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COLLECTION Identifier: MC 818

Records of the Women's Bar Association of Massachusetts, 1975-ca.2012


Records, including by-laws, minutes, correspondence, and legal documents, of the Women's Bar Association of Massachusetts, an organization founded to promote the advancement of women in the legal profession and the interests of women in society.


  • Creation: 1975-2012

Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Access Restrictions:

Access. Most of the collection is open for research. Researchers must sign a special permission form to use the collection. Folder #19.4 is closed until January 1, 2041.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the records created by the Women's Bar Association of Massachusetts is held by the Women's Bar Association of Massachusetts. Copyright in other papers in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns.

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


21.4 linear feet ((48 file boxes, 1 folio+ box) plus electronic records)

Records of the Women's Bar Association of Massachusetts (WBA) include by-laws, minutes, correspondence, legal files, such as amicus briefs and testimonies, financial documents, membership records, publications, and electronic records. The records document the issues of interest to women lawyers, as well as internal operations of a professional women's organization founded during the late 1970s.

The records came to the library in three groups. The first group, accession 2000-M86, was gathered from past presidents in preparation for the organization's twentieth anniversary. The second group, accession 2013-M127, came from the office of Women's Bar Association board member Ann Morse Hartner. These files contained records of the board of directors and the Legislative Policy Committee, of which she was chair. The third group, accession 2015-M168, came from the central office of the Women's Bar Association. The bulk of files were in folders with headings; there were about two cartons of loose materials. The archivist maintained original folder headings; titles in brackets were created by the archivist. The archivist also created the arrangement, integrated all accessions into this arrangement, and interfiled loose material.

Women's Bar Association newsletters, law journals, and published reports have been transferred to the Schlesinger Library's book collection and have been cataloged in HOLLIS.

Electronic records were received on one 5.25" disk. The disk was imaged using FTK Imager and Duke Data Accessioner. An attempt was made to read the data using KryoFlux but the data on the disk were unrecoverable.

Series I, HISTORY AND GOVERNANCE, 1978-ca.2012 (#1.1-4.11, E.1), contains incorporation papers, paperwork to register the Women's Bar Association as a lobbying organization, and annual reports. It also contains articles and by-laws, as well as signed forms from members consenting to changes to by-laws. In addition, there are organizational planning documents, including reports on long-range planning (1989 and 1997) and a strategic marketing plan (1999).

The series also includes information about the Women's Bar Association and its history in the form of academic papers, press releases, and clippings about the Women's Bar Association. Clippings concern support or opposition for bills, events, and member activities, and are from a variety of publications, the bulk being from the local Massachusetts newspapers, the Boston Globe, and Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly. Most clippings had been gathered in binders, which were dismantled by the archivist into folders. Most of these binders appear to have been compiled by the Media Committee, and include press releases and press contact lists. These binders also contain committee records, such as minutes, budgets, memorandum, reports, letters, and email among members. Media committee records are included here; see Series V and VI for records for other Women's Bar Association committees.

Women's Bar Association publications, including the WBA Newsletter, WBA News & Notes, the WBA Quarterly, the Women's Bar Review, the WBA Law Journal, and The Challenge: Pro Bono News from the Women's Bar Foundation of Massachusetts have been transferred to the Schlesinger Library's printed material collection. Additional publications by the Women's Bar Association, including its reports about part-time work, can also be found in the library's book collection. The series also contains the Women's Bar Association web site, which is being captured periodically as part of Harvard University Library's Web Archive Collection (WAX). The series is arranged alphabetically.

Series II, BOARD OF DIRECTORS, 1978-2011 (#4.12-12.2), contains minutes, agendas, notes, budgets, and correspondence related to meetings of the Women's Bar Association board of directors. The series also contains board resolutions, lists of board members, and material used to plan annual meetings and retreats, such as correspondence with speakers, nomination forms, board member lists and committee reports. In addition, there are nominations to the board and candidate profiles, as well as guide books for members of the board. The guidebooks appear to have been used as both orientation tools and reference manuals for members.

