Wednesday, January 13, 2021
Working Mothers and the Postponement of Women's Rights from the Nineteenth Amendment to the Equal Rights Amendment
The Nineteenth Amendment’s ratification in 1920 spawned new initiatives to advance the status of women, including the proposal of another constitutional amendment that would guarantee women equality in all legal rights, beyond the right to vote. Both the Nineteenth Amendment and the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) grew out of the long quest to enshrine women’s equal status under the law as citizens, which began in the nineteenth century. Nearly a century later, the ERA remains unfinished business with an uncertain future. Suffragists advanced different visions and strategies for women’s empowerment after they got the constitutional right to vote. They divided over the ERA. Their disagreements, this Essay argues, productively postponed the ERA, and reshaped its meaning over time to be more responsive to the challenges women faced in exercising economic and political power because they were mothers. An understanding of how and why the amendment stalled speaks directly to the current controversy in Congress and the courts about whether a congressional time limit should stop the ERA from achieving full constitutional status. Such an understanding recognizes that suffragists disagreed in the immediate aftermath of the Nineteenth Amendment’s ratification over the ERA, and that these divisions undermined the ERA’s prospects for at least a few decades. Ultimately, however, the ERA that earned congressional adoption and 38 ratifications over almost a century was stronger because of this postponement.
Tuesday, January 12, 2021
I enjoyed hearing about this new book at the AALS conference this year. Understanding the history, and discrimination of women law professors from those featured in the book and on the panel was interesting if also frustrating.
Herma Hill Kay, Paving the Way: The First American Women Law Professors, edited by Patricia Cain (forthcoming April 2021, U California Press)
Book Blurb: When it comes to breaking down barriers for women in the workplace, Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s name speaks volumes for itself—but, as she clarifies in the foreword to this long-awaited book, there are too many trailblazing names we do not know. Herma Hill Kay, former Dean of UC Berkeley School of Law and Ginsburg’s closest professional colleague, wrote Paving the Way to tell the stories of the first fourteen female law professors at ABA- and AALS-accredited law schools in the United States. Kay, who became the fifteenth such professor, labored over the stories of these women in order to provide an essential history of their path for the more than 2,000 women working as law professors today and all of their feminist colleagues.
Because Herma Hill Kay, who died in 2017, was able to obtain so much first-hand information about the fourteen women who preceded her, Paving the Way is filled with details, quiet and loud, of each of their lives and careers from their own perspectives. Kay wraps each story in rich historical context, lest we forget the extraordinarily difficult times in which these women lived
The point made by Melissa Murray was also well taken that the limitations of this study, focused as it was on ABA accredited and AALS schools, omitted many important women of color who taught at other institutions. For an earlier post about one of these women, Lutie Lytle, see The Story of the First Woman -- and the First Black Woman -- Law Professor, Lutie Lytle (2/1/2019)
Monday, November 30, 2020
Understanding Sojourner Truth's Role in Passage of the Nineteenth Amendment and the Fight for Black Women's Rights
Lolita Buckner Inniss, "While the Water is Stirring": Sojourner Truth as Proto-agonist in the Fight for (Black) Women’s Rights, 100 Boston U. L. Rev. 1637 (2020)
This Essay argues for a greater understanding of Sojourner Truth’s little discussed role as a proto-agonist (a marginalized, long-suffering forerunner as opposed to a protagonist, a highly celebrated central character) in the process that led up to the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment. Though the Nineteenth Amendment failed to deliver on its promise of suffrage for black women immediately after its enactment, black women were stalwarts in the fight for the Amendment and for women’s rights more broadly, well before the ratification of the Amendment and for many years after its passage. Women’s rights in general, and black women’s rights in particular, were created and sustained by the work of antebellum activists like Sojourner Truth, a towering figure who was tied to nineteenth-century movements for abolition and women’s suffrage. Sojourner Truth’s advocacy on behalf of women was premised upon a womanist approach to speech and action that centered the experiences of black women in the business of equal rights both in terms of race and gender. Sojourner Truth’s work as a justice-seeking sage with a goal of advancing the legal, political, and economic rights of women in general and black women in particular is a source of inspiration and a model for making contemporary black women protagonists and co-agonists—co-centric figures—in the work that is still much needed at the centennial of the Nineteenth Amendment.
