Gender and the Law Prof Blog

Editor: Tracy A. Thomas
University of Akron School of Law

Friday, May 11, 2018

Mother's Day - Friend or Foe to Feminism?

Thursday, March 22, 2018

The Long History of Women's Sports

Mary Anne Case, Heterosexuality as a Factor in the Long History of Women's Sports, 80 Law & Contemporary Problems  25 (2017)

Too many accounts of the development of women’s sports tend to posit their origin in the late nineteenth or even the twentieth century, as a belated, slowly developing, and sometimes vehemently resisted addendum to the development of sports for men. To begin a history of women’s sports at such a late date has several important distorting effects. Most simply, it ignores both the much longer history of women’s participation in many kinds of sports and the fact that the history of organized men’s sports as presently conventionally understood itself does not date back appreciably farther than the last century and a half. The history of women’s sports is more complicated than a progress narrative. Rather than seeing women being gradually admitted into more and more sports over time, we have to acknowledge that a variety of sports — from wrestling and boxing to polo and baseball — were played by women and were seen as suitable for women over long history. Women’s recent readmission to competition in some of these sports follows an intervening period of exclusion.

More significantly, to begin the history of women’s sports in the nineteenth century is to begin it in a time period in which men and women were seen, as both a descriptive and a normative matter, to be as different as possible from one another, with men strong and active, women delicate and passive. Thus, the modern history of sport is often seen to begin at precisely the time women were seen as least suited to participate in sports.

This article views the history of sports through a heterosexual matrix. It argues that from the dawn of time through the development of the modern Olympic movement, a culture’s openness to women’s participation in sports was tied to whether that participation was seen to have a heterosexual payoff. In ancient Greece and Africa as well as in medieval and early modern Europe, women’s sports often formed part of mating rituals, and a successful female competitor was seen as a desirable mate. In the nineteenth century, however, athletic and other sporting competition often was seen as doubly debilitating to a woman’s chances for heterosexual success: not only would sweating and the development of muscles make her unattractive, but strenuous physical exercise was thought to risk physiologically compromising her reproductive capacity. Rather than seeing physical fitness as conducive to reproductive fitness as had their ancestors, men like Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the modern Olympic movement, saw the two as in tension with each other.

After considering the extent to which these competing views of women’s athleticism in relation to heterosexuality influenced the development of women’s sports, the article will conclude by observing the remnants of a heterosexual matrix in twenty-first century sports, from figure skating and synchronized swimming to gymnastics and crew.

March 22, 2018 in Gender, Legal History, Sports | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Before MeToo There was Catharine MacKinnon

 

MacKinnon

NYT, Before #MeToo, There was Catharine MacKinnon and her Book "Sexual Harassment of Working Women"

Catharine A. MacKinnon’s influential work of legal scholarship published in 1979, but it offers the clearest possible illustration of the dynamics that MacKinnon believed were central to the American workplace, a system in which women were judged by the standards imposed on wives and concubines, used and discarded similarly.

 

MacKinnon, whose work has helped shape thinking about harassment, wrote at a time when the trees were beginning to shake in a landscape that still looked a lot like Cheever’s. Women remained employed largely in their capacity to serve as secretaries, receptionists, nurses, typists, telephone operators, research assistants. In the book, MacKinnon draws on the observations of the sociologist Talcott Parsons, who noted that a woman in an “occupational organization” was essentially a “wife-mother,” tasked with ego-building, “housekeeping (tidying up, answering the phone, getting coffee)” and performing the attendant role of “sex object.” In 1976, aRedbook magazine survey examining sex at work brought a kind of loose statistical confirmation, with one in three respondents remarking that appearance was as important as any other qualification when it came to getting hired. MacKinnon cites one woman’s lament that the well-paid jobs always go to the prettiest girls. It was a woman’s fate to either endure the migratory hands of a male boss and earn a decent living, or wish she looked good enough to invite the indignities.

 

These arrangements made the sexual subjugation of women in offices and on factory floors inevitable. “Women tend to be economically valued according to men’s perceptions of their potential to be sexually harassed,” MacKinnon argues. “They are, in effect, required to ‘ask for it.’” These imbalances, built on the subordination of female labor to male desire, meant that coercion and compliance could never be disaggregated — a notion that only now, in the aftermath of so many harassment scandals, with replicating details, is finding its place in our collective recognition. MacKinnon and other feminists who are almost always tagged as “radical” reflexively saw what so many witnesses to the current revelations are still absorbing: Harassment has been endemic to the way we do business. It has been tireless and unyielding.

March 21, 2018 in Equal Employment, Gender, Legal History, Theory | Permalink | Comments (0)

CFP Journal of Women's History Special Issue on "Migration, Sex, and Intimate Labor, 1850-2000"

Call for Abstracts: Journal of Women’s History Special Issue “Migration, Sex, and Intimate Labor, 1850-2000”

by Jennifer Montgomery - Journal of Women's History

Call for Abstracts—Journal of Women’s History Special Issue “Migration, Sex, and Intimate Labor, 1850-2000”

The Journal of Women’s History is seeking expressions of interest to submit articles to a special issue on migration, sex, and intimate labor in the period between 1850 and 2000, in any local, national, transnational, or global context. It seeks to frame “intimate labor” within the long history of women’s involvement in domestic and sexual markets and their movement across and within borders for myriad forms of care and body work (Boris and Parreñas, 2010). This special issue will be positioned within an emergent historiography that examines the practices, discourses, regulation of, and attempts to suppress what has come to be known as “trafficking,” while foregrounding the ways in which a historical lens can destabilize this term. Such research brings the gendered and sexual history of migration and labor into dialogue with new literatures on the history of globalization, capitalism, citizenship, and mobility. It also speaks to on-going concerns in contemporary politics around the relationship between labor and movement, “forced” and “free” migration, and the politics of humanitarianism. As such, while firmly historical, this special issue will engage with and contribute to ongoing interdisciplinary discussions about “modern slavery,” international law, human rights, and the gendered migrant subject.

