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May 15, 2000
Celebrating Florida's first 150 women lawyers

By Wendy S. Loquasto
Special to the News

On Thursday, May 25, The Florida Bar and the Florida Association for
Women Lawyers will honor Florida's First 150 Women Lawyers and First
Five African-American Women Lawyers at a gala dinner banquet at the
Sheraton Bal Harbour Beach Resort.

The dinner is a joint effort between the two bar associations and is part of
The Florida Bar's 50th anniversary festivities. The celebration then moves
to the Florida Supreme Court, which will hold a ceremonial session to
honor these trail-blazing pioneers in the legal profession on Wednesday,
June 14, at 10 a.m. After 101 years of women practicing law in Florida,
with women now approaching 50 percent of law school admittees and 27
percent of The Florida Bar membership, this is a celebration that is long

Through the efforts of the First 150 Committee, composed of FAWL
members from Tallahassee and Dade County who have worked tirelessly
to plan, organize and obtain underwriting assistance for the two events,
everyone who attends either the May 25 dinner or the June 14 ceremony
will be part of a program that will not only recognize the personal sacrifice
and commitment of these trail-blazing women, but which will also inspire
today's attorneys to continue their work to ensure that equality, diversity
and professionalism are the hallmarks of The Florida Bar.

Plus, everyone who attends will receive a commemorative book that LEXIS
Publishing is printing. The book, which includes 115 pages of biographies
and photographs, as well as articles about the history of women in the law
and Florida's law schools, is not just a glorified program, but rather is a
book of women's history already sought by libraries around the state.

Here is a glimpse of the women we will be honoring on May 25 and June
14: First, of course, is Louise Rebecca Pinnell, Florida's first woman
lawyer who had to wait five months in 1898 while the Florida Supreme
Court decided whether a woman could be admitted to practice law in the
state. Her 60-year legal career included 19 years as an associate of Major
Alexander St. Clair-Abrams and 25 years with Florida East Coast Railway.

Mary Stewart Howarth-Hewitt, who graduated from Stetson
University College of Law in 1908, was the first woman to
graduate from a Florida law school. She was licensed not
only in Florida, but also in Pennsylvania and Tennessee, as
well as in the federal courts. She practiced law in her
family's law firm in DeLand; raised three daughters, two of
whom became surgeons and the third a lawyer; assisted her
husband in his construction business and her family with its
orange groves; managed real estate holdings; opened a day
care center; and formed a bank, in addition to serving on
numerous civic boards and committees.

It would be difficult for any person, man or woman, to
duplicate the level of energy Ms. Howarth-Hewitt
demonstrated, but if anyone could, it was her daughter
Catherine Stewart Howarth Carter (1934). She followed in her
mother's footsteps by graduating from Stetson and working
in the family law firm. In addition to her law practice, she
raised a family of four children; was a founding trustee of the
Lawyers' Title Guaranty Fund, now known as the Attorneys'
Title Insurance Fund, which, 50 years later, is the largest
title insurance underwriter in Florida; maintained real estate
holdings; was campaign manager for Gov. Millard F.
Caldwell, Jr.; and had a marriage counseling practice during
the 1960s, '70s and '80s.

Old-time politicians will still remember Nell L. Cowan
Bostwick (1909), who operated the Nell L. Cowan Bostwick
Legislative Bureau, publishing briefs on legislation and
maintaining a bill information booth at the Florida Capitol.
When the legislature was not in session, she maintained a
legal practice in Jacksonville.

