Sisters in Law/ posted in: Reading Sisters in Law by Linda Hirshman
on September 1st 2015
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The relationship between Sandra Day O'Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg—Republican and Democrat, Christian and Jew, western rancher's daughter and Brooklyn girl—transcends party, religion, region, and culture. Strengthened by each other's presence, these groundbreaking judges, the first and second women to serve on the highest court in the land, have transformed the Constitution and America itself, making it a more equal place for all women.
Linda Hirshman's dual biography includes revealing stories of how these trailblazers fought for recognition in a male-dominated profession—battles that would ultimately benefit every American woman. Hirshman also makes clear how these two justices have shaped the legal framework of modern feminism, setting precedent in cases dealing with employment discrimination, abortion, affirmative action, sexual harassment, and many other issues crucial to women's lives.
Sisters in Law combines legal detail with warm personal anecdotes, bringing these very different women into focus as never before. Meticulously researched and compellingly told, it is an authoritative account of our changing law and culture, and a moving story of a remarkable friendship.
I went into this book having read Sandra Day O’Conner’s book but I didn’t know much about Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
O’Conner is from Arizona. She grew up on a ranch. She went to Stanford Law School where she didn’t experience much discrimination for being a woman because Stanford was a fairly new school that just needed bodies. However, when she graduated near the top of her class, the only job she was offered was as a legal secretary. She became a Republican state senator and eventually a judge.
Ginsburg is from Brooklyn. She went to Harvard Law which was much more set in its discriminatory ways. The women in her class were invited to attend a dinner where they were forced to explain how they justified taking a seat in law school that should belong to a man. She went on to argue six major cases in front of the Supreme Court that helped establish legal equality for women in the 1970s. She then became a federal judge.
What I noticed over and over in this book was that even though they were discriminated against as women they had extraordinary privilege otherwise. Each of them had connections with several prominent politicians and/or political advisors who they lobbied to advance their careers. They have stories that prove that success is based a lot on who you know.
Of the two stories I found Ginsburg’s life more interesting. It is good to remember what rights we take for granted now that were so controversial in my lifetime. The importance of diversity on the court becomes apparent in discussions when male justices reveal that they think the lives of most women are similar to the lives of their wealthy wives and daughters. Later they were unable to sympathize with a 13 year old girl strip searched at school.
This author did a good job of making fine points of case law accessible and understandable for non lawyers.