I recently read two books that are very timely after Tuesday night, when Hillary Clinton became the first woman about to be nominated for President as a major party candidate.
Both of these books explore the road women have taken over the past fifty years to change the culture and make it possible for Clinton reach this point. The first is Sisters in Law: How Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg Went to the Supreme Court and Changed the World by Linda Hirshman. The book begins with biographies of these first and second women on the Supreme Court.
Did you know, for example, that after Sandra Day O’Connor graduated from Stanford Law School in 1951 and looked for a job, she was flatly told that law firms didn’t hire women lawyers? One firm “kindly” offered to see if they could find her a job as a legal secretary. And when Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a student at Harvard Law School in 1956, she attended a dinner party at which the women students were asked to justify their taking places that men could have had.
All that was legal until the Civil Rights Act of 1964. But it took women challenging discrimination and filing lawsuits to achieve real change. And it helped to have two women on the Supreme Court. Sisters in Law shows how these two women, with different backgrounds, different styles, and different philosophies about the law, pulled together and helped advance women’s rights. The many court cases can be overwhelming, but if you don’t worry about the details, it’s easier––and fascinating!
The other book is Gloria Steinem’s My Life on the Road. For anyone over fifty, it’s the history of our time, as society slowly changed. Steinen writes about her travels, her activism, and what she learned along the way by talking to ordinary people from taxi drivers to waitresses, to activists. She’s had quite a life and her book is relaxed and conversational.
It’s interesting to note that before her speech on Tuesday, Clinton played a video montage of women who had worked for equal rights and paved the way to her historic win. She also paid tribute to the women who organized the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention, the first women’s right convention in the United States.
No matter what accomplishments you make, somebody helped you.
Do you have any favorite books about the road to equal rights for women––or about what still needs to be done?