Linda K. Kerber


This conference has its own historical memories, its own historical predecessor and its own historical artifacts. The memories are in the minds of people in this room and thousands more who could not be here with us, women and men who were part of the transformations of ideas and practices that recast what we thought we knew at the turn of the 1970s. Its direct predecessor was the conference on "Women and the Law," funded in part by the Carnegie Corporation, that brought together students and law teachers here in New Haven in the spring of 1971. Young, feisty and marginal, the attendance list named participants in alphabetical order and therefore without hierarchy (there were those who would have described such a list as "promiscuous" in its nineteenth-century meaning, of an undiscriminating mixture, even though students' names were marked by the letter "S"). The names on the list now dazzle: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Herma Hill Kay, Janet Benshoof, Carol Bellamy. Five men were there in solidarity and out of shared interests: among them Jack Getman, who would have a distinguished career in labor law, and Leo Kanowitz, who had already written the only monograph on the subject: Women and the Law. The Unfinished Revolution. The artifacts are the first two casebooks on sex discrimination and the law, almost all of whose authors are here with us tonight, and their predecessor: a fragile 34-page mimeographed packet that was circulated at the conference. Its title was "Women and the Law: A Collection of Reading Lists"; its improvisational spirit is suggested by the confession on the table of contents that "due to a page numbering mistake" there is no page 32.

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