image courtesy of the Belle Babb Mansfield Memorial)



 Arabella Babb Mansfield became the first American woman lawyer admitted to the bar.


Charlotte E. Ray became the first African-American woman lawyer admitted to the bar. NAWL Member, Simone Wilson-Brito wrote and provided a feature on Charlotte E. Ray's legacy for 2021 Black History Month. The feature can be found here.


Belva A. Lockwood became the first woman lawyer admitted to the bar of the U.S. Supreme Court.


The Women Lawyers' Club was founded by a group of 18 women lawyers in New York City.

Charlotte E Ray.jpgCharlotte E. Ray
(Image courtesy of Black Entertainment Television)



Christine la Barraque became the first blind female lawyer in the U.S.


Eliza “Lyda” Burton Conley became the first Native American (Wyandotte) woman to argue a case before the U.S. Supreme Court.


The first issue of the Women Lawyers Journal was published (pdf).  It cost 15¢ per issue and had 25 subscribers. 


Membership in the Women Lawyers' Club grew to 170, with representation from 25 states.

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NAWL Suffragettes





Long before women could vote,

they became attorneys.™


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Belva A. Lockwood
(Image courtesy of the U.S. National Archives)   



Women's suffrage became the first major project undertaken by the Club.  Three time NAWL President, Olive Stott Gabriel, argued for women's voting rights across the county.


Judge Mary Belle Grossman and Mary Florence Lathrop became the first two women lawyers admitted to the American Bar Association.


Congress passed the 19th Amendment and the Women Lawyers' Club membership mobilized to work for ratification by the states.

Mary Belle Grossman.jpgJudge Mary Belle Grossman
(Image courtesy of

During the first four decades of the Club (and later, the Association) worked consistently on social legislation - including child labor laws, minimum wage, divorce and marriage laws, the right for a woman to keep her name after marriage, and the right for women to serve on juries.


Due to increasing nationwide membership, the Women Lawyers' Club became the National Association of Women Lawyers.

NAWL held its first national convention in Minneapolis with Chief Justice William Howard Taft.

Mary Florence Lathrop.jpg Mary Florence Lathrop
(Image courtesy of American Bar Association)


NAWL member Florence E. Allen of Ohio was appointed to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit by President Roosevelt and she became the nation's first woman federal judge and the highest-ranking woman jurist.


NAWL was one of the first national organizations to endorse the proposed Equal Rights Amendment, first introduced to Congress in 1922.  The ERA becomes an ongoing high priority for the Association over the next several decades.


K. Elizabeth Ohi became the first Asian American woman lawyer admitted to the bar.


NAWL became an Affiliated Organization of the American Bar Association.

Florence E Allen.jpgFlorence E. Allen
(Image courtesy of the Supreme Court of Ohio)

NAWL led the creation of opportunities for women to serve in the military.  More than 150 NAWL members were serving in the WACS, WAVES, and the Marine Corps Women's Reserve.


Lucile Lomen became the first woman to serve as a law clerk for a justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.


NAWL became an official NGO Observer of the newly-founded United Nations.


The National Association of Women Lawyers celebrated its 50th Anniversary in St. Louis.

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Maguerite Rawalt
(Image courtesy of American Bar Association) 



NAWL drafted the Uniform Divorce Bill, calling it "the greatest project NAWL has ever undertaken."


The first NAWL office was established in the new ABA Center in Chicago.


NAWL past president, Marguerite Rawalt, was appointed by President Kennedy to the President's Commission on the Status of Women.

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Sarah Hughes swearing in Vice President Johnson
(Image courtesy of Cecil W. Stoughton)





"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful,
committed citizens can change the world. 
Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."
Margaret Mead

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Patsy Takemoto Mink
(Image courtesy of National Women's History Museum)



Patsy Takemoto Mink became the first woman of color and first Asian American woman elected to Congress. In 1970, she became the first member of Congress to oppose a Supreme Court nominee on the basis of discrimination against women.


NAWL member Lorna E. Lockwood became the first woman chief justice of any state.


Constance Baker Motley became the first African American woman appointed as a federal judge in the U.S.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg.jpg
Ruth Bader Ginsburg
(Image courtesy of Columbia Law)



Congress passed the Equal Rights Amendment.  The ratification of the amendment by the states became NAWL's major project for the rest of the decade. In 1972, Yvonne Brathwaite Burke became the first African American woman from California to win a House seat. NAWL Member, Vicky McPherson wrote a feature on Burke's legacy for Black History Month in 2021.


The Women Lawyers Journal carried a comprehensive review of the need for the Equal Rights Amendment written by Ruth Bader Ginsberg, the first tenured woman law professor at Columbia University.


Frances Munoz became the first Latina trial court judge in the U.S.

