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Votes for Women: A (Relatively) New Prize

Votes for Women: A Relatively New Prize…and Harder Won Than We Remember
By Ruth Geos

Votes for Women

From the Smithsonian and National Museum of American History

To continue our Road to the Election series, we now look at votes for women:

In 1911, California became the 6th state to recognize women’s right to vote—and it was no walk in the park. In that election, San Francisco voters, all men, mostly voted against it.

A similar California referendum had failed in 1886 and a constitutional court challenge failed in 1872. The California Supreme Court, in Van Valkenburg v. Brown, 43 Cal. 43 (1872), had supported the refusal of the County Clerk of Santa Cruz County to allow Ellen Van Valkenburg to register to vote, finding that neither the 14th or  15th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution established the right to vote by women.

The push for voting rights for women in the U.S. was initially state to state. Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Idaho and Washington all came before California in winning women’s right to vote. Each state effort built on the next, and not all campaigns were successful.

It was not until 9 years after California suffrage, that the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution would be fully ratified, on August 26, 1920.  This next year, 2020, will be not only the next Presidential Election but the centennial anniversary of the Nineteenth Amendment, which is quoted here:

The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.

Even with that landmark Constitutional accomplishment, and its plain and forthright language, still not all women could vote. African American women, who had equally fought for suffrage, had another 45 years ahead until that right was legally protected, with the enactment of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

To see a glimmer of what it took to make U.S. women’s suffrage a reality, take a look at the National Portrait Gallery’s, Votes for Women: A Portrait of Persistence, along with the exhibition from The National Museum of African American History and Culture, Five African American suffragists you should know, and the evocative array of archived objects in the Smithsonian collections, including campaign buttons worn throughout all.


Next Election: November 5, 2019: SF Consolidated Municipal Election

Still need to Register to vote? Check with the SF Board of Elections.
You can also Register to Vote at the San Francisco Law Library.
Confused about the new SF voting system? Come to our free program on Friday 9/27.
See our Election Guide for more details.


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Book Review: The Case of Rose Bird

Rose BirdThe Case of Rose Bird: Gender, Politics, and the California Courts
By Kathleen A. Cairns
Reviewed by Richard Schulke, Reference Librarian

The Case of Rose Bird: Gender, Politics, and the California Courts is a timely look at political activism aimed at members of the Judiciary. It recounts the circumstances that led to the removal of Rose Bird as Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court.

This book begins by looking at Rose Bird’s early triumphs during high school and law school, followed by her milestone achievements as the first female law clerk for the Nevada Supreme Court, the first female deputy public defender in Santa Clara County, and the first woman to hold a cabinet position in California.

The book follows Bird’s appointment to the position of Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court in 1977 by a then forty-year-old Governor Jerry Brown—she was both the Court’s first female justice and its first female Chief Justice—and then a series of three attempts to recall her. The attempts ultimately succeeded, and in November of 1986 she was the first Chief Justice of California to be recalled by the voters.

The author examines the then-current politics that made Bird a lightning rod—her liberalism, gender, and the perception that she was soft on crime. The author also takes an in-depth look at Bird’s political opponents and the take-no-prisoner attitude that ultimately resulted in her downfall through political machinations. It is as chilling now as it was then.

The description of Bird’s final years as a broken person battling unsuccessfully against medical issues and early death is a sad ending to her story.

Current events make clear that the issue of “Judicial Politics” is still a hot potato. We recently witnessed both the removal of Judge Aaron Persky following his controversial decision to impose a sentence of only six months for a Stanford student convicted of rape, and the political maneuvering during the confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh to the United States Supreme Court. This fascinating exploration of Rose Bird and the turbulent beginning of judicial politics in California is still just as relevant today.

The Case of Rose Bird was generously donated to the Library by John Kelly.


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ABA’s Women in the Law Collection

Women in the LawThe Law Library recently acquired the ABA’s Women in the Law Collection—a generous donation from Shannon K. Mauer of Duane Morris LLP. Although women have advanced in the legal profession over the last few decades, the statistics and research show that there are still significant barriers to reaching its upper echelons in equal numbers as men. Together, these four books summarize the state of women in the legal profession today and chart a course toward achieving full equality. Anyone with an interest in women’s rights and equality, or learning what it takes to get ahead in professional life, will benefit from reading this collection.

Grit

Grit, The Secret to Advancement: Stories of Successful Women Lawyers
Edited by Milana L. Hogan

There’s been a lot of buzz about the word grit in the self-help and business spheres lately, and with good reason. The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology defines this concept as “perseverance and passion for long-term goals.” It is essential for professional success, and it is essential for women to achieve equality in the legal profession. To this end, the ABA’s Commission on Women in the Profession developed the Grit Project in 2013. Grit, The Secret to Advancement reports the Commission’s qualitative and quantitative research on grit across all types of female lawyers, spanning everything from solo practitioners, law firms of various sizes, to nonprofits. The result is a thorough exploration of the concrete steps women can take to increase grit and related qualities, and how to apply those traits to build a successful career.

 

Learning to Lead

Learning to Lead: What Really Works for Women in Law
By Gindi Eckel Vincent

This book does a huge service to female lawyers looking to reach leadership roles in their profession. Author Gindi Eckel Vincent intentionally kept Learning to Lead short and sweet, and she begins by summarizing the major leadership publications in the business realm to spare readers from this gargantuan task. She distills this body of literature down to its key themes and then applies them to the practice of law. Subsequent chapters consist of interviews with prominent female legal leaders and judges, and a set of scenarios that present the leadership goals of real-life female lawyers and a concise to-do list to achieve them. Learning to Lead goes well beyond hackneyed theoretical advice and instead provides clear, practical guidance for any type of leadership role in the law.

 

Road to Independence

The Road to Independence: 101 Women’s Journeys to Starting Their Own Law Firms
Edited by Karen M. Lockwood

The Road to Independence collects 101 first-hand accounts from women who started their own law practices. They provide invaluable wisdom, guidance, and inspiration to anyone who is considering embarking on this complicated and challenging path. Readers will benefit from the stark honesty contained in these letters, which spans confronting personal weaknesses, the inevitable financial worries, being undermined and doubted, and many more obstacles—but the takeaway is that it is absolutely possible to rise above the chatter, follow your own path, and build a thriving practice.

 

zero-tolerance.png

Zero Tolerance: Best Practices for Combating Sex-Based Harassment in the Legal Profession
Executive Editor Wendi S. Lazar

Zero Tolerance is the third manual produced by the ABA’s Commission on Women in the Profession, which was founded in 1992 with the objective of eliminating sex-based harassment in the legal profession. This slim book packs a powerful punch by setting forth the legal framework to combat sex-based harassment and bullying at work. After examining the EEOC’s guidelines on the topic, seminal cases, and state statutes and rules of professional conduct, it delves into the emerging issues of bullying and implicit bias. These latter issues are particularly thorny because they do not always involve behavior that is technically illegal, but that behavior is nonetheless damaging to the victims and also to their workplaces. Full of strategies, training and prevention best practices, and instruction on how to both develop and enforce effective anti-harassment policies, this book is essential reading for the legal profession.