Helen Hunt West (1917) was a lawyer, journalist, and
political activist in the National Woman's Party. She was the
first woman to register to vote in Duval County after the
adoption of the 19th Amendment. Her papers now reside in
the Schlesinger Library of Radcliffe College in
Massachusetts, the foremost library on women's history in

Other women who were activists for women's rights include
Ethel Ernest Murrell (1932), who in 1933 started a 10-year
campaign in the state legislature to pass the Florida Married
Women's Act, endowing married women with the same
property rights as men. Mary Lou Baker (1938), the first
woman elected in Pinellas County to serve in the House of
Representatives, assisted Ms. Murrell by mobilizing a
crusade to revise Florida laws affecting the property rights of
married women. Ms. Baker also supported legislation to
allow women to serve on juries. In 1946 Ms. Murrell
attempted, without success, to have the Equal Rights
Amendment made part of the Florida Constitution, as did
Gwendolyn Sawyer Cherry (1965), the first African-American
woman in the House of Representatives, who introduced the
Equal Rights Amendment in the House in 1970. Charlotte
Inez Farrington Vogler (1927), was a charter member of the
National Organization for Women. At the age of 69, she was
one of 100,000 who marched in Washington in support of the
Equal Rights Amendment, and she was known as the
Grandmother of N.O.W. in Palm Beach County.

These early women lawyers also included many who joined
the military during the two world wars. Madeline Jacobson
Cox (1927) served as a yeoman first class in the United
States Navy during World War I and was prominent in Army
and Navy relief work. Judge Anne E'del Deacon (1942) was a
counter-intelligence officer in the Navy during World War II,
and Caroline Adams (1942) enlisted in the United States
Navy and served at a WAVES separation center, helping
servicemen reorient into civilian life. Mary Cinthya Vann
Racey (1931) was one of the first women to be
commissioned in the WACS during WWII and she was
discharged as a captain. Ethel Jane Steele Brannon (1931)
held a civilian position in the United States Army, which
allowed her to travel overseas and participate in the
Nuremberg War Trials in 1946, and to be part of the post-war
military government in Trieste, Italy. Other women, including
Louise Rebecca Pinnell (1898), Judge Mada Fraser Babcock
McLendon (1932), and Daisy Richard Bisz (1937), worked
on draft boards and/or provided pro bono legal services to
servicemen and their families.

Many of the first 150 women lawyers included public service
in their legal careers. Elsie Young Douglass (1911) worked
for many years with the Internal Revenue Service in
Washington, D.C.; Anna Bray Lindsley (1926) was an
attorney with the Farm Credit Administration and
International Commerce Committee; Carlotta Van Cortlandt
Washburne Faircloth (1941) served in the United States
Department of Justice during WWII, and her most famous
case was that of the seven Nazi saboteurs who came
ashore on the East Coast in 1942 from German U-boats.
Effie Knowles (1926) also worked for the Department of
Justice, and she later began a 21-year legal battle on behalf
of the Seminole Indians for 32-million acres of land taken
from the Indians in the early 19th Century. Jane L. Phillips
Armstrong (1920) joined the U.S. Foreign Service and
worked in Havana, Cuba; Mombasa, British East Africa (now
Kenya); Auckland, New Zealand; and Manila, Phillippines.
Edith E. House (1930) was employed by U.S. Attorney for
the Southern District of Florida for 34 years and was acting
U.S. Attorney for the Middle District when it was created in
1963. Ruby Burrows McZier (1965) began her legal career as
a legal advisor on migrant family issues for Senator Edward
Kennedy, and later worked for the Office of Economic
Opportunity and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban

The Florida Attorney General's Office employed five of the
women: Anna Bray Lindsley (1926), Madeline Jacobson Cox
(1927), Rebecca Bowles Marks Hawkins (1935), Rose
Elizabeth Deeb Kitchen (1937), and Mary Irene Schulman
(1943). Ms. Hawkins headed the Attorney General's opinion
division for many years, and Ms. Kitchen worked in its
statutory revision division until it was transferred to the
legislature. Ms. Schulman, who was the first woman county
prosecutor in Florida, later became an assistant attorney
general and represented 25 state regulatory boards for
professions such as accountants, architects, chiropractors,
engineers, funeral directors, and veterinarians, as well as the
Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission.