We are especially interested in work that:

  • Engages critically with the historical production of categories such as “trafficking,” “smuggling,” and migratory “illegality” as they have pertained to women’s migration
  • Examines sexual labor in the context of gendered migration and the broader category of intimate labor(s)
  • Explores the historical lived experience of migrating for intimate, domestic, and sexual labor
  • Looks at local, national, and international responses to female migrants who were defined as trafficked, illegal, or exploited
  • Places trafficking and women’s intimate labor within a wider discourse of indenture, slavery and un-freedom; as well as imperialism, mobility, and globalization

We are interested in any thematic or methodological approach, but would especially welcome work that focuses on the global south, imperial contexts, and non-white subjects. Work can be locally, nationally, transnationally, globally, or comparatively focused. All submissions must be historical in focus.

Prospective contributors to this special issue are asked to send an extended abstract of 1,000 words to the issue’s guest editors, Julia Laite (j.laite@bbk.ac.uk) and Philippa Hetherington (p.hetherington@ucl.ac.uk) by 1 June 2018. Abstracts should describe the prospective article and how it explicitly engages with the theme of the special issue. Authors should also include a discussion of the sources—archival or published—they will be using in the article.

Selected contributors will be informed within two months and asked to submit a complete manuscript by 1 June 2019, which will go through the JWH’s standard process of peer and editorial review. If the manuscript is accepted for publication at the end of this process, it will be published in the special issue.

March 21, 2018 in Call for Papers, Gender, Legal History | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, March 12, 2018

New Book: Oliver Wendell Holmes and Fixations of Manliness

I'm pleased to announce the publication of the new book by my former co-editor here at the Gender & Law Prof Blog, John Kang.

John Kang, Oliver Wendell Holmes and Fixations of Manliness (Routledge 2018)  

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. has been, and continues to be, praised as America’s greatest judge and he is widely considered to have done more than anyone else to breathe life into the Constitution’s right of free speech, probably the most crucial right for democracy. One indeed finds among professors of constitutional law and federal judges the widespread belief that the scope of the First Amendment owes much of its incredible expansion over the last sixty years to Holmes’s judicial dissents in Abrams and Gitlow.

 

In this book, John M. Kang offers the novel thesis that Holmes’s dissenting opinions in Abrams and Gitlow drew in part from a normative worldview structured by an idiosyncratic manliness, a manliness which was itself rooted in physical courage. In making this argument, Kang seeks to show how Holmes’s justification for the right of speech was a bid to proffer a philosophical commentary about the demands of democracy.

He previewed part of the book in a prior article, John Kang, "The Solider and the Imbecile": How Holmes' Manliness Fated Carrie Buck, 47 Akron L. Rev. 1055 (2014)

March 12, 2018 in Books, Legal History, Manliness | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, March 8, 2018

International Women's Day is a Protest Day, Not a Hallmark Holiday

Vox, International Women's Day, Explained

But what is International Women’s Day? Where did it come from, and why is it necessary?

 

The day actually has fairly radical origins, involving the Socialist Party of America. Over the past few years, however, it has become a corporate-backed, global rallying day for women’s issues with a key goal: to finally bring about gender parity around the world.

 

In short, it’s a day to work toward gender parity.

 

The Socialist Party of America organized the first National Women’s Day in New York in 1909 to commemorate the 1908 strike of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union. (Women garment workers in early-20th-century America had plenty of reasons to walk off the job, as the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire would tragically prove.)

 

A year later, National Women’s Day became International Women’s Day at the second International Conference of Working Women in Copenhagen, where more than 100 women from 17 countries decided to establish a worldwide day of celebration to press for working women’s demands.

 

In fact, the Russian Revolution has International Women’s Day to thank. The 1917 demonstrations by women demanding “bread and peace” sparked other strikes and protests, which led to the abdication of Czar Nicholas II four days later and granted women the right to vote.

 

International Women’s Day became a more popularized holiday after 1977, when the United Nations invited member states to celebrate it on March 8.

NYT, International Women's Day: Pride, Protests, and Pressure

CNN, Spain Sees First Feminist Strike on Women's Day

Campaign Website, internationalwomen'sday.com

Slate, Made in the USA

Americans may think of International Women’s Day as a sentimental export from abroad—but this week’s global strike is a throwback to its real history.

 

In the United States, the holiday’s reddish tint caused it to fall out of mainstream favor rather quickly, and until a few years ago, few Americans had heard of it. Recently, however, as digital marketing campaigns flow across national borders, the softer and more commercial descendent of the original radical American holiday has arrived back on our shores. A coalition of corporations, including BP and PepsiCo, now promotes International Women’s Day online with hashtags and official themes. (This year’s is #BeBoldForChange. Inspired yet?) A March 8 Google Doodle last year celebrated “Doodle-worthy women of the future” by asking women across the world to talk about their aspirations, from the unobjectionably noble (improve girls’ access to education) to the unobjectionably fun (swim with pigs in the Bahamas). Americans can now order an International Women’s Day bouquet to “honor an inspiring woman in your life,” or celebrate by buying perfume or mascara whose proceeds go to empowerment-related causes. Capitalism hearts your socialist holiday!

 

Tension over the radical origins of Women’s Day is nothing new. One long-popular origin story had it that the holiday was first established in 1907 to mark the 50th anniversary of a massive demonstration by female garment and textile workers in New York City, whose rally against low wages and 12-hour work days was brutally shut down by the police. There was only small problem with this inspiring tale: Neither the 1857 protest nor the 1907 tribute seem to have actually occurred. Two French feminist historians busted the myth in the 1980s, revealing that the 19th-century uprising was actually invented in 1955, in part “to detach International Women’s Day from its Soviet history.”

 

The organizers reclaiming International Women’s Day this week, by contrast, have no qualms about its far-left origins and are in fact trying to restore that spirit to the soft-focus holiday it’s become. Ashley Bohrer, a member of the International Women’s Strike’s national planning committee, described the strike in part as an effort to draw attention to “the decoupling of InternationalWomen’s Day from its very radical working-class background.” Early on, she pointed out, the holiday had often been called International Working Women’s Day. “In recent years people have celebrated March 8 as Women’s Day,” she said, “but what’s been lost is the ‘working’ part and the ‘international’ part.”

International Women's Day is Not a Hallmark Holiday

Though we now fondly know March 8 every year to be the day we celebrate International Women’s Day, it’s not always been that way. In 1908, amid early discussions about women’s poorly paid labor, long hours, and lack of voting rights (hahahahaha, sound familiar?), the first Women’s Day marches took place. The very first was in 1908, when 15,000 women (in New York City, baby!) took to the streets to protest. Only a year later and the inaugural national Women’s Day was born on February 28, 1909, in conjunction with the Socialist Party of America. Were the first Bernie Bros actually women? It really makes you think.

