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This is a new book out that was a perfect fit for my reading project of the Supreme Court. The author Linda Hirshman received her law degree and Ph.D. from University of Illinois at Chicago. She practiced law and appeared before the Supreme Court then became a law professor at Brandeis University. In 2002 she retired and now has become a well known author.
I have read biographies about both O’Connor and Ginsburg, but this book excels in portraying the enormous obstacles both women encountered by women attempting to enter the legal field. O’Connor and Ginsburg both attended top-tier law schools and graduated at the top of their respective classes. Nonetheless, both struggled to obtain their first professional jobs.
They were very different people, O’Connor the politician and Ginsburg the tactician and legal scholar, but they respected each other and frequently worked together on cases before the Court. Hirshman examines not just their role in reframing the culture of the Supreme Court and the tenor of some aspects of the law, but also their work on specific issues such as affirmative action and sex discrimination. The summary at the end was very depressing to me. To listen to a step by step list of the rights women have fought for being taken away, along with the rights regarding racial discrimination and voting. I guess I have lived long enough to go full circle and ended up where I started. It makes me depressed and angry. I have talked with some young women and they have no idea what we went through, so they now have the opportunity to enter most any professions they wish. They can now rent a car and have a credit card in their name; I could not when I was their age, only men had that right. Sexual and racial discrimination including harassment are on the increase lately as is anti-Semitism. I sure hope that people wake up and stop the eroding of the hard fought gains toward equality, but it sure looks discouraging. It may come about that these young women I talked with will need to fight for their rights all over again.
The book is superbly written and researched and is packed with information in an easy to read fashion. The book is written for both the layman and the scholar to enjoy. Andrea Gallo did a good job narrating the book.
16 of 18 people found this review helpful
Being a man who came of age in the 1960s, I have often wondered why social change, especially those things that seem like no-brainers such as equality among races and the sexes have taken so long. Well, some of those answers can be found in this book.
Democracies and republics such as ours -- any self-correcting form of governance really -- just take time for big things to get accomplished. Churchill once said, "America can always be counted upon to do the right thing. After first exhausting all other possibilities." He said that in relation to WWII, but it is true in nearly everything we do. Especially in those two biggest challenges already mentioned: race and gender.
Being a passionate centrist and committed feminist, I found the portraits of the SC Justices Sandra Day O'Conner and Ruth Bader Ginsburg to be both compelling and understandable. I would have given this five stars in all categories other than the fact that Ms Hirshman's writing style is derived from years of being a terrific lawyer. Therefore all of the facts are laid out in a logical, sequential order in a way that is comprehensible and persuasive, but lacks the punch of a really great storyteller. But that is really splitting hairs. If you want to understand how social change occurs within and via an institution like the Supreme Court this is a must read.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful