Nancy Duff Campbell
November 1, 2006; December 1, 2006; December 21, 2006;
July 11, 2007; December 7, 2007; January 4, 2008; April 4, 2008;
April 25, 2008; October 31, 2008; July 10, 2009; July 31, 2009
Transcript of Interview with Nancy Duff Campbell (Nov. 1, 2006; Dec. 1,
2006; Dec. 21, 2006; July 11, 2007; Dec. 7, 2007; Jan. 4, 2008; Apr. 4,
2008; Apr. 25, 2008; Oct. 31, 2008; July 10, 2009; July 31, 2009),
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made under fair use must acknowledge their source as the American Bar
Terms of Use This oral history is part of the American Bar Association Women
Trailblazers in the Law Project, a project initiated by the ABA Commission
on Women in the Profession and sponsored by the ABA Senior Lawyers
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ASA Senior Lawyers Division
Women Trailblazers in the Law
Interviewer: Janet R. Studley
Dates of Interviews:
November 1, 2006
December 1, 2006
December 21, 2006
July 11, 2007
December 7, 2007
· January 4, 2008
April 4, 2008
April 25, 2008
October 31, 2008
July 10, 2009
July 31, 2009
November 1, 2006
This is the first interview of Nancy Duff Campbell by Janet Studley for the Women
Trailblazers Program, a Project of the American Bar Association’s Commission on
Women in the Profession, conducted on November 1, 2006, in Duffy’s office at the
National Women’s Law Center in Washington, D.C.
Let’s start off talking about your family background. Tell me about your
grandparents. What was their background?
I only knew one ofmy grandparents, my grandmother on my mother’s side.
My father’s family was from Scotland and my father’s grandfather was born in
Scotland. So my grandfather was first generation in this country. My greatgrandfather came to this country from Scotland to sell horses-mainly horses to
work on the farms in the Midwest. His family transported the horses from
Scotland to the St. Lawrence Seaway and down into the Midwest; they made their
home in northern Illinois.
My grandfather was the first in his family to go to college. That was unusual
then, especially for someone reared on a farm. He received an undergraduate and
graduate degree from the University of Michigan and became a chemist. He
worked for a while, maybe for most of his career, for Procter and Gamble,
eventually becoming a vice president. He helped develop a method of making
soap dry so it so it could be easily powdered into laundry soap–Ivory Flakes. As
a result he lived most of his life in Cincinnati, Ohio, where Procter and Gamble
was based.
As I said, I never knew my grandfather, although I have both video photographs
and still photographs of him. From what I know from my father, he was an
imposing person but also very funny. My father, too, has an incredible sense of
humor. He attributes that to growing up in a family with a father who was
accomplished, but also liked to have a good time.
One of the stories my father tells about his father exemplifies this for me. This
story also exemplifies my grandfather’s “true Scottish heritage,” by .which my
father meant you never spend more than you have to on anything. You don’t
waste any money and, again, that’s a trait of my father’s-turning off the lights at
home all the time, for example. My father went on a family trip to Scotland with
my grandfather and the rest of the family when he was in his early teens. They
were in a small town in northern Scotland on a double-decker bus. My father and
his siblings were sitting up top and their parents down below. They discovered
when they got off the bus that my father had left his raincoat on the seat next to
him. It was a fold-up raincoat worth about $2. But for the entire rest of the trip,
my grandfather kept up a steady pace of commentary about what a total waste of
money it was that my father left his raincoat on the bus. It became a family joke
from that point on about the raincoat and my father-how could he have left it on
the bus, how could he have wasted this money? My brother and sister and I use to
refer to it jokingly whenever my father was trying to instill in us the value of a
dollar. So these were the sorts of stories I heard as a child about my grandfather.
I actually know less about my father’s mother because she was less of a dominant
figure in my father’s life. He describes her as a woman with good manners who
didn’t like it that he was somewhat of a rough neck as a child-he wanted to play
and joke and she wanted him to be more proper. I have video of her as well as of
my grandfather, but unfortunately most of that video was at the end of her life
when she was ill, when they were filming her while she was in bed and people
were coming to visit her-to remember her. Both my grandparents died at fairly
young ages, and before I was born. So I don’t have much of a sense of them other
than my father’s stories during various times of his life.
My father-John Alexander Campbell, known as Jack-was born in Cincinnati in
1914, and grew up and went to school there. He was one of three children. He
was the youngest of three-seven years behind his brother Charlie and eleven
years behind his sister Margaret. I always liked my Uncle Charlie a great deal
because he, too, was quite funny. Especially when he was with my father. I
always liked my Aunt Margaret, too, and saw her a lot more than I saw my Uncle
Charlie. She had been damaged mentally at birth by the use of forceps. So she
was a very constant figure in our lives because my father and his brother always
looked out for her. My grandfather left money to take care of her so there was
never any financial strain in our family because of this. She lived independently
but usually with other relatives, in Cincinnati. She came to visit us a lot, or we
went to visit her. So we children knew her well and were very close to her. My
father’s brother Charlie became a physician, as did my father, and married and
had children. He went to school in Michigan and stayed there to practice and
raise his family. But my Aunt Margaret never married and was never really able
to work.
My mother, Willie Grace Campbell, was born in 1915 in Louisville, Kentucky,
right across the river from Cincinnati. Her family was English and they had been
in this country longer than my father’s family. Somewhere in her lineage she was
related to Lord John Russell, who was one of the Prime Ministers of England.
She moved to Cincinnati at a young age and grew up there.
I never knew my mother’s father, so I only know of him, again, through stories.
In fact, I am not even sure I have a photograph of him. He died when my mother
was a teenager. My grandmother-my mother’s mother-I knew quite well. She
died in her mid-nineties. She was a very strong figure. When my grandfather
died at a relatively young age, he didn’t leave any money for her and she had not
worked at that point. She had to support herself and my mother, who was in high
school. I think my mother’s older sister and her baby were also living with them.
My mother’s sister Blanche was ten years older than my mother, but was married
and divorced by then. So my grandmother had to find work to support her family.
What she could do was sew, so she became a seamstress. My mother, as a result,
struggled economically in high school and then in college. She used to talk about
eating candy bars for lunch to conserve her resources because her family didn’t
have very much money.
I don’t know that much about my mother’s father but he was a dry goods
salesman. What I remember hearing about him was that he, too, was a jovial guy.
In his case, unlike my grandfather on my father’s side, however, he was a jovial
but not very successful guy. One of the stories I remember is that he played
minor league baseball-how minor, I’m not exactly sure. We are a family of
baseball fans, so I especially remember this about him. My mother used to keep
score at his minor league baseball games, making her a baseball fan at a fairly
young age.
As I said, my grandmother was incredibly strong. She was also very strongwilled. She and my father have wonderful stories from when she visited us and
when she later lived with our family, which was for several years. She was very
pleased that my mother had married my father because my father came from a
well-to-do family, relative to hers. But she always worried that my mother didn’t
appreciate what a good deal she had in my father. When she came to visit, and
later when she lived with our family, she would get up early to make breakfast for
my father. She thought it was really important that a man going off to work for
the day had a full breakfast. My father felt a little guilty about this. My mother, I
think, could have cared less. She was sleeping in. She didn’t care about it. She
didn’t think she was at risk, as my grandmother did. But, as my father tells the
story, he felt guilty about this and so tried to get up earlier than my grandmother
so that he could make himself something quickly, and get out. The earlier he got
up, the earlier my grandmother got up. So there was no way he w·as going to
escape this-this dominant force that was going to make sure that, whether her
daughter appreciated it sufficiently or not, this marriage was going to succeed.
My grandmother came to live with my parents after they’d been married nearly
thirty years. My father always says that he has no fear of strong-willed women
because both my mother and my grandmother were such strong individuals. And
that my mother’s strength came from her mother. We saw a lot of my
grandmother when we were growing up. Before she came to live with us, she
lived in Cincinnati.
My mother met my father her senior year in high school. He was two years older
than she was, and in college at the University of Cincinnati. This was the
beginning of the Depression, so, although his father wanted him to go to the
University of Michigan, as both my grandfather and my father’s brother Charlie
had, it was much cheaper for my father to go to UC. My parents had gone to the
same high school and so were still in the same city and saw each other while she
was finishing high school and he was in college. Then she went to the University
of Cincinnati as well. Because of the economic situation, it was hard to go to
school out of the city in which you lived, if you were going to go to college at all.
And it wasn’t expensive to go to the University of Cincinnati-$25 a semester,
according to my father. You could do it if you could pay for your books and
otherwise survive without working or by working part~time.
But actually, my father only had two years of college before he went to medical
school. That was a time when, at least if you were going into medicine, you
didn’t have to get a full four-year college degree. As long as you had the science
courses, you could go right into medical school after two years of college. And,
of course, that made my father’s full course of study cheaper for his family, which
had some money but was feeling the effects of the Depression, too. So my
parents didn’t really overlap in college because he entered medical school as she
entered college. But he went to the University of Cincinnati Medical School, too.
So they basically were a couple from high school on. They graduated from UC at
the same time, in 193 7-she from college and he from medical school. They
went off to Michigan, my father to start his internship at Detroit Receiving
Hospital and my mother to begin a Master’s program in Sociology at the
University of Michigan. My grandfather, my father’s father, paid for my mother
to get her Master’s in Sociology. And of course getting a Master’s-even
graduating from college-wasn’t that common for women at the time. My mother
was a Phi Beta Kappa in college and a strong student. Because of my
grandfather, she was able to get her Master’s in Sociology at the University of
Now how would that have happened? Was he-would your mother and father
have pursued this or-do you think your grandfather observed her as being really
You know, it’s interesting. I actually didn’t know this information until quite
recently when I was helping put together a tribute to my mother. I was reading
some materials she had in which she described my grandfather’s role in paying
for her to go to Michigan. I had never focused on how she could have afforded it.
I guess I thought my parents were already married and they had gotten loans. But
it was the middle of the Depression when there wasn’t money for scholarships
and, as she said, “certainly not for women,” despite her strong academic record.
So it was very significant to her that my grandfather was willing to pay her
tuition. According to my father, when I asked him about it, my grandfather had
always emphasized academics with his children and loved that my mother had
accomplished so much as a college student. And, of course, my grandfather and
my father’s brother had advanced degrees from Michigan and he had wanted my
father to go there. But I think my grandfather was saying to my father, “Don’t
lose this woman,” just as my grandmother said to my mother, “Don’t lose this
How supportive!
My mother had been planning to major in History in college, but then she got very
interested in Sociology, because of what was going on around her culturally-the
Depression, the plight of the poor. Sociology was a relatively new discipline that,
to her, offered intriguing ways to look at the world. What I can’t remember is
whether she ultimately graduated with an undergraduate major in Sociology and
then went on to get her Master’s in Sociology-or whether she actually got an
undergraduate degree in History and then decided to go to graduate school in
After a year in Michigan, my father in Detroit and my mother in Ann Arbor, they
married. My father completed his internship and then did his residency at Henry
Ford Hospital in Detroit. He chose Ford Hospital because it was one of the few
programs that paid its residents enough to support a spouse. He went into
radiology-that was his specialty.
Meanwhile, my mother completed her Master’s degree, which she received in
193 9. She wrote her Master’s thesis, which I have a copy of, on the effect of age,
occupation and residential propinquity on marriage choice-on who a person will
marry. It was the first Master’s thesis, if you can believe it, in the Department of
Sociology to be based on empirical research. It wasn’t based on secondary
sources; it was based on primary, urban fieldwork. She went to the Wayne
County marriage license bureau and looked at all the marriage license
applications over a particular period of time, ultimately obtaining a sample size of
about 3,000. She looked at age, occupation and where people lived-based on
their addresses on their license applications. One of her conclusions was that for
some groups of men and women residential propinquity was as important, or
more important, than age or occupation. Or, as she put it, if you rode the same
streetcar line as another person, you were more likely to marry that person than
someone else. It’s kind of interesting to think about whether there’s any validity to
that any more-in our very transient, meet-people-on-the-Internet-type of society.
But it was true for my parents, too, of course, as they didn’t live that far from each
other. After my mother completed her Master’s, she worked for the WPAWorks Progress Administration-going door-to-door in Detroit’s poor
neighborhoods to help the WP A assess whether the employment situation for lowincome Americans was improving as the nation moved out of the Depression.
My father finished his residency in 1941, expecting to be called for military
service. But with the attack on Pearl Harbor, he was appointed to the medical
faculty at Indiana University and given a commission in the Public Health Service
to train doctors for the Army Medical Corps. He wasn’t interested in a private
practice. He was interested in teaching and in seeing patients that he didn’t have
to charge a lot of money. So both my parents had social interests, socialconscience interests. My father helped develop the Department of Radiology at
IU-when he went there in 1941, radiology was part of the Department of
Medicine. He saw patients but he also taught and supervised interns and
residents, ultimately becoming the Chairman of the Department. So with his
appointment to the IU faculty, he and my mother moved to Indianapolis, where
my brother, my sister and I were all born and lived until we went away to college.
I don’t know too much more about my grandparents and their influence on my
parents. I do know that my father’s family was Presbyterian and that’s part of his
Scottish heritage. My mother’s family was Episcopalian and that’s part of her
English heritage. Neither my mother nor my father was comfortable in their
traditional-or pretty traditional-religions, and together they decided to become
Unitarians. The Unitarian Church in Indiana-at least the one that my parents
joined and that we were brought up in-is quite liberal. I remember going to a
sermon once when I was growing up, the title of which was “In the beginning.”
Our minister started the sermon with, “In the beginning there was Atom,” but it
was spelled A-T-0-M. Christmas was celebrated as “a time for children,”
because it marked a child’s birth, since Unitarians don’t generally believe that
Jesus was the son of God. It was a time for children, including a time to be
socially active with children.
My parents liked the intellectual stimulation of the church and that the people
who attended it were engaged in the community in different ways. They were
active in the community in progressive ways. Indianapolis was very
conservative-it still is-but then it was a much more conservative community
than it is now. So finding like-minded people, whether it was in a “great books”
club or in the American Civil Liberties Union, which they were also members of,
or in a liberal church, was important to them. We used to joke that it was the same
few people-you’d see them in church and then you’d see them at the ACLU
meeting. Well, it wasn’t that big of a circle in the end, but as a result we were
brought up with pretty strong views about right and wrong, not just in
interpersonal things, but in society. For example, that segregation was wrong.
This was the 1950s, and our parents did not want us, for example, to go to an
amusement park that wasn’t integrated. So we learned very early on that there
were things that were good and things that were bad about society and that we
should be trying to change the bad things in whatever way we could.
My parents had views on these issues before the civil rights movement by and
large. They were engaged in these and other progressive activities largely through
the ACLU or through church-related activities. The church’s view was that to be
a religious person in the broader sense should be about helping people. That’s
your m1ss1on.
This was also the time where there was release time for religious education in the
public schools. There couldn’t be religious education in the public schools, but
parents could agree to permit their children to participate in religious education
off site but during school hours. My parents never let me do that. Instead I was
in the study hall. I stood outside of the room when they had the school prayer.
So, at pretty a young age, I learned I was different. Not in a good way
necessarily, by the way.
As a young child, how did you react?
Well, the religious aspect I couldn’t understand at all. I saw it as the rest of the
class getting to go off and have a good time, including a bus ride. I didn’t know
what they did when they got there, of course.
And whether they liked it or not.
Right. But I was left in the study hall, as were the Jewish kids, because they were
the other ones who didn’t go. It marked us all. “Why aren’t some of us going?
Why is our group a different group?” This occurred when I was about seven or
so-a pretty young age. This was well before the Supreme Court’s school prayer
decision, which occurred after I was out of high school. But my parents explained
that they had their own religious beliefs and they thought I should learn them with
them, in our church. School wasn’t the place for this. That was all they said.
And, of course, we didn’t say the Lord’s Prayer or other traditional prayers in my
church-that wasn’t a standard prayer for Unitarians. So the religious part was
water off my back. What I didn’t like was the differentness of it. But, I have to
say, by the time I got to college, I was very proud of that.
You appreciated it. It must have been hard, I would think, for a kid.
Yes. Kids would invite me to the amusement park, for example. They would say,
“Well, why can’t you go, you’re not Black.”
Oh wow.
And I said, “Because it isn’t right that they don’t allow Blacks.” That at least I
Now how did your parents explain this to you?
They said we don’t want to patronize these public places because they don’t allow
Blacks and some don’t allow Jews either. So that was just added injury.
Double whammy.
Yeah, double whammy. The other kids didn’t understand it, but I, at least, did. I
understood it, but I also wanted to go to the amusement park.
Did you feel it was interfering with your friendship with some of your friends?
I really don’t remember that much. I remember that my friends didn’t understand
it. And, of course, now in hindsight it is much easier to look back and think it
wasn’t a big deal to have to explain it, especially compared to the lesson I learned
from it. But what I remember about it at the time was the difficulty of explaining
it to my friends rather than that I missed out on a lot.
How did your siblings react to it?
It’s interesting because I’m trying to remember when it was integrated. Whether I
was affected more by it; I’d have to ask them. My brother is only two years
younger than I am, but my sister is five years younger. I don’t know whether she
experienced it or whether, by her time, it wasn’t a place that kids wanted to go
anymore. Or by then it was integrated. This would still have been before the
1964 Civil Rights Act’s effect on segregation in public accommodations. I can’t
say that I never went there because I have some recollection of being there when I
was fairly young, in the late 1940s, and then my parents later saying we shouldn’t
patronize it. It wasn’t that I’d never been there and I didn’t know what I was
missing. As I said, looking back, it’s an example of my parents’ very strong
views and that they thought it was important for us to live those views, not just for
them to tell us what they were.
As I also. said, Indianapolis was a very conservative community and I grew up
during the McCarthy era, which I really don’t remember much about. I was pretty
young then and most of what I remember is my parents’ friends at parties talking
about how terrible Joe McCarthy was. There were some bootleg records that
were circulated that made fun of him that my parents and their friends listened to.
I have a recollection of hearing him but I think I’m really remembering these
records, which came out a little later.