 

This tradition of celebrating National Women’s Day continued for five years in the States, while Germans Louise Zietz and Clara Zetkin were floating a larger idea internationally. Taking inspiration from Zietz, Zetkin, a Marxist and advocate or women’s rights, brought the idea of having an International Women’s Day to the International Conference of Working Women in Copenhagen in 1910. Her idea was appreciated so much by the hundreds of women in attendance — socialists, workers, and union laborers alike — that they all decreed that it must happen the following year. On March 19, 1911, Europe saw its first-ever International Women’s Day. The date was subsequently changed to March 8 two years later, and stuck. It’s been that way ever since. 

 

The holiday continued steadily on every year and was finally acknowledged by the U.N. in 1975, who decided to officially sanction and recognize the holiday on a yearly basis. The day began receiving yearly themes in 1996, and has since been celebrated with themes like World Free of Violence Against Women, Investing in Women and Girls, and this year’s Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality, though many of the recognized themes are just as evergreen as the need to celebrate the day itself....

 

International Women’s Day is a national holiday and day off in the following countries — Afghanistan, Angola, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, China (for women only), Cuba, Georgia, Guinea-Bissau, Eritrea, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Macedonia (for women only), Madagascar (for women only), Moldova, Mongolia, Nepal (for women only), Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, and Zambia — but not the United States. Maybe next year?

 

March 8, 2018 in International, Legal History, Pop Culture | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Women's Legal History: A Reading List

#TBT in honor of Women's History Month:

I've  developed this list over the last decade with what I think are the seminal articles and books on particular topics, used in connection with my own research and for teaching a Women's Legal History seminar.  

This foundational work is critical to filling in the gendered gaps of the conventional history, and it is also just plain interesting.  It's interesting that Florence Kelley was responsible for the Brandeis brief and the use of social science in legal argument; that abortion in the first trimester was not illegal for a century until 1865; that some leading women’s rights advocates like Elizabeth Cady Stanton pushed for no-fault divorce in the 1860s and that feminists in the 1970s were largely absent from the no-fault divorce reform; that women lay lawyers invented legal aid lawyering and problem-solving courts; that female advocates and reformers challenged the marital rape exemption 100 years before need for change first “discovered” in the 1970s.  The list goes on and on.  

My scholarly goal is that one day these "women's" topics will be mainstreamed into traditional wisdom as embodied everywhere from constitutional law texts to high school history books.  But for now, at least, the history is being recovered and analyzed, and the transmission of that discovery has been started. 

 

Women’s Legal History: A Reading List

Tracy A. Thomas

General

Tracy Thomas & Tracey Jean Boisseau, Eds., Feminist Legal History (NYU Press 2011)

Linda Kerber, No Constitutional Right to Be Ladies: Women and the Obligations of Citizenship (1999)

Joan Hoff, Law, Gender & Injustice: A Legal History of US Women (1994)

Felice Batlan, Engendering Legal History, 30 Law & Soc. Inquiry 823 (2005)

Understanding Feminist Legal Theory

Martha Chammallas, Introduction to Feminist Legal Theory (2d ed. 2003)

Nancy Levit, Robert Verchick, & Martha Minow, Feminist Legal Theory: A Primer (2006)

Joan Williams, Unbending Gender: Why Family and Work Conflict and What to do About it (2000)

Nancy Cott, The Grounding of Modern Feminism (1987)

Louise Michele Newman, White Women’s Rights: The Racial Origins of Feminism in the United States 5 (1999)

Tracy Thomas, The Beecher Sisters as Nineteenth-Century Icons of the Sameness-Difference Debate, 11 Cardozo Women's L. J. 107 (2004)

EEOC v. Sears, 628 F. Supp. 1264 (N.D. Ill. 1986), 839 F.2d 302 (7th Cir. 1988)

Haskell & Levison, Historians and the Sears Case, 66 Tex. L. Rev. 1629 (1988)

Colonial Period

Mary Beth Norton, Founding Mothers and Fathers: Gendered Power and the Forming of America Society (1997) (Anne Hutchinson trial, jury of matrons)

Kristin Collins, “Petitions Without Number”: Widows’ Petitions and the Early Nineteenth-Century Origins of Marriage-Based Entitlements, 31 Law & History Rev. 1 (2012)

Mary Beth Norton, In the Devil’s Snare: The Salem Witchcraft Crisis of 1692 (2003)

Jane Campbell Moriarty, Wonders of the Invisible World, 26 Vt. L. Rev. 43 (2001)

Peter Hoff, The Salem Witchcraft Trials: A Legal History (1997)

Coverture, Marital Status in the Family, Marital Property

William Blackstone, Commentaries on the Law of England, Of Husband and Wife (1769)

Norma Basch, In the Eyes of the Law: Women, Marriage, and Property in Nineteenth Century New York (1982)

Richard Chused, Married Women’s Property Law:1800-1850, 71 Georgetown L.J.1359 (1983)

Tracy A. Thomas, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the Feminist Foundations of Family Law (2016)

Reva Siegel, Home as Work: The First Woman’s Rights Claims Concerning Wives’ Household Labor, 1850-1880, 103 Yale L J. 1073 (1994)

Ariela R. Dubler, Governing Through Contract: Common Law Marriage in the Nineteenth Century,” 107 Yale Law J.1885 (1998).

