by Rachel Peterson

As we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day this month, and as we celebrate Women’s History Month, we’d like to highlight Florence K. Murray, a woman who exemplifies the accomplishments of women and Irish alike, distinguishing herself in the military, in the government, and in the courtroom. 

Florence was of Irish American ancestry, and as we celebrate St. Patrick by drinking green beer or a Guinness with friends, let's also remember that the Irish, while fleeing the utter devastation caused by famine in their country, were not welcomed with sympathy and open arms in America. More often than not they were met with signs in business and apartment windows that read “IRISH NEED NOT APPLY”. Even so, they persisted and many became distinguished members of their community. 

Florence Kerins Murray, born in 1916, was a commissioned officer in the Women’s Army Corps during WWII, becoming the youngest woman at the time to reach the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. When she left the military in 1947 she was recognized for her achievements with the Legion of Merit, the Army Commendation Medal, The Women’s Army Corps Service Medal, The American Campaign Medal, and the WWII Victory Medal. She became the first woman to serve in the Rhode Island Senate and the first woman in Rhode Island appointed as Superior Court Judge.

In 1996 she retired after serving more than 40 years as a Supreme Court Justice in Rhode Island. In her honor, the Rhode Island Bar Association established the Florence K. Murray Award. The actions of candidates for the award should reflect many of Murray’s attributes, “Selfless generosity and mentorship . . . influence and encouragement of women to pursue legal careers . . .” Thank you, Florence for being an example to us of what a successful trailblazer looks like; a woman who in her accomplishments paves the way for other women to succeed. Women of focus, tenacity, intelligence, and courage have, are, and can do anything they set out to do.