Women’s Law Caucus Celebrates 40 Years of History, Observes 100th Anniversary of International Women’s Day

More than a hundred faculty, alumni, judges, attorneys, and members of the Women’s Law Caucus (WLC) gathered recently to honor the organization’s 40th anniversary and to observe the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day. The combined celebration featured brief remarks by Terry O’Neill, president of the National Organization of Women, awards and recognitions, and the announcement of a project exploring women’s history at the law school.

International Women’s Day is an annual event founded a century ago to advance women’s suffrage and equality. The observance still serves as “a rallying point for international efforts for women’s rights and gender equality,” said Jennifer Bame, WLC vice president and chair of the International Women’s Day Committee.

Guest speakers for past International Women’s Day observances at the law school include Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Herma Hill Kay, former dean of University of California, Berkeley School of Law. O’Neill, this year’s featured speaker, provided brief remarks on the need to fight for ongoing equality issues. O’Neill also spoke to law students the following day on “Rhetoric Versus Reality: The Latest Stealth Tactics in the War on Women.”

In keeping with its long tradition, the WLC emphasizes the achievements of women in the field, inspires and educates students about issues faced by women in law, and fosters relationships between faculty, students, alumni, and the community. As part of this year’s anniversary activities, students launched a research project to explore the WLC's history and learn more about pioneering roles of women at the law school.

Through their research, in collaboration with Professor Karen Tokarz, the WLC's faculty advisor, they discovered another student group preceded WLC efforts. “We learned that in the 1950s and 1960s, the few women students in the law school met together as a group under the name ‘Phoebe’s Cousins,’” said Elizabeth Miller, WLC President.

Washington University’s early commitment to advancing the education of women began with Phoebe Couzins, who was one of two women – along with Lemma Barkeloo – admitted to the law school in 1869. Prior to finishing her studies, Barkeloo became the first woman admitted to the Missouri Bar. Couzins became the first woman to earn a degree from Washington University and the law school.

Among other historical facts, students also learned that several alumnae helped found the Women Lawyers Association of Greater St. Louis in 1976 – this, at a time when there were no women judges, no female partners in major law firms, and no tenure-track women law faculty in Missouri. Founders included Hon. Barbara Wallace, JD’ 76 and Hon. Thea Sherry, JD ’74, both past Caucus presidents who attended the celebration.

In addition, the students discovered Washington University School of Law’s current faculty, with women comprising almost half its roster of tenure-track professors, likely represents the highest percentage of women law faculty in the country.

“The Women’s Law Caucus historical project is ongoing,” Miller said. The WLC hopes to identify a complete roster of the past 40 presidents and locate all alumnae who graduated more than 50 years ago. Plans call for sharing the organization’s history online. Past Caucus presidents from out of town, who attended the event, included Jessica Goldberg, JD ’92, litigation partner with the Summit Group in Seattle; Laura Schacht Weintraub, JD ’94, CEO, aimClear, Duluth, MN; and Jessica Weltman, JD ’02, federal public defender in Missoula, Montana.

As part of the annual celebration, the WLC presents International Women’s Day honorary awards. Introducing this year’s recipients, Bame said, “Each of these honorees is a remarkable individual who has made unique contributions to the advancement of women. Each of these honorees demonstrates what is possible for all of us students here at Washington University School of Law. And, each sets an example for us to follow.”


The 2013 International Women’s Day honorees are:

Bunny and Charles Burson, for their many contributions to the law school, including generous support for the Burson Fund, which assists students and student groups, including the Women’s Law Caucus. Charles Burson also is a senior professor of practice at the law school.

Phyleccia Reed Cole, JD ’99, associate general counsel at Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville, Illinois;

Micah Myles Hall, JD ’03, founder of the Hall Law Firm in St. Louis, former president of the Mound City Bar Association, and collaborating attorney for the law school’s Race, Education & the Law course;

Marty Neville Hereford, JD ’96, partner and program director for the Advancement of Women at Armstrong Teasdale in St. Louis;

Kendra Howard, JD ’01, administrative law judge at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in St. Louis, treasurer of the Mound City Bar Association, and externship supervising attorney;

Allison Schreiber Lee, JD ’96, attorney at Paule, Camazine, Blumenthal PC and adjunct professor at the law school;

Karen Warren, managing attorney of the Health & Welfare Unit at Legal Services of Eastern Missouri, co-coordinator of the Elderlaw & Estate Planning Project, and externship supervising attorney; and

Misty Watson, JD ’06, attorney at Danna McKitrick PC, volunteer lawyer at Legal Services, and co-coordinator of the Elderlaw & Estate Planning Project.

The WLC also honored past presidents of the organization. For a full list of honorees, visit this [link]

To view additional photos from the event, visit this photo gallery.

- Janet Edwards