The young attorneys who started the Women’s Law Project in 1974, Ann Freedman, Harriet Katz, and Barbara Brown, opened the doors of their first office on April 2nd. They were new graduates of Yale Law School moving to a new city to start a new organization with no promise of funding and no model to draw on.
As law students they, and colleagues Gail Falk, Rhonda Copeland and Barbara Rosenberg, recognized the unconscionable disparity in how the law treated women. They organized the first National Conference of Women Law Students, calling hundreds of students from all of the country to gather and interact about the possibilities of feminist legal work. They set into motion untold activism that rippled throughout the United States.
Ann Freedman and other law students, along with the late Thomas Emerson, published in the Yale Law Journal an article on the need for a federal Equal Rights Amendment. This article provided the legal arguments for the emerging national effort to pass an ERA.
Soon, these young people were providing expert testimony in Washington, to Congressional committees on the Equal Rights Amendment. They became the legal authority on the ERA. It was a natural next step for them to think about using the ERA to develop women’s rights, an idea that brought them to Philadelphia because Pennsylvania recently had adopted an ERA.
Since then, the Women’s Law Project has advanced and protected women’s rights:
- When married women couldn’t get credit in their own names
- When legislators vowed to make Pennsylvania the first state to ban all abortion
- When poor women and children couldn’t get the child support they needed
- When insurance companies refused to cover domestic violence victims because of their “lifestyle choices”
- When a Lancaster County judge shut the courthouse door in the faces of twin boys whose lesbian mothers wanted to adopt them
- When female referees were kept off the basketball court and female golfers were not allow to tee off
- When the U.S. Supreme Court considered overturning Roe v. Wade
We congratulate these early visionaries and thank them. Happy Anniversary, Women’s Law Project! Join us in celebrating. Give to the Women’s Law Project today so that we can continue our work into the next decade and beyond.
There is work to be done.