Women in Wisconsin Law: Jessie Jack Hooper

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This is the third part of a three-part series on Women in Wisconsin Law. 

Not all women who were influential in Wisconsin law were lawyers. Among these influential women was Jessie Jack Hooper, a suffragist and politician who made history by running for one of Wisconsin’s seats in the United States Senate in 1922.

Jessie Jack Hooper was born on a farm in Iowa in 1865. In 1888, she married Ben Hooper and moved to Oshkosh, Wisconsin, to begin a new chapter of her life. Mr. Hooper, a graduate from Columbia University Law School, was extremely supportive of his wife’s passion for the women’s suffrage movement. Even before women were given the right to vote, Mr. Hooper went to great lengths to share his right to vote with his wife. One year he would vote as he saw fit, and then the next year, he would vote according to his wife’s wishes.

Once in Oshkosh, Hooper joined a variety of progressive movements in the state, including the Women’s Club and the Wisconsin Federation of Women’s Clubs. Although she was active in a variety of organizations, she was primarily involved in the women’s suffrage movement as a member of the executive board of the National American Woman’s Suffrage Association. Read more »




Women in Wisconsin Law: Olga Bennett

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Category: Feminism, Legal History, Legal Profession, Public, Wisconsin Court System
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This is the second part of a three part series on Women in Wisconsin Law.

Although women were admitted to practice law in Wisconsin in 1879, it would be over one hundred years until the state’s first elected female county judge.  In 1970, Olga Bennett, a native of Vernon County, was the first woman elected and sworn in as a county judge in Wisconsin.

Bennett was born on May 5, 1908, in Viroqua, Wisconsin. Education played an important role throughout Bennett’s life.  In 1925 she graduated from Viroqua High School, and in 1928, she graduated with a bachelor of arts degree from the University of Wisconsin.  After taking time following her undergraduate studies to work at a local bank, she returned to her studies four years later.  After spending a semester at the Madison Business School, Bennett enrolled at the University of Wisconsin Law School in Madison, Wisconsin.  In 1935, she graduated from law school and was admitted to the state bar.

Upon graduating, Bennett served as a law clerk for State Supreme Court Justice John D. Wickham for five years.  Following this clerkship, she went into business with her father, who was also an attorney.  Together they ran the Bennett and Bennett law firm.  Before being elected to serve as a judge, Bennett held various positions in the legal community, including serving as the first female city attorney of Viroqua.

Although one might have expected that a larger county in the state, such as Madison or Milwaukee, would have been the first to elect a female county judge, it was small Vernon County with a population of only 28,000 that holds this title.  In April 1969, Bennett ran and was elected to the bench in Vernon County (courthouse pictured above at left), defeating incumbent County Judge Larry Sieger who was appointed by the governor in 1968.  In 1970, she took the oath of office and became the second woman to serve as a judge in Wisconsin.   Read more »




Women in Wisconsin Law: Lavinia Goodell

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This is the first part of a three-part series on Women in Wisconsin Law. 

Throughout Wisconsin’s history, women have played an instrumental role in the development of the state’s legal system. Among these women was Lavinia Goodell of Janesville, the first woman admitted to practice law in Wisconsin.

Before her move to Wisconsin, Goodell worked as an editor for several newspapers in New York. During this time, Goodell confided in a coworker that her life’s ambition was to become a lawyer. When Goodell’s parents retired to Janesville, Wisconsin, in 1871, she was convinced into joining them with her father’s promise that she would be able to study law. Upon arriving in Wisconsin, Goodell’s father helped his daughter find attorneys who would permit her to study law alongside them through an apprenticeship. After demonstrating her ability to successfully practice law as an apprentice, Goodell sought admission before the local circuit court and, with the support of several prominent local lawyers, was admitted to practice in the Circuit Court of Rock County, Wisconsin, in 1874.

After being admitted to practice law at this local level, Goodell opened her own law office that primarily represented woman and the elderly. Despite being able to practice at this local level without much difficulty, one of Goodell’s cases in 1875 was appealed to the Wisconsin Supreme Court. When the supreme court did not allow her to argue the case, Goodell filed an application for state admission.   Read more »




Gender and Negotiation–Prof. Schneider Takes the TED Stage

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TED talks can be a wonderful vehicle for academics to present their research in an accessible, neatly distilled way for a large audience. Our own Andrea Schneider has a new talk in the best TED tradition, explaining her fascinating work on gender and negotiation. Delivered at a recent TEDx event in Oshkosh, Andrea’s talk is entitled, “Women Don’t Negotiate and Other Similar Nonsense.” Congratulations, Andrea!




