The PBCFAWL Legacy
The History of the Organization
Judge Mattie Belle Davis
Judge Mattie Belle Davis
In June 30, 1951, a group of Florida women lawyers met in Miami Beach, Florida. A committee, chaired by Anna Brenner Meyers, including several women lawyers from out of state was formed. Mattie Belle Davis presided at the breakfast meeting. Gladys Irene White presented panels on “Problems of Law Office Management” and “Parliamentary Law as a Tool for Lawyers.” Anna Brenner Meyers presided at the luncheon, at which Mary Zimmerman, First Vice President of the National Association of Women Lawyers, addressed the group. Her subject was “The Women Lawyers’ Part in the World Today”. The Honorable George E. Hold, Senior Judge of the Eleventh Judicial Circuit Court, Dade County, also addressed the group. Vivian L. Schaeffer served as Registration Chair. At the conclusion of the meeting, a Resolution by Emma Roesing was adopted to organize the Florida Association of Women Lawyers. Anna Brenner Meyers was elected FAWL’s first president.
On June 7, 1952, in Miami Beach, Florida the group adopted a Constitution and Bylaws of the FAWL which provided:
Its objects shall be to advance the science of jurisprudence, to promote Reform in the law, to facilitate the administration of justice, to uphold the highest standard of integrity, learning, honor and courtesy in the legal profession, and to cultivate a spirit of cordiality and fellowship among the members of the Bar and between them and the Bench.
Women members of The Florida Bar were eligible for membership in the Association. There were mid-year and annual meetings. Usually, the annual meetings were held in conjunction with the annual meetings of The Florida Bar.
Beginning in 1972 officers were elected to serve for two year terms but the Association reverted to one-year terms when the Bylaws were amended on June 16, 1979, at a meeting at Walt Disney World, Orlando, to provide that the term of officers should be one year.
At a meeting on March 1, 1980 in Ft. Lauderdale, the Bylaws were amended to provide for local chapters of the Association and also for the formation of political action committee to be known as FAWL-PAC, and for endorsement of candidates and contributions to such candidates through FAWL-PAC.
On January 19, 1981, the Constitution and Bylaws were amended to change the name to Florida Association for Women Lawyers; to provide that members of the Bar of any state (male and female) who support the goals of the Association are eligible for full membership in the Association; and to provide:
Its objects shall be to advance the science of jurisprudence, to promote Reform in the law, to facilitate the administration of justice, to uphold the highest standard of integrity, learning, honor, and courtesy in the legal profession.
FAWL and its local chapters focus upon the professional advancement of women lawyers specifically and the promotion of women’s rights generally. To accomplish these closely related goals, FAWL provides a statewide forum for the exchange of political views, public and private sector employment opportunities, and continuing legal and management education.
In keeping with its objectives, FAWL was a strong supporter of the Equal Rights Amendment and raised funds for the ratification of ERA in Florida.
By organizing and working together in FAWL, women lawyers have enhanced their visibility within the legal profession and in their communities and increased their communication with one another. Through the statewide meetings of FAWL, which are now held quarterly, the annual retreat, and the monthly meetings of local chapters, members are provided with formal opportunities to share information. The meetings also present opportunities for women lawyers throughout the state to meet and form networks as they forge better working relationships. Information is also disseminated to members through the quarterly FAWL Journal, as well as the FAWL website and Legislative E-mail Service. An attorney locator available through the FAWL website assists members with referrals and networking.
As the number of women lawyers grows from year to year, their strength and effectiveness can be increased by working together as members of the Florida Association for Women Lawyers.