Local governments benefited from women such as Mattie W.
Tompkins (1925), who was elected to Avon Park City
Council in 1939 and served until 1947. She was involved in
decisions to purchase land to build an airport, to establish
jobs under the federal Works Progress Administration, and
to establish the first telephone system in the city. C. Bette
Wimbish (1965) served as city councilwoman in St.
Petersburg from 1969 until 1973 and was vice-mayor from
1971 until 1973. Anna Brenner Mankes Meyers (1936) was
appointed by Governor Charley Johns to the Dade County
School Board in 1953 and served on it until 1971. During her
tenure, she worked for integration in the schools, and she
was instrumental in establishing the Miami-Dade Community
College, Baker Aviation School, and educational television in
Dade County. Clara B. Floyd Gehan chaired the Gainesville
Advisory Biracial Committee in 1963-64, which helped the
city peacefully integrate by desegregating public

Florida's first six women judges are also included in the
book. Edith Meserve Atkinson, was elected in 1924 to the
Juvenile Court of Dade County, defeating two male lawyers
for the position. Mary Kennerly Buckles was Florida's
second woman in the judiciary, having been appointed as
Putnam County Judge in 1931. In 1938, Mada Fraser
Babcock McLendon became Florida's third judge when she
was elected Municipal Judge of Lake Wales. In 1959, Judge
Mattie Belle Davis was appointed to the Metropolitan Court
of Dade County. By constitutional revision, she became a
county court judge, and she maintained that position until
her retirement in 1980 and continued to serve by
appointment as a senior judge through June 1996. Florida's
fifth woman judge, Anne E'del Deacon was a successful
painter prior to being appointed as the first Municipal Judge
of Palm Beach in 1956, a position she held until 1966. Judge
Dixie L. Herlong Chastain is the sixth woman judge in the
book. She was appointed on May 27, 1965, to fill a newly
created third judgeship in the Juvenile and Domestic
Relations Court in Dade County, and by constitutional
revision, she became a circuit court judge in Dade County in
1976. She served on the bench until her retirement in 1978
at the age of 70 and then continued to serve by appointment
as a senior judge until the mid-1990s.

Madeline Jacobson Cox (1927) was probably the first woman
to teach law to others. Two of the other 150 women, Rose
Deeb Kitchen (1937) and Grace Williams Burwell (1935),
successfully passed the bar examination after studying law
at Ms. Cox's law office in Tallahassee.

Several of these women made significant contributions to
Florida's law schools. Stella Biddle Fisher (1924), who
worked in the Florida Legislature prior to becoming an
attorney, advocated changing the law to allow women to
enroll at the University of Florida College of Law, which was
formed in 1909 but did not admit women until 1925. Reba
Engler Daner (1936), who was a member of the University of
Miami School of Law's first graduating class, has made
substantial financial contributions to UM for its moot
courtroom and library.

Jeannette O. Mullens Smith (1937) began her 27-year law
school career when she became an assistant professor at
the University of Miami School of Law in 1949. She was
promoted to associate professor in 1959 and was the first
woman to become a full professor at the law school in 1969.
Dr. Herberta Hathcock Leonardy (1926) taught
parliamentarian law in UM's evening division and was also
UM's law librarian. Both Bernice Gaines Dorn (1958) and
Gwen Sawyer Cherry (1965) taught briefly at FAMU School
of Law. Ila Adele Rountree Pridgen (1943) had a 26-year
career as librarian and assistant law professor at the
University of Florida College of Law and influenced
generations of law students in Florida.

Several of the women authored books. For instance,
Herberta Ann Hathcock Leonardy (1926), who was an
internationally known parliamentarian, wrote two successful
books and countless articles on parliamentary law.
Professor Jeannette Smith (1937) authored a book on
Florida Constitutional Law, and Ethel Ernest Murrell (1932)
wrote "Law for the Ladies," a college text.

