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Trailblazers Series - GAWL

The Georgia Association for Women Lawyers is proud to present for its members and the legal community at large, the Trailblazers Series. Remembering Philosopher George Santayana’s adage that: “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” GAWL has created the Trailblazers Series to pay homage to and create a living history of our past as lawyers and women. This Trailblazers Series is our oral history of women pioneers in the legal profession in Georgia. Our Trailblazers have lived to both witness and make history and have contributed greatly to the dramatic advances of women in the law, in the profession, and in our society. With the help of PeachPodStudios, the Georgia Association for Women Lawyers has created this Trailblazers Series in an effort to continue to chronicle our past to prepare us for the future.


World events played a tremendous part in women’s changing roles in America over the course of the twentieth century as women began entering the legal profession. During World War I, thousands of young men left their homes to join the military and fight in the "Great War." In their absence, women were expected to “keep the home fires burning.” They managed homes and families without the help of their husbands, sons, brothers, or fathers. In addition to their own traditional duties, many women took up jobs vacated by men. With more than 58,000 Americans killed during WWI, many women became widows. They shouldered the responsibilities they had taken up during the war and continued to support themselves and their families.

World War II had a similar, but even more substantial effect on the role of American women. In addition to managing the home in the absence of male members of the family, women took up occupations and jobs that had previously been closed to them. The country’s need for workers to support the war effort induced millions of women to enter the workforce for the first time ever.  Women worked in banks, factories, and government jobs in order to fill positions vacated by men during wartime. The new message for women was that leaving their traditional place in the home was part of their patriotic duty in order to support the troops and keep the American economy stable. The tremendous influx of women entering the workforce began to change ideas about what kind of work was “acceptable” for women. Women’s success in the wartime workforce also began to change ideas about what women were capable of.

During the war, it was a patriotic duty for a woman to leave her traditional place in the home, yet after the war, women were urged to return to their traditional roles in order to make their jobs available for returning GIs. Despite this pressure, for many women the floodgates had been opened. They had seized opportunities to pursue goals and ambitions outside of traditional norms, and they had proven to themselves and to others that they were capable of succeeding and excelling. After the war, more women began to assert their abilities and their place in non-traditional career paths.

In this context and in generations to follow, our Trailblazers had a different experience in entering academia or a professional career. Encouraged by their families, recommended by employers, or inspired by the changes in women’s roles that occurred during the World Wars, women began to pursue their goals more deliberately. For some, the opportunity to earn a graduate degree or enter a professional program was unexpected. Others had to work hard to be accepted to university programs or to secure good jobs.  Since they were women in areas that had traditionally been dominated by men (such as academia and law), they knew that their performance would reflect on the abilities of all women. They knew that they had to work as hard as possible to prove their worth. They also were instrumental in developing new solutions to long-term legal problems in various areas of the law, academia, and society as a whole. These are their personal stories and contributions in their own words.


Cathy coxL. Catherine “Cathy” Cox: Cathy Cox is the current President of Young Harris College in Young Harris, Georgia. Cox was the first woman Secretary of State for the State of Georgia, holding that office from 1999 to 2007. During here tenure as Secretary of State, Cox instituted a universal electronic voting system, making Georgia the first American state to use such a system.

Cathy Cox is a native Georgian, born and raised in Bainbridge, a town in Southwest Georgia. She earned an associate’s degree in agriculture and then a journalism degree from UGA. In 1986, she graduated Magna Cum Laude from Mercer University’s Walter F. George School of Law where she was Editor-In-Chief of the Mercer Law Review and a member of the Brainerd Currie Honor Society. Following her graduation from law school, Cox practiced law for ten years in private practice. Cox served as a member of the Georgia House of Representatives from 1993 to 1996 until she relinquished her seat in early 1996 to become Assistant Secretary of State.

She is married to attorney Mark Dehler. They have no children and are active members of the United Methodist Church. She has also served on the Board of Trustees of Mercer University as well as on the Board of Visitors of the School of Law.



Daisy Floyd Hurst Daisy Floyd Hurst: Daisy Hurst Floyd: Daisy Hurst Floyd is University Professor of Law and Ethical Formation at Walter F. Georgia School of Law at Mercer University in Macon, Georgia, where she served as Dean from 2004 through 2010. After attending Randolph-Macon Woman’s College from 1973 to 1975, Dean Floyd graduated Summa Cum Laude with a bachelor's and master’s degree in political science from Emory University, where she was tapped for Phi Beta Kappa. Thereafter, she attended law school at the University of Georgia where she served as articles editor for the Georgia Law Review, was a Castellow Scholar, and received the American Jurisprudence Award for Trusts and Estates.