My father, by the time I remember anything, was the Chairman of the Department
of Radiology at Indiana University Medical Center. Because of him, it was the
first department at Indiana University to be really racially integrated, faculty and
staff. And that wasn’t easy. I remember when Harry Truman was elected
president-I was pretty young and I don’t really remember the election very
much, obviously, but I remember afterward hearing that my father’s
outspokenness against McCarthy and his vote for Harry Truman prompted
remarks by others, including that he was a communist. And that there were
people who thought my father shouldn’t be at the University or should be
dismissed because of his views. They were saying he shouldn’t be the Chairman
of the Radiology Department-look at what he’s doing, integrating his
department. So there was controversy about the things my father was doing, but
my parents didn’t talk to us about it in any real way.
When was it that he integrated the department, hiring Blacks?
Well, let’s see. It definitely was in the ’50s because I went to college in 1961. I
graduated from high school in 1961. It was well before that so it was definitely in
the 1950s. He became Chairman in the mid-‘ 50s, so it was around then, and it
was during the McCarthy era. And, of course, Truman was elected in ’48.
Were you aware of this at the time–that there was this controversy?
I can remember faintly about McCarthy, but mainly he wasn’t very controversial
to me because my parents’ friends were of one view about him-he’s terrible. In
this instance, it wasn’t that we were different in that regard, although, of course, I
didn’t know what the broader society thought of him, just my parents’ friends. In
1948, I was five, so I don’t remember the Truman election and its repercussions.
I vaguely remember McCarthy, which must have been in 1952, ’53, when I was
ten or so. But it wasn’t until later that I heard that people said that voting for
Harry Truman was a sign that my father was a communist and, of course, this was
during a big anticommunist era.
The first political event I remember for myself is the Eisenhower/Stevenson
election in ’52. I was nine, and again, I experienced it mostly as “I’m the different
kid” because most kids came to school with “I Like Ike” buttons, and my parents,
I knew, were for Stevenson. The other kids said, in effect, you’re for Stevenson
and you don’t go to religious education? Of course, I had no idea why they were
for who they were for.
The kids actually wore buttons to school?
You know what, I think so. I don’t really remember how much they actually wore
buttons to school and how much they just talked about the election. Obviously,
we were all pretty young.
Much more recently, my son Noah went through a similar experience. The first
election he remembers is the Dukakis election, when he was about ten. He didn’t
understand how everybody he knew was for Dukakis, yet Dukakis lost the
election. In my case, everybody was for Eisenhower, so I certainly understood
how Stevenson could lose, but that he got so clobbered was just another
reaffirmation that my family was different.
Well, do you remember any talk of your grandparents’ political views?
Yes, I do. The reason I started by describing their religious views is I believe they
were more traditional in their views generally, starting with their religious views.
My parents were breaking away a little and making their own way together. My
grandmother (mother’s mother), who was, as I said, the only one of my
grandparents I knew, was totally apolitical. She just didn’t pay any attention to
that. Being from the South, she also didn’t have the sensitivity to racial issues
that my parents did. By the way, I don’t know how they got that sensitivity. I
mean, I don’t know how much that came from just being the next generation,
from some of their religious activities or from just their own sense of right and
wrong, being more educated, and specifically my mother’s study of sociology.
But it didn’t come, I don’t think, from their parents. I never asked my father about
his parents and what they thought about these kinds of things. My father’s father,
as I said, was a chemist, and was paid well as a vice president at Proctor and
Gamble. I’m not sure how much of his money was his own and how much was
family money, but I think it was the former. When we were growing up and spent
time in Cincinnati-we lived in Indianapolis, 120 miles away but went to
Cincinnati a lot because most of our relatives were there-I got a sense of my
parents’ different economic circumstances. My father’s house growing up was
large and nice, and my mother’s was a tiny little place. My father lived in Hyde
Park, a very nice area, and my mother lived her early years in Norwood, a more
working-class area.
Did they go to the same high school?
Even though they lived in different states?
Well, no, she lived in Cincinnati, too. She was born in Louisville, but by then she
was living in Cincinnati. I don’t know what the geographical reach of the high
school was.
It was a public school?
Yes. I don’t think they lived that close to each other then, but they may have
because after my mother’s father died, her family may have moved closer to the
school, more into town. I don’t know.
Was your father’s mother also of Scottish heritage?
That’s a good question. I don’t know. My father’s father wasn’t born in
Scotland, but his father was. I don’t know how my grandfather met my
grandmother on my father’s side.
You talked a little bit about the Unitarian Church. Did you have religious
observances–did you go to church every week?
Well, that’s interesting. I just want to emphasize, if most people went to what
were considered services at that church, it would be like going to a book club or
an intellectual meeting. There were hymns, there was prayer, but it was very
outer-directed, focused on how we can do better for people around us. There was
no personal relationship with God. I can remember a sermon about Jesus, the
focus of which was that Jesus was a wonderful man even if he wasn’t a divinity.
He did good works and we can emulate him-that kind of thing. I think that the
original Unitarian tradition and the eastern U.S. version, even today, is more
religious in a more traditional sense, even given the belief in the Unity versus the
Trinity that is an essential tenet of the religion, if there is one. So, yes, we went to
Sunday school, I remember that. I don’t remember anything about it particularly.
I can’t say when I was ·young how often we attended, but it was pretty regularly, I
think, probably because my parents enjoyed the church rather than because they
thought we should have a religious education.
Did you have friends there from your school?
No, I don’t remember any classmates there. One reason is that we lived in a
suburban area and the church was in the city. That’s not that big a distance in
Indianapolis, probably a few miles. But we had to go downtown, so it wasn’t a
neighborhood place for anybody who would have gone to my school. I generally
just remember going there to Sunday school. I also remember getting old enough
to go to church and wanting to do that rather than go to Sunday school because
church seemed a lot more interesting. I have no recollection of what we did in
Sunday school. If we studied Bible stories, I’m sure it was in a very broad
sense-what does this mean for a place in the world as opposed to what does this
mean about the church.
By the time I was in high school, maybe even junior high, we didn’t go as often.
The church itself moved out into the suburban area, but not near us, so it was
farther away. I certainly had friends from high school who went there, but some
of them had split off from their parents’ religion to do so, to a certain extent. It
was a time in our lives when kids were trying to figure out their beliefs. I would
see someone I knew and be surprised that I didn’t know the person was a
Unitarian. In high school, and in summers when I was home from college, I used
to go by myself sometimes. If I woke up on Sunday morning and felt like going I
would go because it was always really interesting. The sermons were just very
interesting. I looked upon it as a way to obtain renewal and an affirmation of
what we believed and what we should be doing to act on these beliefs. But it was
also that it was just so interesting and provided such intellectual stimulation.
So, I’d say, rather than that there was a religious tradition that molded my siblings
and me, it was that this religion fit with how we were otherwise being molded.
Church was another place to hear somebody talk about something in an
interesting way. I was in college in the ’60s, a time when a lot of my peers were
searching for meaning in all kinds of ways. I remember friends of mine saying
they wanted to go with me to church to see what it was like. I remember a high
school boyfriend, for example, who got very enamored of it, and I used to see him
there for years afterwards. But for my parents, when they were young, it was
much more. It was that they lived in a community that wasn’t that much like
them. But the church provided a community of people who were like them. I
think that was the appeal, rather than the religion per se. But I could be wrong
about that. ·
Did you spend much time with your father when you were a young child or was
he always working?
He worked pretty hard. And he always came h~me late, for that time at leastnot Washington late. So we would usually eat dinner around seven.
You’d have a family dinner?
Yes, we always had a family dinner. I remember his working a lot, in part
because of its effect on when we had dinner! Of course, my mother was home,
but my mother got actively involved in the League of Women Voters in the
1950s. As she became more involved, she was home less, too. I was the oldest,
so I probably had the most time with her before she got involved in the League.
My brother Duncan was born in 1945. My sister Jamie was born in 1948. My
mother was pretty actively involved in the League of Women Voters when Jamie
was young, ultimately becoming the state president when Jamie was six and, after
we were grown, expanding her League and other activities considerably. Also, as
I said, my grandmother visited often and ultimately came to live with us. So for
my sister, my grandmother may have been home as much as my mother was when
Jamie came home from school.
But my father was pretty involved for a father at the time. First of all, he went to
work late. In Indiana, people started work at 8:00. He usually went in at 9:00.
So we usually saw him in the morning when we were getting ready for school,
eating breakfast. And, second, we always had a family dinner. And it always
went on for a long time.
That was important?
Yes, that was important. I mean, I guess it was important to my family. I just
thought it was a thing everybody did. We rarely went out to eat. Dinner always
involved lots of funny conversations. My father usually led the conversation
because he was a hilarious person and very joking with us. As I said, my brother
is two years younger, and my sister is five years younger so we weren’t all that far
apart: It was easy for everybody to have a conversation together. We talked
about politics, we talked about things that went on at school, we talked about
sports, we talked about everything.
My father coached my brother’s Little League baseball team and I was the bat
girl. As I said, I loved baseball. My mother kept score and taught me how to
keep score because she had been the scorekeeper for her father’s minor league
team. I would loved to have played Little League baseball. That would have
been really great. But of course, girls didn’t do that. I have a picture of the
baseball team-my father, all these boys in their uniforms and me in my little
sailor blouse as the bat girl! That was all I really could do. So I remember being
involved in that.
We took family vacations, mostly driving someplace. So that was time we always
spent together. We went back and forth a lot in the summer, especially, to
Cincinnati because my grandmother (my mother’s mother) was there. My
father’s sister Margaret for a long time lived with my grandmother, my mother’s
mother, so we could easily visit both of them at once.
As I said earlier, my mother’s sister Blanche was ten years older than my mother,
and she, too, lived in Cincinnati when I was growing up. My mother, when she
was growing up, always thought Blanche was so glamorous. First of all, she was
a flapper. She was just enough ahead of my mother in age to really experience
the 1920s. My mother was born in 1915, so Blanche, in the 1920s, was in her late
teens and early twenties. And she was quite pretty. My grandmother sewed-as I
said earlier, she became a seamstress when her husband died. She made clothes
for my mother and my mother’s sister. So they always had much nicer clothes
than their economic situation suggested. In fact, my grandmother made my
mother’s clothes into my mother’s adulthood and made my sister’s maid of honor
dress when I got married. So my grandmother was very accomplished, and my
mother was able to have a lot more clothes when she was young and well into her
adult life because of my grandmother.
Blanche did not go to college. I think she was a bookkeeper. I’m not sure exactly
what her job was, but it involved accounting. She married quite young, pretty
much right out of high school, and divorced her husband only a few years after
they married, I think. She had one child. I never knew her ex-husband. She had
a long-time companion who we called Uncle Marvin, even though he wasn’t
married to her. They didn’t live together, but they obviously were in a
relationship. Of course, we kids didn’t know anything about that. He was just
Uncle Marvin as far as we were concerned. We didn’t question it. But because
she divorced young and had a child, she had to work for most of her life. She was
a bookkeeper for some of the big hotels that eventually were bought out by Hilton
in Cincinnati.
When I got old enough to travel by myself, I sometimes went to Cincinnati on the
train to visit my Aunt Blanche. That was, of course, great because I was (a)
leaving home, and (b) spending time with somebody I loved who was quite
glamorous-a career woman. I didn’t know any career women. Aunt Blanche
took me to the hotel where she worked for lunch and we ate things like baked
Alaska, which I had never even heard of. We sat outside on the hotel terrace to
eat, and it was just the most glamorous thing I could imagine. So, in a certain
sense, she was a role model for a working woman who had made it on her own.
I didn’t know, of course, any of her trials and tribulations. As I got older, I
learned these by osmosis. There was a reason we weren’t talking about her exhusband-he had problems with alcohol. He didn’t seem to have a relationship
· with my cousin Phil, who was his daughter, and he died at a fairly young age, too,
I think. So I really have never known the full story there.
We went to Cincinnati a lot for holidays, for Thanksgiving and Christmas,
because we could see my mother’s sister, my father’s sister and my grandmother
all at once. Or they would come to us. In fact, my Aunt Blanche’s daughter-my
cousin Phil-was fifteen or so years older than I.. ..
I was going to ask if you were close butW ell, yes and no. It’s interesting. Because she was so much older than I was, I
didn’t really know her very well when I was a young child. But she came to
Indiana to go to college, to Butler University, which is in Indianapolis, and she
lived with us. My most vivid recollection of that time involved an incident that
occurred when she was babysitting for me. Actually, I’m not sure I remember it,
or remember being told about it, as I was quite young-I think about three. We
were eating peanuts by throwing them up in the air and catching them in our
mouths and I aspirated one-it went down my windpipe instead of my esophagus.
I had to be flown to Chicago to be operated on to have it removed.
When our family moved to the house where my sister Jamie was born when I was
five, I shared a room with my cousin Phil for a while, while she was in college.
Then, interestingly enough, she married one of my father’s residents. She
continued to live in Indianapolis until they moved to Fort Wayne, Indiana. At
Christmas, they often came from Fort Wayne-and her mother (my glamorous
Aunt Blanche) came from Cincinnati with my grandmother and my father’s sister
Margaret-to our house. And we went to Cincinnati a lot. We went often in the
summer-to go to a baseball game, see everybody, and come back. We went for
the weekend and when I got older my father thought nothing of-because the
roads got better-driving to Cincinnati for a night baseball game and driving back
the same night-120 miles down and 120 miles back. It was a two-hour drive
each way, at least. We went to Cincinnati because my parents had family ties
there. We also went to see the Cincinnati Reds!
I know we’re going to probably circle back to your mother a million times, but
I’m just curious when you were talking about your aunt and your mother’s
background. Did you ever talk to your mother as to how she came to go to
college? I mean what the thinking was, what her mother’s thinking was?
I don’t know what her mother’s thinking was. I don’t think my grandmother was
against it. I don’t know that my grandmother thought it was necessary, although it
could well be that, because she was struggling herself, she realized that my
mother better get more education. In addition, the fact that my aunt had married
young, had a child, and was divorced could have had an effect.
At that point …
I don’t know how many of my mother’s high school friends went to college,
especially because this was during the Depression. But this is really wonderful:
my mother had a very close friend, Katy, that she knew from fifth grade who went
to high school with her and then college. They were married a year apart, almost
to the day, and were bridesmaids at each other’s weddings.
Oh, wow.
They’ve been close for all these years, too. When my mother died earlier this
year, Katy sent me a wonderful letter that described her early times with my
mother, reminiscing about things, including things that we didn’t know about. I
read it aloud, not at my mother’s memorial service itself, but when our family and
close friends came back to my father’s condo after the service. My father was
kibitzing as I was reading, “Oh, I remember that.” It was a long letter and took a
long time to read because the incidents she described kept taking him off into his
version of the events. So there clearly were other friends of my mother who went
to college.
Essentially, my mother really loved learning. She marveled at the horizons that
education opened to her. In recent years, before she died, she became pretty close
to some of the people at the University of Michigan’s graduate school in
Sociology. She gave money for a fellowship there and reminisced a lot about
what it meant to her to get that degree and the change it made in her life. As I
said earlier, her study of sociology was one of the things that shaped her racial
views. The chance to continue her education at Michigan and to broaden her
horizons in terms oflearning were important to her. She wasn’t particularly
career-oriented, which wasn’t unusual for a woman at that time, and despite my
Aunt Blanche’s situation. But she was very oriented to “learn everything I can
about whatever I can.” That’s always the way she described it, and despite the
hardship of not having money for lunch and much of anything else, she loved it.
She just couldn’t believe, when she got to college, that it was even better than she
thought it would be. In terms of the sheer joy of having this world of learning
opened up to her. But I don’t know whether my grandmother’s view ofmy
mother’s going to college was, “fine if you want to,” or she was looking at it as
something important because of both her situation and my Aunt Blanche’s
Did she have to work when she was in college?
You know, that’s a good question. She never described working in college. She
described penny-pinching and wfoit I don’t know is whether, because it was $25 a
semester, she could essentially go for free, and it really was just expenses she was
trying to cover.
Did she work after she got married?
Yes. Well, as I described, she was in graduate school at first. Then she worked
for the WP A, using her Sociology degree. But I don’t know for how long, maybe
from her graduation in 1939 to 1941 when she and my father moved to Indiana.
After that, her engagement in outside work-which was considerable-was as a
My mother was the first in her family to go to college. We didn’t have much
contact with my mother’s family beyond her immediate family. I don’t think
there were very many of them. We were close to her sister Blanche and her
sister’s daughter Phil, but my Aunt Blanche had only that one child. I therefore
had only one cousin on my mother’s side. We had some contact with my
grandmother’s sisters or sisters-in-law, but, you know, the husbands died early. I
really don’t know my mother’s family on her father’s side at all.
On my father’s side, as I said, my father’s sister Margaret didn’t have any
children, but my father’s brother Charlie did. He had two children. My Uncle
Charlie, as I have said, was quite funny and we kids liked being with him because
he was so funny. He and his family lived in Michigan, so it wasn’t that far from
us, but we saw them only occasionally when we were growing up. When we
were quite young, we vacationed on Lake Michigan with Uncle Charlie and his
family. That is how I first got to know my cousins. I’m now much closer to these
cousins in a certain sense. The younger one-Keir Campbell-is four years older
than I am and I’m the oldest of my two siblings. The older one-Bruce
Campbell-must be eight years older than I am, I’d say. So as kids they were
enough older that we weren’t really playmates. We didn’t live in the same place.
We saw them mainly when we were quite young. What I remember from
vacationing with them-which we did until I was about eight, I think-is that I
idolized my cousins because they were older. It was very cool to trail around
behind them, which they tolerated pretty well. Then, if the family passed through
Indiana, they would stop and stay overnight with us. So our visits with them were
fairly short, other than the vacations we did with them when we were quite young.
Both my father’s brother Charlie and my father’s sister Margaret are deceased, so
my father is the last of his generation. And both of Charlie’s sons live in
California, where my father lives. Bruce lives in Los Angeles. He and my father
have become quite close over the years. Keir lives in Northern California. We
had a family reunion for my father’s 901
h birthday a few years ago when we all
got together with our kids, and our kids’ kids, which was great. Both of those
cousins became close to my parents after their own parents died.
