On Feb. 28, The Rainier Club, celebrating its 125th year, dedicated the Judge Betty Binns Fletcher Room in honor of the late distinguished jurist.
Judge Fletcher served as a federal judge on the San Francisco-based United States Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit between 1979 and 2012. She was one of the first women to become a partner in a major American law firm and the second woman to be appointed to the United States Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. Betty was also the first female president of the King County Bar Association.
In 1978, The Rainier Club admitted Betty Fletcher, then a partner at Preston, Thorgrimson, Ellis, Holman & Fletcher (now K & L Gates), as its first woman member. Before Betty Fletcher’s admission to the Club, women entered the Club house through a side door on hilly Marion Street and climbed the back stairs to the Club’s drawing room–now the Judge Betty Binns Fletcher Room. The front door was closed to women.
Speakers at The Rainier Club’s dedication ceremony, including daughter Susan Fletcher French, William Gates, Sr., and Club President Robin Pasquarella, described to a room packed with legal luminaries and extended family how Betty Fletcher, by her own inspirational example, had figuratively opened the front door for others denied admission to the legal profession and mainstream institutions.
Daughter Susan, one of four accomplished Fletcher offspring that also include William, Kathy, and Paul, recalled that in 1967, although she had graduated first in her UW Law School class like Betty, employment prospects for aspiring women lawyers had not progressed much since Preston Thorgrimson took a chance on Betty in 1956. Susan also recalled using that side door on Marion Street with Betty, and quipped that it is fitting that a room at that end of the Club house be named for her mother.
Membership in The Rainier Club, as in the legal profession, is visibly more diverse than it was in 1978 when Betty Fletcher first graced the threshold of the Club’s front door. The Rainier Club’s recognition in 2014 of Judge Betty Fletcher serves as an enduring appeal to be vigilant of closed doors–and to open them.