Annamarie Brown, the former president of the Queens County Women’s Bar Association and my grandmother, was named the Special Honoree at the organization’s recent annual Judiciary Night.
Annamarie has overcome several challenges throughout her lifetime but never fails to impress and inspire her friends, family and colleagues. She was the daughter of poor immigrants, Giacomo and Caterina Policriti, who traveled from Calabria, Italy to Ellis Island. When she entered elementary school, Annamarie knew only Italian and had to work hard in order to excel. She learned English quickly and excited her teachers as they bore witness to her academic achievements.
After years of Giacomo working in factories and Caterina sewing collars onto raincoats, Annamarie’s parents were able to send her to Brooklyn College for her undergraduate studies. Once she graduated, Annamarie became one of the first woman to attend law school — just one of three females in the program at St. John’s University. Many questioned her ability to pursue this difficult course of study in a male-dominated field. She faced gender discrimination throughout her career but that never stopped my grandmother.
In 1952, Annamarie was admitted to the New York State Bar Association. She served as an attorney, most notably in the Special Victims Unit of the Queens County District Court. It was not until 64 years later in October 2016 that Annamarie ultimately retired.
At the recent QCWBA event, the Fresh Meadows attorney was honored for her work in and out of the courtroom. Those present acknowledged that she did it all — received an education, raised a family with her husband, undertook a challenging career and, while doing so, made historical strides for women.
“She was a feminist before the word was even invented,” noted Annamarie’s friend Susan Borko, who introduced the honoree at Judiciary Night. “If it wasn’t invented we would have had to put ‘Annamarie Brown’ in the dictionary.”
As an attorney, Annamarie worked closely with Judge Mojgan Lancman, who also spoke at the event, held at Queens Theatre. Lancman pointed out her skillfulness as a lawyer and caring nature as a human being.
“Her experience, her intellect, her candor, her advice and of course her sharp wit empowered her to make a real difference in people’s lives,” Lancman said.
The judge continued to highlight Annamarie’s great legal and negotiating abilities that allowed her to settle seemingly impossible cases in court. And she cited her appreciation for the personal time she spent with Annamarie as they worked together over the years.
“She makes everyone around her better — better lawyers, better judges, better people.
“There is no one that I can think of that is more deserving of this honor,” concluded Lancman.
Following her introduction, the honoree spoke to the crowd herself. “I loved my job,” she said. “If I were healthy and young, I would be back there doing it again.”
Annamarie always makes her four children, 10 grandchildren and extended family and friends proud. Her naming as the Special Honoree on Judiciary Night is a great recognition we all know she has earned.
The writer is a student and journalist at the University of Virginia.