Bill Cosby’s Honorary Degrees Rescinded & Sexual Assault Charges Filed

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bill-cosby-mugshot-640x400In May 2013, comedian Bill Cosby received an honorary doctorate of letters from Marquette University. In his address to the students, he told them “to go into the world remembering the values they learned from the school’s Jesuits—respect, integrity and a responsibility to serve others.” In retrospect, it’s ironic advice coming from him.

In the past year, a large number of women have come forward to say that Cosby sexually assaulted them, with incidents going back to the mid-1960s. To date, that number has swelled to more than 50. The stories of the alleged assaults have some general similarities: Cosby offered to mentor the women or coach them with acting; he offered them drinks; the women then felt dizzy or woozy and some may have passed out; some of them describe waking up in various states of undress.

Yesterday, Cosby was charged with aggravated indecent assault, a felony, in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, stemming from an encounter in 2004 with Andrea Constand, then operations director for Temple University women’s basketball team, who believed Cosby was a mentor and a friend. The allegations in the complaint parallel the numerous other allegations. The complaint alleges Cosby gave Constand some pills and told her to sip some wine; Constand felt dizzy and felt she had no sense of time; Cosby then sexually assaulted her. The case was re-opened this summer, prosecutors said, after new evidence emerged. That new evidence was Cosby’s deposition testimony in the civil suit Constand filed against him. In his deposition, Cosby admitted giving women Quaaludes in an effort to have sex with them. Read more »




The Notorious R.B.G.

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20150103_135911-1Those of us who teach in gender and feminist studies have long been familiar with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg; we regularly deal with her work as both a lawyer and as jurist. This past January, I had the honor of hearing her speak at a conference in Washington, D.C., and was awed by her. So over spring break, I decided to start reading a new book, The Legacy of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, edited by Scott Dodson. I’m not that far into the book yet, but what I’ve read has only made me admire her more.

I’m far from being Justice Ginsburg’s only admirer. She has quite the following, including this woman, who had a portrait of Justice Ginsburg tattooed on her arm. One man put her 35-page dissent in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby to music. Another admirer dubbed her “The Notorious R.B.G.,” a take-off on rapper The Notorious B.I.G, and there’s a whole blog devoted to all things R.B.G. Google “Notorious R.B.G.” to find t-shirts and other merchandise. It’s a title the Justice herself seems to enjoy. (Listen to the video clip here.)

Ironically, while I was starting my book over spring break, Justice Ginsburg celebrated her 82nd birthday. She seems in no way ready to step down from the court. After all, she reminds us, Justice John Paul Stevens served until he was 90. In honor of her birthday, one site gathered some of her best quotes. My favorite: “People ask me sometimes . . . When will there be enough women on the court? And my answer is: When there are nine.”

Wouldn’t have expected anything less from her.




The Other “F” Word: Feminist

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When you ask young people today whether they are feminists, for most, even the young women, the answer is a forceful, assertive, “No!” In the last several decades, that word has taken on a negative—vehemently negative —connotation. Apparently, in this negative view, to be a feminist is be a bra-burning, man-hating lesbian.

But being a feminist does not mean those things. Being a feminist simply means that you believe women have equal rights—socially, politically, legally, economically. While it’s true that there are different strains of feminism, each with their different ideologies and some more radical than others, feminism at its base is simply about equality. And people of both genders tend to agree with equality. Read more »




The Gender Wage Gap and Equal Pay Day

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paydayMy brother and I used to love to play the game of Life. We’d always go to the college route because it didn’t take much to see that going straight into business was going to get you the lowest pay on the board ($12,000, at the time). We’d grumble if we ended up teachers (the next lowest pay at $24,000) and always wished for that coveted doctor salary (the highest pay at $50,000). Ironically, we both became teachers in the real game of Life.  But that aside, one thing in that game was always certain: if we both ended up with the same occupation, the pay was the same every payday, for him and for me.

The real game of Life isn’t like that.  Today is Equal Pay Day—the date on which the average woman earns what the average man made in the preceding year.  Except it’s taken the average woman an extra 98 days to earn it.

