The Heroines

Martha F. Davis

is honored with a Brick from Robert L. and Marian Davis.

Martha F. Davis is currently Legal Director, NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund in New York City. She is a recognized authority on poverty law and a variety of other women's issues. She has been active at the Appeals Court and Supreme Court level in litigation concerning equal education, equal insurance rates, use of women as well as men in new drug testing by the pharmaceutical industry, sexual harassment, etc.

Martha was born in Wichita, grew up in the Riverside area, and graduated from North High School in 1975. She served as Student Body President her senior year and was class valedictorian, played bass in the school orchestra as well as Wichita's Youth Symphony, and was piano accompanist for the North High Singers.

She is the oldest child of Robert and Marian Davis. Martha's father, a local attorney, was a member of the Wichita School Board for eight years and of the Friends University Board for eighteen years. Her mother was an educator .

After graduating from Harvard in 1979 with high honors in anthropology, she studied law at Trinity College, Oxford, under a fellowship. She became the first woman to graduate from Trinity College where she used her Harvard crew experience to help start Trinity's first women's rowing team. Her parents' home near Goddard displays on a wall the 12 foot oar she won in Trinity College's first Women's Torpid (bumping race).

Upon returning to the United States, Martha earned a law degree in two years from the University of Chicago serving on the Law Review. After two years of clerking for a U.S. District Court judge in Indiana, she joined the New York City law firm of Cleary, Gottleib, Steen and Hamilton and practiced with that firm for five years.

With a growing concern for public interest law, Martha spent six months at the Bunting Institute, Radcliffe College, gathering data for her first book, Brutal Need, published by Yale University Press in 1993. The book tells the human side of efforts to develop legal precedents in the area of welfare law. The American Bar Association awarded her book a Certificate of Merit in 1994.

Sylvia Law, professor at the New York University Law School, reviewed the book with these words: "Brutal Need is a magnificent book. It combines sophisticated analysis of legal principles defining the rights of the poor, a rich social history of the organization of poor people in the 1960s, and gripping biographies of the leading participants in the often neglected social movement. It is a pleasure to read this lucid book."

Martha is a public spokeswoman for her organization and often speaks to groups and conferences across the country. She also teaches a class at NYU Law School and is a member of the Musician's Union, playing bass violin for several orchestras and opera groups in the NYC area.

Martha Davis is a member of the Religious Society of Friends. Her two sisters, Alison Jack and Janet Donaghue, live in Wichita. Alison is a school librarian, at home now with three young children, and Janet is a teacher in the Derby schools. Her brother, Carl Davis, also a lawyer, practices with the Wichita firm of Davis & Jack.

July 7, 1998