So your uncle and his wife are both deceased?
Do you want to stop?
Yes, we should probably stop.
Nancy Duff Campbell, Interview 1
December 1, 2006
This is the second session of our interview for the Women Trailblazers in the Law
Project-an interview of Nancy Duff Campbell.
We got pretty far along talking about your parents and your early childhood. I
want to ask you a few more questions about your parents and also maybe your
siblings. One thing that we talked about was living in Indianapolis in a fairly
conservative community when you were growing up. We may have touched on
this but I didn’t see it in the transcript. Did you have a sense that your parents
were different from your friends’ parents, or that your home life was different in
some ways from your friends’ experiences?
In some respects, yes. In a lot of respects, no. I had a mother who was mostly at
home, although she was engaged in activities outside the home, particularly the
League of Women Voters. As my siblings and I got older, she was much more
engaged, but that wasn’t something that seemed that different. Other people had
mothers who were engaged in volunteer activities, even if not these kinds of
activities. I should say that much of my mother’s really active engagement
occurred after I went to college, so I’m not sure how my siblings regarded it
compared to their friends’ mothers. By the 1960s, my mother was on the national
board of the League of Women Voters and involved in setting up voter education
projects in inner cities, traveling both to those cities and back and forth to
My father went off to work like most other fathers. I did have a sense that we had
a lot of-I wouldn’t have given it this label then, but now I will-“political
discussions” at the dinner table and other times-about what was going on in the
world and what was the right thing to do about it. As I said earlier, I remember
especially discussions on civil rights. Before that, about Joe McCarthy. I knew,
because of our involvement in the Unitarian Church-which we talked about a
little last time-that it was a quite liberal denomination, very socially conscious.
My parents had a core of friends who were like them, but they had a lot more
friends who really weren’t like them. They talked about how conservative
somebody was, so I knew that. I didn’t have a sense that anybody else’s parents
were talking about civil rights or, if they were, I had a sense they were on the
wrong side. I graduated from high school in ’61, so we’re talking about the ’50s
when there wasn’t that much consciousness about these issues, at least in white
communities in the North. The civil rights movement was just starting. As I said
earlier, the first discussions I remember were in the early 1950s and were about
the anti-communist civil liberties issues of the day. My parents were members of
the American Civil Liberties Union, so their political views were reflected in part
through these activities and· issues.
Did your mother do the kinds of things that other mothers did in terms of school
activities, Brownies and the like?
Yes. I don’t remember her being so engaged that she did something like
Brownies. I mean, she came to activities, but she wasn’t a troop leader, or
anything like that. But, definitely, both my parents were involved in both our
school activities and activities we had outside of school-sports and things like
that for my brother, my sister and me. My family was traditional in that sense.
And my parents got along with other people. It wasn’t that, “Oh, we can’t deal
with those people because they don’t believe the way we believe.” It was just,
“this is how we are.” I think we talked earlier about my having to stand outside
the classroom during the school prayer, a thing I remember that set us apart. The
civil rights discussions didn’t set us apart because, although we were talking
about that, nobody else really was that much yet. I didn’t know a lot about what
other people thought about civil rights issues until high school. But when I was
younger, what set us apart was my standing outside the classroom during school
prayer and not going to release time for religious education. And that my parents
voted for Stevenson, and no one else’s parents did. As I said before, these were
the issues that gave me an inkling that we were different. I’m curious, because I
think you asked the question before, whether for my sister, who is five years
younger than I am, things were different. I would guess not that much because
she didn’t leave home for college until the mid-’60s.
Let’s talk a little bit about your siblings. There are three of you?
There are three of us. I’m the oldest.
Are you, were you very close growing up?
Pretty close. My brother Duncan and I are less than two years apart. So I’d say
that we were closer than I was to my sister Jamie or than he was to her, because
she’s three years younger than he is. My brother and I had similar, and some of
the same, friends because of how close we were in school, whereas she, being five
years younger, was always. that much farther behind that we really didn’t know
her friends. There were three ofus, so two were always available to gang up on
the third one, whenever the circumstances demanded. We would pair up with the
one we could get on our side.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot because of my father’s now-terminal illness,
about how we’re helping each other through it. He received a cancer diagnosis
right after my mother died last February and we learned in October that it is
terminal. We don’t have a family that is close in a lot of the ways that other
people sometimes measure by, even with my parents. We don’t call each other all
the time or talk that much. But, when we do talk, or when we’re together, it’s
always great.
There was a lot of, on my parents’ part-and since I’ve been a parent I’ve
appreciated more how hard this must have been-letting us make mistakes.
Encouraging us to do the right thing and to do well in school and all the
traditional things. But in the end, my parents’ view was that it’s our life. So if we
have a decision to make, we have to make it and we have to live with it. As a
result, we’re all pretty independent. There hasn’t been a lot of, “Oh gosh, I’ve got
to call my mother now … I can’t make this decision without talking to her. If I
don’t call she’s going to be upset.”
My parents also felt that way about each other in terms of their marriage
partnership-that they should each have their own interests and their own lives
and they would come together and do things together but their whole life wasn’t
bound up in each other. And they definitely felt that their whole life wasn’t bound
up in their children. And that our whole lives shouldn’t be burdened by thememotionally, I’m talking about now. Economically, yes, too, but emotionally. I
can’t remember if I sent you, did I send you the piece that I wrote about my
I wrote it for her 80th birthday-as part of a little tribute to her. I noted that she
didn’t always remember her children’s birthdays, because, after all, they weren’t
the most important days in her life. And that’s true, that’s true. I feel very close to
my siblings, and I feel like all the things we’re going through now with my
father’s illness we’re able to work out quite easily because we basically have a
very good relationship. Even though we don’t see each other that much, we don’t
talk on the phone a lot, we don’t even e-mail that much. We probably have done
more of all that in the last two years because of my parents’ illnesses than we did
in the ten years before that. I always like to see them and get together with them.
But it isn’t something we do a lot.
Where do they live?
My brother lives in Indiana and my sister lives in Reno, Nevada.
So he stayed in Indiana?
Yes. Well, he left and went back. I went to Barnard, my brother went to
Columbia. He was just two years behind me. So we even went to college
together. My sister stayed closer to home to go to college. My brother lived in
New York for a while. I lived in New York and he lived in New York. So we
saw each other a lot then.
I don’t think we did touch on this. When did you leave Indiana?
I left when I went to college.
When did your family leave?
My family left in 1971.
And they moved to California?
Right. So my siblings were out of the house by then, too. I graduated from
college in 1965 and my sister graduated in 1970. My parents moved in 1971.
They moved to Los Angeles because my father became the first Chairman of the
Department of Radiology at Martin Luther King, Jr., Hospital in Watts. As you
may recall, one of the grievances of those who participated in the Watts uprisings
in 1965 was that there was no local hospital. The King Hospital and its graduate
medical education program were established as part of the University of
California in response to this. My father was hired to set up the Radiology
Department, which was one of the first fully staffed departments at the hospital.
Sounds like your parents weren’t real strict disciplinarians.
No, definitely not.
But did one have that role more than the other?
My father was stricter than my mother. But it went back and forth, depending on
what the issue was. There were definitely things I couldn’t do that my siblings
could do. But that’s common, right? That’s what happens with the first one. I
never got a car. My sister got a car. Things like that. I don’t remember any of the
others, so they obviously weren’t particularly significant.
Here’s a story about my parents’ laissez-faire attitude-that “we’re going to bring
you up with the right values and then you’re going to just go out and do the right
thing but it’s not going to be our job to make sure you do that and we’re not going
to be looking over your shoulder all the time.” I was the first to go to college. I
was leaving Indiana. I was going to New York City. You know, there was (and
still is) a pretty serious difference between the two places. My father had a
tendency of, right when one of us was about to leave home, saying, “Oh, there’s
something I need to tell you.” Unlike a lot of people, I flew to college. My
parents didn’t drive me-it was too far to drive, as far as they were concerned, so
they shipped my trunk and sent me off on a plane. The day I went to college,
other freshmen came with their parents in cars, and I came in a taxicab from the
airport. When my father took me to the airport he said, “There are just two things
I want you to remember.” And I said, “What are they?” He said, “You’re going to
be in New York City and there’s a lot of traffic there so be careful crossing the
streets.” I was eighteen years old. The second was “Don’t have any unwanted
pregnancies. I looked at him and said, “Is the emphasis on ‘unwanted’?” Such
strange terminology for a father to use! He laughed. He was a radiologist, so one
of the things he’s always been worried about, even to this day when· I talk to him
on the phone, is car travel, because he saw so many people from accidents,
especially car accidents, with broken bones and worse. So he’s always had a real
fear of cars and anything that can do bodily harm, really-riding horseback,
things like that. That was the traffic part. The pregnancy part, it wasn’t a bad
things to say to young woman in the 1960s. It was just funny coming from your
Yes, he said “unwanted.”
Did your parents in any way indicate they had different expectations of you than
your siblings?
No, they didn’t. Their view was essentially that I should choose something to do
that I would like. It was the ’50s, and they didn’t put it in terms of gender. They
didn’t say, “Even though you’re a woman, you’re a girl, you should go out and get
a job.” It was, “get educated first and then decide what you want to do.” In fact, I
thought they were always very egalitarian with respect to all ofus, even with our
differences in age and gender. Except that later in life, I learned that my father
had brought a very small insurance policy for my brother, but not for my sister
and me.
I was shocked. I learned about it in high school. I just couldn’t fathom it. I said,
“Why would you do that?” He said something like, “Well, you know, he’s a boy.
He’s going to have to support a family.” And I said, “What?” At the time I didn’t
necessarily dispute that that was true, but why would that be a good enough
reason? Why would you distinguish among your children in that way?
This was … ?
A policy on his life, I think.
On your father’s life?
No, on my brother’s life.
Oh, that would provide for his family.
Yes. He got it for my brother when Duncan was in high school. Because Duncan
was so young, my father was paying the premium at a very low rate, making it
cheaper for Duncan to have it over a lifetime to provide for his family. I think my
father was taken aback at my comments. I think my mother was, too. I think it
was the first time they both thought about what they had done in that way. That’s
the only instance I can remember when there was some distinction made among
or between us that seemed totally irrational. Obviously, we were in different
situations when particular decisions got made. For example, my brother dropped
out of college for a while. My parents weren’t happy about it but they let him
work it out. He went back to school after a year. We didn’t do anything to test
my parents too much, but that’s because we had a long leash.
In some families, it seems that siblings sometimes have different roles. One is the
intellectual student, one is the beauty or the athlete, or the comedian. Did you
have roles like that?
Good question. I don’t think so. Because I was the oldest-and this might have
been more internal than anything else-I think I felt more responsibility to tum
out well, if you will. To make them proud of me. I don’t think that ever came
because of them, at least not directly. I don’t know exactly where that came from.
Thinking about us now, no. I don’t think that vis-a-vis each other or vis-a-vis my
parents that there was one ofus that they looked to for any one thing. My sister
has a Ph.D., and I have a law degree, of course. My brother has a Master’s. We
all have professional jobs. My sister’s a college professor in physiology and my
brother is a historic preservation architect.
Were you were all good students?
Yes. Certainly growing up. I don’t actually know that much about my siblings’
college grades. My sister went to the University of Cincinnati. My parents were
from Cincinnati and, as I have described, went to UC so it’s very interesting that
she picked UC, too. They were quite pleased, even though they went there
because they had to. It was the Depression. They lived there. After college, she
stayed there in graduate school in physiology. As I said, my brother dropped out
of Columbia, drove a cab for a year, went back to finish his undergraduate degree
and later went to Columbia to graduate school in architecture. So obviously
whatever interval he took off didn’t hurt him.
One thing I meant to ask you the first time we met was how you got your
nickname Duffy?
Oh, that’s kind of an interesting story. There were two Nancy Campbells in my
high school-my name’s Nancy Duff and the other one’s name was Nancy Eva.
And so even Nancy D and Nancy E sounded sort of alike. So we had to use our
middle names on papers, tests, and the like. But, actually, in high school, I didn’t
have the nickname. It was just that we sometimes got confused. But when I went
to college, the same first day that I flew into New York City and taxied to college,
I got there much later in the day than most other students got there. I got there at
five o’clock in the afternoon, or something like that. Barnard had a “big sister”
system; an upper-class woman was assigned to shepherd several “little sisters.”
Apparently the woman who was my “big sister” was going around saying, “Has
anyone seen Nancy Campbell, has anyone seen Nancy Campbell?” The people
she was asking were people who were in my hallway; one of them was my
roommate, others lived along the hall. She told them I was from Indiana-and
they were curious about this very “white-bread-named” person from Indiana.
They wanted to see who this person was, to see if she fit the stereotypes they had.
I probably did. When I got there, they told me this story, and they said I had such
an ordinary name. They didn’t say it that way, they said it in a nicer way. They
said, “What’s your middle name?” So I told them. One of them said, “I think we
should call you that.” It just sort of stuck for some reason.
That is interesting.
And I really had a reason in high school to use it, which I didn’t because I didn’t
even like the name that much.
Was it a family name?
It’s not a family name but my parents wanted a Scottish name to go with
Campbell. So it’s from MacDuff.
And my brother’s name is Duncan Campbell.
Oh, Macbeth?
Right. Same play.
So funny.
So he got the more Scottish first name and my sister’s name is Jamie, which isn’t
particularly Scottish. Then, of course, because it stuck in college, I really began
to use it. Then it became such a-oh, such a Seven Sisters’ name-Duffy, Muffy,
Buffy. So people thought that was where I got it. But I’d say, no, no, ·it’s really
my name.
Tell me about your early childhood years and what you enjoyed doing. Did you
have hobbies?
Well, first of all we lived in a suburban area. But it was an older suburban area
and as a result our house had three and a half acres of property around itincluding part that was wooded and backed up on a larger wooded area. So we
spent a lot of time with our friends, or even just the three ofus, playing outside
and going back into the woods-playing make believe-playing cowboys and
things like that. So I’ve always loved being outdoors. I think a lot of that is from
having grown up in a great place to live. Of course this was all pre-Title IX’s
engagement of women in sports or anything like that.
We also belonged to a country club that was right across the street. I think the
only reason my parents joined was because the golf course was literally right
across the street. Originally they thought they’d play golf, but they really didn’t
like golf and hardly played at all. The pool got far more use. All three ofus
swam competitively at this club, but only in the summer. Indiana is a state that
has a lot of very serious swimmers and Indiana University is a very big swimming
school. There were a lot of places that we could have swum during the winter
but, of course, part of the reason we didn’t is that some of them were in
segregated places that my parents wouldn’t let us go.
Was this country club integrated?
It wasn’t. It wasn’t a public place, like the amusement park and some of the
swimming pools; it was a private club. My parents were particularly upset that
some public places weren’t integrated. They didn’t agree with the country club’s
make-up, and they didn’t engage in social or other activities there. It was
basically just a place for us to swim.
We all became pretty good swimmers. I actually eventually competed in a citywide meet when I was in high school. I came in seventh, which was a pretty big
deal because the person who won the race I was in ended up being a world record
holder. So, I thought, “well, I’m only seven slots behind her. Just think ifl had
gone swimming in the winter, how good I would have been.” But mainly my
childhood was just general playing. There weren’t a lot of organized activities
before high school, though I was in the Brownies and Girl Scouts. That was
basically one afternoon after school. And none ofus went away to camp in the
summer. We attended some day camps when we were younger. But we didn’t
need camp because we lived in this wonderful area. It wasn’t a thing kids did that
much in our area anyway. I think I once went to Girl Scout camp for a week. But
mainly I remember playing at home with my brother and sister and my friends in
the neighborhood and friends from school who came over. Hanging out.
Did you play baseball at all? Neighborhood baseball?
I did play a little when the boys would let me. Softball. And football, too,
actually. But it was a “who else could they get” kind of thing. There weren’t
enough people usually to make a full team. So I could sometimes get on the team.
Did you have a housekeeper or a nanny?
Yes, we had a woman who came mostly to take care of the house but took care of
us if my mother wasn’t there. She was full-time. And when I got older, as I said
before, my grandmother was there a lot more of the time and eventually, after I
went to college, she moved in with my parents and lived there until they moved to
California. So there were adults around even though my mother was involved in
various activities. But when I was little, my mother was basically at home.
Were you interested in music or reading?
I took piano lessons, but more because I liked the idea of being able to play
without realizing the hard work it would take to do so. But I did that for a few
years, taking lessons from a woman in the neighborhood. It was fun to take the
hour lesson and practice a little. We had a piano. But I didn’t keep it up for long.
I did read all the time. That was a very big activity-still is.
What kind of books did you like?
Well, you know, some of the ones that were the popular ones for girls, Nancy
Drew, The Secret Garden. My mother was a very big reader. As I got older I just
took books off my parents’ shelves and asked my mother about them. Asked her
if she recommended them or had read them. Indianapolis had at that time, _and
probably still does have, pretty conservative newspapers. My parents c~uldn’t
stand the local newspaper. So they subscribed to the St. Louis Post Dispatch,
which was the closest good liberal newspaper to us. But, of course, it came a day
late. And by the time I got to high school, I remember my parents’ telling me,
“You can read this editorial in the local paper, but then you should read this
editorial in the Post Dispatch and see that there are people in the world who do
not necessarily believe the way our paper believes.” I remember starting to read
The New Yorker when I was quite young, not just the the cartoons, but the articles.
And my parents-my mother in particular-were very encouraging of reading. I
could read in the car. I didn’t have car sickness as some people do. I could read
almost anywhere. I still read all the time.
Do you remember any books that you just particularly loved when you were
Well, I loved all the Anne of Green Gables series. I remember that because it
always seemed like it was another world-did you read those?
No, I didn’t. I know what they are.
It was another world-Prince Edward Island-and she was an adventurous girl.
Not in the Nancy Drew sense, but in a somewhat more real-life sense because she
lived on an island and got into scrapes with her friends. I remember liking that
series a lot when I was a child. I read all the Nancy Drew books, Cherry Ames,
some of the other variations of these kinds of books. In fact my sister was just
saying to me the other day, “Do you remember that book, Betsy, Tacey and Tib?”