A review of Florida's first 150 women lawyers would not be
complete without reference to those in private practice. Kate
Walton Engleken (1936) was primarily a litigator with a large
array of criminal and civil cases. She represented Zelma
Cason in her landmark lawsuit against Marjorie Kinnan
Rawlings, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of "The
Yearling," which was the first lawsuit by a disgruntled literary
subject against an author of an autobiography for invasion of
privacy. Esther A. Poppell (1933), while working first as a
legal secretary, later became a member of the Miami law
firm of Pallot, Marks, Lundeen, Poppell & Horwich, which
was later known as Pallot & Poppell. Daisy Richards Bisz
(1937) maintained an active legal practice in Dade County
from her admission until her retirement in the 1990s. She
was active in the Dade County Bar Association, serving for
three terms as secretary, and she was the first woman to
become director of the Dade County Bar Association in

Both Betty Speizman Lippmann (1937) and Dorothea
"Dodie" Clarson Watson (1942) practiced in Orlando, and
Wilhemina Hawkins (1933) worked for Fowler & White and
then was a partner in Cason, Hawkins, McWhirter and
Henderson. L. H. Shoemaker (1918) and Marie Broetzman
(1932) were solo practitioners in Jacksonville, as were
Dorothea Montgomery (1941) and Laura Helen Hyde (1942).
Clara B. Floyd Gehan (1933) maintained a practice in
Gainesville, specializing in probate and real estate. Marie
Eleanor "Nell" Cooper (1922) practiced with Shutts & Bowen
in Miami. Anna Krivitsky (1927) practiced first in Tampa and
then in St. Petersburg, Dorothy Douglas (1932) practiced in
Dunedin, and Frances Lovelace (1934) practiced in St.
Petersburg. Daytona Beach legal circles included Mae
Donovan and Edith Horn, both admitted in 1930, as well as
Mary Jo Williams Garris (1933) and Marian Borros (1926).
Arthenia L. Joyner (1969), the first African-American woman
lawyer in Hillsborough County, is managing partner of the
law firm of Stewart, Joyner & Jordan-Holmes, P.A.

Many of these early women lawyers provided hours of
service to the poor. Marie Broetzman (1932) of Jacksonville
visited Death Row inmates and assisted Cuban refugees,
and Kate Walton (1936) was described as a "one-woman
legal aid society." Dorothea "Dodie" Watson (1942)
performed so many hours for the Orange County Bar
Association's Legal Aid Society that she was honored with
its Judge J.C. Jake Stone Legal Aid Society 1994
Distinguished Service Award, as well as The Florida Bar
President's Pro Bono Service Award for the Ninth Judicial
Circuit in 1995.

Service to the community has been the hallmark of Lois
Ellen Thacker Graessle (1941), who was unable to find
employment as an attorney when she graduated from the
University of Florida College of Law. Lucille Cairns George
and Alma Oyama Carlton are two others who dedicated
themselves to community service.

Concern for the status of women in the legal profession
prompted many of these women to join women's voluntary
bar associations. Rebecca Bowles Marks Hawkins (1935)
and Judge Mattie Belle Davis (1936) were both presidents of
the National Association of Women Lawyers, and many
others were officers in that organization, including Louise
Pinnell (1898), Clara Gore (1925), Laurine Leonore Goffin
(1927), Ethel Ernest Murrell (1932), Emma Roesing (1933),
Marjorie Varner (1933), Esther A. Poppell (1933), Anna
Brenner Mankes Meyers (1936), and Mary Lou Baker
(1938). Anna Brenner Mankes Meyers was the leader in
organizing FAWL and served as its first president in
1951-52. Many of the others were founding members of
FAWL, including Frances Lovelace (1934), Clara Gore
(1925), Emma Roesing, Rebecca Hawkins, Judge Mattie
Belle Davis, Rose Deeb Kitchen, and Judge Anne E'del
Deacon (1942). Rebecca Hawkins and Judges Davis and
Deacon also served as FAWL presidents.

The foregoing is just a taste of what you will discover about these
pioneering women in Florida's legal profession when you attend either the
May 25 or June 14 events. There's still time to register for either.

To make a reservation for the May 25 dinner, the cost of which is $60, call
Lea Souza-Rasile at (305) 530-0050, and to make a reservation for the
June 14 Supreme Court ceremony, call (850) 561-5600, extension 6627.

[Revised: 11-16-2018]