I've just posted a new book chapter, The Long History of Feminist Legal Theory, forthcoming in in The Oxford Handbook of Feminism and Law in the United States (Deborah L. Brake, Martha Chamallas & Verna L. Williams eds. Oxford Univ. Press).
This chapter challenges the conventional idea that feminist legal theory began in the 1970s. The advent of legal feminism is usually placed in the second wave feminist movement, birthed by the political activism of the women’s liberation movement and nurtured by the intellectual leadership of women scholars newly entering legal academia. However, legal feminism has a much longer history, going back more than a century earlier. While the term “feminist” was not used in the United States until the 1910s, the foundations of feminist legal theory were first conceptualized as early as 1848 and developed over the next one hundred and fifty years. This chapter traces that development. It begins with the establishment of the core theoretical precepts of gender and equality grounded in the surprisingly comprehensive philosophy of the nineteenth-century’s first women’s rights movement ignited at Seneca Falls. It then shows how feminist legal theory was popularized and advanced by the political activism of the women’s suffrage movement, even as suffragists limited the feminist consensus to one based on women’s maternalism. Progressive feminism then expanded the theoretical framework of feminist theory in the early twentieth century, encapsulating ideas of global peace, market work, and sex rights of birth control. In the modern era, legal feminists gravitated back to pragmatic and concrete ideas of formal equality, and the associated legalisms of equal rights and equal protection. Yet through each of these periods, the two common imperatives were to place women at the center of analysis and to recognize law as a fundamental agent of change.
Thursday, November 19, 2020
Sally Roesch Wagner, How Native American Women Inspired the Women's Rights, Suffrage Movement
“Never was justice more perfect; never was civilization higher,” suffrage leader Matilda Joslyn Gage wrote about the Haudenosaunee, or Iroquois Confederacy, whose territory extended throughout New York State.
Matilda Joslyn Gage led the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA) along with Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, the three women trading executive positions over the 20 years of the organization’s existence.
According to Gloria Steinem, Gage was “the woman who was ahead of the women who were ahead of their time.” When the women’s suffrage leadership grew conservative, Gage dropped out of the movement. Suffragists stopped remembering her progressive contributions, like her 1893 revelation of the sex trafficking of women and girls in the United States.
Gage, and to a lesser extent Stanton, were largely dropped from the history. With their exclusion, we also lost this story of how they saw women’s rights in action in the native culture of the Haudenosaunee, and realized they could create the conditions for it in their own society.
Having worked for women’s rights for forty years, Gage and Stanton became increasingly frustrated with their inability to make major gains in their social, economic or political positions as women by the 1880’s.
In their disappointment, they looked beyond the Euro-American culture that was already known intimately to them and gained a vision of a world of equality from their nearby neighbors. Stanton and Gage grew up in the land of the Haudenosaunee, the six nations of the Iroquois Confederacy: the Onondaga, Mohawk, Seneca, Cayuga, Oneida and Tuscarora who had social, religious, economic and political positions far superior to their own, they wrote.
The Six Nation Haudenosaunee Confederacy had, and still have today, a family/governmental structure based on female authority. Haudenosaunee women controlled the economy in their nations through their responsibilities for growing and distributing the food. They had the final authority over land transfers and decisions about engaging in war.
Children came through the mother’s line, not the father’s, and if the parents separated, the children stayed with their mother, and if she died, with her clan family. Women controlled their own property and belongings, as did the children. Political power was shared equally among everyone in the Nation, with decisions made by consensus in this pure democracy, the oldest continuing one in the world.
Tuesday, October 27, 2020
Nan D. Hunter, Reconstructing Liberty, Equality, and Marriage: The Missing Nineteenth Amendment Argument, 108 Georgetown L.J. 73 (2020)
The social movement that led to adoption of the Nineteenth Amendment sought not only women’s right to vote but also the end to a system of marriage law based on coverture. Under coverture, married women were deprived of property and contract rights and were de jure subservient to their husbands. Coverture also provided the predicate for denial of the vote. The model voter was the independent yeoman or worker able to express his own interests in a democratic system. Women were thought to be properly confined to the domestic sphere and dependent on their husbands, who were presumed to vote on behalf of all household members. On this understanding, coverture and the state functioned as interlocking systems of governance. The nineteenth century Women’s Rights Movement was a campaign to reshape American democracy; eliminating coverture and extending full citizenship rights to women were necessary to achieve that goal. To use a phrase that we now associate with same-sex couples, it was the nation’s first marriage equality movement.