I didn’t really, except when she told me the name of it, I instantly did.
Did you go to nursery school or any preschool?
I did, actually. They didn’t have kindergarten then in the public schools. They
didn’t have anything before first grade. Kindergarten was the first point at which I
went to school. And I remember it was traumatic.
What you remember about it?
I remember my mother’s taking me-it wasn’t someplace I could walk to, it was a
private kindergarten-and I remember being just terrified when she left. That’s
about all I remember. As with most kids, I was fine after a few days. Later my
brother played Little League baseball on a field right next to the kindergarten. I
told you before that I was the bat girl for his team. I used to look over at the little
kindergarten building and wonder how I could have been so intimidated by such a
tiny little place.
You were the trailblazer in your family, going to school first. Did you have
family responsibilities as a child, chores or allowance?
Not really. We had modest allowances. But in part because my parents had fulltime help, there weren’t a lot of chores. We were supposed to make our beds on
the weekend and some basic things like that-clear the table ~d help with the
dishes. There weren’t a lot gender roles for us either. My father cut the grass but
he had a yardman who came and helped him sometimes, too, if he got too busy,
so we didn’t have to do that. So, no, we had a pretty carefree childhood. But I
was sick. I was born with three kidneys. Did I tell you that before?
No. But I saw a reference in your mother’s friend’s piece. She mentioned it.
Oh, did she?
She referred to you having a kidney operation.
And so I did, as an infant. I was eight or nine months old. I had some kind of an
infection and that is how they discovered it. Apparently a lot of people are born
with three kidneys. A lot of people have them and don’t even know it. But I had
some kind of a reflux that was affecting my whole urinary tract system. I was
hospitalized and operated on. Pretty amazing. Both my parents have told me that
they thought at the time I was going to die. So it was very serious.
How old were you?
I was eight or nine months old. I was pretty young. Afterwards there was more
concern about me generally. I said before my father always worried about all of
us riding in cars. He didn’t want me to ski. Mainly nobody skied when I was
growing up anyway, where I lived in Indiana. Some people went to Michigan to
ski, I think, when we got older, but he didn’t want me to do it. And he didn’t
want me to ride horseback. In both instances he was afraid I would fall on my
one good kidney.
So they took two out?
They took out two and left me with one. My father said after that, many years
after that-he’s a radiologist-he said that once they moved frpm x-ray pictures,
snapshot-type things, to movies, cineradiography, where they could follow your
whole system through an x-ray movie, they learned more. He said they could
have just have tied off one of the kidneys, not taken two out. That’s what they
would do today that they couldn’t do then, or didn’t know to do then, so they took
two of them out. He was always afraid I was going to fall on the one good one or
that I would get some kind of infection that would be life-threatening. And when
I was nine, I got the measles and mumps together. The childhood diseases that
people don’t get anymore, by and large. I remember getting very dehydrated and
being pretty sick and having to be in the hospital for a while with IV feeding and
my parents being worried again. They were worried that the combination would
lead to some infection that would infect the kidney in some way. So there was
some of that hanging over me as a child. Not that it bothered me on a day-to-day
basis, but there was some concern about it that they expressed from time to time
in terms of certain kinds of activities, or if I got sick.
Did it in any way make you more prone to getting sick?
I don’t think so. In fact, the one kidney I have is about twice the size of an
ordinary kidney and my father said it grew with me to be able to do the work of
two. I had ovarian cancer several years ago now, and my father was concerned
then about the chemotherapy. So were the other doctors because there is a lot of
renal involvement-they have to flush the drugs all through your renal system.
That’s how they get rid of all the chemicals. There was a lot of monitoring ofmy
Do you have to do anything … ?
Not because of the kidney. No. (Laughter)
Wow. So that probably had an impact a little bit on your athletic adventures.
Yes, it did. Not that I had that many athletic adventures beyond swimming. I was
doing some running around at play. But not things like horseback riding or
anything where I could fall. I think my father probably didn’t want any of us to
ride horseback, in truth! But he had a good reason to say it to me.
You talk about your housekeeper. Did your housekeeper live with you or come
No, she just came weekdays.
Was it the same person?
Pretty much. For a long time. The original woman, who came when we were
younger, my father hired to work in his department at the hospital. As I said
before, my father was the Chairman of the Department of Radiology at Indiana
University Medical Center. He had the first fully racially integrated department.
She was African-American and he originally hired her to be a
receptionist/assistant to him. She thereafter became the office manager. We had
another housekeeper after her for a very long time, too. She worked for my
parents until they moved to California.
Is that right?
Did you have a close relationship?
Yes. And in fact, my brother Duncan, because he’s in Bloomington-he lives in
Bloomington, Indiana now-was telling me when I saw him a few months ago
that he had recently gone to see her. She lives in Indianapolis, and she’s pretty
old now. But he said that when he’s in Indianapolis, he usually tries to call her.
We’ve covered a lot of things about your early childhood, your religion. Did you
have any experiences with other than your own health issues? Any family
members health or dying?
Not really. As I said, my father’s parents died before I was born, and so did my
mother’s father. My grandmother lived into her mid-nineties, so she died when I
was an adult and married. Since both my parents came from small families, there
weren’t a lot of close family members. We didn’t have any real traumas, though
there was one that involved me.
My sister was hit by a car when she was about five or six. It was “sort of” my
fault. (Laughter.) We were at the swimming pool where we were both swimming
competitively. It was late in the day, about 5:00, and my mother had gone to the
parking lot to get the car to take us home. I want to say I was about ten and she
was about five. It was probably more that I was about twelve and she was about
seven. She was in the little pool, “the baby pool,” and I was in the big pool. We
got our stuff and brought it over and put it by the baby pool where she was
playing and near where we were to be picked up, and I went back in the big pool.
She came over and asked if she could use my hair brush and I said no, she
couldn’t use my hairbrush. She went to find my mother to complain and saw her
on the other side of the driveway. My sister yelled at my mother that I wouldn’t
let her use the brush and ran over to tell my mother that, oblivious of a car that
was coming. Driving 25 mph-very slowly. In fact, it was driven by someone
who was a babysitter for some children that she had just picked up. I didn’t
witness the accident-all I remember is my mother screaming and my jumping
out of the pool and seeing my sister under the car and knowing I was the one who
had precipitated this crisis. She was pinned and they were afraid to roll the car
backwards or forwards. The car was literally on her leg. Someone came and
jacked the car up. Her leg wasn’t broken, but it was bleeding and for weeks she
had a very large scab. She also had a mild concussion because she kept banging
her head on the driveway, trying to get out from under the car. I have two
memories. One is that it was my fault; I was very bad; I felt terrible. But the
other memory, probably just as vivid, is from when she came home, and
everybody made a fuss about her. For a few weeks we had to be quiet; we had to
take her food; we had to be nice to her. So I got myself twice. I caused it and
then I made it harder on myself because she became the center of attention for
however long it was.
Do you ever talk about it?
Not much. I hadn’t even thought of it for a long time. We’ve joked about it. I’ll
say, “Remember when Jamie got hit by a car?” and then she’ll say, “Yes, and it
was your fault because you wouldn’t let me use your hairbrush.” So we both
remember it very vividly.
That could be a traumatic experience. So you didn’t have any lingering guilt?
I don’t know. (Laughter) Who knows. I’m sure it’s playing itself out in some
How did your mother react to you?
I don’t remember that my mother was screaming at me. I think it was as much,
“Jamie, you know you shouldn’t run out in the road.” I probably didn’t get
blamed as much as I should have.
She was how old? Seven?
Yes, something like that. Pretty young. The reason I think she probably wasn’t
five is I don’t think my mother would have left her, even by the baby pool, by
herself if she was only five. She was a pretty good swimmer and started pretty
young, at least by age seven. I don’t remember that part. I just remember waiting
for my mother to come get us.
Did a lot of your friends belong to the same club?
No. In fact, I made a lot of friends there. One of the things that was interesting
was that, for some reason, there were a lot of Catholic families that belonged to
the club. Of course, there were kids I went to school with who were Catholic, but
I didn’t necessarily know that about them. But I knew these girls were Catholic
because they went to Catholic schools. I remember being shocked at how they
talked about the nuns. If you were Catholic you could apparently say all these
things, but for the rest of us the religion was a total mystery-it seemed so serious
and pious, and I was surprised it wasn’t to them. They would tell stories about
things they did, how they got into trouble and snuck around. (Laughter) These
were eleven- and twelve-year-olds. There wasn’t anything big going on
particularly, sex or drugs or anything like that. Just childhood pranks. I also
remember that was probably my first experience really knowing someone whose
religion was quite central in her Hfe, yet seeing she was in fact not that different
from me.
Tell me about your grammar school.
It was called Crooked Creek.
Was it a public school?
Yes. Public school.
Crooked Creek.
(Laughter.) I’m not sure what to say about it. Beyond the issue we’ve already
discussed of released time for religious education.
Was it large?
It wasn’t small. I don’t really actually know how large it was. I suppose our
classes, it was elementary school, so how big could they have been? I don’t think
they were overcrowded or anything. I don’t remember their being as small as
twelve or anything like that. I’d guess about 20-a usual number. I was pretty
happy there.
Did you have any favorite courses or teachers?
I definitely had teachers that I liked. I suppose by the time I got to fourth grade, or
towards the end of it, I pretty much knew I liked English and things that had to do
with reading and history and things that were about the world. Our family
traveled some when we were young. By young I mean like eight, nine, old
enough to know what you’re seeing when you’re traveling. When we were very
young we’d just go to the beach in Michigan or something like that. When we got
to be eight or nine, my parents wanted to take us places to see things.
I rememb~r mainly, because we lived in the Midwest, a trip East when we went to
Boston and Washington, DC, and then to Florida to St. Augustine. It was
especially interesting because in the fourth grade I studied American history for
the first time and going to these historic places and talking about what it must
have been like there in the early days was great. My parents wanted us to have a
feel for these things by seeing them. That made it more interesting. But I don’t
remember that much about elementary school. The junior high system was really
just barely starting, at least where we lived. So I was in elementary school
through seventh grade. Then I went to a new junior high, which began in seventh
grade and went through ninth. I went the first year it was open, but I was in
eighth grade. So I was there for two years. Then I went to high school from the
tenth grade on. That was the system. In each level up, it was a bigger school,
with kids from different elementary or junior high schools.
I read somewhere that you were interviewed and you said that you had always
been told to be anything you want to be. At the age of twelve, you decided you
wanted to be a lawyer.
Right. We had to write an essay in the seventh grade on what we wanted to be
when we grew up.
One of the things I said in the essay was that I wanted to be a lawyer because I
wanted to work on civil rights issues. That was in the mid-‘ 50s. Things were
starting to happen. Also, as I’ve described, my parents were talking about civil
rights, civil liberties, free speech and other issues like that. My teacher asked me
to read it to the class. I thought at the time that she asked me to read it to the class
because my essay was so good. Later, on reflection, I think she asked me to read
it because she was so shocked that a girl would want to be a lawyer.
You were a novelty?
Did you have any lawyer role models?
No, I didn’t.
I just had this feeling about justice from my parents-and that it would be fun. I
knew TV lawyers. I knew Perry Mason. If there was even a Perry Mason then. I
don’t actually remember when the show started! But there certainly were some
TV lawyers. I liked acting, though I didn’t really do it until junior high and then
high school.
Doing plays?
I liked being out in front of people and talking … that’s pretty much what I
imagined a lawyer did. I think that was part of it.
Were you in school plays?
Yes. I was in several, including “Our Town,” of course. I started acting in junior
high and continued through high school.
Were any of them musicals?
No. Actually, I shouldn’t say no. In high school, there was an annual variety
show and it was really pretty sophisticated. It was written totally by students.
Groups of students got together and wrote a series of one-act musicals that
became one show. They each had some kind of a theme. One my junior year had
an Egyptian theme and was titled “A Mummy Dun Ptolemy.” (Laughter) P-T0-L-E-M-Y.
Oh, Ptolemy. I see.
All the acts were musicals. It was like the Capitol Steps in a certain sense. The
authors took popular songs and wrote lyrics that went with whatever was the
theme of their one-act play. Each one was probably about twenty minutes long.
They weren’t necessary satire; but they were mostly musical comedies. They were
all written and then cast by students in their junior year. It was called Junior
Spectacular. It was competitive and considered very prestigious to have a play
selected, and if you wrote one that was selected, you got to cast it. It was also
considered prestigious to be in one, to be selected to be in one. I’m pretty sure I
wasn’t selected when I was a sophomore. But when I was a junior, I was elected
with another girl to be student directors of the entire production-we were elected
by the class council. We were the producers, really, of the whole show. We
worked with the faculty directors and students whose acts were selected. We had
to make sure it all came off without a hitch. We had to speak to the audience for
the class at the beginning of each show, and there were shows for several nights.
That was a big honor. But I never thought I was clever enough to write one!
Were they written by individuals or groups?
Small groups. Four or five people.
Did you write? Were you part of one of those teams?
No. Because it was my junior year and I had this high-level responsibility. But it
wasn’t that I thought, oh, if I didn’t do that I’d be able to write one, because I
didn’t think it would be easy to do. I was in one when I was a senior, too. That’s
the only thing I remember I was involved in that was a musical production. In
junior high I’m pretty sure I wasn’t in any musicals. I can’t carry a tune. I had to
sing in the chorus in music class. I didn’t like it and I wasn’t good at it. I like to
sing by myself, but I don’t like to have anybody hear me sing. My mother could
sing very well. Why didn’t I get that?
So, did you have activities in your grade school? Activities outside of school, like
dance class?
Yes. Ballet definitely. Ballroom dancing by the time I was in sixth grade. That
was a fad of sorts then. In fact, around sixth or seventh grade, kids would have
dance parties. There weren’t that many activities outside of school. We went on
a bus to school and our junior high and high schools covered fairly large
geographic areas. So it wasn’t easy to get people together to have these kinds of
activities. There wasn’t carpooling, things we take for granted now. Whatever
activities there were were usually associated with school. I don’t really remember
having that many activities until high school, beyond drama, for example. I did
write for the newspaper.
Did you like to write?
Yes, I did. Again, there was a little bit of expose, the editorializing part of it that I
liked and that went with wanting to be a lawyer. I got to speak my mind-defend
When was that?
I don’t remember if I did that in junior high, but I definitely did it in high school.
I was the News Editor senior year. I remember that students often picked whether
they were going to write for the annual yearbook or the newspaper. To me,
writing for the yearbook was … why would anyone want to do that? That’s just
putting a caption under a picture. Writing something in the newspaper was where
it was at. Write a story, write a column.
Was your high school a public high school?
Tell me about it. What was it like?
It was new, first of all, when we went there, as was my junior high, so that was
nice. A new building and everything. It was 90% college prep, which was
unusual then in Indiana. Most people went on to college, and to college in the
So that was just the way it was.
Campbell: Yes, that’s right. It drew from a relatively affluent, suburban neighborhood.
Where I lived was probably the closest to the city limits. We lived probably about
eight miles from the high school. We weren’t that close. We were one of the
farthest away. The neighborhoods from which the school drew were probably
why it was very college-oriented, but as I said, most people went to one of the
state universities or smaller in-state schools.
Ms. Studley: How large was your high school?
Campbell: I think it was about 1500 students.
Ms. Studley: In either grade school, junior high or high school, were you aware of gender
issues and gender differentials, different treatment?
Campbell: A little. This was, of course, before the second wave of feminism that began in
the late ’60s. I say a little because my parents told me I could do whatever I
wanted. But I remember that I was still having the experience of telling people
that I wanted to be a lawyer and people were still laughing at it. At the end of
junior year, students picked the class officers for senior year, as well as for the
student council, who. were the officers for the whole school. I ran to be the vice
president for the whole school. I never once thought about running to be the
Ms. Studley: What year was this?
Campbell: My junior year, at the end of the junior year, because I took office in senior year,
so 1960. Two boys were running for president and I was running against a boy
for vice-president. We had to speak to the whole school in an assembly to kick
off our campaigns. I ended my speech by saying-to distinguish myself from the
boy I was running against-that students should vote for me because, “It’s often
been said that behind every successful man, there’s a woman.” I did it because I
thought it was kind of a clever way to end. I wasn’t thinking of it as a particularly
feminist–or, now, an anti-feminist-thing to say. The whole school just burst
out laughing. “How could you dare suggest this?” But because the other person
running for vice-president was a man, I wanted to differentiate myself, and that
was how I chose to do it.
Ms. Studley: That was pretty clever.
Campbell: Pretty clever but not very feminist really. It was that in order for him to do a good
job, I’ll have to be there-but as the vice president, not the president. There were
obviously other discussions at school about what people wanted to be and nobody
wanted to be a lawyer except boys.
Ms. Studley: Did people laugh at you, did they literally look at you and say that’s ridiculous?
Campbell: You mean, for saying that?
Ms. Studley: Yes.
Campbell: No, they thought it was funny, but I didn’t think it was that funny. I was using it
as a little joke. I think they were laughing at it, not just as a joke in differentiating
myself from the person I was running against but because of the notion that
somebody would say she could be the power behind the throne. I got elected and
so did the man I wanted to be president.
Ms. Studley: What was that experience like?
Campbell: It was great. There were issues that had to be dealt with. We had to run the
student council-both of us did at different times. We had to interact with
teachers and the principal on a different level. We were delegates to events
outside the school-like the Indiana Youth General Assembly.
Ms. Studley: What was the vice-president’s job?
Campbell: I don’t remember exactly. I’m sure there were explicit duties, do things in the
president’s absence, and I think there probably were certain committees, things
like that that I had to run. But there were a lot of things we both needed to do and
meetings we were both in together.
Ms. Studley: Did you talk a lot about wanting to be a lawyer?
Campbell: I don’t think so. I think it was more in a joking way with the boys in the class
who said they wanted to be lawyers. We joked about the firms we’d establish
Ms. Studley: Did anyone encourage you, one of the teachers or others?
Campbell: Yes, especially in high school. General encouragement, first of all. Second, to
try to go to as good a college as I could. To be a lawyer if I wanted to be a
lawyer. I want to say probably more of that was in college, because I didn’t talk
to that many teachers about it in high school. I only did with teachers that I got to
know a little better because they were the faculty sponsor for the newspaper or the
drama club or something like that.
