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COLLECTION Identifier: MC 749: T-255: Vt-73: DVD-94

Additional records of the National Association of Women Judges, 1966-2012


By-laws, minutes, conference materials, financial and membership records, photographs, and audiovisual material of the National Association of Women Judges, a non-partisan, charitable and educational organization.


  • Creation: 1966-2012

Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Access Restrictions:

Access. Unrestricted. An appointment is necessary to use any audiovisual material.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the records created by the National Association of Women Judges is held by the President and Fellows of Harvard College for the Schlesinger Library. Copyright in other records in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns.

Copying. Papers may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures.


23 linear feet ((51 file boxes, 2 half file boxes, 1 folio+ box) plus 4 photograph folders, 1 folio photograph folder, 94 audiotapes, 7 videotapes, 3 DVDs, 2 archived web sites, and electronic records.)

These additional records of the National Association of Women Judges document their progress in promoting gender equality and diversity within the judiciary, and leadership role in judicial education. Included are organizational and administrative records; correspondence and memoranda; minutes from annual and mid-year board meetings and executive committee conference calls; financial records; membership directories, educational hand-outs, reference material, clippings, photographs, and audiovisual tapes. There are gaps and overlap between the minutes of the board of directors, conference materials, by-laws, and resolutions in Series I, II, and III. Much of the duplicate material in Series I was annotated and therefore retained. Other duplicate records, which include board minutes, by-laws, resolutions, and educational materials that were received in binders, were removed. The most complete sequence of Association conference materials and related activities are found in Series III. Records were received in labeled folders, but without an original filing system. The archivist provided the arrangement, interfiled loose material and modified folder descriptions to avoid duplication and to consolidate related material. Most of the photographs in this collection are or will be cataloged in VIA, Harvard University's Visual Information Access database. Others, referred to as "uncataloged" photographs, are not of sufficient research interest to warrant cataloging and are simply treated as part of the documents they accompany. They are marked on the back with an asterisk in square brackets [*]. Electronic records received with the collection will be reformatted at some future date for inclusion in appropriate series. The web site of the National Association of Judges is being captured periodically as part of Harvard University Library's Web Archive Collection service (WAX). There is related material: National Association of Women Judges (U.S.) Records (MC 436). Accession #99-M62 and Vt-73.29 for which a container list had been created in February 2000, was processed and added to this collection as Series I, Mattie Belle Davis Papers. Additional material received in 2014 (accession number 2014-M59) was added in April 2014; this material is housed in 54.1-54.4.

Series I, MATTIE BELLE DAVIS PAPERS, 1966-1999 (#1.1-6.8, 52.1m, 53F+B.4m, PD.1f-PD.3), documents the professional activities of Judge Mattie Belle Davis (1910-2004) who was admitted to the Florida bar in 1936. She presided over the Metropolitan Court of Dade County, Miami, Florida (1959-1980), and served as judge of the Civil Division of the County Court of Dade County (1973-1980). Judge Davis also played an instrumental role in the founding of the Florida Women's Law Association (1951); was an active delegate of the American Bar Association (1967-1975, 1977-1981). Following her retirement in 1981, she became a life member of the Association and was chosen to head its Retired Judges Committee. Included are papers related to the American Bar Association and other judicial affiliates; annotated minutes from board of directors annual and mid-year meetings and membership directories; and photographs, memorabilia, notes, and writings related to articles for the Women Lawyers' Journal published by the National Association of Women Lawyers. The bulk of Davis's papers consist of conference material spanning the years 1979-1999. See Series III for additional conference material. Included are articles of incorporation and by-laws; correspondence, minutes, and resolutions; reports from the Association's presidents, committees, and district leaders; and educational hand-outs on various topics, including domestic violence, bankruptcy mediation, matrimonial matters, and the environment. Notable items include several speeches and a formal portrait of founding members, remarks by Jimmy Carter at a White House reception for Association members (1980), and a speech by Joan Dempsey Klein, entitled "Women Judges in the United States: An Historical Perspective," presented at the College of Lawyers in Puerto Rico (1981). The series is arranged alphabetically with annual conferences arranged chronologically therein.