Adoption of the Nineteenth Amendment marked a new social under-standing that constitutional principles and democratic norms must apply to women’s role in marriage as well as to women as citizens. The movement began by articulating a concept of collective liberty, which grew out of experiences in the anti-slavery movement and which expanded on the Founders’ more individualist concept of liberty in the Declaration of Independence. After the Civil War, the equality discourse of the Reconstruction Amendments and the rejection of women’s demands for the vote by both Congress and the Supreme Court reshaped the dominant theme of women’s rights efforts into a campaign for equality. The refusal by federal lawmakers to address women’s issues left them no recourse except to lobby state legislators, which women’s groups undertook on both suffrage and marriage law. But the diffuse, localized nature of family law presented insuperable barriers to ending coverture in one pre-emptive action.
The Nineteenth Amendment reflects these dual goals in its text and sub-text. The former prohibits denial of the vote based on sex, and the latter, by enabling women’s full participation in political life, rebuts the heart of the rationale for coverture: that women’s role in society lay solely in the domestic sphere of home and marriage.
Failure to understand the centrality of marriage-law reform to the social and political meaning of the Nineteenth Amendment has impoverished the constitutional grounding for contemporary challenges to the legal regulation of marriage, including the Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges. In Obergefell, which prohibited the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage, the Court missed an opportunity to draw on the history and meaning of the Amendment to frame the issue as implicating dual systems of governance, both of which must be bound by constitutional principles. Instead, the Court described marriage as a largely prepolitical realm of private, idealized relations. The opinion of the Court failed to comprehend the extent to which marriage today continues to function as an institution of the state and a zone of governance, no longer because of coverture but because it is foundational to the privatization of collective responsibility that is embedded in the nation’s primary systems of social insurance.
Friday, October 23, 2020
In Injustice and the Reproduction of History: Structural Inequalities, Gender and Redress, Alasia Nuti explores the relationship between history and the provision of justice by focusing on women as a historical-structural group subject to historical injustices that continue to impact the present. This is a very welcome contribution to the literature, writes Ebru Demir, providing both deep and rigorous analyses of its case studies and proposing thought-provoking new terminology.
Injustice and the Reproduction of History: Structural Inequalities, Gender and Redress. Alasia Nuti. Cambridge University Press. 2019.
Why should an unjust history matter for egalitarians seeking justice in the present? How and why does history relate to the provision of justice both theoretically and practically? Alasia Nuti’s Injustice and the Reproduction of History: Structural Inequalities, Gender and Redress not only engages with such longstanding questions but also makes an important contribution to the existing literature as it centres on the argument that women as a historical-structural group (HSG) are the subjects of historical injustices.
One of the main arguments of the book is that ‘unjust history that should normatively matter in justice-based considerations is present because it has been reproduced over time through different means’ (4). In the first half of the book, Nuti builds this argument on very solid ground by engaging with the relevant literature and by providing examples to validate this very point. ‘De-temporalising injustice’, borrowed from Reinhart Koselleck’s terminology, is significant and necessary in order to capture the relation between past and present injustices (13). The book contributes to the de-temporalising of injustice by suggesting that past and present injustices have possible connections and all backward-looking approaches to injustice consider only past injustices as significant enough to address (15). According to Nuti, past and present cannot be separated if one seeks to provide justice for historical-structural injustices (HSIs) that have been committed. For this very reason, the division between past and present becomes deceptive. The present reproduces the unjust past ‘over time and through changes’ (8). Thus, change also becomes a suspect in perpetuating unjust history.
The second half of the book forms a study of women as a group and as the subjects of The second half of the book forms a study of women as a group and as the subjects of historical injustices. Although previously Catherine Lu has argued that women are a group suffering from enduring injustice, by carrying this argument one step further, this book provides a thorough analysis of how such a group is defined. Nuti, being aware of intersectional identities and differences, argues that to be categorised as a woman, one is not obliged to have been through systematic oppression: it is sufficient for one to be more likely to be exposed to unjust constraints and abuses (90). Therefore, possibility and potentiality become the requirements for being categorised as a group undergoing historical injustices.
