123 Remsen Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201

President's Message

The Brooklyn Women’s Bar celebrates our 100th year on April 15, 2018, as the oldest incorporated women’s bar in New York State. We were the inspiration of three Brooklyn Law School graduates in the early 1900’s---all women, all ardent suffragettes.

Amy Wren, Class of 1908. Ms. Wren was first in her class. In 1918, she became the first president of the incorporated Brooklyn Women’s Bar Association, and was so dynamic, she was elected president ten times. In 1919, Ms. Wren became the first woman Deputy Attorney General in Brooklyn, and in 1928, the first woman to be appointed a Federal Court Commissioner anywhere in the United States. She served in the Eastern District.  Wren fought all her life for women: for suffrage, jury service, equal pay, better hours and conditions, inheritance rights, and property rights.  Whatever issue women faced, Wren was there. Her office was on Montague Street. Wren brought political activism to the Bar.               

Jeannette Goodman Brill, Class of 1908, helped found the first Women Lawyers Club of Brooklyn in 1910, which later, in 1918, formed the basis for the Brooklyn Women’s Bar Association. Brill was first president of the Women Lawyers Club, and the second president of the incorporated Woman’s Bar. She lived over on Union Street. In 1928, Brill became the first woman magistrate in Brooklyn. She served 12 years, working on a multitude of cases, learning every type of law imaginable. How did she do it? Women were not then accepted into bar associations. Brill and her sister lawyers must have banded together to teach one another.

It must have been Brill who insisted that learning be a part of our mission.

Helen P.  McCormick, Class of 1912, became the first woman Assistant District Attorney in Brooklyn — in fact, in any American City — in 1917. McCormick saw first hand the hardships of poor, uneducated girls, and in 1918 organized the Brooklyn Catholic Big Sisters Club. In one year, McCormick’s Big Sisters helped shelter, feed, and train more than 8,000 girls. McCormick, a life-long Brooklyn resident, was so beloved, that at her death, over 20,000 people attended her funeral. McCormick brought heart to the Brooklyn Women’s Bar. We were a place where women always found support. 

  • In the almost 100 years we have existed, we have counseled women, learned together, and worked for legislation on our behalf. But each age brings its own challenges, and as we have gained new freedoms, we have uncovered more shackles:
  • We still do not have an Equal Rights Amendment.
  • The Violence Against Women Act is being defunded.
  • Reproductive rights are under attack.
  • Sexting degrades our girls and stunts the emotional growth of our boys.
  • We still suffer from unequal pay.
  • Sexual slavery, trafficking, affects tens of thousands of women and girls.
  • We see implicit bias, in ourselves and others, and how it limits us.
  • And, finally, our short statute of limitations in medical malpractice cases disproportionately affects women: it is we who suffer advanced breast cancers, because our mammograms are misread; it is we who then have no access to justice. New York still has not passed the “date of discovery,” Lavern’s Law, although 44 other states have.

 So in this centennial year, let us pay homage to our founders and use their values as a springboard for the future. 

First - How do we ensure people know who we are and what we stand for?  Let us make sure that our own social media is a repository for information about social injustice and reflects what we fight for.  Follow us on Twitter and Tweet to support Lavern’s Law.

Second - Let us increase not only in numbers, but in connections to each other as well. Wouldn’t it be great if in this centennial year, each one of us dedicates herself to mentoring just one young attorney? There is strength in numbers. But more than that, with each new young  member, we not only teach, we learn: we become more in touch with the world as it is and will be. Perhaps, if each of us reaches out to one young attorney, by our centennial, we will be 800 attorneys strong, double our size, an amalgam of seasoned and “life-in-being” attorneys, all dedicated to the principles of our bar.

Third - There still is an enormous wage gap in New York between what women and    men earn. Women get 87 cents for every dollar paid to a man. Let’s work on teaching ourselves and the women we mentor how to remedy that. Let’s learn how to run offices, ask for raises and benefits, invest money, be in charge, lead.

Fourth - Our bar is part of the fabric that makes Brooklyn unique: a fantastically diverse, exciting community. Over half our population speaks another language. We have more than 300 non-English newspapers and magazines in Brooklyn. And, like Brooklyn, our bar is made up of more than 400 diverse members, led by 30 different officers and directors, all with interesting, disparate backgrounds.

We should have a calendar of events that celebrates our different cultures.

 We should lead the way in presenting continuing legal education that dissects bias and discrimination in all its forms. I picture a conference — that everyone across the country will want to come to — that addresses every prejudice: religious, cultural, racial, economic, age and gender-based. Where better to start this conversation than here in Brooklyn, the fourth largest, most diverse City in the United States at one of the oldest women’s bars in the country?

And, since we’re planning, why plan small? The census takers say that by 2020, Brooklyn will beat out Chicago to be the third largest city in the United States. Our Pipeline is just the beginning.  Why not start planning now for a Brooklyn Women’s Bar Association “Center of Excellence for Women's Legal Issues”? A think-tank. Mentorships. Scholarships. Training. Support.  Education.

For our 100th year, let us rededicate ourselves to the goals of our founders — legislation, support, education — for the next 100 years. Let us each commit to mentoring just one new attorney so that by our centennial in April 2018 we are indeed doubly strong. 

© 2018 Brooklyn Women’s Bar Association
123 Remsen Street, Brooklyn, NY 11201
| Phone: 347-790-0300

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