When Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor graduated Stanford Law School with honors, one of the few jobs open to her...


THE INVISIBLE BAR: The Woman Lawyer in America 1638-1986

When Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor graduated Stanford Law School with honors, one of the few jobs open to her was that of a legal secretary. Her exemplars in the legal profession form a small army of women who have been struggling to be admitted to the privileges of the bar and to practice law since colonial times. This book tells their stories. The history of women lawyers in the US begins with Margaret Brent, a wealthy Maryland landowner who acted as counsel to Maryland's governor and later as administrator of his estate during troubled political times. Lawyer and author Morello goes on to describe women struggling for training and admission to the bar (often requiring the passage of a special state statute) when qualification depended on ""reading"" law and the battles that had to be refought when law-school degrees became more common and, ultimately, an almost universal requirement. The Midwest and West, with their newly established educational institutions, were more hospitable to the new law students than the Eastern educational establishment; ultimately, schools such as New York University, which attracted new immigrants and reformers, were far ahead of bastions of conservatism such as Harvard (which did not admit women as law students until 1950) in admitting and graduating women. Black women lawyers, women at major law firms, women judges parade across Morello's pages, with stories of staggering odds. Today's women practitioners will feel a flash of recognition in many of the situations described here. For the most part, Morello avoids feminist commentary, wisely allowing the stories to speak for themselves, as they so eloquently do in her crisp narrative. An interesting sidelight is the suggestion that the women's temperance movement, so popular among early women lawyers, was related to their perception of the legal impotence of women victimized by drunkard husbands and fathers. Morello attributes their zeal to the potential for change which they, more than many men, saw in the legal system. Lively Americana with serious and often moving undertones.

Pub Date: Oct. 30, 1986


Page Count: -

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1986