History

The Women’s Bar Association of Illinois, one of the oldest and largest bar associations in the state of Illinois, was first established in 1914 by nine women lawyers practicing in the Chicago Metropolitan area. It was founded to promote the interests and welfare of women lawyers and also to aid in the enactment of legislation for the common good and in the administration of justice. Its activities have always been divided between burning controversial social and political issues and the practical need to help its members gain employment. The WBAI was one of the first minority bar associations to extend its membership to males.

Charter and Distinguished Members

The Women’s Bar Association of Illinois’ original charter was applied for by Alice C. Edgerton, Martha Elvert, Mary M. Epperson, Elizabeth L. Hoffman (Buchhalter), Eunice D. Martin, Ella Zoelzer, Mae L. Minock, Nettie Rothblum and Charlotte D. White. Its purpose was “to promulgate, promote, advance and protect the interests of women lawyers in the State of Illinois.” The plans for the organization were formulated at a meeting of the charter members in Lincoln Park. In the early days of the Association, its most active work was in connection with an auxiliary organization known as the Public Defenders League for Girls.

Benefactors

The WBAI is fortunate to have generous benefactors who have made it the prestigious organization it is today.

In 1993, Judge Mary Heftel Hooton bequested her estate to the WBAI for a permanent home. The organization was able to acquire a condominium at the Chicago Bar Association building at 321 S. Plymouth Court, Chicago, Illinois. She graduated from DePaul University Law School in 1943. She was in private practice for many years before being elected a judge in 1976. Her name was first on the judicial ballot. Denied the backing of the Democratic party, she ran as an independent and was endorsed by all three Chicago metropolitan newspapers. She was President of the WBAI from 1976-1977.

In 1994, Katherine Maddux Stimson left the Women’s Bar Foundation a bequest. She graduated from John Marshall Law School in 1944. She was a teacher in Chicago public schools for 50 years and a part-time lawyer. She was a WBAI director and chaired the Family Court Committee and Education Committee. She was a WBAI delegate to the Illinois Commission on Children and Youth and the Illinois Advisory Committee on Education.

In 1966, Cary Ann Bechly donated $100,000 to the WBAI for scholarships to law schools in Illinois. She was a federal tax attorney for Kirkland & Ellis for many years and one of the founders of the Women’s Bar Foundation in 1968; she was the Foundation’s Treasurer.

WBAI Day

With Mayor Daley’s proclamation, Friday March 5, 2004 became “WBAI Day” in Chicago.  Approximately 400 WBAI members, dignitaries, and friends gathered at the Chicago Historical Society for a night of celebration.  Attendees were surrounded by the WBAI history presented in multimedia forms — from videotaped interviews of deceased WBAI members to a photo collage of recent WBAI events projected on the wall.  A framed group photo of twenty-one of the WBAI’s living past-presidents, made especially for this event, was displayed along with forty posters of WBAI past activities interspersed throughout the halls.  The forty posters went on display in the lobbies of the Daley Center and the Thompson Center for Women’s History Month after the event.  This event allowed the WBAI to raise approximately $12,000.00.