Revaluating Marital Norms in the Administrative Cases Brought by Deserted Wives Seeking Homesteading Rights in the 19th and early 20th Centuries
Hannah Haksgaard, The Homesteading Rights of Deserted Wives: A History, Nebraska Law Review (Forthcoming)
During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the federal government of the United States distributed 270 million acres of land to homesteaders. The federal land-grant legislation allowed single women, but not married women, to partake in homesteading. Existing in a “legal netherworld” between single and married, deserted wives did not have clear rights under the federal legislation, much like deserted wives did not have clear rights in American marital law. During the homesteading period, many deserted wives litigated claims in front of the Department of the Interior, arguing they had the right to homestead. This is the first article to collect and analyze the administrative decisions regarding the homesteading rights of deserted wives, offering a unique view of American marriage. After documenting the history of homesteading rights of deserted wives, this Article explores how these unique administrative decisions adopted or rejected the prevailing marital norms in America and how understanding these administrative decisions can aid in our understanding of marriage in American history.
Wednesday, October 21, 2020
Recalling the First Comprehensive History of Women's Rights, Eleanor Flexner's 1959, Century of Struggle
In the 1950s, Eleanor Flexner, a left-wing activist and writer, decided to compile a comprehensive history of the women’s rights movement in the United States, exploring a span of more than 300 years. Her timing could not have been less auspicious. Feminism was virtually a dirty word, described in Ferdinand Lundberg and Marynia F. Farnham’s celebrated book “Modern Woman: The Lost Sex” (1947) as “at its core, a deep illness.”
Moreover, the House Un-American Activities Committee, or HUAC, was engaged in a ruthless investigation of Communist influence in the United States, attacking left-wing artists and intellectuals. Flexner had been a member of the Communist Party from 1936 through 1956, and although she was not hauled before HUAC, the careers of some of her closest friends and associates had been ruined.
Nonetheless, Flexner, with no formal training as a professional historian, began what became a pathbreaking, wide-ranging account of activism for women’s rights in America.
“Century of Struggle: The Women’s Rights Movement in the United States” (1959) was the first authoritative narrative of one of the great dimensions of American democratic history. The book, based largely on her original research in the Library of Congress, the Sophia Smith Collection of Women’s History at Smith College and elsewhere, covered an immense amount of material, from Anne Hutchinson, the 17th-century rebel against Puritan clerical authority in Massachusetts, to the dramatic final years of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, by which women won the right to vote. It remained the pre-eminent text on the topic for more than half a century, and is still taught in schools and consulted widely by historians today.
Monday, October 12, 2020
A review of my recent paper, Tracy Thomas, The Jurisprudence of the First Woman Judge, Florence Allen: Challenging the Myth of Women Judging Differently, forthcoming, William & Mary J. Race, Gender & Social Justice.
Sixth Circuit Appellate Blog, New Paper Reexamines Judge Florence Allen, Sixth Circuit Trailblazer
An old clerk’s tale refers to the arrival of Florence Allen (1884-1996) to her Sixth Circuit chambers in 1934. “It’s a Girl!” read a banner in the courthouse where Judge Allen would henceforth sit as the first female appellate judge in the U.S. judiciary.
That was but one of many firsts for the late judge, whose remarkable career was capped with a twenty-five-year tenure on the Sixth Circuit. Among other feats, Judge Allen was the first woman in America appointed prosecutor (1919), elected to a general trial court (1920), elected to a state supreme court (1922), and shortlisted for nomination to the United States Supreme Court (1938).
Judge Allen’s place in history has recently come under reexamination in an academic paper by University of Akron law professor Tracy A. Thomas. Released via SSRN on July 28, the paper chronologically surveys the life of Judge Allen, from her upbringing in a progressive and anti-polygamist Utahn family to her leadership in the women’s suffrage movement and onto her career in public office, which also featured unsuccessful campaigns for the U.S. Senate (1926) and House (1932).
Thomas ultimately concludes that Judge Allen “became a token” for the women’s movement by choosing to assimilate to a male-centric legal world, rather than challenge its foundations. Inadvertently, the law professor argues, this approach may have slowed the advance of women in the legal profession.
“She . . . molded herself in the male norm to prove that women could ‘think like a man,’ which to her meant crafting clear, objective, authoritative decisions unencumbered by emotion or her former pro-woman idealism,” Thomas writes. The paper later states that “[a]t the end of the day, more than tokenism then is needed in diversifying the bench.” ***
In her jurisprudence, Judge Allen defied simple labels. She called herself “liberal conservative” and issued opinions that at times pleased unions and other times employers. In a case involving the film The Birth of a Nation, Judge Allen received plaudits from the NAACP. She then lost the group’s support over Weaver v. Board of Trustees of Ohio State University (1933), a case in which Judge Allen declined to dissent from a per curiam holding that discrimination laws did not reach roommate relations.