Meeting minutes provide insight into the work of the board and the Women's Bar Association, and the activities of the organization overall. The minutes often include supporting material such as correspondence, memos, reports, by-laws, budgets, etc., related to topics being discussed. There were several sets of meeting minutes, which the archivist combined into one chronological run. Although these sets were combined, there is some duplication; binders containing minutes and other records from the 1980-1984 and 1996-1997 periods were retained, even though they contain some duplicates. See also Series III, Correspondence, for additional correspondence related to Board activities. The series is arranged alphabetically.

Series III, CORRESPONDENCE, 1979-2004 (#12.3-17.3), contains correspondence among members of Women's Bar Association, particularly presidents and directors, with other members and organizations, regarding Women's Bar Association meetings, projects and events. It also includes correspondence with state and national legislators and elected officials regarding appointments, legislation, and testimony. The Women's Bar Association corresponded with the offices of Massachusetts governors, state legislators and other officials, as well as federal legislators. Much of the correspondence is from the tenures of Woman's Bar Association presidents Martha Coakley, Sally J. Greenberg, Karen J. Kepler, S. Beville May, Mary K. Ryan, Jamie Ann Sabino, and Sandra Shapiro. In addition, there are some letters from groups requesting amicus briefs as well as individuals requesting legal assistance. There is a general run of correspondence, probably assembled yearly by various presidents and directors. The series is arranged alphabetically.

Series IV, MEMBERSHIP AND FINANCIAL RECORDS, 1979-2011 (#17.4-20.10, 49F+B.1-49F+B.5), contains files related to Women's Bar Association members and finances, including lists of members and material for membership drives. In addition, there are membership committee notes and correspondence. The series also includes service registration forms, which list the interests, skills and experiences of members. These forms allowed the Women's Bar Association to send out resumes on a member's behalf. Many of these forms are accompanied by resumes. In addition to membership material, this series contains budgets, financial reports, and correspondence among members regarding budgets. It also contains tax information and records of dues paid by members. In addition, the series includes reports of the treasurer to the board of directors (which also contain budget information), as well as fundraising letters and planning material. The series is arranged alphabetically.

Series V, LEGISLATIVE POLICY COMMITTEE, 1980-2011 (#20.11-37.13), contains correspondence, minutes, notes, memos, testimony, and drafts legislation documenting the work of the Legislative Policy Committee. The majority of the files came from the office of the co-chair of the committee, Ann Morse Hartner. Much of the material was found loose. Since some files were organized already by subject of legislation (domestic violence, legal services, Medicaid, etc.) or format (meeting minutes, memos, etc.), the archivist maintained this filing structure when sorting this loose material. In addition to Hartner, there is correspondence among other committee members, particularly Anne Margolis. The files are divided into three subseries. There is some overlap among the three subseries; for example, correspondence regarding legislation can be found in committee binders and general correspondence folders in Subseries A, as well as by subject in Subseries C.

Subseries A, Administrative, 1981-2011 (#20.11-26.8), contains correspondence and printed email; meeting agendas, planning material and minutes; memos; notes; and testimonies related to the work of the committee. In situations where minutes were found loose, the archivist attempted to keep supporting document used at meetings with the agendas and minutes. Several general correspondence folders were created by the archivist; these folders include some correspondence about legislation. In addition, material about legislation can be found in the dismantled binders. The subseries is arranged alphabetically.

Subseries B, Events, 1995-2010 (#26.9-29.12), contains planning material related to events run by the Legislative Policy Committee. In particular, there are correspondence, attendance lists, and notes relating to the Legislative Breakfast held at the State House each year for state legislators to promote the Women's Bar Association's legislative agenda. Included here are packets which contain lists of the Women's Bar Association legislative priorities, fact sheets, and drafts of legislation. This subseries also contains material related to the Legislator of the Year named annually by the Women's Bar Association, as well as well as packets and planning material from the State House 101, an educational program about the legislative process in Massachusetts. The subseries is arranged alphabetically.

Subseries C, Legislation, 1980-2010 (#29.13-37.13), contains correspondence and printed email among members and letters to legislators and other public officials, as well as drafts of legislation, notes, testimony, and memos. Most of the files are organized by subject, or "actions," such as legislation regarding domestic violence, child custody, legal services, family medical leave, same-sex marriage, and health care. There are also several files related to spousal elective share, a joint effort of the Women's Bar Association and other local bar associations to revise probate laws which discriminate against women. The subseries is arranged alphabetically.