We’ve heard much about the gender wage gap; the fact that the average woman makes 77 cents for every dollar a man makes. It’s a number that has stubbornly resisted change for about a decade. And when you break it down further, women of color suffer from an even wider gap than white women when comparing their salaries with white men—64% for African American women and 53% for Latinas. Yes, the gap does close somewhat, if you adjust for education and occupation, but there’s always a gap. Read more »




Guide to Public Speaking for Girl Lawyers

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Lauren-Bacall-150x150Yes, I wrote “girl” in that headline.  And for a very specific reason. Recently, it’s hit the web that global law firm Clifford Chance has provided its female lawyers in its U.S. offices with a guide to public speaking. And while some (nay, even most) of the tips are perfectly reasonable, there are others that smack of such sexism to the extent that one might believe that Clifford Chance thinks of its female lawyers as girls.  To wit, one of the points in the guide:  “Don’t giggle.” Another: “Pretend you’re in moot court, not the high school cafeteria” (on “‘Like’ You’ve got to Lose ‘Um’ and ‘Uh,’ ‘You Know,’ ‘OK,’ and ‘Like’).

Like, seriously?

On both points, they are equally applicable to male lawyers. (Yes, men do giggle, but the use of that word here suggests something very female, very childish, and very undesirable.) Yet, it was only Clifford Chance’s female lawyers who received this five-page memo. It’s curious to me why this is so. Does the firm believe that there are separate rules for men and women? Does it believe that women need the extra help? Or is it attempting to support its female lawyers? If it is attempting to support its female lawyers, I applaud its desire, but criticize its way of doing so. Read more »




Toddlers, Tiaras and the Law

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“On any given weekend, on stages across the country, little girls and boys parade around wearing makeup, false eyelashes, spray tans and fake hair to be judged on their beauty, personality and costumes. … From hair and nail appointments, to finishing touches on gowns and suits, to numerous coaching sessions or rehearsals, each child preps for their performance. But once at the pageant, it’s all up to the judges and drama ensues when every parent wants to prove that their child is beautiful.” (“About Toddlers & Tiaras”, The Learning Channel).

If the parent’s quest to prove her child’s superior beauty is, indeed, the point of beauty pageants, French parents may soon need to find alternative ways of doing so. The New York Times reports that the French upper house this week passed a women’s rights bill that includes a ban on beauty pageants for children under the age of 16; the measure now goes to the lower house for discussion. Read more »




Adam’s Rib as an Historical Document: The Plight of Women Lawyers in the 1940s

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In a recent post, Professor Lisa Mazzie offered her observations on the 1949 film classic, Adam’s Rib, which stars Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy as husband-and-wife attorneys who end up on opposite sides of the same murder case. Like Professor Mazzie, I have long been fascinated with the movie, especially as an historical document.

Trying to figure out what it is that Adam’s Rib has to say about women and the legal profession in the 1940’s turns out to be a bit perplexing. Does it endorse the idea that women make just as good attorneys as men, or is it merely just a celebration of the uniqueness of Hepburn’s character?

Although you would not necessarily discern this from the movie itself, Adam’s Rib was filmed at a time in which the role of women in the legal profession was apparently changing in significant ways.

In an era when very few women went to law school and even fewer practiced law, the 1940’s were, thanks to World War II, a decade of expanded opportunities for women in the legal profession. Unfortunately, this expansion turned out to be quite temporary. Read more »




Tickling “Adam’s Rib”

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imagesCAX2MCOUI recently got around to watching the classic 1949 movie “Adam’s Rib,” featuring the charismatic duo Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn.

The movie is about a married couple—Tracy and Hepburn—who are also lawyers.  Tracy’s character, Adam Bonner, is an assistant district attorney.  Hepburn’s character, Amanda Bonner, is a Yale law grad and apparently in private practice.  The two live what we might these days call a DINK (double income, no kids) lifestyle. They live in a fabulously decorated two-story apartment filled with expensive looking furniture and paintings, where their maid prepares them breakfast and serves it to them in their bedroom on a silver tray; they enjoy retreating to their country home in Connecticut (fully paid for in only six years, they tell their accountant); and when it comes time for dressing, they retreat to their his-and-hers closets where, particularly in Hepburn’s case, there is an abundance of incredible clothes for all occasions. Adam and Amanda are obviously in love. It appears that for each of them, the other’s accomplishments are a source of pride. 

Until the day Adam is assigned to prosecute Doris Attinger. Read more »