Jill Hasday, Contest and Consent: A Legal History of Marital Rape, 88 Cal. L. Rev. 1373 (2000)

Naomi Cahn, Faithless Wives and Lazy Husbands: Gender Norms in Nineteenth-Century Divorce Law, 2002 U. Ill. L. Rev. 651

Ken Burns, Not For Ourselves Alone:  The Story of Elizabeth Cady Stanton & Susan B. Anthony (video)

 Suffrage

Declaration of Sentiments, July 1848

History of Woman Suffrage, v.I (Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Matilda Joslyn Gage, eds)

Lisa Tetrault, The Myth of Seneca Falls: Memory and the Women's Suffrage Movement, 1848-1898 (2014)

Nancy Isenberg, Sex and Citizenship in Antebellum America (1998)

Ellen DuBois, Feminism & Suffrage: The Emergency of an Independent Women's Movement in America, 1848-1869 (1978)

Ellen DuBois, Outgrowing the Compact of our Fathers: Equal Rights, Woman Suffrage, and the US Constitution, 1820-1878, 74 J. Amer. History 836 (1987)

Doug Linder’s Famous Trials Website, The Trial of Susan B. Anthony (including trial documents)

Minor v. Happersett, 88 U.S. 162 (1974)

Rosalyn Terborg-Penn, African American Women in the Struggle for the Vote, 1850-1920 (1998)

Iron Jawed Angels (2004) (video)

Reva Siegel, She the People: The Nineteenth Amendment, Sex Equality, Federalism, and the Family, 115 Harv. L. Rev. 945 (2002)

Labor

Felice Batlan, Notes from the Margins: Florence Kelley and the Making of Sociological Jurisprudence, in Transformations in American Legal History: Law, Ideology, and Methods (Daniel Hamilton & Alfred Brophy 2010)

Nancy Woloch, Muller v. Oregon: A Brief History with Documents (1996)

Muller v. Oregon, 208 US 412 (1908)

Adkins v. Children's Hospital, 261 US 525 (1923)

The Triangle Shirtwaist Fire Article, 7 Green Bag 2d. 397 (2004)

 Reproductive Rights

Leigh Ann Wheeler, How Sex Became a Civil Liberty (2012)

Mary Ziegler, After Roe: The Lost History of the Abortion Debate (2015) 

Reva Siegel, Reasoning from the Body: A Historical Perspective on Abortion Regulation and Questions of Equal Protection, 44 Stan. L. Rev. 261 (1992)

James Mohr, Abortion in America: The Origins and Evolution of National Policy (1979)

Tracy A. Thomas, Misappropriating Women’s History in the Law and Politics of Abortion, 36 Seattle L. Rev.1 (2013)

Linda Gordon, The Moral Property of Women: A History of Birth Control Politics in America (2000)

Linda Greenhouse & Reva Siegel, Before Roe v. Wade (2010)

Equality

Sarah Grimke, Letters on the Equality of the Sexes and the Condition of Women in The Feminist Papers (Alice Rossi, ed. 1973).

Fred Strebeigh, Equal: Women Reshape American Law (2009)

Serena Mayeri, A New ERA or a New Era? Amendment Advocacy and the Reconstitution of Feminism, 103 Nw. U. L. Rev. 1223 (2009)

Serena Mayeri, Reasoning from Race: Feminism, Law, and the Civil Rights Revolution (2011)

TJ Boisseau & Tracy Thomas, After Suffrage Comes Equal Rights? ERA as the Next Logical Step, in 100 YEARS OF THE NINETEENTH AMENDMENT: AN APPRAISAL OF WOMEN’S POLITICAL ACTIVISM (Lee Ann Banaszak & Holly J. McCammon, eds.)

Deborah Brake, Revisiting Title IX's Feminist Legacy, 12 Am.U.J. Gender, L.& Soc. Pol.462 (2004)

Deborah Brake, Title IX as Pragmatic Feminism, 55 Clev. State L. Rev. 513 (2008)

Deborah Brake, Getting in the Game: Title IX and the Women's Sports Revolution (2010)

Jill Hasday, Fighting Women: The Military, Sex, and Extrajudicial Constitutional Change, 93 Minn. L. Rev. 96 (2008).

Pregnancy Discrimination

Cleveland Board of Ed. v. LaFleur, 414 U.S. 632 (1974)

Deborah Dinner, Recovering the LaFleur Doctrine, 22 Yale J.L. & Fem. 343 (2010)

Tracy Thomas, The Struggle for Gender Equality in the Northern District of Ohio, in Justice on the Shores of Lake Erie: A History of the Northern District of Ohio (Paul Finkelman & Roberta eds. 2012)

 Employment

Pauli Murray, Jane Crow and the Law: Sex Discrimination and Title VII, 43 G.W. Law Rev. 232 (1965)

Emma Coleman Jordan, Race, Gender and Social Class in the Thomas Sexual Harassment Hearings, 15 Harv. Women's L.J. 1 (1992)

Carrie Baker, The Woman’s Movement Against Sexual Harassment (2007)

Gillian Thomas, Because of Sex: One Law, Ten Cases, and Fifty Years That Changed American Women's Lives at Work (2016)

Joanna Grossman, Nine to Five:How Gender, Sex, and Sexuality Continue to Define the American Workplace (2016)

 Women in the Courts

Marina Angel, Teaching Susan Glaspell's A Jury of Her Peers and Trifles, 53 J. Legal Educ. 548 (2003)

Holly McCammon, The U.S. Women's Jury Movements and Strategic Adaptation: A More Just Verdict (2012)

Joanna Grossman, Women's Jury Service: Right of Citizenship or Privilege of Difference?, 46 Stan. L. Rev. 1115 (1994)

Felice Batlan, Women and Justice for the Poor: A History of Legal Aid, 1863-1945 (2015)

Felice Batlan, The Birth of Legal Aid: Gender Ideologies, Women, and the Bar in New York City, 1863-1910, 28 Law & History Rev. 931 (2010).

Viriginia Drachman, Sisters in Law: Women Lawyers in Modern American History (2001)

Bradwell v. State, 83 U.S. 130 (1872)

In re Lockwood, 154 U.S. 116 (1894)

Women’s Legal History Biography Project, at http://wlh.law.stanford.edu

 

March 6, 2018 in Books, Legal History, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, March 5, 2018

This is How March Became Women's History Month

Time, This is How March Became Women's History Month

Before women had the whole month, the U.S. recognized Women’s History Week; before that, a single International Women’s Day. Dedicating the whole month of March in honor of women’s achievements may seem irrelevant today. But at the time of the conception of Women’s History Week, activists saw the designation as a way to revise a written and social American history that had largely ignored women’s contributions.

The celebratory month has its roots in the socialist and labor movements — the first Women’s Day took place on Feb. 28, 1909, in New York City, as a national observance organized by the Socialist Party. It honored the one-year anniversary of the garment worker’s strikes in New York that had taken place a year earlier, when thousands of women marched for economic rights through lower Manhattan to Union Square. (That strike in turn honored an earlier 1857 march, when garment workers rallied for equal rights and a 10-hour day.) Within two years, Women’s Day had grown into an international observance that spread through Europe on the heels of socialism.

