Equal: Women Reshape American Law

Fred Strebeigh, Author . Norton $35 (582p) ISBN 978-0-393-06555-8

Beyond the hot-button issue of abortion, feminist lawyers and scholars have worked a quieter but equally far-reaching revolution in law and jurisprudence, argues this fascinating history. Strebeigh, a journalist who teaches nonfiction writing at Yale, chronicles 40 years of changing law on employment discrimination, sexual harassment and rape, as a growing movement of women lawyers, professors and judges challenged a primordial legal sexism. (Courts, for example, used to insist that rape victims fight their attackers almost to the death to prove lack of consent.) The author lucidly explains the intricacies of evolving legal doctrine (the federal Violence Against Women Act hung awkwardly from the Constitution's commerce clause) and the devilishly complex litigation strategies lawyers pursued to insinuate new concepts into case law. But his account is really the story of an insurgency—percolating up from consciousness-raising groups and feminist law school seminars; pioneered by theorists like Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Catharine Mackinnon; fought out by plucky, underpaid lawyers working in hostile courts; and climaxing in constitutional and political showdowns deep inside the Supreme Court. The result is a keen assessment of how far the law has come—and of the struggle that propelled it. (Feb.)

Reviewed on: 12/01/2008
Release date: 02/01/2009
Genre: Nonfiction
Open Ebook - 592 pages - 978-0-393-08955-4
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