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Brooklyn Women’s Bar Association kicks off 100th anniversary celebration at membership party

October 19, 2017 By Rob Abruzzese, Legal Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
BWBA President Michele Mirman and NYC's first lady Chirlane McCray helped the Women’s Bar celebrate its 100th anniversary during its annual membership party which was held at Borough Hall on Tuesday. Eagle photos by Rob Abruzzese
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The Brooklyn Women’s Bar Association (BWBA) kicked off the celebration of its 100th year anniversary during its annual membership party at Borough Hall on Tuesday night.

The membership party is typically an informal event. But to mark this year’s occasion, President Michele Mirman moved the event into Borough Hall’s ornate ceremonial courtroom and invited NYC’s first lady Chirlane McCray and Acting District Attorney Eric Gonzalez, with Justice Sylvia Ash acting as the keynote speaker.

“Our first lady has a vision that we can overcome obstacles, set precedents and be a vehicle for change,” Mirman said. “Most close to our hearts, she is intimately involved with critical issues involving women. She has co-chaired the NYC commission on gender equity, and leads the Domestic Violence Task Force.

“The Brooklyn Women’s Bar Association thanks your visionary work and dedication to improvement and enhancement of women’s lives,” Mirman concluded.

McCray gave a brief speech and then presented the past presidents of the organization with proclamations on behalf of the Mayor’s Office.

“What an honor it is to be here, I’m just breathing this in,” McCray said. “So many women, and men, who are doing such important work. I’m honored to celebrate with you the 100th anniversary of the Brooklyn Women’s Bar Association. That is simply remarkable.”

McCray remarked on the history of the BWBA, including the fact that it was created at a time when women did not have the right to vote in the U.S. and were not allowed to join bar associations.

“This organization has been an advocate for all women by fighting gender based discrimination in the courts system and beyond,” McCray said. “Change like that does not happen on its own. Women like you have to fight like hell for it. Opportunities for women to be well employed are not as available as they should be. Too many women, especially the most vulnerable amongst us, are not well served by the justice system.”

Ash’s keynote speech was a history lesson on both the organization and some of its most prominent members. She discussed some of its oldest members, including its nine founders, all the way through to the organization’s most recent presidents and highlighted their most impressive accomplishments.

Helen P. McCormick, one of the co-founders, was the first female district attorney in Brooklyn. Jeanette Goodman-Brill, another co-founder and 10-time president, was the first woman U.S. commissioner. Vivian Agress, a past president, was the first female president of the Brooklyn Bar Association. Joyce B. David was the first and only female president of the Kings County Criminal Bar Association. Hon. Joanne Quinones, a past president who became a judge at 39, was the first person of Latino descent to serve as the BWBA president. Ash also highlighted John F.K. Coffey, the first male attorney to sit on the board of the BWBA.

“We as women have a lot to celebrate, especially in the legal field,” Ash said. “Our former president Judge Beatrice M. Judge became the first female judge elected in Brooklyn in 1965. Today there are over 75 women sitting as judges and justices in the various courts in Brooklyn.

“Undoubtedly, 100 years of service to the legal community is a significant milestone achievement, especially given our humble and challenging beginnings,” Ash concluded. “We are confident that the next decade will propel the BWBA into an even more prominent role in improving the circumstances of and advancing the rights of all women in New York.”

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