Series II, WOMEN JUDGES FUND FOR JUSTICE, 1981-1999 (#6.9-24.8, PD.4-PD.5), includes correspondence, memoranda and programs representing affiliate organizations; reports, articles, and clippings related to the development and accomplishments of gender bias task force groups; and minutes from executive committee conference calls and board of directors annual and mid-year meetings. There is some overlap with records in Series I and III. Items of interest include the merger agreement between the Association and the Fund, and the "Justice Sybil Hart Kooper Project: Gender and Justice in the Courts," a draft brochure created to address gender bias using cartoons. The bulk of the records consists of educational conferences, workshops, projects, annual programs, and seminars, which include proposals and financial records related to the State Justice Institute, public and private foundations, and other funding sources; curriculum guides, educational hand-outs, speaker biographies, reference material, and course evaluations related to "Teach the Teachers" workshops co-sponsored by the Association and the National Judicial College; gender and race fairness curriculum developed by the Association and the National Judicial Education Program; and other projects that focused on issues of children and violence, elder abuse, the impact of immigration laws on the family, reproductive issues and genetic testing. Also included are brochures, flyers, correspondence, and memoranda related to state judicial education seminars, which focused on the judicial selection process, pregnant substance abusers, spousal support, medical ethics, and other issues, and the Leadership Institute in Judicial Education, an annual program organized to help state judicial educators develop effective curriculum, implement new ways of teaching adult learners, and plan and evaluate programs. The series is arranged alphabetically.

Series III, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF WOMEN JUDGES, 1979-2012 (#24.9-51.4, 53F+B.1m-53F+B.3m, 54.1-54.4, E.1-E.2), includes by-laws, resolutions, reports, and minutes of board of directors annual and mid-year meetings; administrative manuals; records of the executive, international outreach, nominating, and resolutions committees; membership directories, and presidents and officers' correspondence. Also included are several judicial education programs, co-sponsored with the National Judicial Education Program that contains print and audiovisual curriculum guides. The bulk of the records relate to annual conferences that address the complex issues encountered by judges in the courtroom, including domestic violence, feminism and jurisprudence, immigration, and the changing definition of family. Past presenters included Sandra Day O'Connor, Tom Brokaw, Sonia Sotomayor, Lani Guinier, Marian Wright Edelman, former Vice President Al Gore and others. Included are memoranda, correspondence, and logistical planning notes; pre-conference fund-raising and registration materials; program brochures, agendas, and flyers; invitations to award ceremonies, fund raising events, and other special activities; financial records detailing conference registration fees, donations of "seed money" to support the initial phase of conference organizing, and contributions from silent auctions. Receipts related to travel reimbursements have been removed. Also included are materials related to the membership, conferences, and judicial training of affiliate organizations, including the International Women Judges Association, founded by the Association in 1991; and correspondence, clippings, brochures, reports, program flyers, and invitations related to the Association's regional district offices. See Series IV for related audiovisual material. Newsletters of the Association were removed and transferred to the Schlesinger Library periodicals collection; consult the Library's catalog for holdings. The series is arranged alphabetically with conferences arranged chronologically therein.

Series IV, AUDIOVISUAL, 1982-2006, undated (T-255.6 - T-255.100, Vt-73.29 - Vt-73.36, DVD-94.1 - DVD-94.3), contains DVDs, audio and videotape recordings of educational seminars, panel discussions, and lectures. The numbering sequence of audiovisual material in this collection is a continuation of audiovisual items listed in MC 436, National Association of Women Judges (U.S.). Highlights include the Success Inside Out Conference (#DVD-94.1), which documents the Association's efforts to help incarcerated women, and The Changing Face of Justice, in which co-founders Joan Dempsey Klein and Vaino Spencer, and others, provide details of the Association's history (#DVD-94.3). The bulk of the material consists of panel discussions and lectures presented at the Association's annual conferences. Highlights include an address by Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland (#T-255.64), and remarks presented by Tom Brokaw following the destruction of the New York City World Trade Center on September 11, 2001 (#Vt-73.34). For related conference files see Series III. Some related programs, recorded by National Public Radio and other radio stations, are also included. The series is arranged by format with items arranged chronologically therein.