Meanwhile, in the U.S., feminist activists took issue with how the history books largely left out the story or contributions of women in America. In light of that imbalance, one group during the 1970s set about revising the school curriculum in Sonoma County, Calif., according to the National Women’s History Project. Their idea was to create a “Women’s History Week” in 1978, timed around International Women’s Day, which the U.N. had begun officially marking in 1975.

In 1979, Molly Murphy MacGregor, one of the week’s organizers, traveled to Sarah Lawrence College in New York for a conference with the Women’s History Institute. The participants heard about the week in Sonoma County, and the celebration soon spread across the country.

Gerda Lerner chaired the Institute at the time of the conference, and backed the movement to garner national recognition. As the week picked up steam, organizers lobbied Congress and President Jimmy Carter proclaimed the first national Women’s History Week for March 2-8, 1980.

March 5, 2018 in Legal History, Pop Culture | Permalink | Comments (0)

Why Isn't there a Men's History Month?

Because every month is men's history.

Why Isn't There a Men's History Month?

March is Women’s History Month, and some folks have asked: Why isn’t there a Men’s History Month? This is going to be a long month on this front since so many people will be sharing information about women’s history notables. There are 26 days left and I’m sharing this to save some of us time.

The 30-second answer is: Because men as a class are not symbolically annihilated in our media. Women’s History Month, like Black History Month, is a pragmatic, short-term response to persistent cultural marginalization and misrepresentation. It’s an antidote to systemic erasure. It’s an attempt to both create representation and explain why it’s important.

The 10-second answer is: We don’t have a Men’s History Month because we don’t need one.

Men Writing History, About Men, for Men

This state of affairs dismays many academic historians. Last year, at the American Historical Association’s annual meeting, a presenter in a session on “Buying and Selling History” included a slide listing the best-selling trade history books of 2014, as tallied by BookScan. The generous helping of politically conservative histories by Glenn Beck and Bill O’Reilly caused concern, but some historians noticed another troubling trend: The list was dominated by male authors. Of 23 titles, two were written by women

 

March 5, 2018 in Legal History | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Book Review: Justice Claire L’Heureux-Dubé: A Life

Kim Brooks, Justice for Equality, JOTWELL, reviewing Constance Backhouse, Claire L’Heureux-Dubé: A Life (2017).

Claire L’Heureux-Dubé was Canada’s second woman to join our Supreme Court of Canada. She was famous for her strong personality, her charm, her directness, and eventually her willingness to dissent. She was loved by some, loathed by others.

My opening paragraph so dramatically understates the significance of Justice L’Heureux- Dubé. It pretends that the life of one woman – a woman who faced substantial personal and professional challenges – can be adequately captured in a few words.

Enter Constance Backhouse’s brilliant biography. Biography is an art. How to render a person visible? To be appropriately honest about her failings and reflective about her successes? To situate her life within its broad context – social, political, economic, and scientific? To reflect her social character – her relationships and the effects of those relationships on the path of her life?

Backhouse’s considerable work answers these questions.

In over 700 meticulously researched pages, she takes us on a magnificent journey. ***

These opening twenty-eight chapters (in a book with thirty-eight chapters) are gorgeously written with specificity that leaves the reader feeling like she is standing right beside L’Heureux-Dubé as her life unfolds. That’s credit to Backhouse’s use of detail, her reliance on hundreds and hundreds of hours of interviews with L’Heureux-Dubé and those who know her, and her fierce analytical skill, which renders plain the subtle.

Unconventionally, but useful especially to the legally trained reader, the biography then looks carefully at six of Justice L’Heureux-Dubé’s Supreme Court of Canada decisions – decisions she rendered on sexual assault, spousal support, human rights for same-sex couples, tax law, Quebec secession, and immigration. These decisions are presented as signature moments in Justice L’Heureux-Dubé’s self-expression. Backhouse situates each decision in its broader social context. Each of these last six chapters has its own story to tell and each should be included in any course materials that include the underlying decision. Each is dazzling.

February 28, 2018 in Books, Courts, Judges, Legal History, Women lawyers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, February 9, 2018

The Historical Persecution of Women and the Birth of Female Criminality

Amy Gainford,  Mad, Bad or Sad? The Historical Persecution of Women and the Birth of Female Criminality

Throughout history the notion of the ‘female criminal’ has been something of a taboo, an almost morbid curiosity to male dominated societies. As such through misogynist crusades they have attempted to eradicate the world of any women who did not meet the criteria that society dictates. Women who were outspoken and passionate were condemned. Numerous methods were employed to keep women in their place. From the early persecution of witch-hunts in the 15th-17th century to the medicalization of their melancholy in the Victorian era, women were suppressed. Early criminologists ‘discovered’ the biological elements of female criminality and contemporary Criminal Justice System and the mainstream media perpetuated this image. In doing so the disdain from the general public towards criminal women has grown. Often the combination of public hatred and the media’s macabre portrayal creates something of a modern day witch-hunt against these women. Perhaps this is because events of the past ‘demonstrate’ women behaving badly or because of misogyny so deeply ingrained within out society that we cannot escape it. These beliefs that women are fundamentally, biologically evil have seeped into mainstream societal systems that aim to serve the people but instead persecute an entire sub-section of society.

February 9, 2018 in Legal History, Theory | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Examining Feminist Legal Briefs to SCOTUS for Their Use of Race–Gender Analogical Legal Framing

Holly McCammon, Brittany N. Hearne, Allison R. McGrath, Minyoung Moon,  Legal Mobilization and Analogical Framing: Feminist Litigators' Use of Race-Gender Analogies, 40 Law & Policy 57 (2018).

From the Introduction:

In an effort to contribute to our understanding of social movement judicial legal mobilization, our paper explores legal briefs submitted to the US Supreme Court in gender-equality cases since 1970. We focus particularly on the use of a specific type of legal framing in these briefs: analogical legal framing. As Sunstein (1993) points out, this is a commonly used form of reasoning in litigation, and some (Mayeri 2001; Rush 1997) argue that it is a dominant form, particularly in civil rights litigation. In analogical legal framing, a litigant argues that similarities exist, for instance, between two groups, and developments in law regarding one group should be considered in adjudication concerning the other group (Mayeri 2001; Sunstein 1993).2 Here we specifically investigate feminist litigators' use of race–gender analogies in their cause lawyering. Feminist cause lawyers have pursued a substantial number of cases before the high court over the last several decades in an effort to achieve greater gender equality under the law. In such cases, with some frequency, the feminist party to the case (that is, the party seeking greater gender equality) draws an analogy between racial and gender discrimination as they argue in favor of broadening gender equality. In fact, MacKinnon (1991, 1281) goes so far as to state that “the judicial interpretation of sex equality … has been built on the racial analogy.” Mayeri (2011, 3), who examines in rich detail “reasoning from race,” states that “‘second-wave’ feminists conscripted legal strategies developed to combat race discrimination into the service of women's rights.”