Judge Allen’s moderate approach on the bench elicits reproach from Thomas, who notes that the judge’s example did not pave the way for more female judges: a second female appellate judge would not be appointed until 1968, and not until 1979 on the Sixth Circuit. Perhaps Thomas is right that more “zealous advocacy” or a more gender-centric approach would have helped accelerate this process, but perhaps not.
Whatever the merits of Judge Allen’s jurisprudence and character, the paper serves as a useful reminder of her captivating and colorful contributions to the judiciary, as well as the Sixth Circuit’s exceptionalism. A judicial pioneer whose sole biography is out-of-print and autobiography unavailable on Amazon, Judge Allen—thanks to Thomas—once again gets her day in the sun.
Friday, October 2, 2020
Catharine MacKinnon's Sexual Harassment Work as Invention of a New Form of Common Law Legal Reasoning
Charles Barzun, Catharine MacKinnon and the Common Law
Few scholars have influenced an area of law more profoundly than Catharine MacKinnon. In Sexual Harassment of Working Women (1979), MacKinnon virtually invented the law of sexual harassment by arguing that it constitutes a form of discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Her argument was in some ways quite radical. She argued, in effect, that sexual harassment was not what it appeared to be. Behavior that judges at the time had thought was explained by the particular desires (and lack thereof) of individuals was better understood as a form of social domination of women by men. Judges, she argued, had failed to see that such conduct was a form of oppression because the social and legal categories through which they interpreted it was itself the product of male power.
This argument is not your typical legal argument. It may not even seem like a legal argument at all. But this article explains why on one, but only one, model of legal reasoning, MacKinnon’s argument properly qualifies as a form of legal reasoning. Neither the rationalist nor the empiricist tradition of common-law adjudication can explain the rational force of her argument. But a third, holistic tradition of the common law captures its logic well. It does so because, like MacKinnon’s argument (but unlike the other two traditions), it treats judgments of fact and value as interdependent. This structural compatibility between MacKinnon’s argument about gender oppression, on the one hand, and the holistic tradition of the common law, on the other, has theoretical and practical implications. It not only tells us something about the nature of law; it also suggests that critical theorists (like MacKinnon) may have more resources within the common law tradition to make arguments in court than has been assumed.
Friday, September 25, 2020
Call for Papers: Examining Black Citizenship from Reconstruction to Black Lives Matter
The Center for Constitutional Law at Akron
Virtual Symposium (online)
Friday, Feb. 5, 2021, 9am to 5pm
This year celebrates 150 years of the Fifteenth Amendment, 100 years of the Nineteenth Amendment, 55 years of the Voting Rights Act, and just over 55 years of Title VII. Each of these laws brought some systemic change to the participation of Black citizens in the polity. This symposium will explore the ways in which the reconstructed Constitution intended or neglected to establish political and civil citizenship rights regardless of race. Drawing on current social movements like Black Lives Matter, MeToo, SayHerName, and Defund the Police, this academic discussion reflects on the role of law in creating, sustaining, and resolving the identified problems.
Topics for presentation in the broad umbrella of this symposium might include: how social movements transform or engage the law, how academics translate social movements, a reconstructed history of the 15th or 19th Amendment, the Jim Crow and Jane Crow eras and their continuing effects, current battles for voting rights regarding felons, polling restrictions, and other limitations with disparate impact, intersectional dimensions of justice including Black feminism, the causes and consequences of Black Lives Matter, vestiges of slavery, reparations for slavery, policing reform, mass incarceration, judicial remedies for citizenship violations, and/or the gendered differences of black citizenship rights.
The Virtual Symposium is sponsored by the Center for Constitutional Law at Akron. The Center is one of four national centers established by Congress on the bicentennial for the purpose of promoting scholarship and education on matters of constitutional law. The Center includes five affiliated faculty fellows, student fellows, an online journal, ConLawNOW, a JD certificate program in constitutional law, a social justice project, and a Masters of Law in social justice.