The National Association of Women Judges is a non-partisan, 501C (3) charitable and educational organization. Conceived by Joan Dempsey Klein, justice of the court of appeals in Los Angeles, and Vaino Spencer, California's first African American woman judge, the Association held its Founder's Conference in Los Angeles, California in 1979. Approximately one hundred charter members attended including Klein, who became founding president; Vaino Spencer; Sybil Hart Kooper, justice of the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of New York; and Sandra Day O'Connor, who was appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court by President Ronald Reagan in 1982, the first woman jurist in the court's 200-year history. Other attendees included, Mattie Bell Davis, judge of the Metropolitan Court of Dade County in Miami, Florida, and a member and delegate of the National Association of Women Lawyers to the American Bar Association. Davis chaired the conference and played a critical role in developing the Association's by-laws. Conference attendees were instrumental in identifying the primary objectives of the Association: to improve the administration of justice by promoting gender equality and diversity, ensuring judicial competence and fairness through educational programs, and increasing the number of women at all levels of the state and federal judiciary.

Early efforts to achieve gender equality and diversity led the Association to establish the Foundation for Women Judges in 1980. Subsequently renamed the Women Judges Fund for Justice, the Fund was organized by executive director Marilyn M. Nejelski as an independent, non-profit education and research arm of the Association. In 1982, under the leadership of Judge Sybil Hart Kooper, the Fund helped various state judiciary systems develop gender task forces, which included a collaborative project with the American Judicature Society to produce the first directory of U.S. judges. The directory identified 737 judges in the United States and facilitated the use of questionnaires to identify gender bias in the judiciary. The resulting demographics helped pinpoint areas where educational outreach would be most effective among women judges, administrators, lawyers, law clerks, attorneys, and other court employees. The Fund also collaborated extensively with NOW's Legal Defense and Education Fund to create the National Judicial Education Program. By 1996, nearly forty states and two federal circuits had established gender bias task forces and provided critical recommendations for change. Many of these states followed up with racial and ethnic bias studies.

The Fund implemented the Association's educational objective through public and private funding used to develop and support educational conferences, short term projects, annual programs, and seminars that focused the broad range of complex and controversial issues that jurists faced in their courtrooms, including pregnant substance abusers, family violence, bioethics, reproductive technology, and child custody issues. One of the most successful seminars involved the judicial selection process, which provided candidates with the prerequisite skills needed to become a judge. A joint sponsorship with the National Judicial College in Reno produced a number of "Teach the Teachers" workshops where educators learned how to incorporate principles of gender and racial fairness into judicial education programs. The Fund also partnered with the Appalachian State University to develop the Leadership Institute in Judicial Education, an annual grant-funded program. The Institute has helped state judges and judicial educators create unified judicial educational systems through intensive training in leadership skills, curriculum development, and program management and evaluation, and enabled the Fund as a sub-grantee to provide financial assistance to qualified applicants.

Although the Association met most of its objectives, efforts to increase the number of women jurists at the state and federal level, and achieving greater diversity within the judiciary, made incremental progress until President Clinton was elected in 1992. In keeping with his campaign promises, Clinton appointed Ruth Bader Ginsburg to the U.S. Supreme Court bench in 1993 and over the next two years appointed approximately 129 judges who were later confirmed by the Senate. Nearly 60% percent of these appointees were either women or from ethnic and racial groups, which included African Americans, Hispanics, Native and Asian Americans. In recognition of this historic achievement, the Association's executive committee presented President Clinton with a plaque during a 1996 ceremony in the Oval Office. In the midst of these critical achievements, the Fund and the Association merged. The restructured organization, operating as the National Association of Women Judges, included a new board of directors, a membership that expanded to include men and women serving as federal, state, administrative, tribal, and military judges, and a viable network of thirty-six individual, corporate, and legal sponsors; fourteen regional districts, each with its own organizational structure; national and international affiliates; and a high-profile national advisory committee that included Hilary Rodham Clinton and other notable individuals.

