This week, the Tallahassee Historical Society held a Women’s History Month event celebrating the accomplishments of female lawyers and guest speaker Wendy Loquasto.
Loquasto is the manager of Fox & Loquasto, LLC, an appellate practice law firm in Tallahassee, and is board-certified in appellate practice. She chaired the research committee of the First 150 Women Lawyers Project, which was a partnership between the Florida Bar and Florida Association for Women Lawyers. She has been president of the Tallahassee Women Lawyers and Florida Association for Women Lawyers.
Bob Hollaway, President of the Tallahassee Historical Society, opened the event acknowledging the accomplishments of women in the legal field.
“Many of the issues facing women require a legal remedy. Though there are still more male lawyers in the state of Florida, there are more women in law school than ever before showing a change. This gives men an idea of what they are in for,” said Hollaway.
Loquasto searched the official records of the Florida Supreme Court to formulate a list of Florida’s early women lawyers, wrote histories for a plethora of the honorees, and oversaw a research committee of approximately 100 lawyers to find stories of these trailblazing women. However, during her research, she realized how hard it was to pinpoint early women in the legal field due to lack of representation.
“When we started to compile the list of women lawyers for the project, we thought it would be easy to research. I spent many afternoons trying to find women lawyers. When you look in the history books, the majority of the lawyers there were men. I tried to look for names that were feminine sounding but some of them turned out to be men anyway,” said Loquasto.
While it was difficult for women to enter the legal field during the 20th century, Black women faced a bit more challenges due to their gender and racial barriers. The event highlighted Bernice Gaines, Gwendolyn Cherry, Ruby McZier, and Arthenia Joyner, who is a part of Florida’s first five African-American women lawyers.
Attendee Jeymmy Lopez commented on the event’s highlight of Black women saying “When Wendy mentioned the first Black women lawyers, I got excited because seeing Black female pioneers made me feel like there is space for the next generation of colored female lawyers. Being a colored woman gives you two strikes in the workforce. My daughter wants to be a lawyer, which is why I am so glad that Wendy included women of color in her research because I feel like they are easily forgotten and Wendy revived their legacies.”
“I think work still needs to be done for many to realize what women bring to the workforce. Only women can truly understand the problems of other women. We need to appreciate the unique perspectives that women bring to the workforce,” said Loquasto.