Past Presidents

1914-1915
Nettle Rothblum Loew

1915-1916
Nellie Carlin

1916-1920
Catherine Waugh McCulloch

1920-1921
Esther A. Dunshee

1921-1922
Charlotte D. White

1922-1923
Alice Greenacre

1923-1924
Ada M. Cartwright

1924-1925
Pearl M. Hart

1925-1926
Edna E. Barnett

1926-1927
Mary D. Bailey

1927-1928
Hon. Mary M. Bartelme

1928-1929
Rebecca Willner Liss

1929-1930
Irene V. McCormick

1930-1931
Helen M. Cirese

1931-1932
Mary G. Kelly

1932-1933
Bertha L. MacGregor

1933-1934
Anna Florence Nelson

1934-1935
Edna Devlin Bowens

1935-1936
Elizabeth H. Bushhalter

1936-1937
Elsa C. Beck

1937-1938
Kathryn Barasa Rinella

1938-1939
Marion Marshall Mulligan

1939-1940
Jean Smith Evans

1940-1941
Ellen Nylund Whitsett

1941-1942
Hon. B. Fain Tucker

1942-1943
Charlotte E. Gauer

1943-1944
Eva Pollack Glaser

1944-1945
Helen W. Munsert

1945-1946
Katherine Nohelty

1946-1947
Dorothea Blender

1947-1948
Katherine D. Agar

1948-1949
Coula P. Butler

1949-1950
Jeanne Brown Gordon

1950-1951
Eleanor Y. Guthrie

1951-1952
Bess Sullivan Heptig

1952-1953
Edna G. Perraton

1953-1954
Mary Anastasia Johnson

1954-1955
Alice M. Bright

1955-1956
Alice M. Bright

1956-1957
Thelma Brook Simon

1957-1958
C. Lois Samuelson

1958-1959
Charlotte Hornstein

1959-1960
Jeanne Hurley Simon

1960-1961
Hon. Helen F. McGillcuddy

1961-1962
Esther R. Rotstein

1962-1963
Dolores K. Hanna

1963-1964
Sylvia M. Cervenka

1964-1965
Theodora Gordon

1965-1966
Mary Algerian Pappas

1966-1967
Hon. Rosemary LaPorta

1967-1968
Helen Hart Jones

1968-1969
Elaine Streuschild Blatt

1969-1970
M. Lois Dierstein

1970-1971
Patricia E. Mullin

1971-1972
Georgia Lee Lipke

1972-1973
Helen Viney Porter

1973-1974
Hon. Odas Nicholson

1974-1975
Hon. Mary Ann McMorrow

1975-1976
Dr. Rowine Hayes Brown

1976-1977
Hon. Mary Hooton

1977-1978
Katherine Abraham

1978-1979
Hon. Margaret G. O’Malley

1979-1980
Dawn B. Schulz

1980-1981
Teresa M. Conway

1981-1982
Hon. Loretta Douglas

1982-1983
Hon. Marilyn Rozmarck Komosa

1983-1984
Mary Frances Hegarty

1984-1985
Charlotte Adelman

1985-1986
Hon. Barbara Disko

1986-1987
Susan C. Haddad

1987-1988
Ina Winston

1988-1989
Jacqueline S. Lustig

1989-1990
Jewel N. Klein

1990-1991
H Candace Gorman

1991-1992
Carole Siegel

1992-1993
Nancy J. Nicol

1993-1994
Mary C. Thompson

1994-1995
Susan Fox Gillis

1995-1996
Margaret M. Foster

1996-1997
Susan C. Salita

1997-1998
Hon. Helaine L. Berger

1998-1999
Debra B. Walker

1999-2000
Sharon L. Eiseman

2000-2001
Karen J Dimond

2001-2002
Denise Y. Stanlec

2002-2003
Tracey J. Stokes

2003-2004
Hon. Elizabeth M. Budzinski

2004-2005
Lori G. Levin

2005-2006
Dawn Gonzalez

2006-2007
Jennifer Lundy Sender

2007-2008
Karen McNulty Enright

2008-2009
Hon. Jeanne M. Reynolds

2009-2010
Hon. Patrice Ball-Reed

2010-2011
Kathryn Gallanis Matern

2011-2012
Deane Beth Brown

2012-2013
Karina Zabicki DeHayes

2013-2014
Michelle Kohut

2014-2015
Eugena Whitson Owen

2015-2016
Hon. Jessica A. O’Brien

2016-2017
Adria Mossing

The Full WBAI History

Want to know the full history of the WBAI? Check out WBAI 75 to read about the first 75 years of history of the WBAI, as well as news clippings from the early 1900s as well as biographies and photos of WBAI members.

Former WBAI President, Charlotte Adelman, the WBAI’s archivist and historian for over 26 years, singlehandedly wrote the WBAI 75 – a history book of the WBAI’s First 75 Years thereby reducing the history of the WBAI to writing for future generations to enjoy.  The WBAI 75 can not only be viewed on this page of the WBAI’s website but also at local bookstores and law libraries.