Ms. Studley: Besides the newspaper and the drama club, what other activities-student body
vice president?
Campbell: I was on the student council before I ran for vice president. I was the head of a
Traffic Safety Council and selected for the National Honor Society, Quill and
Scroll-the society for journalists, and the National Thespian Society-for drama.
And I was a delegate to some state mock legislative assemblies, as I mentioned. I
was a prom queen candidate. I was a cheerleader, I forgot that. I was only a
cheerleader freshman year.
Ms. Studley: Was that because you didn’t want to do it anymore?
Campbell: No, it was because I didn’t want to practice enough to be good enough. I was a
cheerleader all through junior high, and then the competition got pretty stiff.
Ms. Studley: What were your favorite courses in this school?
Campbell: Government, History, English Literature. Not sciences.
Ms. Studley: Your sister is a scientist.
Campbell: Yes, she’s a scientist and my father is a scientist.
Ms. Studley: Did you have very disciplined study habits?
Campbell: Pretty much, yes. We went to school and came back on a school bus. It wasn’t
easy to hang out until kids got old enough to drive.
Ms. Studley: How long a bus ride was it?
Campbell: Well, by the time they let everybody off, forty minutes maybe. That was for high
school. Junior high was thirty minutes, or something like that, elementary school
fifteen minutes. There were a few kids in our neighborhood that we played with,
of course. I don’t remember studying very much after school until high school.
We each had our own room at home. TV wasn’t that big then.
Ms. Studley: Were there rules about TV in your house?
Campbell: I don’t remember. I think we were supposed to get our homework done first. It
was not a big issue for us.
Ms. Studley: What was the social activity, social life like?
Campbell: It was pretty social, a pretty social high school. A lot of the socializing was
obviously around athletic events, dances and parties. There were regular school
dances, fall fairs, things after football games, things like that. I already mentioned
the prom.
I had my first serious boyfriend in eighth grade.
And by serious I mean we were together, whatever that means in eighth grade
(laughter), for about a year. That basically meant that I saw him at school and at
weekend parties. It wasn’t really dating. We got together on the weekends with a
bunch of other people. When we came back to school after the summer for ninth
grade, like the first week, he decided that he didn’t want to be my boyfriend
anymore. I was totally crushed by this, that this could possibly happen (laughter).
He didn’t have any other girlfriend either. He just was tired of it.
I had other boyfriends in high school. There were some that my parents weren’t
too happy about. One in particular, who was the son of ~omebody they knew was
quite conservative. So was he. I used to argue with him about politics. But my
parents were their usual tolerant selves-there was never any “you can’t see him”
or anything like that. They were clear what their views were. They’d argue with
him, too, but it wasn’t “we forbid you” to go out with somebody for any particular
My siblings and I all drove when we were sixteen and my parents were very good
about that: wanting us to have driving lessons, letting us have the car, trusting us
by and large on dates and things like that. I didn’t have a curfew, was just
expected us to use my judgment. Then, of course, I got home by midnight. So
again, they were getting us to internalize what we should do without their having
to tell us. I think my brother, who, of course, came after I did, was a little more of
a concern to them. He actually did stay out much later than I did. They were on
top of him some for that reason. And I really don’t know my sister’s experience,
as she didn’t tum sixteen until after I left for college. But I didn’t have any
problems that way.
Studley: ·sometimes the oldest has a lot more rules than the rest of the family.
Campbell: Right.
Studley: So did you graduate with particular honors?
Campbell: My high school recognized the first and second in the class as valedictorian and
salutatorian but beyond that it didn’t have class rank. Beyond that it recognized
those in top ten percent of the class-which I was-and the top twenty-five
percent of the class. I was selected for the National Honor Society in my junior
year. I won a thespian medal for drama, and I won a Quill and Scroll award for
journalism. The latter two were for distinguished performance.
Studley: Your college counseling. Tell me about that. You obviously went away.
Campbell: Yes, I did. Well, I wanted to go Radcliffe.
Studley: How did you come to that?
Campbell: This is one area where my parents-particularly my father-were very involved.
Part of this was the politics of it all. Their view was, “There is another part of the
world, there are people elsewhere in the country who aren’t as conservative as
those in our community and have a broader outlook on life, and you should be
exposed to that.” You know I was the first-so they encouraged me to look
broadly and think about what I wanted broadly. My high school had pretty good
college counseling. The counselors were probably more open and interested in
the students thinking broadly than the kids were in some instances. As I said
before, most of my class went to college in the state. But there were several of us
who went to relatively selective schools, both in-state and out-of-state. The first
school I got admitted to was Northwestern, my “safety” school. My father really
didn’t want me to go to Northwestern. It wasn’t because of the school. He
thought Chicago was a corrupt town and, even though the university was in
Evanston, it was close enough to corruption for him. He had no problem with
New York City, but he thought Chicago was a place to avoid. It was funny~ I
only applied to three schools. I think that was actually the norm then.
Studley: I don’t know if that’s the case, but I know that happened to me. I’m always so
surprised now when I see these kids apply to over twelve schools.
Campbell: I seem to remember that we weren’t supposed to-not just that that was the norm,
but it was frowned on to apply to more than three schools. We were supposed to
have a reach school, one that was on the next tier, and one that was a safety. So I
had Radcliffe, Barnard and Northwestern. I was very happy with Barnard before
I went there. I wanted to go to Radcliffe, but Barnard was a close second.
Studley: Had you gone to visit those schools?
Campbell: Yes, my parents took me. My mother, mo~tly, in my junior year. We visited a lot
of schools. I visited all of the Seven Sister schools. I went to Bryn Mawr,
Wellesley, Smith, Radcliffe, Barnard, Mount Holyoke, Sarah Lawrence, and
Pembroke, which was then the women’s college at Brown. The only interview I
didn’t like was at Sarah Lawrence because the interviewer asked me my favorite
book of the last year. Whatever it was, I did not think I answered the question
very well! Anyway, it was a very different kind of an interview than the others.
I didn’t want to go to a college that was all women. I liked the campus at
Wellesley, but it seemed isolated. So Radcliffe was both in the city and had men
right around the comer, and Barnard was the same way. Pembroke was like that,
too. But in the end, one reason I decided against applying to Pembroke was that
somebody I’d been going out with a little was applying to Brown. Then, of
course, he went to Brown, I went to Barnard. We saw each other, we dated a little
after that, but at least we weren’t together at the same place. (Laughter).
Tell me about your friends in high school. Who were your friends?
I had a really close friend. Marcia Burkert. The reason that we were close was
partially because we both loved to read, we loved words, she was somebody who
liked academic subjects too, loved poetry. She was a very good artist and she
drew cartoons of situations we were involved in and we made up captions for
them. We just were soul mates. She had a sister who was my brother’s age. We
had a lot of mutual friends, but she was really my closest friend. I have kept in
touch with her. She went to Madison College in Indiana and married a guy we
went to high school with who was a couple of years ahead of us. Many years later
she divorced him. She has three children. She came to visit me here a few years
ago. She has remarried. We have had some nice, continuing contact.
Did she have a career?
She was a teacher, but not for very long in the beginning because she had three
children. She went back to teaching again, however, and just recently retired.
My close friends were an intellectual group. Again, because this was the late ’50s,
probably influenced by the Beat Generation, if you will. There was a lot of
interest in jazz music, reading Alan Ginsberg, posturing basically about how
intellectual people were supposed to be and things like that-more from the boys
than the girls. The girls were more just hangers on, laughing at the boys, but
having their own poets, authors and music they liked. And then I had a wider
circle of friends who I would say were the more traditionally popular kidscheerleaders or kids I socialized with more broadly but that I wasn’t as close to.
Was there a lot of peer pressure that you felt in high school?
Probably, but I don’t remember that it was something that particularly affected
me. People smoked; I didn’t, but other people did. Drugs weren’t a thing yet.
There was some sex, but not that much. It wasn’t a big issue for me and my
friends. For some kids, there was probably more of that going on than I was privy
to. But for the broad sort of middle group, if you will, that wasn’t much of an
issue. I was in a certain sense on the fringe of the really popular group. Because I
had been a cheerleader and a prom candidate and had run the Junior Spectacular, I
was in their camp to some extent, but I didn’t feel the pressure they might have
felt to do some of these things. I was in more than one camp when it came to
socializing but there was a lot fluidity among them. It wasn’t a real classstructured, or otherwise structured, school.
Were there class distinctions?
There were-again, probably more than I’m especially remembering, but I always
think of the distinctions as being more related to the academic classes we were in.
The school had some accelerated classes, so several of us knew each other well
from those classes.
Economically, were people about the same?
Economically-well, probably there was more disparity than I had a sense of
then, or now. Certainly among some people. But, again, because it was a fairly
well-to-do suburban community, economic differences weren’t as obvious as they
might have been elsewhere. There wasn’t a lot of conspicuous consumption; it
wasn’t as if some people had really fancy cars or dressed in a certain way. There
was a lot more uniformity in how people dressed then anyway, the girls and the
boys. Some people had cars their parents had given them, but most of us didn’t.
Most might be able to drive to school a couple of days, but not every day. So it
was definitely upper-middle class, but it wasn’t showy.
Were there any Blacks in your school?
Yes. Not a lot, because, again, this area was not as integrated geographically. At
each level of schooling we went up, there were more. But not a lot.
What about the political climate at the time?
Well, the political climate was a pretty conservative climate. Kennedy ran for
president the year before I graduated. I got involved in that campaign and did
some campaigning and went to a big rally where I saw him. I was shocked to see
a social studies teacher of mine there. I had thought all of the teachers were
conservatives. There was a sort of bond between him and me after that, as if we
both knew we had this secret. Probably he wasn’t so secretive with the other
teachers about it. But I sure wouldn’t have known and I don’t think any other
students would have known. In fact, my close friend Marcia and I were there
together. We both saw him and said, “Mr. Meek, can you believe it? He’s here.”
And the kids wore black armbands the day after Kennedy was elected.
They did?
Yes, and some of the reason for that was because he was Catholic and how could
we have a Catholic president? So that’s a little bit the atmosphere of my high
school. People couldn’t believe that he could have been elected.
So you said you campaigned for him, what did you do?
Well, there was a convention. In Indiana, he got nominated by conventionmaybe candidates still do-and for some reason I got to go to the convention and
hand out leaflets for him. I think that’s pretty much it. I don’t-really remember
doing any kind of door-to-door canvassing. There were a lot more buttons and
stuff then. I remember having buttons to hand out to people in school, but there
weren’t very many people who were very interested.
Did they have a Democratic club or Republican club?
I don’t think they did in high school. In this little coterie of ours that was into, as I
said, jazz and liberal causes, we certainly talked politics. But I don’t remember
that as being so much about partisan politics and candidates as about issues.
Were you able to be a member of the ACLU? Were you a member?
Maybe I could have been. My parents were. No, I don’t think there was any
student membership or anything like that. I did write an essay in high school that
I won a prize for in a city-wide contest that was sponsored by the American
Legion and I won a Daughters of the American Revolution “good citizen” award
in my senior year.
Oh wow!
I remember that my teacher-it might have been the same teacher who was at the
Kennedy rally, I don’t remember who it was-came to the award ceremony for
the essay award. The essay was on “The Freedoms of Americans,” and I wrote
about individual rights-religious liberty, freedom of speech, and racial and
gender equality. My parents were shocked that I won, that the American Legion
would give a prize to somebody who wrote about that. I think I was second; I
wasn’t the first-prize winner, but it was enough to go to the ceremony and get a
This was in Indianapolis.
Yes. It was a city-wide contest. The school posted flyers about it, but it was
voluntary with the students as to whether to enter. It was not judged by the
school, but by some people at the American Legion, I guess (laughter). I
remember that we had to go to the Indiana War Memorial, which was the national
headquarters of the American Legion, for the ceremony. My parents thought that
was the ultimate irony, because there had been an earlier controversy when the
American Legion tried to keep the ACLU from meeting at the War Memorial,
though it was generally otherwise available for public meetings.
What about civil rights-I imagine it was beginning to become an issue.
Yes, it was beginning to be, but it’s interesting, it wasn’t so much yet in the sense
of there being demonstrations. Brown v. Board of Education, of course, was
decided before I got to high school, but I remember in high school discussing
equality more than demonstrating for it, at least in Indiana, in the late ’50s. I
mean things were starting, obviously, to happen elsewhere and my family had
talked about civil rights at home a lot when I was growing up. In college, of
course, demonstrating was very common-but that was in the ’60s, not the late
Did you have any activist experiences other than the Kennedy campaign?
I guess, probably, the answer is no, as regards high school, but it’s a little
misleading because there weren’t real opportunities. Activism took much more
the form of writing things, discussing things or publicly speaking out. As I
described earlier, there was a controversy in Indianapolis then similar to the
controversy that happened in D.C. with Marian Anderson’s being denied the right
to sing at Constitution Hall by the DAR. The controversy there involved the
American Legion. The Legion let community groups use their building, the
Indiana War Memorial. But they wouldn’t let the ACLU use it. I remember my
parents being involved in that controversy. It was controversial enough to be the
subject of an Edward R. Murrow “See It Now” program. But I don’t remember if
there was a demonstration about it. People were writing letters to the editor,
holding meetings, speaking out, things like that.
Did you have any jobs in high school, during your teen years?
No. What did I do in the summers?
Any internships or did you go to school?
No. I think I was swimming.
Competitively swimming?
Yes. Well that’s not entirely true. That’s not entirely true. I was a lifeguard for a
while. But now I don’t remember-I think that was maybe my first year after
high school before college. I don’t remember exactly. People didn’t go to camp.
So it was mainly just hanging out with my friends, swimming. You know how
people talk now about how busy our kids’ lives are, how scheduled and
everything-beginning as very young children and then getting internships or
getting jobs. It is pretty amazing to remember we really didn’t do much at all in
the summers. And we lived in a farm state. We got out of school on Memorial
Day and we didn’t go back until after Labor Day, so it was a really long summer.
Who would you say your role models were in high school or your mentors? I
know you mentioned the social studies teacher.
Good question. I don’t know. There weren’t a lot of people. There were people
who were encouraging me academically. I don’t think there was a political
mentor or a broader mentor, or a person I looked up to as a role model beyond my
parents. This is one of the reasons my father was saying, “You have to leave
here-and meet other people-Indiana is not reflective of the way the world is.”
As I’ve said before, although I had lots of friends, I also had a sense that “my
family was different” and that it wasn’t easy to talk about some of the things we
talked about in a broader group, at least until I got to high school. I felt like I
didn’t fit in that way.
Did you feel somewhat guarded?
That’s probably overstating it, looking back. I think I was just pretty happy and
didn’t think about it that much. By senior year in high school, I had a coterie of
friends who did think like me-whether their parents did or not, and probably
some of their parents didn’t-but by then we weren’t hanging out with the parents.
And my friends were, I’d say, cynical about political things, in a jokey way. It
wasn’t particularly positive, it was much more, “how could that person be doing
that, or how could this be happening”-that was the undercurrent. That was how
they talked about things, rather than in a Kennedyesque “let’s go out and do things
ourselves to make things better.” He wasn’t in office until right before I went to
college. There wasn’t that feeling yet. It was still more of a 1950s isolationism.
Even my friends who were the most political were basically saying things are
terrible, McCarthy is terrible, Eisenhower doesn’t know what he’s doing on civil
rights-in Little Rock, etc. It wasn’t a focus on what should be done, but on what
was being done that wasn’t right.
Nancy Duff Campbell, Interview 2

December 21, 2006
Duffy, the last time we spoke, I think we were wrapping up your high school
years. As I was reading through my own notes and going through the transcripts,
I don’t know if I ever asked you an open-ended question about your parents-I
love talking about your parents. What do you think you took away most or
learned most from each of your parents when growing up?
I think two things. One was that they were very clear about their values. And I
use that term in the broadest sense of what their beliefs were, how they thought
one should comport oneself, basic right and wrong principles. But at the same
time, they were very clear that we needed to make our own decisions about those
things. Yes, they would like it if we agreed with them, but we had to go our own
way and they were trying to empower us to be able to do that and to be confident
that we could do that. And so, of course, as a result, there was not much to rebel
against, and I probably adopted almost all their values. But I also felt that, while
they said we were to go our own way, and make our own decisions, they let us
know they were there and that they would be supportive. That played itself out in
various ways. I mentioned before that my brother Duncan dropped out of college
and drove a taxi for a year. This was much less common then than it is now. My
parents were clear they wanted him to go back to college-but they accepted his
decision to take the time off. There wasn’t pressure on either me or my sister
Jamie to get married and have children. The kind of things that children often
have pressure from their parents to do. But, at the same time, there was an
expectation that we were to make the most of ourselves. We knew it was
important to get a good education and to apply ourselves.
Would you say you got anything specific from your mother and/or something
different maybe from your father, in addition to the overall life lessons that they
taught you?
Yes. But it’s hard to articulate. My mother was a homemaker but was obviously
very engaged in things. In fact, after I was older, she became much more engaged
in her various activities and she continued that until fairly late in life. When I was
in my last years of high school, she became a national vice president of the
League of Women Voters and through that became very involved in international
women’s issues, ultimately becoming the president of several different women
and development organizations at different times, after we were all out of the
house. This was all volunteer work and she ended her career as the vice president
of the African Development Foundation, a position to which she was appointed
by President Clinton when she was seventy-five. So my mother and I both
ultimately developed a parallel interest in, and were engaged in, women’s issues.
After I moved to Washington in 1974, our work paths crossed a lot, and that was
great, although most of her work then was on international women’s issues andmine has been on domestic women’s issues.
My mother was also a voracious reader. And she loved intellectual discussions. I
feel like I got these interests from her.
