MARY LATHROP TRAILBLAZER AWARD
The CWBA's prestigious Mary Lathrop Trailblazer Award, our highest honor, is presented annually to an outstanding female attorney who has enriched the community through her legal and civic activities. The Award recognizes the tradition begun by Mary Lathrop, an early woman lawyer in Colorado who blazed many trails for other women in the profession.
This year's winner was announced December 2, 2021 during our Annual Holiday Party and will be honored during a special reception at the 45th Annual CWBA Convention on Friday, May 20, 2022, at the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek.
The Hon. Theresa A. Spahn
Denver County Court Judge & CWBA Past President
Watch the video of our 2021 Mary Lathrop Trailblazers Award Celebration
Mary Lathrop was born in 1865 to a Philadelphia Quaker family. At age 19, she became a reporter at a local newspaper. She had a distinguished career until poor health forced her to choose a new profession at age 30. She came to Colorado and pursued a legal degree at the University of Denver College of Law where she graduated first in her class. She passed the Colorado Bar in 1896 with a score that would stand as a record until 1941.
Lathrop hung her shingle in Colorado in 1897, specializing in probate law. She continued to influence this field, helping to redraft probate statutes and assisting in developing the Small Guardianship Law. Her most famous case was Clayton v. Hallett, which established the law of charitable bequests in Colorado.
Lathrop was a woman whose many “firsts” would inspire others to follow in her footsteps. After being turned down twice because “women should not practice law,” she was the first woman admitted to practice before the U.S. District Court in Colorado. She was also the first woman to open a law office in Colorado, the first woman to argue before the Colorado Supreme Court, the first woman to join the Colorado and Denver Bar Associations, and was one of the first two women to join the American Bar Association.
Lathrop recognized the importance of community involvement. During her lifetime, she made anonymous donations to help students. She also received numerous awards for her service work and excellence in the legal profession. After her death in 1951, she left the bulk of her estate to establish a student loan fund at the University of Denver.
In order to preserve and foster the memory of this woman who has left a legacy for us all, the Colorado Women’s Bar Association (CWBA) began presenting the Mary Lathrop Award in 1991 and has made an annual presentation each year since. The CWBA gives the Mary Lathrop Trailblazer Award to an outstanding female attorney who has enriched the community through her legal and civic activities.
Past Mary Lathrop Trailblazer Award Honorees
2021 The Honorable Karen Ashby