When I'm '64
In her new book, Judith Richards Hope details the struggles and successes of the women classmates who "took the place of a man"
In recounting her years as a Harvard Law School student in the early '60s, Judith Richards Hope could easily sound like she's making up clichéd war stories about how hard it was for women in the male-dominated legal profession. After all, having to sprint across campus just to find one of the two women's bathrooms does have a familiar "I walked 10 miles to school every day" quality to it.
But Hope and the 14 other women who graduated with 498 men in the HLS Class of '64 did have to sprint across campus to the bathroom. They also had to endure the now infamous "Ladies' Days," special days one professor set aside for grilling the women students on cases involving underwear and the like. They had to deal with men who refused to sit next to "girls" in class and a dean who made each woman justify her presence at HLS.
"Today, such antics would probably be actionable," says Hope of the challenges women faced daily at Harvard, one of the last law schools in the country to admit women. "We didn't have enough outrage in those days. We just felt so privileged to be at Harvard Law School."
In her new memoir, "Pinstripes & Pearls: The Women of the Harvard Law School Class of '64 Who Forged an Old-Girl Network and Paved the Way for Future Generations" (Scribner, 2003), Hope reminds us that, whether these stories seem outrageous or just like ancient history to the law students who have followed, real women lived them.
A noted trial lawyer who served as an adviser to presidents Ford and Reagan, Hope is a founder of and partner at the Washington, D.C., office of Paul Hastings, and in 1989 became the first woman ever appointed to the Harvard Corporation. Though she and her contemporaries can now look back at the successful careers they've built, they faced real consequences for aspiring to have both a legal career and a family during the tumultuous '60s, when the civil rights and women's movements were still in their infancy.
"We were part of the first wave of women who would try to do it all, have it all, be it all," Hope writes in her introduction. "It is probably a good thing that we didn't fully understand what we were getting into."
Part personal reflection, part social history lesson, Hope's book captures both the high notes and the very low points in the illustrious careers of her women classmates--who include former Congresswoman Patricia Schroeder, U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Judith Rogers and Environmental Protection Agency attorney Alice Pasachoff Wegman. Former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno graduated a year before, while Elizabeth Dole--now a U.S. senator from North Carolina--graduated a year after.
For all their achievements, they faced nearly as many barriers to their success.
"We got what we were hoping and aiming for in the opportunity to go to Harvard," Wegman says, "so the extent of the discrimination came as somewhat of a surprise."
Always a distinctive minority in law school, law firms and courtrooms, the women learned early to stick together.
"There's something about being totally surrounded that causes you to bond," Schroeder recalls. "It was more like a foxhole mentality than your normal educational experience."
They became allies in a place that was legendary for its cutthroat competitiveness, even preparing each other for potentially embarrassing Ladies' Day inquisitions and for the dean's grilling over dinner.
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