My name is Natalie Ellwood and I am a resident of Grand Lake, Colorado. I reactivated my license to practice law in Colorado this August after twenty-two years of retirement. I was admitted to the Colorado Bar in 1970 after graduating from the University of Colorado Law School with my husband, Hank Ellwood. I spent two years in the Denver Public Defender’s Office before starting my own law office in 1972.
In 1976, I had concluded that to receive respect and a fair hearing in the Denver District Court, I needed the support of other women attorneys who practiced in the Colorado judicial system. I contacted all the women attorneys I knew in the metropolitan Denver area — about eight women — and we met over wine. We discussed the need for an organization that promoted women in all aspects of the legal community including, but not limited to, the need for more women judges (there were almost none at that time), encouraging more women to enter law school and the legal profession, and more women practicing in the courtroom. The women I called were of the same mind as I was and had even more ideas than I as to how we would form the organization.
In the spring of 1977, we held the first CWBA convention at the Keystone Convention Center. It was an exciting time to be a woman attorney as we were forming an active, organized network of women who came together at the convention to create a new organization to support women attorneys. I volunteered to be the first president of CWBA and was elected to serve a second term in 1978. The proudest moment of my legal career was helping to establish the CWBA.
I experienced substantial change in my life when my life partner, law partner, and husband died in February 2019. I think that as difficult as gender bias was and often still is, the age bias I have experienced is just as distressing to me as gender bias, racial bias, and religious bias. I have drawn upon the strength and my experience in forming the CWBA in 1977 to tackle these biases that most certainly still exist in our society.
I define the strength gained in forming and working within CWBA as composed of the 3 C’s: caring for myself, physically and mentally, and for others I want to support; believing in my competence to practice law and to promote my abilities in whatever endeavor I choose; and confidence to be myself no matter my gender or age in using my competence to achieve my life goals.
Most important to me at this moment is to enjoy my life, to have times of great fun, and to practice what I learn from each new adventure that I am lucky enough to have each and every day. Hello to the women attorneys and women judges I knew well in the 1970’s and 1980’s; I hope everyone is healthy and surviving well in this weird pandemic time. To those I have not met yet who are members of CWBA, I look forward to the time when we will come together in person and share our life experiences.
Natalie Ellwood, CWBA First President, 1977