Papers presented will be published in a symposium edition of ConLawNOW. ConLawNOW is an online, open-access journal that is also indexed in Westlaw, Lexis, and Hein. It is designed to publish shorter works of 10-20 pages within a short editorial timeframe to get scholarship into the public discourse more quickly. Recent authors published in ConLawNOW include Larry Solum, Paula Monopoli, Ernie Young, Harold Koh, Helen Norton, Judge Jeffrey Sutton, Ruthann Robson, and Julie Suk.
Those interested in presenting a paper should submit a proposal detailing the intended presentation to Professor Tracy Thomas, Director of the Center for Constitutional Law, at email@example.com by December 1. Draft papers should then be submitted by January 20, 2021 for circulation among the other participants for the symposium. Final papers will be due by March 1, 2021, and expected to publish by early April.
Tuesday, September 22, 2020
Symposium, Fri. Sept. 25, Two Centuries of the Equal Rights Amendment, University of Florida School of Law
Please join scholars, legislators, and practitioners on Friday, September 25 for the Symposium, Two Centuries of the Equal Rights Amendment. This Symposium addresses many questions left unanswered after the recent ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment by Virginia. It has taken 97 years for the ERA to meet the technical requirements of Article V. But will it take its rightful place as the Twenty-Eighth Amendment? And will it be Congress, or the courts, that make it happen?
Please visit the Symposium website for a detailed schedule. This Symposium may be attended on a per panel basis and is free and open to the public. Please register to receive the Zoom link and Outlook invitation. 6.5 Florida CLEs pending.
Katharine Baker & Michelle Oberman, Consent, Rape and the Criminal Law, The Oxford Handbook of Feminism and Law in the United States (Deborah L. Brake, Martha Chamallas & Verna Williams, eds.), Oxford University Press, 2021 (Forthcoming)
The story of US criminal rape law reform tends to be told as one of remarkable feminist success (between 1970–1990, feminist-led coalitions changed state laws so that rape ceased to be a crime requiring force and resistance and became instead a crime that only required sex without consent) followed by widespread stagnation. Despite comprehensive changes in the law, reporting rates, prosecution rates and conviction rates for rape increased only slightly. This essay resists that binary account of success and failure by offering a more nuanced assessment. First, it explores the full range of factors hindering the reporting, prosecution and conviction of rape crimes, including the role played by social norms. Second it argues that, by changing rape’s definition to an inquiry focused upon whether the victim consented, the law has facilitated a shift in cultural and institutional norms governing unwanted sex. In short, the law’s message that unwanted sex is wrong matters. It is naïve to think that a change in law would, on its own, end rape culture. But there is ample evidence to support the conclusion that rape law reform has played a central role in reducing society’s tolerance of the rape prerogatives that have held sway for millennia.
Friday, September 11, 2020
Zoom Webinar The Centenary of the 19th Amendment: New Reflections on the History and Future of Gender, Representation, and Citizenship Rights
Zoom webinar at Boston University School of Law, Friday, September 25, “The Centenary of the 19th Amendment: New Reflections on the History and Future of Gender, Representation, and Citizenship Rights.” The speakers include law professors, political scientists, and political practitioners, and Rachel B. Tiven, a/k/a The Daily Suffragist. Here is the link for the program and registration:
Several papers from the conference will appear in a mini-symposium issue of the Boston University Law Review, Volume 100, Issue 5, due out in October 2020:
Wednesday, September 9, 2020
Women's Right to Vote in New Jersey (1776-1807) and its Analogy to the Marginalization of Voters Today
Note, Campbell Curry-Ledbetter, Women's Suffrage in New Jersey 1776-1807: A Political Weapon, 21 Geo. J. Gender & Law 705 (2020)
Women had the right to vote in New Jersey from 1776 – 1807. Traditionally, historians have treated women’s suffrage in New Jersey as an insignificant historical anomaly. More recent works, however, show that women’s voting played an important role in the increasingly contested elections of the era and was a critical part of New Jersey’s efforts to define the “body politic.” This paper examines the ways in which the Federalist and Republican parties weaponized women’s suffrage between 1797 and 1807. It argues that both parties tied women to allegations of voter fraud and depicted them as political pawns to delegitimize the opposing party’s electoral victories. Over time, these attacks diminished support for female suffrage and contributed to women’s disenfranchisement in 1807. It argues further that the treatment of women voters in the late 18th and early 19th century and their disenfranchisement is analogous to the treatment of marginalized voters today and modern efforts to implement strict voter restrictions.