Early in her legal career, Dean Floyd was director of the Legal Research and Writing Program at the University of Georgia’s School of Law, and practiced as an attorney with Alston, Miller & Gaines, now know as Alston & Bird in Atlanta. A member of the State Bars of Georgia and Texas, and the American Bar Association, she is a Fellow of the American Bar Foundation and the Texas Bar Foundation. Dean Floyd is a former Professor of Law at Texas Tech University School of Law, where she served two terms as Associate Dean for Academic Affairs.

As Dean of Mercer’s law school, she has pursued intense study of the professional identities of lawyers. In these pursuits, she has engaged in research sponsored by the Carnegie Foundation and has created a unique curriculum for Mercer law students regarding the ethics, identities and values of law students aspiring to become lawyers. Dean Floyd is the first female dean of Mercer’s law school.


Carol HunsteinJustice Carol W. Hunstein: Presiding Justice Carol W. Hunstein was appointed to the Georgia Supreme Court in November 1992 by then Governor Zell Miller. She is the second woman in history to serve as a permanent member of the Court. In 1984, Justice Hunstein won election to the Superior Court of DeKalb County. Prior to serving on the bench, Justice Hunstein was in private practice. She has been a member of the Georgia Bar since 1976.

Justice Hunstein received her Juris Doctor in 1976 from Stetson University College of Law. She received a Bachelor of Science degree from Florida Atlantic University in 1972 and an Associate of Arts degree from Miami-Dade Junior College in 1970. In addition to her judicial duties, Justice Hunstein frequently serves as an adjunct professor at Emory University School of Law. She has three children, John F. Abate, Krista Hunstein and Gabrielle Hunstein, and one grandson, Johnny Abate.


Mary Ann Oakley: Mary Ann Oakley received her A.B., magna cum laude from Duke University in 1962. She earned a Master’s degree from Emory in 1970, and her Juris Doctor from Emory University’s School of Law in 1974. She has received numerous honors and awards during her distinguished career, including the Kathleen Kessler Award in 1998 from the Georgia Association of Women Lawyers. She in a member of Phi Beta Kappa, Order of the Coif and has been listed in both the academic arena and in the professional arena on numerous “Who’s Who” and “Best Of” lists. Her professional activities cover a broad range of endeavor, from chairing the State Board of Bar Examiners to presiding over fundraising for the Georgia Legal Services Program. She began her career in private practice, ultimately becoming a partner in several firms, including Holland and Knight. At the present, Mary Ann is a free lance consultant and mediator as well as serving as a lay minister for the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Atlanta.


Mary Ann Sears: Mary Ann Sears has been a practicing attorney in Atlanta for almost 45 years, being admitted to the Georgia Bar in 1964. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree, cum laude, from the University of Georgia in 1960, where she was elected to Phi Beta Kappa and Phi Kappa Phi. Mary Ann graduated from the University of Georgia School of Law in 1964 where she was the only woman in her law school graduating class and the entire law school at that time. She was the 32nd woman to graduate from the law school since it began to admit women in the early 1920's. She became the first woman partner with Jones, Bird & Howell, an Atlanta law firm where she practiced law beginning in 1965 until 1978. Mary Ann also has served as an in house corporate counsel, and has practiced law for the past 20 years as a sole practitioner. Currently, she is Of Counsel with the law firm of Greene, Buckley, Jones & McQueen, where she continues her practice on a full time basis. Mary Ann has one daughter, Leigh, a Granddaughter, Savannah and a Grandson, Liam.


Chilton VarnerChilton Varner: Chilton Varner has 30 years of courtroom experience as a trial lawyer, defending corporations in product liability, business torts, contract and other commercial disputes. Ms. Varner is a native of Opelika, Alabama, a town of 15,000 people. She joined King & Spalding after receiving her J.D., with distinction, Order of the Coif, from Emory University School of Law. She is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts.

In 1983, she became the second woman partner at King & Spalding and the first woman partner in the Litigation Practice Group. In 1995, she became the first woman elected to the Firm’s management committee. She has served as a trustee of Emory University since 1995, a director of Wesley Woods Geriatric Center from 1996-2007, and a director of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra since 2005. She is married to K. Morgan Varner, an attorney, and has one daughter, Ashley, who is an oncology social worker at The Wellness Community, Washington, D.C.


The Georgia Association of Women Lawyers is proud to name these women as Trailblazers and looks forward to adding to their number in the future. Information provided by this web-site and affiliated persons is for educational purposes only. Users are advised that this website is provided for informational purposes and any legal reliance on information provided here is made entirely at the User's own risk. The Georgia Association for Women Lawyers, its members and staff, shall not be held liable for direct, indirect, consequential or exemplary damages arising from the use or performance of this website.


These interviews were made possible through the technical support and with the assistance of Allen Ulbricht and PeachPodStudios. Their professionalism and service has been invaluable in the production of this project. The Communications Committee would like to thank them for their continued service to this project. For any technical assistance or questions regarding the linked recordings, please contact PeachPodStudios at: 

Allen Ulbricht 
"Internet Media Production" 
(888) 808-3330 x121