History of the Association For Women LawyersThe Early Years
The genesis of the Association of Women Lawyers was a small group of women lawyers who met during the early 1970s. At that time, there were few women lawyers practicing in Milwaukee, perhaps 25 to 30 in total. They held meetings at the American City Bank, where the Milwaukee Bar Association held its meetings, and they met in each other’s homes. Karen Case remembers that they thought it was important to be seen as a group. In addition to Karen, a number of those women remain AWL members today: Marjorie Jansen, Ellen Kozak, Rose Marie Baron, Joan Kessler, Gilda Shellow and the
Honorable Margaret Dee McGarity.
The first meeting notice which has been retained was dated February 3, 1975. The meeting was a cocktail party for women interested in participating in a group called “Lawyers Association for Women.” By August, the group had formed a steering committee with Karen Case, Ellen Kozak and Margaret Dee McGarity as members. Marjorie Jansen was the treasurer. The group decided that its purpose was to share information on legal topics and to develop social relationships (what we would now call networking). They decided that the group would not endorse political candidates or causes. Because members held different political views, they were concerned that political activities would be divisive to the group. From 1976 to 1978, the group had 35 to 40 members and held regular meetings. A number of women served on steering committees for the group, including Diane Diel. In 1979, the leadership of the group changed and the steering committee lost members. The meetings became infrequent. By mid-1980, the group had become inactive.
The First Judges’ Night
In 1981, Diane Diel and Marjorie Jansen discussed their sense of loss over the apparent demise of the group and the $300 which remained in the treasury. With Karen Case and Mary Wolverton, they decided to renew the group, or to at least spend the money remaining in the treasury, by sponsoring an event which was called: “Women Judges’ Night Sponsored by the Greater Milwaukee Area Association of Women Lawyers.” Justice Shirley Abrahamson was the keynote speaker and over 100 women attorneys attended. The first Judges’ Night was a resounding success.
There's so much more! For a complete, current history of the organization, download this pdf.