Tuesday, September 8, 2020
Leigh Goodmark, The Anti-Rape and Battered Women’s Movements of the 1970s and 80s
The Oxford Handbook on Feminism and Law in the United States (Deborah L. Brake, Martha Chamallas & Verna Williams, eds., Forthcoming)
The anti-rape and battered women’s movements of the 1970s and 1980s grew out of the women’s liberation movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Early grassroots organizing around responding to rape and domestic violence relied heavily on community-based strategies, including the creation of shelters and safe houses and feminist self-defense classes. Using the new vocabulary of the women’s liberation movement, feminist advocates soon began to highlight the ways existing rape and domestic violence law shored up the patriarchy, characterized women as the property of their fathers and husbands, and enabled the state to sidestep responsibility for violence. Reacting to a legal system whose responses to gender-based violence included official policies of non-interference, skepticism about women’s credibility, and what they saw as inappropriate concern for the privacy of the family, some anti-violence advocates moved away from the grassroots community-based strategies of the early anti-rape and battered women’s movements. Instead, they pushed for greater state intervention in rape and domestic violence via the criminal legal system. But the movement was not united in embracing such strategies. Feminist organizing of the 1970s and 80s around changing rape and domestic violence law reflected the tensions between competing visions of the role of the state in addressing gender-based violence, visions shaped by race, class, and professional status. By the end of the 1980s, culminating in the passage of the Violence Against Women Act in 1994, pro-state intervention feminists had successfully implemented their carceral agenda—a policy choice that is being reexamined today.
Rape Without Women - The Legal History of Public Rape Narratives and the Reinforcement of Masculinity
Sharon Block, Rape Without Women: Print Culture and the Politicization of Rape, 1765-1815, 89 J. American History 849 (2002) [also available on JStor]
The first section of this article shows how Americans made the very personal sexual interaction of rape publicly palatable by removing women from its retelling. Stories of rape, then, could accomplish what the newly popularized stories of seduction could not: by emphasizing men's interactions with one another, rape stories could provide an unequivocal assignment of right and wrong, unencumbered by concern over women's sexual desires and acts. Focusing attention on men's protection of women's virtue allowed authors to minimize the thorny issue of women's role in promoting their own morality. The absence of women allowed narratives of rape to categorize competing visions of masculinity. Through this masculinized transformation, rape could be deployed in political battles.
In the second section, I examine the politicization of rape in revolutionary rhetoric. Rather than invoking rape as a symbol of general savagery or as simply the marker dividing honorable from dishonorable masculinities, revolutionary-era narratives increasingly presented rape as an explicitly political trope. By replacing women's experiences of their own bodies with men's experiences of witnessing the victimization of women, rape-related stories opposed upstanding American male citizenry to corrupt British rule. ***
In stories such as this, rape reiterated a transhistoric aspect of patriarchy that attached importance to rape as an assault against men. Feminists have often argued that women have been denied subjectivity in many historical discourses. And we might not be surprised by the elision of women in print; after all, women were rarely a common feature in public life, and scholars have begun to trace the specific problematics of women's public speech. By the second quarter of the eighteenth century, women had seen their often vocal roles in public court sessions decrease with the increasing formalization of the legal system. But unlike most topics, rape necessarily involved women, its very existence hinging on what the historian Cornelia Hughes Dayton has rightly called "woman's word"-her ability to put forward a believable accusation.
Yet even though women were necessarily present in the act of rape, printed stories eclipsed women's retellings of sexual attacks by suggesting that the ultimate victims were men. Instead of making men the physical victims (which might risk an unacceptable feminization of their bodies), stories of rape made men the emotional, economic, and social victims of the rape of their female dependents. Thus, the offense of rape was more than an attack on a man's property, as it had been conceptualized in early modern prosecutions for forcible marriage or heiress stealing. For eighteenth-and nineteenth-century Americans, the offense of rape was an attack on a man's patriarchal identity as the protector of his dependent women.