Sandra Day OConnor.jpgSandra Day O'Connor
(Image courtesy of CBS News)


Carmen Consuelo Cerezo became the first Latina to serve on a federal bench when she became a U.S. District Court Judge for the District of Puerto Rico.


Sandra Day O'Connor became the first woman to serve as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.


Mahala Ashley Dickerson became the first African-American president of NAWL.

In 1983, Hon. Juanita Kidd Stout spoke at NAWL's Regional Meeting in Anchorage, Alaska. You can find her speech here.


NAWL began granting membership to male applicants.

Juanita Kidd Stout.jpgJuanita Kidd Stout



NAWL member, Juanita Kidd Stout, was appointed to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, becoming the first African-American woman to serve on a state's highest court.


The NAWL assembly endorsed the U.N. Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).


Carol Moseley Braun became the first African American woman to serve in the U.S. Senate.

Janet Reno became the first woman to serve as the Attorney General of the U.S.


Roberta Cooper Ramo was elected the first woman president of the American Bar Association.

Martha Walters Barnett HOLLAND AND KNIGHT.jpg
Martha W. Barnett
(Image courtesy of Holland & Knight)


NAWL member, Martha W. Barnett, became the first recipient of NAWL's highest honor, the Arabella Babb Mansfield Award.


Kim McLane Wardlaw became the first Latina appointed as a U.S. Court of Appeals judge when appointed to the Ninth Circuit.


Susan Oki Mollway became the first Asian American woman appointed to the federal bench.


NAWL celebrated its Centennial Anniversary. To commemorate the anniversary and NAWL's legacy, NAWL member Selma Moidel Smith authored the 'Centennial History of NAWL' in the 1999 Summer issue of the Women Lawyers Journal. 


The first Directory of Women Lawyers and Women Owned Law Firms was published.

Sonia Sotomayor.jpgSonia Sotomayor
(Image courtesy of NY Times)

Sonia Sotomayor received the Arabella Babb Mansfield Award.


NAWL's first Annual General Counsel Institute was held in New York City.


NAWL published the first National Survey on the Retention and Promotion of Women in the Law.

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Elena Kagan
(Image courtesy of US Supreme Court)



NAWL published the Summit Report Actions for Advancing Women into Law Firm Leadership.


Sonia Sotomayor became the first Latina on the Supreme Court of the U.S.

NAWL's independent Supreme Court Committee recommended the confirmation of Elena Kagan as Associate Justice to the Supreme Court.


Phyllis Frye became the first openly transgender judge in the world.

NAWL held regional meetings on the status of the Summit Report Actions for Advancing Women into Law Firm Leadership.

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Ketanji Brown Jackson
(Image courtesy of Committee on the Judiciary)



Jacqueline Hong-Ngoc Nguyen became the first Asian American woman appointed as a U.S. Court of Appeals judge when appointed to the Ninth Circuit.


NAWL introduced the NAWL Challenge Club



Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) became the first Latina elected to the U.S. Senate.

NAWL issued its one-third by 2020 Challenge to the profession. 


Kamala Harris became the first woman elected Vice President of the U.S.



Ketanji Brown Jackson became the first African American woman to serve as a justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Information gathered from NAWL's archives and the writings of Mary Zimmerman and Selma Moidel Smith 
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NAWL Presidents

Year of NAWL Presidency



1899 - 1911

Rosalie Loew

New York, NY

1911 - 1913

Marion Weston Cottle

New York, NY

1913 - 1914

Edith Julia Griswold

New York, NY

1914 - 1915

Jean H. Norris

New York, NY

1915 - 1917

Olive Stott Gabriel

New York, NY

1917 - 1918

Sarah Stephenson

New York, NY

1918 - 1920

Jean H. Norris

New York, NY

1920 - 1924

Emilie M. Bullowa

New York, NY

1925 - 1927

Rose Falls Bres

Brooklyn, NY

1927 -1930

Katharine R. Pike

Washington, D.C.

1930 - 1934

Olive Stott Gabriel

New York, NY

1934 - 1935

Burnita Shelton Matthews

Washington, D.C.

1935 - 1938

Percilla Lawyer Randolph

Los Angeles, CA

1938 - 1939

Laura M. Berrien

Washington, D.C.

1939 - 1940

Helen M. Cirese

Chicago, IL

1940 - 1941

Florence Thacker Bradley

Indianapolis, IN

1941 - 1942

Gertrude Harris

Atlanta, GA

1942 - 1943

Marguerite Rawalt

Corpus Christi, TX

1943 - 1944

Daphne Robert Leeds

Washington, D.C.