As I’ve described, my father only went to college for two years before he went to
medical school in a combined program, because of the Depression. He always
regretted that he didn’t get the broader college education in literature and other
aspects of college life, because he had to be so heavily focused on science. But I
think from him I got a very real sense of the benefits of hard, fulfilling work. He
worked long hours and he made time for us as well, but he loved his work. He
talked about it and joked about it and had personal relationships with the people
he worked with. I came to appreciate from him the idea that you could be
fulfilled in a job. It made me want to find something that I loved as much as he
loved his work, and to be able to have that satisfaction from that side of my lifethe way he did.
That’s a good lesson. One other thing. We talked about your good friend Marcia
in high school. What do you remember most about her or maybe cemented your
I think it was that we were kindred spirits in so many things, including silly little
things. She was a good student. There was that aspect of our friendship-that we
took a lot of the same courses or enjoyed a lot of the same kinds of intellectual
interests. We had similar senses of humor, found various things similarly funny.
She was artistic in the sense that she drew little cartoons of people in the class and
made up th~ngs about them. We sent them in notes to each other. We both loved
the same poets. The adolescent awakening that occurs in us all, and having
someone to share feelings about boys and, really, just about anything was, of
course, part of it, too. I think it was mainly that there was just a certain simpatico
that is hard to articulate.
We started talking a little bit about college. We talked about taking the trips to
look at colleges and what colleges you applied to. I think that’s kind of where we
may have left off the last time. I know you went to Barnard, which at the time
was an all-women’s college. Were there classes with males?
Yes. It’s still an all-women’s college. It is the undergraduate women’s college of
Columbia University. At that time, of course, there weren’t women at the
undergraduate, all-men’s Columbia College. But we could take any course we
wanted at Columbia. Barnard frowned on our taking some basic course unless we
had a conflict. So if we were taking French, we were expected to take it at
Barnard and not Columbia, unless at the time the Barnard French class met, we
wanted to take some other Barnard course. We had some men students, certainly,
in our upper-class courses. I took a couple of courses at Columbia. Because it’s
an urban campus, Barnard is right across the street from the rest of the University,
and we got a Columbia University degree, we were essentially in a coeducational
environment. Because most of our classes were predominately women and
Barnard had its own newspaper, theatre and extracurricular activities, we had the
choice of doing the Barnard activity or choosing a joint activity with Columbia.
And so, in a certain sense, it was the best of whichever world we wanted to make
of it. There was an opportunity for women to lead at Barnard because women
controlled everything that went on in the extracurricular activities, student
government and the faculty. Yet we had the benefit of a much larger university
from which we could draw not only on the academic side, but in extracurricular
activities as well. And, of course, as both schools like to say, our real laboratory
was New York City. The fact that both schools are located in a city that has
incredible opportunities just gives another dimension to the whole experience.
Were all the schools you applied to women’s colleges?
Northwestern was my safety school. I think we talked about that before. And I
applied to Radcliffe, which, of course, was similar to Barnard at that time-it was
a separate women’s college within a larger university with a separate men’s
college, Harvard. I looked at all the Seven Sisters colleges. But I found that
Wellesley, Smith, and Mount Holyoke, although they seemed to have fabulous
academic opportunities, were too isolated either from men’s schools or from some
urban environment. I was more interested in the schools that had some urban
environment as well as a connection to some men’s college nearby.
Why was it important to you to go to a women’s college or why did you prefer
It wasn’t about that. If you remember, at the time, women couldn’t go to
Princeton, Yale or Columbia or any of the Ivy League schools. These high-level
academic schools were closed to women. And so the question was, well, what are
the high-level academic schools that are open to women? And the Seven Sisters
were considered the equivalent of the Ivy League for women. I was trying to find
the one that was the most coed.
Did you find it was right for you?
Yes, I did. I liked it a lot. I loved being in New York and I liked the people that I
met there. I liked my courses. There were probably a lot of places that I could
have been happy, which is what we always tell our kids when they’re looking at
schools. “There are a lot of places you can be happy and don’t get too focused on
one.” But it was as my parents said. My parents said, “Think about getting out of
the community in which we live because there are more liberal, broadening
experiences and people who believe differently than the people around here.” And
that was probably what I got from it the most. It was challenging and certainly
harder than my high school. I went to a college preparatory high school, but I still
found college harder than a lot of Barnard students who went to better high
schools than I did. But I really loved meeting people who were very like-minded
in values and politics and a lot of other ways. That was the part I liked best about
Were there women professors?
Oh, yes. In fact, probably the professor who influenced me the most there was a
woman who was the head of the Government Department, Phoebe Morrison. I
majored in Government. She had been a judge, a municipal judge in New Haven,
I think. She was very influential-I decided that I wanted to be a lawyer when I
was twelve years old, but that doesn’t mean very much when you’re twelve years
old. But when you get to college and someone tells you that you can do it, that’s
different. At a time when women weren’t going to law school very much, that
was pretty important. She was very encouraging in that regard. The faculty was
predominantly women, but I had a lot of men teachers, too. And, of course, the
president of the College was a woman.
You’re talking about the advantages-were there any disadvantages that you
encountered at the women’s college?
Not so much, in part because there was so much of a coed atmosphere, and I
wanted that. My stepdaughter Karen went to Barnard also. She transferred there
from Connecticut College. It was interesting because, when she initially looked
as schools, she wasn’t interested in Barnard. She went to Connecticut College
because she wanted to go to a small school, like her high school here in
Washington. But some of the things she took for granted about life, growing up
in a city, don’t necessarily exist in a rural environment. She found that
Connecticut College was too much like her high school environment, but without
the benefits of a larger city around it. Barnard was one of the places she thought
would provide that combination. When she went to Barnard, though, because
Columbia had women by then, Barnard in some ways had more of an atmosphere
of a women’s college than when I was there because Columbia didn’t have
women when I was there. In other ways, it seemed more coed.
That’s interesting.
It was a big fight-not a fight, fight is too strong a term. But when a number of
the Ivy League colleges opened their doors to women in the ’70s, there was a big
debate at Barnard about whether it should merge with Columbia. A lot of people
who went to Barnard felt very strongly that it shouldn’t, that it would lose its
identity, that it was important to keep the identity of a woman’s college. I had
more of a mixed feeling because I didn’t go there for that reason particularly, and
while I felt it was affirming and that there were clearly many leadership
opportunities, I also felt, and I still do, that you have to function in the world, and
there are men there. So, I was worried that if Barnard didn’t merge with
Columbia, it would start slipping behind. Which I think hasn’t happened, by the
way. It was a conscious decision not to merge, but I’m still not sure it was the
right decision.
How many women were there when you were there?
I think about 1,500, but I don’t trust my recollection so much.
Is it still about the same?
I think so. Columbia College is the smallest of the Ivy League schools, and it has
around 4,000. Barnard has about 2,000.
Did you take some of the classes at Columbia?
Yes, I did. Mainly upper-level classes in Government. Yes, in my major; I took
at least two there.
Did you notice any difference in teaching?
No, just that there were more men in the classes. In more recent years we at the
National Women’s Law Center have been involved in the debates around singlesex education and the rationale for it today and whether there is an affirmative
action rationale or a diversity rationale or other kinds of rationales. We have been
engaged in discussions with a lot of the remaining women’s colleges about what
the rationales are–obviously they are private entities by and large. And one of
the questions is that if the classes are mostly coeducational, what is the rationale?
I learned in these discussions that most of the classes at Barnard are now
coeducational. So, to the extent that it really had an identity in the classroom as a
women’s college at one time, it may no longer have that. And that was several
years ago at least. I don’t know today if that’s true, but I found it interesting when
I first started looking at this how much the classes had become gender-integrated.
And, of course, there are some Columbia women in Barnard classes, too.
Do you think they structure the course offerings in such a way that they don’t
duplicate too many courses?
I don’t know; I doubt that, but I don’t know. It’s a good question.
Did you have any scholarships or loans or jobs?
No. And I was very lucky in that regard. It was cheaper to go to school then than
it is today certainly. But because my parents had the money to send me, I don’t
know if I would even have qualified for scholarships. But not only did I not
work, I didn’t have to work. I did work during my summers. But it was more for
enjoyment, to do something productive, than it was because I needed money for
What did you do in summers?
I was a lifeguard one summer. I worked for the Indiana Civil Liberties Union one
summer. They had a very small office in Indiana (laughter). They had a onewoman office. I don’t even think she was called the Executive Director; I think
she was called the Executive Secretary. She ran the office. It was basically
otherwise staffed by volunteer lawyers. But she took the summer off, so they
hired me to run the office. I didn’t have much responsibility, but they wanted
somebody there to answer the phone, to refer callers to their lawyer referral
committee to handle the cases that came in, things like that. And it was
interesting except it was sort of solitary because there was nobody else there.
And did you live at home?
Yes. Most of what I remember were the people who came in and said the aliens
have implanted something in my brain and you’ve got to do something about it.
We used to get those letters when I worked on the Hill.
Right, right. And then I worked in my father’s Radiology Department at Indiana
University one summer, helping out, helping his secretary and other secretaries.
Again, it was filling in when secretaries took vacations, typing and answering the
What other things did you do during the summers to fill up your time when you
were away from college?
Well, of course, I saw my friends, and I swam-I was a swimmer. Mainly it was
just working and seeing friends. From the beginning of my sophomore year until
my senior year, I had a boyfriend who went to Yale but was from Indiana. So I
spent time with him.
Was he from Indianapolis?
Yes. He was somebody I knew slightly as a child, but we never went to school
together or had much contact when we were young. Our parents knew each other
and then we got reacquainted the summer after my freshman year-at home, in
Indianapolis. We stayed together until we were seniors.
That’s a long-term relationship.
It was my first really serious relationship.
Where did you live when you were in college?
I lived in the dorm. Barnard had a rule, which made it a very different kind of
college atmosphere than other places, that if you lived within two hours
commuting distance of the school, you had to commute. You couldn’t live on
campus. You could get an apartment in the city or you could live at home,
wherever your home was, if you lived within two hours. There was very little
housing on campus. So, of course, I didn’t live anywhere near two hours
commuting distance. I lived in the dorm. This was a time before the College let
students live off campus generally. By the time I was a senior, students who
didn’t have to commute were allowed to live off campus. But otherwise, if you
lived within two hours you couldn’t live on campus, and everybody else had to.
Did you have roommates?
Oh, yes. My freshman year I was in a suite so I had an immediate roommate and
I had two other roommates, with a common room between us. There was a
woman who lived across the hall from me my freshman year who almost
immediately became my closest friend in college, and we’re still very close, Carol
Cardozo. We email each other regularly, talk on the phone and see each other
when we can. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She’s my closest friend
from college.
This is the same group or did you change each year?
No, we changed each year and Carol and I then paired up our last three years.
After freshman year, we could get single rooms. There was a lottery. Each
student picked a number from a hat, in effect, and when they reached your
number, you could pick your room and a room for another student, somebody you
wanted to have a room next to you. So Carol and I paired up with people who
were going to be seniors because they had the first pick of the numbers. Each of
them picked a room, and picked one of us to be next to her. Then we picked each
other. So we were able to do that during the rest of our three years and get single
rooms next to each other for all three years.
That’s nice. I don’t understand how you paired with the seniors.
Well, the seniors picked their numbers first. So that meant that all the seniors got
the first choice of rooms. Everybody could choose her own room and then choose
for somebody else who had a lower number.
Oh so a senior would pick … Did somebody pick for you?
Yes, a senior would pick maybe her friend who was another senior, and then that
senior would pick one of us. And we then would pick the other one of us. We
actually did it with three or four friends. There were only three dormitories and
they were all connected to each other. So nobody was that far apart. Remember
we’re talking about a college that is basically one city block.
It is not in a great part of the city, right?
It’s in Morningside Heights. Upper West Side. Just south of Harlem.
Were you or your parents concerned about living in the city and the safety?
No, not really. Barnard was very good at orienting people about city life and city
living and the realities about being careful. I think I told the story before that my
father’s advice to me when I left for college was to be careful crossing the streets.
My parents were pretty broad-minded otherwise. My father said to watch out for
traffic but generally their approach was “we have confidence in you, we know
you’re going to be careful.” They didn’t ask, “What’s the neighborhood like?”
They were very sensitive to civil rights issues. There was never any suggestion
that this was a bad neighborhood. This was New York, so the College had bars
on the lower windows; there were guards; there was a check-in system and a
guard at the dormitory door. But nothing like it is now. I haven’t been back there
recently, but when my stepdaughter Karen went to Barnard no one could even
walk into the building without being checked in and it was heavily guarded
because the school had had incidents in which people had broken in. It had much
more of a security system as, of course, is true everywhere in the country now, not
just in colleges. We all had to show identification when we walked in. They
wouldn’t let us walk in as parents without calling Karen first. There wasn’t any
of that when I was there.
New York’s a lot different from where you grew up. What was your first reaction
to it?
I was a kid in a candy store basically. It was such an incredibly vibrant place. Of
course, I’d go home and people would ask, “Did you go to the ballet? To the
theatre?” No, we didn’t really do any of those things, but we walked the streets
and found the little restaurants. We went to clubs to hear music. To add to all
that, it was exciting just to be in college-to be with your peers and no adults.
Every kid loves that. So it was just fabulous. It was the end of the jazz/beat
generation time. The beginning of rock-‘n-roll, so there was a lot of very
interesting music. And it was the beginning of the civil rights movement and a lot
of political activity. So there were speeches on the campus and off, and we could
go everywhere and hear all kinds of things. I never had been in a place where
they have movie theatres where they played old movies. I never had seen a
Humphrey Bogart movie before I went to college. There was ethnic food I had
never tasted-I had had Chinese food in Indiana, but I thought it was horrible.
Then I learned it was because it was horrible, not like the wonderful Chinese food
in New York. There was a lot of stimulation.
It must have been very exciting.
It was the ’60s, so there wasn’t just the political activity, but the sexual revolution
was going on, too.
Well generational conflicts were pretty significant then. Were your parents
concerned about you getting involved in activities, whether civi_l rights or other
My parents thought that was great. Of course, when I went to college we didn’t
know how active a time it was going to be. I started in 1961, and it was before
what we think of as “the ’60s” really started. But my parents were very
supportive of civil rights, as I’ve described. When I was a senior I went to Selma.
It was in March of 1965, just after Martin Luther King had gone there. The first
march had just occurred, when people were hosed and beaten on the Edmund
Pettus Bridge.
That had happened before you went?
In fact, I was taking a course at Columbia, and there was a guy in the course that I
knew, Steve. I had met him my freshman year because he was from St. Louis.
On Christmas vacation my freshman year it snowed and I couldn’t fly back to
school, so I had to take the train at the last minute. He was on the train because
he had the same problem coming from St. Louis. I met him on the train and we
went out a couple of times after that my freshman year.
After class, he said to me, “Did you see what happened yesterday in Selma?” I
said “yes,” and then he said, “I think I’m going to go down there tomorrow; do
you want to go with me?” And I said, “Sure.” Then I said, “You’re serious?” He
said, “Yes, and I think I’m going to go after class today.” I said, “What should I
bring?” He said, “Just go get your toothbrush.” And that’s essentially all I did. I
said, “Where are we staying?” and he said that we’d figure that out when we got
Did he have a car?
No. We went on a plane. We flew there. I can’t believe I did this. I didn’t tell
anyone. I got in trouble for it when we got back.
The rule in the dorms was that we were expected to be back at a certain timethere were curfews. They were pretty generous curfews, even during the week, I
guess because this was New York City. We could have only so many overnights
per month unless our parents signed a form that said we could have whatever
number we wanted. My parents signed that, of course. They thought I should
make my own decisions about this. When we signed out for an overnight, we had
to sign out to some place, though. I thought, can I sign out and say Selma,
Alabama, and they’ll let me walk out of here? Especially since it had been in the
news, I thought, no, I can’t do that. So I signed out to a friend’s apartment, a
woman who had graduated from Barnard a couple of years before, who lived a
few blocks away. I called her and told her I’m going to Selma, but I said I’m
going to her apartment. Under the rules, I could go wherever I wanted, so I had
the right to say that I was going to Selma, but I was afraid they wouldn’t let me do
Steve and I flew to Selma, and, sure enough, all we had to do was go into the
church that was the organizing base and they found a place for us to stay. We
stayed with an incredibly wonderful woman. We were there for a few days. We
got involved in meetings and in recruiting people for the second march. At the
end of the week, we decided we needed to go back to New York, because we had
missed several classes. We weren’t going to be able to stay as long as the second
march. For one thing, Dr. King hadn’t been able to get a permit yet for the second
march. He was in Montgomery, and we kept getting reports from Montgomery
on whether he was going to be able to get the permit for the second march. We
decided that we couldn’t stay long enough to find out. Someone drove us to
Montgomery to get the plane. We had to fly from Montgomery to Atlanta and
then Atlanta to New York. When we were on the Montgomery-to-Atlanta leg, it
was a very small plane. We got on the plane and as we were sitting there, Martin
Luther King got on the plane.
He walked past us to go to the back of the plane. Everybody started looking
around. Steve was much more gutsy than I was. He jumped up as soon as Dr.
King got on the plane. He said, “Dr. King, we were just in Selma and we just
wanted to tell you how much we admire what you’re doing and how much spirit
there is there.” Dr. King said, “Once the plane takes off, come back and talk to
me.” It was one of these little planes that was configured, in the back, like a bus
almost. Instead of having individual seats, it had a curved banquette seating area.
Of course, we jumped up as soon as we could after take-off. It was a half-hour
flight. We went back there to talk to him. We had the newspapers from Selma,
because we had taken those with us. And we spent the whole half hour of the
flight talking to him about what was going on. I have a Selma newspaper that he
signed for me.
Yeah, it was very exciting. I can’t remember what started me on this story. Oh …
my parents. When I got to Selma, I called my parents because I wanted them to
know I was there and not to worry about me. I didn’t know if they might try to
call the school and find I wasn’t there.
So, I called them and the first thing my father said was, “Oh, that’s so exciting,
have you seen Mario Savio?” He was the Berkeley student who was a wellknown free speech activist at the time. My father said, “I hear he’s coming
down,” and that’s all he wanted to know. The notion that maybe I would get
clubbed or that I was in someplace dangerous wasn’t an issue they raised with me.
