League of Women Voters Charlotte County Florida
League of Women Voters of Charlotte County Florida

Inspiring Advocates

Rosemary Barkett
Judge Barkett's journey through life is colorful.  Her family had emigrated from Syria to Mexico, where she was born.  She spoke only Spanish until she moved to Miami, and became a U.S. citizen in 1958. She joined the Sisters of St. Joseph and became a nun as Sister St. Michael.  She taught elementary and junior high classes in Tampa, Jacksonville, and St. Augustine.  In 1967 she left the convent to find other ways to serve. She studied at Spring Hill College, graduating with high honors, and obtained her J.D. from the University of Florida College of Law.  She was in private law practice from 1971 to 1979 in West Palm Beach, when she was appointed by the governor as a circuit court judge, and served as chief judge in the Fifteenth Judicial Circuit. She was later appointed to the Florida Fourth District Court of  Appeals in 1984. One year later, she was named to the Florida Supreme Court.  
Although Florida became a state in 1845, Rosemary Barkett was the first woman to join the Florida Supreme Court. She was also the first Hispanic judge to serve there as well as the first Arab American Judge on that court. Her arrival was heralded with a TV show entitled "The Brethren take a Sister." Justice Barkett served as chief justice in 1992. Then in September, 1993, she was nominated by the President to the (Federal) 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, which sits in Atlanta, Georgia.  After confirmation, she served there until her retirement on September 30, 2013, when she retired to accept the appointment as one of three judges to the Iran-United States Claims Tribunal, which sits in The Hague.
One of our local members, Jean Finks, was pleased to serve as an intern in then Justice Barkett's chambers while attending law school at Florida State University College of Law in Tallahassee.  Jean reports that Justice Barkett's influence was very important in her own career. 
Every year two awards are given in honor of Judge Barkett's work, and she has received many honorary degrees and other honors.  
Jeannette Pickering Rankin


Jeannette Rankin from Missoula, Montana is the only woman who voted to given US women the right to vote. a Republican, Rankin was elected to the US House of Representatives and served from March, 1917 through 1919, and again from 1941 to 1943.  A lifelong pacifist, she voted against US participation in World War I, stating that as she could not go to war, she could not send anyone else to war.  This vote irritated many, including her colleagues on the National American Women's Suffrage Association (NAWSA), including Carrie Chapman Catt.  But she went on to vote in favor of the Susan B. Anthony amendment which gave all US women the right to vote in 1920.
Her district was gerrymandered and she lost reelection, going on to work for women's issues until she was again elected in 1941, when she again cast a vote against joining World War II. 
 Marie C. Brehm 
Jean Finks was pleased to discover the truth behind a long bragged about tie to history in her spouse's family roots.  His great grandfather, Herman P. Faris, ran for President on the Prohibition ticket in 1924.  That much was known.  But what Jean verified is that his running mate was a woman, Marie C. Brehm,  Marie was the first legally qualified female candidate to run for vice president. Needless to say, their candidacy did not win.  What family stories would you like to share?