 

Various scholars explore whether and how movement activists invoke the law generally (e.g., Pedriana 2006; Andersen 2005; McCann 1994), yet few examine how cause lawyers articulate their demands in court. Our investigation contributes to the larger literature on legal mobilization by taking a number of steps. First, we explore the use of analogical legal framing by activists, a type of litigation reasoning commonly used but not yet investigated as a form of movement framing. We examine the frequency and trends in the use of such arguments in feminist briefs presented to the Supreme Court in gender-equality cases from 1970 to the present. In addition, we provide insight into the various forms the race–gender analogy takes. Second, we consider how social movement framing concepts, such as frame bridging and transformation (Snow et al. 1986), can be understood in combination with analogical legal framing.

 

Finally, our research also contributes to the understanding of why activists choose to deploy particular types of frames. A handful of scholars have investigated the circumstances shaping why movements articulate certain types of frames (e.g., McCammon 2012; Coe 2011; Maney, Woehrle, and Coy 2005), but few have considered the circumstances leading to the use of specific frames in movement litigation (for exceptions, see Goldberg 2014; Fuchs 2013; Ziegler 2011). Our investigation of analogic framing by feminist legal activists will enrich our understanding not only of movement framing but also (in particular) of framing as practiced by activists engaged in legal mobilization. By examining why shifts in the overall use and in the varying types of the analogic frame occur, our research furthers understanding of this particular form of legal mobilization strategy.

February 8, 2018 in Courts, Legal History, Race, SCOTUS | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Misunderstanding Second Wave Feminism

Who are You Calling a "Second-Wave Feminist?"

Our times have been blessed in one limited way: After decades of refusing and shrugging and avoiding, women want to be called feminists.. . . . And it's nice to feel we're making history. It'd be even nicer . . .if we all knew a little more about the history of feminism.

 

Jezebel, a site that helped kick open the door to the wave now washing over us, recently published a piece by Stassa Edwards titled, "The Backlash to #MeToo Is Second-Wave Feminism."***

 

So let's talk about the second wave.

 

Lesson the first: 1960s feminists came up with the term "second wave" to distinguish themselves from the "first wave" — the suffragettes, more or less. It wasn't exactly a disowning, but second-wave feminists thought of themselves as liberating women personally as well as politically. They also thought of themselves as more sexually free than their predecessors, though historians might disagree.

 

Lesson the second: The second wave wasn't a monolith. No one could claim full ownership of it. Sure, some locate its origins in the work of Betty Friedan, who published "The Feminine Mystique" in 1963Others point to a collective called New York Radical Women. It didn't have formal leadership, but its most famous figureheads were Shulamith Firestone and Robin Morgan. Still others are interested in the strain of literary-intellectual feminism that flourished among writers such as Adrienne Rich and Kate Millett. And, in the popular imagination, Gloria Steinem gets the second-wave feminist crown, standing astride Ms., bringing radical thought to the masses.*

 

Lesson the third: Although second-wave feminism was racist in the sense that its public faces were predominantly white — as contemporary feminists often mention — it was not unaware of this fact.... 

 

This shortcoming in particular, I suspect, is what's behind the common dismissal of the second wave. It is honorable to want to keep holding feminism to a higher standard of anti-racism....But it's simply not the case that the importance of inclusivity only occurred to feminists recently.

 

Which leads to the fourth and final lesson: Although many of them are dead now, I bet quite a lot of second-wave feminists would have loved #MeToo. After all, we have the second wave to thank for sexual harassment laws.

 

Young feminists tend to dislike Catharine MacKinnon, the law professor who took on pornography, for perceived offenses against the 1st Amendment. They may not realize that it was also MacKinnon who, in the 1970s, wrote the legal theory later adopted by the Supreme Court when Mechelle Vinson sued her employer because her boss demanded that she sleep with him. Vinson and MacKinnon opened the door to countless women who would henceforth claim that their bosses' actions created a "hostile work environment."

Where Do you Think They Got These Ideas? Katha Pollitt on Second-Wave Feminism, Harassment, and Progress

In a recent article for Jezebel, Stassa Edwards wrote that “[t]he backlash to #MeToo is indeed here and it is liberal second-wave feminism.” Her piece followed a number of stories from female writers in their 40s and older—such as Daphne Merkin—taking issue with some aspects of the #MeToo movement. In Merkin’s words, there has been a “reflexive and unnuanced sense of outrage that has accompanied this cause from its inception, turning a bona fide moment of moral accountability into a series of ad hoc and sometimes unproven accusations.

Isaac Chotiner: What have you made of the generational tensions or differences between different waves of feminism that have arisen lately?

Katha Pollitt: I’m a little bewildered by it, for several reasons. One is that second-wave feministis being used as a synonym for woman writer of a certain age. I mean, Katie Roiphe is not a second-waver. Daphne Merkin, Andrea Peyser—these women are not feminists at all, in my view. And they are not old enough to be second-wavers. I mean Katie Roiphe was minus 5 years old when The Feminine Mystique was published. So I think I would wish that the young women who are making this claim would read a little bit of history.

he second point is that the very concepts that these young women are relying on—consent, date rape, acquaintance rape, sexual harassment, believing women, intimate questions of power relations between the sexes—where do they think they got these ideas? They got them from the second wave, those old harridans who are now, in fact, 75 and 80 years old. So that does bother me—the lack of history and the ageism

January 25, 2018 in Legal History, Theory | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, January 19, 2018

Remedying Sex Discrimination in the Sale of Goods and Services through Federal Law

Whitney Brown, The Illegality of Sex Discrimination in Contracting, 32 Berkeley J. Gender, Law & Justice 137 (2017) 

Sex discrimination in contracting is rampant and is largely tolerated in a variety of economic markets. Federal law prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex only in certain circumscribed markets, including employment, housing, and education. Sex is not a protected class under federal public accommodations law, which prohibits discrimination only on the basis of race, color, religion, or national origin by business establishments offering goods, services, or facilities to the general public. And no federal law is currently understood to prohibit sex discrimination in the sale of goods or services. Merchants may, for instance, lawfully refuse to sell a car—or a paperclip or any other good—to a woman because of her sex, or may charge a woman twice as much as a man for the same item.