Sharon Block is the author of Colonial Complexions: Race and Bodies in Eighteenth-Century America (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2018) and Rape and Sexual Power in Early America (University of North Carolina Press, 2006). Her latest essay "Erasure, Misrepresentation and Confusion: Investigating JSTOR Topics on Women’s and Race Histories," Digital Humanities Quarterly (2020) exposes racism and sexism in a popular academic scholarly database.
h/t from Kimberly Hamlin's (Miami U) #MeToo Course
Wednesday, August 26, 2020
Susan Frelich Appleton, Book Review, Telling the Story of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, 62 Wash. U. J. Law & Policy 5 (2020)
[T]his brief review critically examines First: Sandra Day O'Connor, a biography by Evan Thomas. The review follows two themes highlighted by the book, intimacy and gender, and finds the author's treatment of the latter especially problematic. ***
I detected elisions and oversimplifications that I suspect other authors, especially those more attuned to gender and feminist jurisprudence, might well have avoided. Two examples help make my point. First, although Justice O’Connor is certainly entitled to reject the label “feminist,” it would have been easy to note how her pragmatic and context-sensitive approach to deciding cases tracks a methodology that feminist legal theorists call “feminist practical reasoning.” Indeed, Thomas comes so close when he writes: “by judging in her one-case-at-a time fashion—by looking closely at the facts and broader social context—she did bring a uniquely female perspective: her own.” He could have enriched this analysis with a brief reference to feminist legal methodologies,
adding force and complexity to O’Connor’s supposed rejection of the idea that women decide cases differently and her clerks’ reported bewilderment “at her lack of self-awareness.”
Second, the biography includes only the skimpiest mention of O’Connor’s concurring opinion in J.E.B. v. Alabama, when—again— situating it in feminist jurisprudence would have provided a deeper view of
the significance of gender to O’Connor. ***
By the end, the book left me puzzling over several questions about the author, diverting attention from the Justice herself: How reliable a narrator is Thomas in telling her story? How did Thomas’s own intimate relationship color his “intimate portrait”? How confident can readers feel that Thomas captured and presented a full picture of O’Connor, especially when it comes to how gender, and society’s construction of it, shaped her and her history making life?
My own work
Tracy Thomas, More Than the Vote: The Nineteenth Amendment as Proxy for Gender Equality, 15 Stanford J. Civ. Rgts. & Civ. Liberties 349 (2020)
Tracy Thomas, The Jurisprudence of the First Woman Judge, Florence Allen: Challenging the Myth that Women Judges Judge Differently, William & Mary J. Race, Gender & Social Justice (forthcoming) (on Ohio women’s suffrage story)
Tracy Thomas, From the 19th Amendment to ERA: Constitutional Amendments for Women's Equality, ABA Insights (Nov. 2019)
Tracy Thomas, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the Feminist Foundations of Family Law (NYU Press 2016) (on vote as part of greater demand for gender equality in the family)
Paula Monopoli, Constitutional Orphan: Gender Equality and the Nineteenth Amendment (Oxford 2020)
Reva Siegel, She the People: The Nineteenth Amendment, Sex Equality, Federalism, and the Family 115 Harvard L. Rev. 945 (2002)
Ellen Carol DuBois, Suffrage: Women's Long Struggle for the Vote (Norton 2020)
Ellen Carol DuBois, Feminism & Suffrage: The Emergence of an Independent Women's Movement in America, 1848-1869 (Cornell 1999)
Rosalyn Terborg-Penn, African American Women in the Struggle for the Vote, 1850-1920
Kimberly Hamlin, Free Thinker Free Thinker: Sex, Suffrage, and the Extraordinary Life of Helen Hamilton Gardner (Norton 2020)
Elaine Weiss, The Woman's Hour: The Great Fight to Win the Vote (2019)
Richard Hasen & Leah Litman, Thin and Thick Conceptions of the Nineteenth Amendment Right to Vote and Congress's Power to Enforce It, 108 Georgetown L.J. 27 (2020)
Neil Siegel, Why the Nineteenth Amendment Maters Today: A Citizen's Guide for the Constitution, 27 Duke J. Gender Law & Policy 235 (2020)
Ann Gordon, ed., African American Women and the Vote, 1837-1965 (U Mass Press 1997)
Lauren Free, Suffrage Reconstructed: Gender, Race and Voting Rights in the Civil War Era (2015)
Holly McCammon & Lee Ann Banaszek, eds., 100 Years of the 19th Amendment: An Appraisal of Women's Political Activism (Oxford Press 2018)
Lisa Tetrault, The Myth of Seneca Falls: Memory and the Women's Suffrage Movement, 1848-1898 (2014)
Adam Winkler, A Revolution Too Soon: Women Suffragists and the Living Constitution, 76 NYU L Rev. 1456 (2001