Ada L. Sawyer: A Family Woman, 0821 RIBJ, RIBJ, 70 RI Bar J., No. 1, Pg. 35

AuthorDenise C. Aiken, Esq. Providence.
PositionVol. 70 1 Pg. 35

Ada L. Sawyer: A Family Woman

Vol. 70 No. 1 Pg. 35

Rhode Island Bar Journal

August, 2021

July, 2021.

Denise C. Aiken, Esq. Providence.

On a warm June evening, a very tall, slim man entered my little cottage in an improbable green jacket. (More on the jacket later) The gentleman was Robert Bateman, the grand nephew of our Ada L. Sawyer.

For the next two hours, I was allowed a window into the family life of Ada Sawyer, RI’s first female attorney, that most of us never had the privilege to share.

For 20 years I have written about the plucky young woman who had to be declared a “person” in order to sit for the RI bar exam in 1920 and passed that exam just 3 months after winning the right to vote. I ask myself, who was Ada Sawyer when she was not at her office in the Turk’s Head Building.

Bob Bateman painted for me a picture of a woman of “selfless generosity” (his words). Here was a woman who was generous to charity, but wanting no fanfare.

Case in point: She and her sister Bertha Sawyer had a house in Bonnet Shores. It was open to the children and grandchildren of their youngest sister, Clara. But when the house was crowded, Ada bought a smaller house nearby, so that she and Bertha could leave the bigger house for the extended family. Years later, when Ada sold that larger house, she donated the little house to St. Andrew’s School – anonymously. She thought it was “fun” to do nice things for other people.

Back in the 1970’s, Bob Bateman was a student at Brown University. ( Here is where the green...

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