The other part of the story is that when I came back, Steve and I went to talk to .
the Barnard and Columbia school newspapers and told them what we had done.·
They invited us to speak at a public forum. We had two kinds of student judicial
entities at Barnard, really three. There was a dorm council. It made and enforced
rules for the students in the dorms and handled other domi-related matters. I had
technically violated a dorm rule because I had signed out to a place that I wasn’t
going, even though I had the right to sign out to go anywhere. We also had an
Honor Board that was responsible for addressing honor system infractions on the
academic side. And then there was an entity that was started when I was there,
and that I had been elected the first chair of when I was a junior, the Judicial
Council. It handled non-academic rule infringements that weren’t dorm-related
in the first instance and heard appeals from the dorm council in the second
So here I was, I had just ended my term as the head of the Judicial Council and
I’d violated a dorm rule. I decided that I needed to tum myself in for this
violation and explain the situation and throw myself on their mercy. I made an
appointment to see the President of the College first and told her what I had done.
I told her I was going to report myself to the dorm council. She said it was the
right thing to do. “I understand why you did it, but it is right to report yourself.”
So I reported myself, thinking that this is so high-minded. I was technically
within the rules because my parents authorized me to do it, to sign out to
anywhere, but I’m still reporting myself. The person who was the head of the
dorm council was a very close friend of mine and she felt, as she later articulated
it to me, that she couldn’t be lenient with me. It wasn’t just her decision in any
event, but the council’s as a whole. And the council decided I needed to be
disciplined for this infraction. So for the remainder of my senior year-this was
in March-I was put on “freshman privileges.” I had to come in at 10:30 every
night. I could only be out two weekend nights a month past midnight or
something like that. It was ridiculous for the end of my senior year. I felt that it
was an injustice as well. After law school I worked at the Center on Social
Welfare Policy and Law, which was the Legal Services support center for public
benefits law. It was housed at Columbia Law School. I picked up a copy of the
Barnard newspaper one day, as I was essentially on the same campus, and saw
that the school was getting rid of the parietal rules entirely, so that there wouldn’t
be any curfews or similar rules. Buried in the middle of the story, the gist of
which was that this was a really good thing to do, was a description of an incident
several years before in which a woman had gone to Selma and been penalized for
violating these rules. And how terrible that was.
(Laughter.) You became famous. A “Trailblazer”!
So that happened during your senior year? Did they have a hearing?
Yes. The dorm council decided first. I appealed it to the Judicial Council, which
by this time had a new chair and I was no longer a member. It affirmed the dorm
council’s decision.
Yeah. Absolutely. Well, those were years of a lot of turmoil or at least coming up
to a lot more turmoil too. But those are life lessons. Were you at all homesick
when you went to college? Did you ever go through that experience?
Not particularly. I felt very close to my parents and I communicated with them
pretty regularly. I wrote to them and they wrote to me. Unlike many people who
were there-most of whom were from the East Coast and even right from New
York City-I didn’t see my parents that much. They did travel some and came to
New York, so I saw them then. But I didn’t go home for Thanksgiving. I only
went home for Christmas. I usually didn’t go home for Spring Break either. So I
didn’t see them for pretty long periods of time. My brother went to Columbia and
he’s two years behind me. So when he got there, of course, we saw each other.
There was that added dimension to it. So I’m sure I was homesick some, but I
don’t remember it as a big issue.
Did you spend weekends with some of your friends’ families, friends whose
families lived closer?
No, not usually. Unlike a lot of women’s colleges where everyone exited on the
weekends, that wasn’t true for Barnard. We were in New York and there was a lot
to do there. And, we had Columbia men right there. The times I remember going
to people’s houses were times like Thanksgiving or some other holiday, some of
the Jewish holidays, when people invited people home. So I did that some. From
my sophomore year on, I had a boyfriend at Yale. So, I went there a lot.
Otherwise, I stayed in New York and other people did, too, because it was fun to
be in the city.
After your Selma experience, did you do any other, get involved in any other
I had been involved in civil rights activities before that, but just in New York.
This was a little before the anti-war protests really got going. Those were later.
By the time of Selma they were starting to happen. I graduated in 1965 and that
was when they really started. The U.S. began bombing North Vietnam in
February of 1965 and there was an April march on Washington. The summer of
1965 was when the anti-war activity really began to pick up. A lot of what I did
in the civil rights movement was related to what the campus groups were doingin conjunction with them. There wasn’t a lot of going off on my own to do
things-and that wasn’t common then in any event.
Were there any organized trips down to the marches?
Not so much because there weren’t many big marches yet. In 1963, of course,
there was the big civil rights march in Washington. One of the biggest marches
periodJ. here in Washington. I was in Indiana because it was in the summer. I
remember watching it on television and really wishing I were there. It was
wonderful, exciting and inspiring. It was, of course, before I became “good
friends” with Martin Luther King.
That is an amazing story. I don’t know very many people who actually met
Martin Luther King.
It is pretty exciting. In fact, my son Noah had an assignment once in high school,
or maybe elementary school, in which he had to interview his parents about
something. So he interviewed me about that, and after he wrote it up the teacher
asked me to come and speak to the class about it.
Well that’s good. He didn’t live long enough to have met as many people as he
might have.
My recollection is that most of what I was engaged in was through campus
groups. And, as I said, it was a little before the anti-war effort. There wasn’t that
much going on in Indianapolis that I could get engaged in during the summers.
Obviously, there was my work for the Indiana Civil Liberties Union and so I was
engaged in that way. But most of my activities were campus-related. I don’t
really remember how many, if any, marches I went to in Washington in college. I
remember going in law school and afterwards.
I remember it in 1968.
Yes. That’s the year I graduated from law school.
That was my first year in college. I remember that.
The anti-war march on the Pentagon was in the fall of 1967, and the Tet Offensive
in early 1968 set off another round of protests that year.
In Boston it was on the Commons and around the country.
By then they were having parallel events in different cities.
They were very organized. You talked a little bit about your close friend in
college. Tell me a little bit about her and any other friendships.
Well she’s a very interesting person. Her father was Portuguese-from the
Azores actually. Her mother was African-American. Her mother died the year
that she came to college. She came to college basically right after the death of her
mother. Her father was an attorney and they lived in Cambridge, MA. He
represented a lot of immigrants and he had gone to Tufts-the Fletcher School. I
can’t remember whether he got both his undergraduate and law degrees from
Tufts. My friend, Carol, had an older sister who was at Sarah Lawrence, but had
come home when her mother was ill to help care for her mother. When her
mother died, the sister decided to stay with her father in Cambridge and finished
school at Boston University.
Carol’s and my affinity grew out of-well, we lived across the hall from each
other freshman year and we had roommates whom we liked and who were fine,
but they weren’t really into politics the way we were. That’s how we became
close friends. We were very interested in protesting and the civil rights
movement, and all the things that were going on in the ’60s-politically and
Ms Studley:
culturally. She was a Government major as well and we took a lot of classes
together. When we graduated, I went right to law school and she went to graduate
school in English History at Columbia. She was a very good student and a writer.
She won the Elizabeth Janeway Prize at Barnard for excellence in short story
writing. As a result, she got a call from a literary agent who was interested in
representing her, but she refused. She really didn’t want to pursue it, which I
thought was a mistake. She was-and is-a really good writer. She started
graduate school but didn’t think she could continue, economically. She didn’t
want to take money from her father, so she dropped out of graduate school and
worked for a while and later went back to school in library science. She was very
bookish also, so we liked each other for that reason as well as the political one.
She never married. She adopted a child who was seven years old at the time and
that child now has three children and is married. My friend is now retired. She
eventually worked for a series of nonprofit groups doing research. Her last fulltime employer was the Center for Women in Politics & Public Policy at the
University of Massachusetts, so we had some work-related contact, too, then.
When the University was going through budget problems a few years ago, it
offered a big buyout for a lot of people close to retirement age. She took the
buyout. She’s been doing some part-time work, but she’s basically retired now.
She didn’t want to take money from her father because she was at odds with him
in some way or just very independent?
She was independent, but also thought that he had already put her though a
wonderful college. And that her sister had left Sarah Lawrence, in effect, so she
could continue at Barnard. Actually, I’m quite close to her sister, too-and they’re
quite close. Her father’s deceased now. I think it was that she felt she’d received
her share.
I guess I asked the question because I wasn’t sure if it was more that 11 1 didn’t want
my parents telling me what to do. 11
No, right. Her father was very proud of her and that wasn’t it.
So you both majored in Government?
Why did you select Government? Did anybody give you advice when you were
starting out that if you want to be a lawyer, Government is a good background?
No, no, not at all. In fact, I think it was pretty much the opposite. First of all, I
don’t think I talked to anybody about it. It is so interesting because now you can’t
start high school without people telling you what to do to get into college. Or
your parents have all these ideas about it. But it was so much more fluid then.
The message at Barnard was: “whatever you do in life you’re going to use your
Barnard education. 11 The President of Barnard was pretty insistent that women
should make something of their lives-not insisting that they work necessarily,
but that they make something of their lives. So that often got translated as going
to graduate school or having a career of some kind, even though this was really
before the second wave of the women’s movement began in the late ’60s. At the
same time, the importance of a liberal education was stressed. It wasn’t, “Oh, you
should do this if you want to do this” except, of course, if you were pre-med. So
the guidance, to the extent there was any, was to pick a major because you liked
it. The woman who was my mentor and was encouraging about my going to law
school, as I said earlier, was the chair of the Government Department. So my
general interest in government and politics fit perfectly with that. It also· meant I’d
be able to take more of my courses from her.
Did you have a minor, did they have the major, minor kind of structure?
I don’t really remember if they did. I didn’t, if they did. There were, of course, a
lot more required courses than there are now. We had to take two sciences or a
science and a math, and that was hard enough for me to contend with.
What science did you take?
I took Zoology. I took a math course as my second one because I just couldn’t
stand to take another science. There was also a strong language requirement. I
had taken four years of Latin in high school and two years of French. The high
school Latin satisfied part of the requirement. But I had to have two years of
proficiency at the college level-the equivalent of two years proficiency-in a
second language. I took French. It was before AP tests so you couldn’t test out
of anything. So I had to take French. I didn’t particularly like doing that either. I
felt that I was crowded in with the courses I had to take. And I wanted to take as
much Government, Sociology and Economics, things that were related to that, as I
You mentioned a Council that you were a part of?
Tell me about that.
Well that was-as I said-established to police infractions that were not academic
Social infractions?
Yes, yes, like what I did in going to Selma. There was an honor system. So if an
infraction was academic-related, if somebody violated the honor code, that went
to the Honor Board, as it was called. I served on that earlier in college. And there
was something called the Board of Senior Proctors that I was selected for at the
end of my junior year, which was based on service to the college community.
The people selected for that actually proctored exams. Exams were all on the
honor system so there were no teachers in the room but there had to be someone
in a close-by room in case there was a problem that needed attention. Not to walk
down the aisles or anything like that, but if somebody got sick or something like
that. So, if there were honor code violations, those went to the Honor Board. But
if there were other kinds of violations-for some kind of social rule or other kind
of college rule that wasn’t academic, it came to the Judicial Council. You asked
me what kinds of infractions we had to deal with. I really don’t remember that
much, beyond those related to the dorm, which we handled on appeal from the
dorm council. There were also some related to the use of off-campus housing,
which Barnard was just beginning to provide in apartment buildings close to
How did you get chosen to do that?
I was elected by the students-a school-wide election-at the end of my junior
year to serve most of my senior year. I was the first person to hold the position.
The Council was established while I was there.
As I recall, it was established because something happened that didn’t fit within
the system, and they didn’t know how to deal with it.
There may have been a student demand to create it or maybe the newspaper
demanded it.
Were you involved with the newspaper?
No, not really, no.
Any other activities?
It was pretty heavy-duty working for the newspaper and it required a big
Columbia Journalism School is well known.
I think the Barnard paper was a weekly. Columbia had a daily newspaper. And
we could work on that, too, or instead.
I would imagine people who worked on that were interested in journalism as a
Yes, I think so. My son Noah went to a school that had a daily newspaper and he
worked on that. In the end, when he was an editor, he actually got paid. It was a
paying job because the newspaper was independent-it was established
independent of the·university so there couldn’t be any censorship or anything like
that. As a result they had revenues-advertising revenues and the like. The paper
actually paid him. But it was a big obligation because they had to put it out every
Were there other activities at school? Theater? Sports?
Well, of course, sports didn’t exist for women to speak of. Physical education was
It was?
I don’t remember whether it was required all four years. But it was certainly
required for two years.
Did you swim?
No, there wasn’t-well, yes-but it wasn’t competitive and I was used to
swimming competitively. So I took swimming to help fulfill my PE requirement,
but it was more of a pain than anything else because it was just a forty-minute
class and we had to change, swim, and shower all within that time period. But I
played volleyball and I got what was the equivalent of a letter then. I have a little
“B.” But it was just from intra-scholastic competition. One of the biggest regrets
I have is that when I went to college there were no real intercollegiate sports.
There may have been at some other schools but there certainly weren’t at any of
the Seven Sisters. I would have loved to have been a swimmer. I might have
started to run track, I don’t know, but I would have done something like that.
I was in the Democratic Club but I wasn’t that active. I was on the Student
Council. I was elected to the Student Council in my earlier years and then when I
was the President of the Judicial Council I believe I had an ex-officio role in the
Student Council. So student government was probably the prime activity, and
that tied into my civil rights activities as well.
What other courses did you take, literature courses and other electives?
One of the courses that I liked the most was Art History. Because I didn’t have
any real expo~ure in Indiana to art. And, of course, the class itself was wonderful
because we would see the slides in class and then we could go and see the
originals of many of the same artworks in New York City. I remember writing a
paper on Seurat and going to the Metropolitan Museum to see the actual picture I
was going to write about. That was just totally new for me. To have a sense of
who these great artists are, and to be able to see their work. But I liked the
courses that were related to Government, too. I loved Economics. There was a
wonderful person who taught it. It is like everything else. The best courses were
because of the teachers. It didn’t matter what the course was. I took a Religion
course because the teacher was great. I wasn’t particularly interested in religion
as an academic matter, but the course was great. As were some of the Sociology
courses. I enjoyed most of the ones that were related to my major or politics in
some way.
Was the Cuban missile crisis happening while you were in school?
Yes, oh, yes; in fact I wrote a poem about it. I wrote it with my friend Carol.
That was in my first year. I have vivid memories of all of us watching-going
into the central lounge area because nobody had TVs in their rooms then, but
there was a common lounge and there was a TV in there-the whole dorm
gathering there to watch the President’s speech. We were all worried we were
going to get blown up the next day. My friend Carol and I wrote a poem taking
off on T. S. Eliot, which started “April is the cruelest month,” about our fear of
nuclear extinction. It was published in the school paper.
Was that a collective effort or did you write the poem?
No, we did it together-we knew the poem and its opening lines, and it fit
because it was the right time. We sat down with the lines of the poem and stuck
in something to make it nuclear holocaust instead of whatever the poem is
about-which I don’t remember now myself, I have to say. I have such a vivid
memory of it our way.
I read it a long time ago. I don’t remember either. So that was a provocative time.
It’s funny because I very vaguely remember that it wasn’t such a big deal in my
lower-school years, maybe because I didn’t live in a large city-and I lived
inland. People of my generation talk about hiding under their desks in grade
school. It was training for when the bomb comes. And I only very vaguely
remember thatbut I don’t have it as a big memory. But the Cuban Missile
Crisis-of course, I was older, but still it seemed much more likely then that
something might happen.
It was because it was. The others were drills. Like you did fire drills.
Right. But why was hiding under the desk a good idea?
You just duck and cover, remember?
That’s what my husband and I decided we were going to do for Y2K-duck and
What else could you do, right?
Kind of a silly thing. After you came back from Selma and you met Martin
Luther King, did you get interviewed by the student newspaper?
Yes, both the Barnard and Columbia papers covered the public forum that was
convened at Columbia to hear Steve and me talk about our Selma experience.
Did you stay friends with Steve? This was a strong bonding experience.
Yes, I did. And in fact, we actually were more friendly our senior year than we
had been before because we had had this gap in seeing each other between
freshman and senior year. He went into the Peace Corps after college. But I had
some contact with him when I was in law school before he left for his assignment.
Do you think there was a greater sense then of public service because of the time
and the turmoil?
Well, I’d say it was a combination. I think Kennedy probably was a prime mover
for that, too. But, it’s kind of interesting because I’m a little before the Clinton
generation of people who say, “Kennedy inspired me.” Because I was engaged in
political activities before Kennedy. In fact, as far as I was concerned, he was
pretty conservative. Certainly in civil rights, it took him a long time to decide he
was going to say anything or do anything. I didn’t like the way the Cuban missile
crisis happened. I thought it was wrong what he wanted to do, and that the Bag of
Pigs was wrong. I was not particularly enamored of him. I was upset when he
died because it was a shocking, horrible thing. I probably liked him better in
hindsight, like a lot of other people, but he wasn’t what got me engaged in
political activities. What got me engaged was to challenge things that were
wrong. It was definitely wrong to have prejudice against Blacks and segregate
people and not give people equal rights. And, I had come from a background of
my family’s talking about civil rights and civil liberties, including against the
backdrop of the McCarthy era. To me, it was much more, “I want to get engaged
and make the world better;” That wasn’t public service in the government sense.
It was in the protest, activist sense. It was to be a lawyer and use the private
system to make change. So to me, and to some ofmy classmates and my
colleagues who were engaged the way I was, that was the motivator. But there
were other people who were inspired by Kennedy, and by the times, to be
involved in government per se. I was a Government major but I wasn’t
particularly interested in working in government. I was more interested in
understanding the process and how to use it.
To be a Government major then, it would seem to me it must have been a pretty
exciting time. You had a lot of things to talk about. Obviously, the Missile
Crisis, the Bay of Pigs. Were those topics that engendered a lot of discussion in
I don’t really remember the extent to which they were discussed in class. Of
course, that was my freshman year, and so I was probably in some introductory
course then. I don’t remember that many specifics about the way in which the
real world was integrated into my Government courses. By the time I was in the
upper-level courses, the professor who was my mentor taught a Constitutional
Law class. It was an undergraduate class, but it was in constitutional law. She
was a lawyer and had been a judge. She used to say, “When you’re the president
of the ‘I Will Arise and Shine’ Club …. ” That was her way of introducing “how
would you change the world?”
