To The Readers Of The Metropolitan Corporate Counsel:
Celebrating Women's History Month
In 1970, President Jimmy Carter designated March as National Women's History Month. This year's theme is "Our History Is Our Strength," which, according to the National Women's History Project (NWHP), "pays tribute to the millions of women who have taken action to help create a better world for the times in which they lived, as well as for future generations."
In 1930, the ABA reported that of the 160,605 lawyers in the United States, two percent of them were women. In 2009, the ABA reported that of the 1,180,386 lawyers in the United States, 31 percent of them were women.
The New York County Lawyers' Association (NYCLA), founded in 1908 as the first major bar association that admitted members without regard to gender, race, ethnicity or religion, has maintained a preeminence in its advocacy of inclusiveness and equal justice for all. Indeed, several of NYCLA's charter members were women; among them: Jessie Ashley (1861-1919),an activist in the women's suffrage movement; Bertha Rembaugh (1876-1950), attorney-in-charge of the West Side branch of The Legal Aid Society; and Mary Grace Quackenbos (1871-1948),the first woman appointed as a special assistant U.S. attorney.
More recently, NYCLA's members have included women like Edith I. Spivack (1910-2005), who was the driving force in establishing NYCLA's Women's Rights Committee in 1972 and played a significant role in identifying critical areas of unequal treatment of women. Under Ms. Spivack's leadership, the Committee called attention to discriminatory legal and economic practices, including the disrespectful treatment of women in the courts and the lack of women court officers, and pressed for studies relating to issues involving abuse, child support and custody, and day care facilities. In 1997, the Women's Rights Committee created an award to honor Ms. Spivack and her groundbreaking work. A charter member of the Women's Rights Committee, Rosalind S. Fink , now of counsel, Brill & Meisel, went on to become the Association's first women president in 1997. Two other women have since served as NYCLA President - Catherine A. Christian , counsel for special projects, Office of Special Narcotics Prosecutor, New York County DA's Office, and Ann B. Lesk , a partner at Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP.And on January 28, Susan B. Lindenauer , a longtime NYCLA board member, vice president of the NYCLA Foundation and 2002 recipient of the Edith I. Spivack Award, received the New York State Bar Association's Ruth G. Schapiro Award, which recognizes women who have made a positive difference in areas of concern to women in their professional or personal lives, such as domestic violence, child abuse, bias and health care.
Susan B. Lindenauer
Susan B. Lindenauer, retired counsel to the president and attorney-in-chief of The Legal Aid Society, has been a leading advocate for equal opportunity and equal rights for women in the legal profession. Her far-reaching accomplishments in championing the rights and well being of women include: the drafting, alongside Ms. Fink and another member of NYCLA's Special Committee on Women Rights, amicus briefs in the case of Brooklyn Union Gas Co. v. New York State Human Rights Appeals Board (1976), which granted pregnant women disability benefits under New York State Law; initiating an oral history project of women graduates of Columbia Law School from the 1930s and 1940s (which she continues to co-chair); and mentoring female law students through New York University School of Law's Sex Discrimination Clinic, which handles women's right cases. Throughout Ms. Lindenauer's nearly 40 years at The Legal Aid Society, she fought for justice for poor people and, in particular, worked on issues that disproportionately affected poor women in their roles as mothers and caregivers.
On March 3, NYCLA's Women's Rights Committee is co-sponsoring a CLE program, "Women Trailblazers: Pathways to Executive-Level Success," featuring prominent women in the law who have attained influential senior executive-level positions, such as Hon. Judith S. Kaye, former Chief Judge of the State of New York, and Susan Merrill, the first woman enforcement chief at the New York Stock Exchange, now a partner at Bingham McCutchen.
On April 4, NYCLA's Women's Rights Committee is presenting the 2011 Edith I. Spivack award to Kathryn Kolbert, director of the Athena Center for Leadership Studies at Barnard College, a new center dedicated to advancing women's leadership. A public-interest attorney, journalist and executive in the not-for-profit world, Professor Kolbert argued the landmark case of Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992) before the U.S. Supreme Court and has been credited with saving Roe v. Wade with what Jeffrey Toobin has called "one of the most audacious litigation strategies in Supreme Court history."
I am proud, and a bit humbled, by the dedication to public service, commitment and accomplishments of these women. I hope you can join us at the Edith I. Spivack award reception on April 4 at 6:00 PM at the NYCLA Home of Law, 14 Vesey Street, as we honor the achievements of Ms. Kolbert.
James B. Kobak Jr.