As a result of its many achievements, the Association has been able to implement a broad range of programs, including those that honor jurists and help disadvantaged individuals. Established in 1980, the Sandra Day O'Connor award is presented to men and women who have paved the way for others in the judiciary. The Color of Justice Program assists individuals with law school admissions by teaching mini-law courses, staging mock courts, and providing access to scholarships. Innovative programs for non-jurists include Success Inside and Out, an annual life skills conference for incarcerated women in Alaska that supports their transition from prison to society. In conjunction with the American Bar Association, the Coalition for Women Prisoners, and other organizations, the Association has also worked to ensure passage of legislative bills that mandate the provision of access to healthcare following release from prison, provide pro-bono legal assistance, establish in-house nurseries in prisons, and ban the shackling of incarcerated pregnant women. For additional accomplishments and current activities see the National Association of Women Judges web site:


The collection is arranged in four series:

  1. Series I. Mattie Belle Davis Papers, 1966-1999 (#1.1-6.8, 52.1m, 53F+B.4m, PD.1f-PD.3)
  2. Series II. Women Judges Fund for Justice, 1981-1999 (#6.9-24.8, PD.4-PD.5)
  3. Series III. National Association of Women Judges, 1979-2012 (#24.9-51.4, 53F+B.1m-53F+B.3m, 54.1-54.4, E.1-E.2)
  4. Series IV. Audiovisual, 1982-2006 (T-255.6 - T-255.100, Vt-73.29 - Vt-73.36, DVD-94.1 - DVD-94.3)

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession numbers: 98-M79, 98-M181, 2000-M133, 2001-M170, 2006-M74, 2007-M183, 2012-M20, 2012-M64, 2014-M59. Accession #99-M62 and Vt-73.29 for which a container list had been created in February 2000, was processed and added to this collection as Series I, Mattie Belle Davis Papers.

These additional records of the National Association of Women Judges were given to the Schlesinger Library by the National Association of Women Judges between 1998 and 2014.


Donors: National Association of Women Judges

Accession numbers: 98-M79, 98-M181, 2000-M133, 2001-M170, 2006-M74, 2007-M183, 2012-M20, 2012-M64.

Processed by: Emilyn L. Brown

The following items have been transferred to the Schlesinger Library books and printed materials division (pending review by the curator):

  1. Counterbalance Newsletter
  2. Setting the Record Straight: Judge Bork and The Future of Women's Rights
  3. Protocol for Making Reasonable Efforts to Preserve Families in Drug-Related Dependency Cases
  4. National Conference on Substance Abuse and the Courts: Proceedings and Manual for Action
  5. Court-Related Needs of the Elderly and Persons with Disabilities: A Blueprint for the Future
  6. Reproductive Laws for the 1990s: A Briefing Handbook
  7. American Bar Association Section of Real Property, Probate and Trust Law

Processing Information

Processed: October 2013

By: Emilyn Brown, with assistance from Emily Underwood.

Updated: April 2014

By: Anne Engelhart

National Association of Women Judges (U.S.). Additional records of the National Association of Women Judges, 1966-2012: A Finding Aid
Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America
Language of description
Processing of this collection was made possible by gifts from the Class of 1959 and the Falik Fund.

Repository Details

Part of the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute Repository

The preeminent research library on the history of women in the United States, the Schlesinger Library documents women's lives from the past and present for the future. In addition to its traditional strengths in the history of feminisms, women’s health, and women’s activism, the Schlesinger collections document the intersectional workings of race and ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and class in American history.

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