Series VI, OTHER COMMITTEES AND PROGRAMS, 1975-2007 (#38.1-46.1, 49F+B.6), contains correspondence, notes, and meeting material related to Women's Bar Association programs and committees. The series also contains drafts and final copies of amicus briefs written by the Women's Bar Association. The series is divided into two subseries.

Subseries A, Amicus Briefs, 1981-2007 (#38.1-41.1), contains material documenting the Women's Bar Association's support for women's issues through the writing of amicus (friend of the court) briefs. The subseries includes notes, correspondence, clippings, and supporting legal material related to various cases or issues, as well as the actual amicus briefs. Most folders contain amicus briefs, while a few contain requests for briefs or other material. Common topics include sex discrimination in the workplace, particularly in the legal field; sexual harassment; child support and custody; and sexual assault. In addition to amicus briefs, this series also contains a Women's Bar Association memorandum regarding the report of the Special Committee on Legal Education (1982) as well as Women's Bar Association's response to a referendum petition (1989). The series is arranged alphabetically.

Subseries B, Other Committees and Special Projects, 1975-2006 (#41.2-46.1, 49F+B.6), contains correspondence, memoranda, notes, minutes, agendas, etc. related to various Women's Bar Association committees, such as the appointments and Western Massachusetts committees. It also includes reports, correspondence, notes, clippings, etc. regarding special projects accomplished by the Women's Bar Association. There are records from the Women's Bar Foundation (formed in 1993) which contain information about the organization's pro-bono efforts. Specifically, there is material about the Framingham Project for Incarcerated Women.

In addition, there are files regarding studies initiated or completed by the Women's Bar Association. There is correspondence, proposal drafts, and drafts of surveys for court employees and attorneys related to the gender bias study of the Massachusetts state judiciary. Materials regarding legislation proposed by the Women's Bar Association as a result of the study are also located here. There are also records of the Women's Bar Association's studies regarding parental and maternity leave and as well as working part time. Women's Bar Association's published studies of women lawyers working part time in 1982, 1989, and 2000; the last being "More than Part Time: The Effect of Reduced-Hours Arrangements on the Retention, Recruitment, and Success of Women Attorneys in Law Firms." See the Schlesinger Library book collection for copies of the final reports.

This subseries also includes files relating to the directory of women lawyers published by the Women's Bar Association, as well as a task force examining whether the Women's Bar Association should form a lawyer referral service. This task force contacted representatives from multiple lawyer referral services; notes from these interviews are included here. The series is arranged alphabetically.

Series VII, EVENTS AND EDUCATIONAL PROGRAMS, 1981-2009 (#46.2-48.31), contains material related to seminars, and workshops, and fundraising events hosted by the Women's Bar Association. The bulk of the series contains files relating to the organization's annual gala. There is correspondence with members and invitees, notes, biographical information for speakers and honorees, budget information, press releases, and drafts of invitations and budgets. Files from some events can be found elsewhere; see Series II for files relating to annual board meetings and Series V for files relating to the Legislative Breakfasts. The series is arranged alphabetically followed by a chronological group of folders related to Women's Bar Association Galas from 1995-1997.


Founded in 1978 in response to the needs and concerns of the unprecedented numbers of women entering the legal profession, the Women's Bar Association of Massachusetts (WBA) is committed to the advancement of women in the profession and to the interests of women in society. It offers educational programs, mentoring, and networking opportunities, supports pro bono activities and candidates for all levels of appointments, writes amicus curiae (friend of the court) briefs, and lobbies the legislature.

Through its Legislative Policy Committee, the Women's Bar Association has taken an active role in advocating for issues of concern to women, including domestic violence, reproductive rights, child custody, legal services, family medical leave, same-sex marriage, health care, and probate. The committee initiates and supports legislation relating to a wide variety of issues. Each year, the committee recommends which legislation should be given priority, prepares testimony for hearings, meets with legislators, and writes letters to elected officials in support or opposition of the pending legislation. The committee also hosts a breakfast at the Massachusetts State House to present its legislative agenda to legislators. In addition, the Women's Bar Association files amicus curiae briefs in cases affecting women and their children. Specifically, the Women's Bar Association has filed court briefs in cases concerning alimony, child support, domestic violence, employment, sexual harassment, gender equality, reproductive rights, and reproductive technology.