1944 - 1945

Lula E. Bachman


1945 - 1946

Laura Miller Derry

Louisville, KY

1946 - 1947

Adele I. Springer

Brooklyn, NY

1947 - 1949

Charlotte E. Gauer

Chicago, IL

1949 - 1950

Eleanor March Moody

Boston, MA

1950 - 1951

J. Helen Slough

Cleveland, OH

1951 - 1952

Mary H. Zimmerman


1952 -1954

Dorothea K. Blender

Chicago, IL

1954 - 1955

Diana J. Auger

Boston, MA

1955 - 1956

Victoria V. Gilbert


1956 - 1957

Neva B. Talley

Little Rock, AR

1957 - 1958

Grace B. Doering

Cleveland, OH

1958 - 1959

Nina Miglionico

Birmingham, AL

1959 - 1960

Maurine H. Abernathy

Washington, D.C.

1960 - 1961

Rebecca Bowles Hawkins

Birmingham, AL

1961 - 1962

Anna O. Blum

Monroe, WI

1962 - 1963

Dorothy M. Orsini Jones

Little Rock, AR

1963 - 1964

Catherine Anagnost

Chicago, IL

1964 - 1965

Catherine Edmondson

Clarksville, TN

1965 - 1966

Mattie Belle Davis


1966 - 1967

Mary Louise DeMarco McLeod


1967 - 1968

Grace D. Cox

New York, NY

1968 - 1969

Ruth Gentry Talley


1969 - 1970

Jettie Pierce Selvig

San Francisco, CA

1970 - 1971

Adele T. Weaver

Miami Beach, FL

1971 - 1972

Jean McVeety

Minneapolis, MN

1972 - 1973

NettaBell Girard Larson


1973 - 1974

Helen Viney Porter

Northbrook, IL

1974 - 1975

Marjorie M. Childs

San Francisco, CA

1975 - 1976

Kathleen Ryan Dacey

Boston, MA

1976 - 1977

Lee Berger Anderson

North Chevy Chase, MD

1977 - 1978

Mary Alice Duffy

Philadelphia, PA

1978 - 1979

Miriam G. Newman

New York, NY

1979 - 1980

Sheila Gallagher

Anchorage, AK

1980 - 1981

Ann W. Lake

Boston, MA

1981 - 1982

Meredith P. Sparks

Coral Gables, FL

1982 - 1983

Claire E. Morrison

Detroit, MI

1983 - 1984

Mahala Ashley Dickerson

Anchorage, AK

1984 - 1985

Mary Jo Cusack

Columbus, OH

1985 - 1986

Virginia S. Mueller

Sacremento, CA

1986 - 1987

Irene Redstone

Miami, FL

1987 - 1988

Sylvia Marks-Barnett

Oklahoma City, OK

1988 - 1989

Leona Beane

New York, NY

1989 - 1990

Gail McKnight Beckman

Atlanta, GA

1990 - 1991

Jeanne Schubert Barnum

Cherry Hill, NJ

1991 - 1992

Janis L. Blough

Lansing, MI

1992 - 1993

Veronica C. Boda

Brigantine, NJ

1993 - 1994

Faith F. Driscoll

Dedham, MA

1994 - 1996

Myrna S. Raeder

Los Angeles, CA

1996 - 1997

Sally Lee Foley

Bloomfield Hills, MI

1997 - 1998

Janice L. Sperow

San Diego, CA

1998 - 1999

Susan Fox Gills

Chicago, IL

1999 - 2000

Katherine J. Henry

Washington, D.C.

2000 - 2001

Gail Sasnett-Stauffer

Gainesville, FL

2001 - 2002

Elizabeth K. Bransdorfer

Grand Rapids, MI

2002 - 2003

Ellen A. Pansky

South Pasadena, CA

2003 - 2004

Zoe Sanders Nettles

Columbia, SC

2004 - 2005

Stephanie Scharf

Chicago, IL

2005 - 2006

Lorraine K. Koc

Philadelphia, PA

2006 - 2007

Cathy Fleming

New York, NY

2007 - 2008

Holly English

Roseland, NJ

2008 - 2009

Lisa Horowitz

Washington, D.C.

2009 - 2010

Lisa Gilford

Los Angeles, CA

2010 - 2011

Dorian Denburg

Atlanta, GA

2011 - 2012

Heather C. Giordanella

Philadelphia, PA

2012 - 2013

Beth L. Kaufman

New York, NY

2013 - 2014

Deborah S. Froling

Washington, D.C.

2014 - 2015

Lisa M. Passante

Philadelphia, PA

2015 - 2016

Marsha L. Anastasia

Stamford, CT

2016 - 2017

Leslie Richards-Yellen

Chicago, IL / New York, NY

2017 - 2018

Angela Beranek Brandt

St. Paul, MN

2018 - 2019

Sarretta C. McDonough

Los Angeles, CA

2019 - 2020

Kristin D. Sostowski

Newark, NJ

2020 - 2021

Karen S. Morris

San Antonio, TX

2021 - 2022

Jennifer A. Champlin

Saint Louis, MO

2022 - 2023

DeAnna D. Allen

Washington, D.C.