The CWBA's prestigious Mary Lathrop Trailblazer Award 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.

2020 - Velveta Golightly-Howell 

2019 - Alli Gerkman 


2018 - Beth H. McCann

Nominations for the 2022 Mary Lathrop Trailblazer Award were due by 
5 p.m., September 15, 2021 and are no longer being accepted.

This year's winner will be announced on December 2, 2021 during our Annual Holiday Party and presented during a special reception at the 45th Annual CWBA Convention on Friday, May 20, 2022, at the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek.

Please contact the CWBA’s Professional Advancement Committee Co-Chairs Andrea Bronson or Veronique Van Gheem if you have any questions about the award or nomination process. 

Meet Our 2021 Mary Lathrop Trailblazer Award Winner

Judge Karen Ashby (Retired)

Throughout her successful career, Judge Ashby has created a long trail that has illustrated each of the traits this award was created to honor. 

As described in the nomination of Judge Karen Ashby for this award, Judge Ashby has spent nearly four decades blazing the trail for women and people of color both in the legal profession and in the larger community. Judge Ashby has done this without fanfare, with self-deprecating humor, and with a constant moral compass in her administration of justice. 

After five years at the Denver Public Defender’s office and 10 years in a solo practice doing criminal defense at the trial and appellate level and family law, Governor Roy Romer appointed Judge Ashby to the Denver Juvenile Court, where she served for 15 years. She was the first African American woman appointed to a state court judgeship in Colorado. Judge Ashby was then appointed to serve as the Presiding Judge of the Denver Juvenile Court, and successfully brought that court out of receivership to protect and improve the lives of children and to make the Juvenile Court “a model for the nation.” 

Judge Ashby was also instrumental in establishing the Colorado Office of Respondent’s Counsel to handle issues relating to attorneys who represent parents in various types of legal actions. 

In 2013, Judge Ashby was appointed to the Colorado Court of Appeals, again as the first African American woman appointed to that court. 

Read more about Judge Ashby on our blog, The 1891.

Please join us in recognizing Judge Karen Ashby for her outstanding contributions to the legal profession.

We are proud to present Judge Ashby with the 2021 CWBA Mary Lathrop Award, as she embodied the intelligence, strength, stamina, and character of a true trailblazer! 

Watch the video of our 2021 Mary Lathrop Trailblazers Award Celebration 
held virtually on May 21, 2021, 
as we recognized our 2021 Honoree Judge Karen Ashby and our 2020 Honoree Velveta Golightly-Howell.

History of the Mary Lathrop Award 

Mary Lathrop (September 1880)

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 Award to an outstanding female attorney who has enriched the community through her legal and civic activities.

The CWBA is grateful for the ongoing and generous financial support of Lewis Roca, LLP for sponsoring this award’s presentation each year at the CWBA Annual Convention.

Past Mary Lathrop Award Honorees

2020  Velveta Golightly-Howell
2019  Alli Gerkman
2018  Beth H. McCann
2017  Rebecca C. Alexander
 Helen C. Shreves
2015  The Honorable Sandra I. Rothenberg 
2014  The Honorable Patricia Coan 
2013  Lorraine Parker and Doris Truhlar
2012  The Honorable Janice B. Davidson, and Lynn Feiger 
2011  The Honorable Mary A. Celeste  
2010  Deborah R. Adams
2009  The Honorable Elizabeth A. Starrs
2008  Lynda A. McNeive  
2007  Pamela Robillard Mackey
2006  Fay M. Matsukage
2005  The Honorable Nancy E. Rice 
2004  Marla Williams
2003  The Honorable Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Mary E. Ricketson
2002  The Honorable Mary Mullarkey
2001  The Honorable Rebecca Love Kourlis
2000  The Honorable Christine Arguello and Dottie Wham
1999  Gale Norton and Gail Schoettler
1998  Susan Barnes and The Honorable Claudia Jordan
1997  Cathlin Donnell and Mary Hoagland
1996  Sheila Hyatt, Barbara Salomon, and Mimi Wesson
1995  Norma Comstock, Karen Steinhauser, and The Honorable Zita L. Weinshienk
1994  Natalie S. Ellwood
1993  The Honorable Jean Dubofsky, Marilyn Traub Meadoff, and The Honorable Jacqueline St. Joan
1992  Mary Brickner, Margaret B. Ellison, and Brooke Wunnicke
1991  Elizabeth Adams Conour, Elizabeth L.Guyton Girch, Estelle Hadley, and Helen T. Street  



Colorado Women's Bar Association

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Telephone: (303) 831-1040



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