 

This gap in our civil rights regime is not merely academic. Without the enforcement of a federal law prohibiting sex discrimination in contracting, women suffer manifold and measurable consequences in the marketplace. Women are charged more than men for clothing and personal care products, from deodorant and razor blades to canes and other supports. Studies in multiple states have found that women consistently pay more for haircuts and for dry cleaning, even where the services or products purchased are essentially the same as those purchased by men. The federal tariff schedule, which imposes different rates of duty on goods imported into the United States, contains over one hundred sex-classified tariff rates. Research also suggests that women, despite having better credit scores than men on average, are more likely to receive subprime mortgages. Taken together, the cumulative cost to women of such price inequities in goods and services—a product of unequal contracting rights—is substantial. Indeed, prior to passing a state law that prohibited sex-based price discrimination in retail service establishments (leaving sex discrimination in the price of goods still unregulated), the state of California found that women paid an average “gender tax” of $1351 per year in added costs for similar goods and services as compared to men. Attempts to solve the problem of sex discrimination in contracting through new legislation have failed, in part because of the lobbying efforts of manufacturers and retailers that charge women more for their products and services.

 

This Article argues that while practices that discriminate on the basis of sex in the sale of goods and services are widespread, and are largely regarded as lawful, such forms of sex discrimination in contracting were prohibited over one hundred fifty years ago by the passage of the first civil rights statute in our nation’s history—the Civil Rights Act of 1866.

January 19, 2018 in Legal History, Theory | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

New Books: 100 Years of the 19th Amendment

Holly J. McCammon & Lee Ann Banaszak, eds., 100 Years of the Nineteenth Amendment: An Appraisal of Women's Political Activism (Oxford 2018)

The year 2020 will mark the 100th anniversary of the Nineteenth Amendment giving many women in the United States the right to vote. ***

Looking forward to the 100-year anniversary of the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment, this collection of original essays takes a long view of the past century of women's political engagement to gauge how much women have achieved in the political arena. The volume looks back at the decades since women won the right to vote to analyze the changes, developments, and even continuities in women's roles in the broad political sphere. Ultimately, the book asks two important questions about the last 100 years of women's suffrage: 1) How did the Nineteenth Amendment alter the American political system? and 2) How has women's engagement in politics changed over the last 100 years? 

As the chapters reveal, while women have made substantial strides in the political realm--voting at higher rates than men and gaining prominent leadership roles--barriers to gender equality remain. Women continue to be underrepresented in political office and to confront gender bias in a myriad of political settings. The contributors also remind us of the important understanding to be gained from an intersectional perspective to women's political engagement. In particular, several chapters discuss the failure of the Nineteenth Amendment to provide full political rights and representation to African American, Latina, and poorer women. The work also considers women's extra-institutional activism in a wide variety of settings, including in the feminist, civil rights, environmental, and far-right movements. As the volume traces women's forceful presence and limitations in politics over the past century, it also helps us look forward to consider the next 100 years: what additional victories might be won and what new defeats will need women's response?

Including my chapter with TJ Boisseau, After Suffrage Comes Equal Rights? ERA as the Next Logical Step

January 16, 2018 in Books, Constitutional, Legal History | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Book Review: Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the Feminist Foundations of Family Law

Thanks to Prof. Mary Block for this review of my book:

Civil War Book Review, Elizabeth Cady Stanton & the Feminist Foundations of Family Law

Elizabeth Cady Stanton was a woman far ahead of her time with regard to her advocacy for women’s rights within the family. Tracy A. Thomas, Professor of family law and a feminist legal historian, argues that Stanton believed a radical challenge to family law was vital to the woman’s rights agenda. Stanton asserted that four institutions: government, church, family, and industry acted symbiotically to keep women in a subordinate status. The public and private spheres were not separate, but intertwined and they operated in myriad ways to discriminate and hinder women and stifle equality. Thomas states that Stanton and many other nineteenth-century women’s rights advocates had a fluid notion of feminism, one that embraced both the sameness and differences between men and women. Women were equal not inferior to men, but women were different because they could procreate while men could not so in addition to the vote, Stanton also promoted rights that extended to women as mothers. The greatest hurdle to achieving equal rights for women was that too many people confounded differences with inferiority. The rest of the populace was apathetic. The solution to the problem of women’s inequality was complete formal legal equality. The question was how best to achieve it.

***

Stanton’s feminist attack on the oppressive structures of marriage was radical in that she framed women’s inequality as systemic victimization. Marriage laws sexualized women and created a sanctuary for male lust through protection of the husband’s marital right, a vestige of coverture that shielded men who raped their wives. At the Tenth Annual Convention, Stanton said marriage was legalized prostitution, a claim intended to shock her audience. Women give up everything when they wed while men gave up nothing. Marriage was analogous to slavery in many ways. Man was the master and woman had to obey him. Upon marriage woman’s identity became submerged into that of her husband and she literally no longer existed in the eyes of the law. Stanton lauded Lucy Stone who kept her maiden name after she wed Henry Blackwell. Stanton herself demanded she be called Elizabeth Cady Stanton rather than Mrs. Henry Stanton to express her independent identity. This was less radical than Stone, but still radical for her time.

 

By the end of Stanton’s life, family law had changed, but not as radically as Stanton had desired. It would not be until the last quarter of the twentieth century and the second women’s rights movement that nearly all of her recommendations came to fruition. She truly was a woman far ahead of her time. Tracy Thomas has thoroughly documented Stanton’s radicalism on matters of marriage and the family and has shown just how significantly one woman’s feminism affected family law for the betterment of women.

December 7, 2017 in Books, Family, Legal History | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, November 3, 2017

Book: Biography of Claire L'Heureux-Dube, the Second Woman Appointed to Canada's Supreme Court

 Claire L’Heureux-Dubé

 

Claire L'Heureux-Dubé: A Life by Constance Backhouse  

From the publisher:

Both lionized and vilified, Claire L’Heureux-Dubé has shaped the Canadian legal landscape – and in particular its highest court. The second woman appointed to the Supreme Court, and the first Québécoise, she was known as “the great dissenter,” making judgments that were applauded and criticized in turn.