The Women's Bar Association also strives to aid indigent and low-income women through various pro bono activities. In 1993, the organization established the Women's Bar Foundation as a separate organization to oversee its pro bono projects, including the Family Law Project for Battered Women, the Elder Law Project, the Framingham Project for Incarcerated Women, the Women's Lunch Place Project, and the Hampden and Hampshire County Housing Court Project.

The Women's Bar Association has published several newsletters and reports during its history, including WBA News & Notes, WBA Newsletter, and the Women's Bar Association Newsletter, as well as the Women's Bar Review and the WBA Law Journal. The Women's Bar Association has also initiated or completed studies. In 1985, the Women's Bar Association proposed a study of gender bias in the state judiciary. Funded by the state legislature, the study was implemented by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. After the study was published in 1989, Women's Bar Association members remained involved with Committee for Gender Equality of the Supreme Judicial Court and the Women's Bar Association assembled a legislative package of bills which reflected the study's recommendations. The Women's Bar Association also engaged in studies of maternity and paternity leave in law firms and women lawyers working part time. In 2000, the Women's Bar Association published a major study entitled "More than Part Time: The Effect of Reduced-Hours Arrangements on the Retention, Recruitment, and Success of Women Attorneys in Law Firms."


The collection is arranged in seven series:

  1. Series I. History and Governance, 1978-ca.2012 (#1.1-4.11, E.1)
  2. Series II. Board of Directors, 1978-2011 (#4.12-12.2)
  3. Series III. Correspondence, 1979-2004 (#12.3-17.3)
  4. Series IV. Membership and Financial, 1979-2011 (#17.4-20.10, 49F+B.1-49F+B.5)
  5. Series V. Legislative Policy Committee, 1980-2011 (#20.11-37.13)
  6. Series VI. Other Committees and Programs, 1975-2007 (#38.1-46.1, 49F+B.6)
  7. Series VII. Events and Educational Programs, 1989-2009 (#46.2-48.31)

Physical Location

Collection stored off site: researchers must request access 36 hours before use.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession numbers: 2000-M86, 2013-M127, 2015-M168

The records of the Women's Bar Association of Massachusetts were given to the library by the Women's Bar Association of Massachusetts in June 2000 and October 2015, and by Women's Bar Association member Ann Morse Hartner in July 2013.


Donors: Women's Bar Association of Massachusetts and Ann Morse Hartner.

Accession numbers: 2000-M86, 2013-M127, 2015-M168

Processed by: Paula Aloisio

The following items have been transferred to the Schlesinger Library's printed material collection:

  1. Advance Sheet: A Newsletter Published by Oregon Women Lawyers. Volume 4, Number 2 (Spring 1993); Volume 4, Number 3 (1993); Volume 6, Number 3 (1995).
  2. The Advocate: The Newsletter of the Colorado Women's Bar Association. Volume XV, Number 4 (December 1993); Volume XV, Number 5 (January 1994).
  3. Directory of Associations of Women Lawyers. Chicago, IL: Division for Bar Services, American Bar Association, 1989; Update: April 1989.
  4. FAWL State News. Florida Association for Women Lawyers, September/October 1994; Winter/Spring 1995.
  5. New Jersey. Supreme Court. Task Force on Women in the Courts. New Jersey Supreme Court Task Force on Women in the Courts : report of the first year. [Newark, N.J.]: The Task Force, [1984].
  6. On the Docket: Massachusetts Association of Women Lawyers Newsletter, September 1985; December 1985.
  7. U.S. Department of Labor and Women's Bureau. Facts on Working Women. [Washington, D.C.]: U.S. Dept. of Labor, Women's Bureau, Number 96-2 (September 1996); Number 96-3 (October 1996); Number 97-1 (March 1997); Number 97-2 (February 1997); Number 97-5 (June 1997).
  8. Women's Political Times. Washington, D.C.: National Women's Political Caucus, Volume XIX (Winter 1994-1995).

Processing Information

Processed: April 2017

By: Paula Aloisio, with assistance from Margaret Dalton.

Women's Bar Association of Massachusetts. Records of the Women's Bar Association of Massachusetts, 1975-ca.2012
Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America
Language of description
Processing of this collection was made possible by a gift from the Radcliffe College Class of 1957 Schlesinger Library 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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