In May/June 2020, the Historical Society and the American Bar Association entered into a license agreement granting the Society full rights to use and publish the oral histories of 19 remarkable women who have been true trailblazers in the Washington D.C. legal community. These 19 oral histories are a small part of a much larger collection of oral histories taken by the ABA’s Women Trailblazers Project.
In 2003, the Women Trailblazers Project, conceived of and directed by Brooksley Born and Linda Ferren, began taking the oral histories of 108 women judges, corporate and public interest lawyers, academics, and lawyers in private practice who entered the legal profession during the three decades beginning in the 1940s. These exceptional women describe their experiences and achievements as well as the discrimination they faced often in law schools, courthouses, colleges and universities, and places of employment as they fought to gain entry into a profession that was not typically welcoming.
As reflected in the Trailblazers archive, when these women decided to become lawyers, only three percent of the profession was female. Restrictive quotas secretly imposed by many law schools guaranteed no change. Some law schools barred all women; others hired only male professors. The oral histories reveal the courage, self-esteem, and grit it took to overcome these and other barriers.
Each of the 19 women whose histories the ABA is making available to the Society has significant ties to the District of Columbia and the federal courts of the District of Columbia Circuit. Their stories are an important part of the history of the administration of justice in the independent federal courts of this circuit and a welcome addition to the Society’s historical archive.
Visit the Society’s website at www.dcchs.org and watch for the oral histories of Barbara Babcock, Nancy Duff Campbell, Sara-Ann Determan, Jamie Gorelick, Marcia Greenberger, Zona Hostetler, Patricia King, Esther Lardent, Judith Lichtman, Janet Reno, Florence Roisman, Lois Schiffer, Linda Singer, Judge Fern Smith, Marna Tucker, Judith Winston, and Judge Rya Zobel. The oral histories of Brooksley Born and Judge Gladys Kessler, also in the collection, are temporarily under seal.