Who was this energetic, risk-taking woman? L’Heureux-Dubé stands out as one of the most dynamic and controversial judges on a controversial court. Did she consciously position herself for success in a discriminatory milieu, or was she oblivious to power?

L’Heureux-Dubé anchored her innovative legal approach to cases in their social, economic, and political context. Constance Backhouse employs a similar tactic. Rather than focusing exclusively on jurisprudential legacy, she explores the rich sociopolitical and cultural setting in which L’Heureux-Dubé’s career unfolded, while also considering her personal life.

This compelling biography covers aspects of legal history that have never been so fully investigated. Changing gender norms are traced through the experience of a francophone woman within the male-dominated Quebec legal profession – and within the primarily anglophone world of the Supreme Court. Claire L’Heureux-Dubé enhances our understanding of the Canadian judiciary, the creation of law, the Quebec socio-legal environment, and the nation’s top court.

November 3, 2017 in Books, International, Judges, Legal History | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Reinvigorating Class Actions for Gender Discrimination

Brooke Coleman & Elizabeth Porter, Reinvigorating Commonality: Gender & Class Actions

The modern class action, the modern feminist movement, and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 were all products of the creativity and turmoil of the 1960s. As late as 1961—one year after Justice Felix Frankfurter rejected new law school graduate Ruth Bader Ginsburg as a law clerk because she was a woman—the Supreme Court unanimously upheld the constitutionality of a Florida statute that required men, but not women, to serve on juries, on the ground that women’s primary role was in the home. As Betty Friedan put it in 1963’s The Feminine Mystique, “In almost every professional field, in business and in the arts and sciences, women are still treated as second-class citizens.” But change was imminent. The Equal Pay Act of 1963, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the founding of the ACLU Women’s Rights Project, and a rising social and intellectual feminist movement brought women’s equality into the national conversation. Simultaneously—at least in part in response to the civil rights movement and the Civil Rights Act —an (all-male) Judicial Conference and Supreme Court in 1966 ushered in the modern era of collective litigation by promulgating Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23, and more specifically, Rule 23(b)(2), which provided a formal structure for civil rights plaintiffs to seek aggregate relief for violations of federal and state anti-discrimination laws. Together, these phenomena gave impetus to communities of women to combat legal and cultural injustices through the courts. The result has been widespread improvement in the lives of working women—and men—across many industries. 

In this Article, we examine the interplay of Rule 23(b)(2) class actions, feminism, and Title VII sex discrimination doctrine over the past fifty years to show that the theoretical concept of commonality—cohesion, unity—in the women’s movement has had a significant impact on the ability of women to seek collective redress for workplace discrimination through class actions. We describe how the four “waves” of feminism since the 1960s find corresponding analogues in the development of Title VII class action law. 

This is not an empirical study, nor is it comprehensive. Rather, our aim is to generate thought as to ways in which class action doctrine simultaneously reflects and reinforces evolving views of feminism and gender equality. We acknowledge that class actions are not the sole standard bearers for impact litigation, and that individual suits—whether brought by individuals of any gender or by physicians—have been vital to the establishment of anti-discrimination legal norms in the area of gender equality. Even so, we argue that Rule 23(b)(2) suits continue to serve a vital function by allowing women to enforce those established norms, overcoming classic barriers to judicial justice such as lack of resources, lack of access to lawyers, and retaliation by employers against individuals who file suit. As Anita Hill recently argued in a critique of the technology sector, “Class action lawsuits can force industry-wide change, even in the most entrenched, male-dominated industries.”

November 2, 2017 in Courts, Legal History | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Reading List for Law & Gender on Halloween

It's Halloween... which for law and gender means time to remember the Salem Witch Trials. 

Most of the victims of the trials were women.  And most of the accusers.  Scholars have talked about the trials as misogyny and at the same time as women's assertion of agency and power.  They also suggested the lax evidentiary standards allowed social judgments about women to be determinative of legal guilt.

Stacy Schiff, The Witches: Salem, 1692 (2015)

Carol Karlsen, The Devil in the Shape of a Woman (1998)

Jane Moriarty, Wonders of the Invisible World: Prosecutorial Syndrome and Profile Evidence in the Salem Witchcraft Trials, 26 Vermont L. Rev. 43 (2001)

Mary Beth Norton, In the Devil's Snare: The Salem Witchcraft Crisis of 1692 (2003)

Peter Hoffer, The Salem Witchcraft Trials: A Legal History (1997)

October 31, 2017 in Books, Courts, Legal History | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Most Women in Prison are Victims of Domestic Violence. That's Nothing New.

Most Women in Prison are Victims of Domestic Violence. That's Nothing New.

While the mass incarceration of men has dominated the discussion of policing and prisons over the past few years—and rightly so—there’s been a recent shift in thinking about incarcerated women, and not a moment too soon. According to a report by the Vera Institute, women’s incarceration has increased a startling 14-fold since 1970. Like their male counterparts, these women are also overwhelmingly women of color.

 

Despite the shocking increase in their numbers, however, the specific issues and needs of female prisoners have largely gone ignored. In particular, as National Domestic Violence Awareness Month begins in the U.S., it’s worth noting that the vast majority of women in prison are single mothers who have been victims of domestic and/or sexual violence.

 

These concerns have rarely been part of prison-reform discussions, and yet this fact is typical of the history of women’s incarceration in our country.

 

Criminal justice in the American South for decades following the Civil War was meted out unjustly, disproportionately affecting African Americans, regardless of gender. And, thanks to a unique historical record created by women in a Mississippi prison in the 1930s, it’s possible to see that the similarities between women’s incarceration then and now is significant. In both periods, women were more likely to be incarcerated for nonviolent crimes than for violent ones. Likewise, many of the incarcerated women in both cases were victims of domestic and sexual violence whose income was vital to their family household.

This report matches my own experience.  In practice, I handled a pro bono class action on behalf of the women prisoners in D.C.  See Women Prisoners of DC v. District of Columbia.

October 4, 2017 in Courts, Legal History, Violence Against Women | Permalink | Comments (0)