Did she call it the …
The ‘I Will Arise and Shine’ Club or she’d make up something …
‘I Will Arise and Shine’?
Yeah, right. She’d make up some funny name that was totally a fictitious thing,
to help us think about constitutional theory or governmental theory in a· particular
way. It wasn’t “when you’re running the State Department.” She didn’t say it
that way, which is kind of interesting in and of itself. Whether it was purposely
made into something that anybody could relate to, or whether, it was her way of
saying that’s what these women are going to go out and do, I don’t know.
Did most of your classmates in the Government major aspire to work in
I don’t really know. Again, because of the diffuseness of the student body-twothirds of the women were not living in the dorm-there were many people in my
classes that I didn’t really know or have much contact with outside of class. So
we didn’t have those kinds of conversations. If you’re commuting two hours each
way, you’re not hanging around the school drinking coffee and talking. So I
knew more of the people who were in the dorms or who were my close friends.
I’d say many of them had no idea what they wanted to do. They were no different
from most college kids. Some of them wanted to get married and weren’t sure
how much they were going to work. Most of them did ultimately work. There
was discussion about whether people were going to go to graduate school, things
like that, but there weren’t, with a few exceptions, a lot of people who had a clear
sense of what they really wanted to do ultimately. I’d say the ones who were premed probably had the most sense of it, because they were, of course, having to do
things right then to get themselves ready.
What was your social life like during college? You mentioned you were dating a
young man from Yale. The whole time, pretty much?
Not my first year. In my first year I was just kind of …
Were there mixers and things like that?
Oh, yeah, there were mixers or I met people because other people introduced me
to people. They were mainly Columbia students, though I had a friend at
Princeton, too. The week before I went to college, a woman I had gone to high
school with, who wasn’t a close friend of mine but lived pretty close to me,
invited me to her house for a party. She said, “There’s somebody who has just
moved into my neighborhood who’s going to Princeton. I think you would really
like him. I’m going to ask him if he would come get you.” It was basically a
blind date. I wasn’t close to this woman. I couldn’t imagine I was going to like
this person. Of course, as it turned out, I liked him a lot and he didn’t know why
he agreed to go to the party either. He didn’t know anyone in Indiana. He had
just moved there from Iowa, so that was part of what she was trying to do-to
introduce him to people. Then what she intended happened-I continued to see
him. I went to Princeton a couple of times to see him, or he came to New York
with his friends and we all went out together. It wasn’t anything serious.
Occasionally, he’d just call up to say he was coming to town and if I were free
we’d get together. Not when I was going out with the guy from Yale, but in my
freshman year and my senior year. We both went directly to law school after
college, I to NYU and he to Yale. Then he became a lawyer at Covington and
Burling in Washington and was the General Counsel of the Navy in the Carter
Administration. My husband, Mike Trister, knew him because they went to both
Princeton and Yale Law School together. I saw him a little my first year in law
school, but after that he got engaged and I had a boyfriend at NYU.
To call my Princeton friend a boyfriend would be overstating it, but we were
always close. We had a bond from having been thrown together. And he was a
very funny, nice, wonderful guy. Actually, while he was at Covington, the
National Women’s Law Center was litigating WEAL v. Weinberger, which grew
out of a case filed by civil rights groups against the Department of Health,
Education and Welfare for failing to process race discrimination complaints. The ·
National Women’s Law Center intervened in the case on behalf of the Women’s
Equity Action League because HEW effectively said, “Okay, we’re going to
process the race discrimination cases but we’re not going to process the sex
discrimination cases. We’ll let the sex discrimination cases slide.” So we
intervened to be sure the sex discrimination cases w·ere processed and then he, as
a Covington lawyer, intervened on behalf of disability groups, to protect the
complaint process for them. In the end, we all got a settlement that made sure
HEW processed all the complaints. He died recently, but he was a donor to the
National Women’s Law Center for many years and his wife still is. When I went
to Boston six months ago, I went to see her because I hadn’t seen her since he
died. He and I stayed friends, really, over the years. So I saw him some in
college, but my first year I didn’t have any serious boyfriends, just meeting and
going out with different people. Then I had the Yale boyfriend up until the
middle of my senior year. Then, at the end of my senior year, it was like starting
college all over again. My attitude was, “Well, I have a whole world of men here
I don’t even know because I’ve been with one person for so long.”
It sounds like the breakup wasn’t too traumatic.
No, it wasn’t actually. Although, he broke up with me. It was already kind of
winding down, but he essentially called the question.
I’ll just ask a few more questions. Just wrapping up in college, were they hard
years? Were they complicated years? Were there frustrations or are your
memories really pretty positive?
My memories are pretty positive. I mean, it was an exciting time and, as I said, it
was a totally new experience for me, just to live in a place like that with people
like that. There weren’t any particular traumas in my family or anything that I
had to contend with during that time. Although I still think the biggest influence
in my life is my parents, my college experience probably reinforced a lot of what I
got from them and gave me a certain amount of confidence that I could get out in
the world and function.
That’s pretty good to get through college. As you approached graduation, were
you feeling optimistic, a little nervous, confident?
Mostly, I was very annoyed that I had to live by these ridiculous freshmen rules.
Because I got punished for going to Selma. So, I had to be in every night at 10:30
during the week and on weekends I had to be in at midnight.
That was for your whole senior year?
From March on. I went to Selma in March. The senior year was supposed to be
the year of the most freedom, in a certain sense. Courses ended early, there were
senior activities.
It must have interfered with your dating, too.
Yes, because I had to be back at the dorm at 10:30 with all the freshmen. So all
the freshmen were coming into the dorm-and me.
How embarrassing.
I remember having to work around those rules all the time. I mean, my friends
knew I had them, so it wasn’t a big deal, but it was very annoying. So I had a bad
taste in my mouth about Barnard in a certain sense as a result of that. But, I was
really looking forward to going to law school. That was something that I had
wanted to do for a long time, and now I was actually going to do it. So that was a
positive thing.
You took the LSA T in your senior year and applied to law schools?
Yes. And again, the woman who was my advisor, basically said, “don’t go to
Columbia.” Not that many people in my class were going to law school, but the
ones who were, were very interested in going to Columbia.
Did she become your advisor by happenstance or because you had chosen
Government. .. ?
She was my advisor because of Government, but even within Government you
could choose. I don’t remember if she was hard to get as an advisor. She was the
Chair of the Department and I don’t remember how many people she took in, or
how I got her. But it wasn’t happenstance. I wanted her. She was very big on
my going to New York University. She had gone to Yale, and told me Yale had a
quota on the number of women they would take in law school. It was a small
school. It would be very hard to get in. I applied to Yale and didn’t get in.
They had a quota on the number of women they would take?
That was the story, yes.
I guess so many women had qualified.
Of course. Nobody ever officially said anything about Yale’s policy on admitting
women, and certainly Yale didn’t say it had a quota. But she said it did. Her
description of Columbia was, “It’s a trade school,” meaning that it was essentially
training lawyers to go into firms. She thought that because I was interested in
civil rights and civil liberties and poverty work, my choice should be NYU. It
had a lot of courses in civil rights and civil liberties. Nobody had clinical courses
then, but NYU had programs as well as classes on poverty-related issues and civil
rights issues. So she thought it was the closest I was going to come to having a
place where I could take courses in these things.
Did you have any other mentors in college?
There were other people in the Government Department, yes, that I talked to from
time to time.
Well, why don’t we wrap up?
Nancy Duff Campbell, Interview 3
July 11, 2007
Looking back on where we were in December 2006, I think we ended with you
talking a little bit about your mentor in college-the head of the Government
Department-and her advice and guidance to you on law school and what you
should do and should not do, what law schools were good for you, etc. We talked
a little bit about Yale and I guess also about NYU. What was the most important
advice she gave you in terms of selecting a law school?
It was that they weren’t all alike, and that it wasn’t easy to find a place that was
receptive to the kind of things I was interested in. She thought NYU was the
closest in terms of developing that. Of course, this was before clinical programs
and before the wide variety of courses that law schools now have on
environmental or women’s rights or poverty law. So she was focusing on the fact
that NYU did have some of these courses-for example, Civil Liberties was a
course unto itself. And it had more than one course in Labor Law that got into
some deeper, more detailed aspects of labor law than the basic course. So NYU
was beginning to develop some courses that, while not technically public interest ·
law courses, were getting closer to it. There was a receptivity there to people who
were interested in practicing in those areas. It wasn’t a school that was just trying
to train people to go into law firms. NYU also had the Root-Tilden Program,
which had been set up specifically to provide scholarships to encourage
individuals to go into public service. It wasn’t public interest law. It was
essentially government service. It was for people who wanted to be public
servants. It was a quite competitive program. It took only two people from every
judicial circuit, and provided full tuition and, I believe, room and board. But it
didn’t allow women when I was there.
It wasn’t opened to women until the fall of 1969, after I left,. In fact, I didn’t
really know very much about it until after I started at NYU. The program
theoretically expected government service from its participants-although it
didn’t hold them to that. Some people were Root-Tilden scholars and then they
never worked for the government.
Called Root-Tilden?
Anyway, it was-and still is-a very prestigious scholarship and my recollection
is that it was a full scholarship. So it was a very significant thing to get. Only a
few, twenty-two, people got them. There were eleven judicial circuits at the time.
NYU also had something called the Arthur Garfield Hays Civil Liberties
Fellowship Program. It picked one or two students after the first year to become
fellows in that program and to work in a clinical way, even though there weren’t
clinical programs then, with some faculty members who directed the program.
So the school was beginning to develop both regular courses that were more
geared to public interest law and some special programs that were very geared to
it. I wanted to stay in New York for personal reasons. And so, I went to NYU.
And you applied to Yale and you applied to NYU and others?
Right. I think I must have had another school that was more of a safety school,
but I can’t remember what it was.
Why were you so interested in staying in New York?
Well, as we talked about before, coming to New York to go to college was very
eye-opening to me in terms of the world outside of Indiana, in terms of the
political milieu, and in terms of the culture and the people that I met. And there
wasn’t any reason to leave particularly.
When you finished college, in that summer, were you confident about your
decision or choice or were you anxious about it?
Yes. Did we talk about what I did that summer?
No. That’s another question I had.
Well, the summer that I graduated from college I went to Mississippi.
I had been involved in civil rights activities in college and I really hadn’t given
that much thought to what I was going to do the summer after’my senior year,
which was quite busy, as we discussed. But it was 1965, a year after the 1964
“Freedom Summer” in Mississippi. A group of people who had been active in
civil rights in Mississippi had come together to start a Head Start Program in the
state. The federal Head Start Program of the Office of Economic Opportunity
was Just getting started. It was originally established as an eight-week summer
program to prepare children for kindergarten. It was, of course, as it is now, a
federal program that gave money directly to the grantees. The money didn’t have
to go through the state. So, to the extent that a state was resistant, it didn’t matter,
if the federal government was willing to fund a program. But, there still had to be
grantees to receive the money. And it wasn’t as if poor kids in Mississippi had
50l(c)(3) organizations or other entities that could easily be recipients of the
money or that would be acceptable as recipients of the money. In addition, there
was the possibility of a governor’s veto of federal programs that came into and
through an entity in the state, if the governor didn’t want the program. But if a
program was in an educational institution, the governor didn’t have a veto. Some
of the early Legal Services programs were funded that way, for example, through
educational institutions.
But, in any event, there were civil rights activists, including Marian Wright
Edelman, who had an interest in getting Head Start into Mississippi. They were
– 2 –
motivated for both civil rights and economic opportunity reasons and wanted a
program that would help low-income African-American children. They got a
small Black-then Black, now historically Black-college, Mary Holmes, to
agree to be the recipient of the grant. But then they had to organize the actual
Head Start centers all over the state and that meant finding a place to have them,
recruiting people to direct them, to be center directors-child development center
directors-and recruiting people to teach in the programs. And they had to have
somebody to put all of this together.
They turned to an individual who was one of the initial moving forces behind the
idea to start a program in Mississippi to be the overall director of the program,
Tom Levin. He was a psychologist from New York who had been very active in
the civil rights movement, including by organizing the Medical Committee for
Human Rights the year before to provide medical support to the civil rights
movement. So he came with a lot of bona fides, including in organizing new
entities. A friend of mine from Barnard, who was a couple of years ahead of me,
had been hired by him in New York because he was trying to put the program
together in New York-recruit people to go to Mississippi to teach in the program
and otherwise get it going before he went down there. My friend was working in
his office in New York to help make this happen. She called me and said, “We
need help here. Do you want to come in and do some of the administrative tasks
related to this?” It sounded very interesting, so I went to work there. I was there
for a fairly short period of time, just a few weeks, when it became obvious that
whatever was going to be done in New York had been done-the director and
other staff were going to Mississippi, and the question was whether I wanted to go
to Mississippi as the director’s special assistant.
Part of what the organizers were doing was recruiting people to teach in the
program, which, at the time, was just a summer program. There were certain
kinds of credentials that Head Start had and still has for teachers in the program.
So, it wasn’t going to be easy for the program’s organizers to go into low-income
African-American communities in the state and find the people. I called friends
of mine who had also just graduated from Barnard and Columbia to ask if they
had any interest in doing this for the summer. Since it was then just a summer
program, the program’s organizers were willing to hire people who would be
going off to graduate school or doing something else in the fall. I recruited four
or five people who were interviewed. They didn’t know anything about teaching,
but they had a college degree and the program had a training program for them.
Of course, we sent them down there, put them in these centers, and they didn’t
only have to figure out how to teach four- and five-year-old kids who had never
been in a school or anything similar before, and teach them according to the
fledgling curriculum there was for Head Start, but participate as well in what was
a community organizing, civil rights effort. The centers were purposely put in
African-American churches and elsewhere in African-American communities.
There was an effort both to get child development services into these communities
and use the establishment of the program in a broader, civil rights organizing way.
In essence, there would be a cadre of people who would be getting federal dollars
to run a program during the day and at night might be interested in doing other
– 3 –
things. So, it was obvious that ifl didn’t go to Mississippi, I’d just have to find
another job. And of course I was dying to go to Mississippi. I thought it would
be the most interesting thing ever, and it was.
The program was run out of a retreat center outside of Jackson, called Mount
Beulah, which was run by the Southern Branch of the National Council of
Churches, the Delta Ministry. My job was to be the director’s assistant, which
meant really a “Jill of All Trades”-whatever had to be done to get the program
organized and keep it running as smoothly as possible. We were getting calls
every day from people saying, “We don’t have the books. The whites in the
community are harassing us.”
I ended up doing some traveling around the state. There were regional organizers,
all but one of whom were ex-SN CC people-not totally ex as .they were doing
Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee activities on weekends and at night,
but they had regions that they covered in the state for us, to make sure the centers
had what they needed, were staffed, didn’t have problems. For example, there
were centers in some of the really toughest parts of the Delta, that were getting
shot into at night. People who worked there were sleeping in the centers because
they didn’t want to sleep in the community because they were being harassed
there. I slept in one of those centers on one of my trips. There was a lot of
harassment throughout the state because the centers were all integrated. They
were bringing white and Black teachers in with Black kids; there were Black
aides in the schools. So that was a big issue. Just before I arrived at Mount
Beulah, a white man drove in and fired several shots from a .45 pistol at several
staff members-luckily missing them. People who were involved in the program
were being followed in their cars. I remember being in a car with one of the
African-American organizers when we were followed for 50 miles by another car,
not knowing what was going to happen. This was just a year after Andrew
Goodman, Michael Schwemer and J runes Chaney had been murdered while riding
in an integrated car. The people working with us all had tales from what they had
already been doing in the state, so they knew these communities. The regional
organizers were people who either were from these communities and had been
working on civil rights issues or knew the issues and the communities well. So,
they knew what and who to look out for.
The program was called the Child Development Group of Mississippi, and it was
the first statewide Head Start program in the nation. It was an experiment in
many ways. Both for Head Start as well as for the civil rights aspects of it. So
that was quite interesting because I felt very removed from New York, and I
really wasn’t thinking much about law school. I was just thinking about what was
happening that summer and learning as much as I could and doing whatever I
could do to help–working with and meeting fascinating people who were really
on the front lines in a lot of ways.
So, how many people were there?
Well, at Mount Beulah where I mostly worked, there were about 40 people
because that was the headquarters for the central staff. The central staff consisted
– 4 –
of both civil rights leaders and individuals with experience working in education.
There was Tom, the director; there was a chief organizer; there were finance staff;
security staff; there was a woman who was the chief program person–0eveloping
curriculum and the like. Elsewhere in the state there were about 100 “resource
teachers” and special program staff and over 1,100 locally hired community staff
members. The program director was Polly Greenberg, who had been married to
Jack Greenberg from the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. She later wrote a book
about the Head Start experience in Mississippi called The Devil Wears Slippery
Shoes, which details this first summer and the whole first two years, and what a
challenge they were. Marian Wright Edelman was on the board. That’s how I
first met her. She was working at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund in Jackson
and was on the CDGM board, so she came to Mount Beulah for board meetings,
for example. But mostly what I was doing was helping the director, typing
memos and coordinating meetings and troubleshooting when people would call up
and say, “We don’t have such and such” or “We’re afraid of something or other,”
or “They’re telling us we didn’t pay the rent and we know we did,” or “This
church has been told it can’t house the center and expect to remain in the
community without trouble.” It was that level-and I, of course, wasn’t solving
all these problems. I was addressing the ones I could and passing on the ones I
couldn’t to somebody who could solve them.
Did you travel° to many of the communities?
I did. I traveled into the Delta community, for example. I met Fannie Lou
Hamer. That was pretty exciting because she was such a hero of the civil rights
movement and there was a Head Start center in Sunflower County, where she
lived. I went to that center, and I went to a couple of others in the Delta, which
was one of the toughest areas in the state from a civil rights perspective. I went to
the ones in Gulfport in the southern coastal part of the state. I went to
Vicksburg-I went pretty much all over the state. CDGM had meetings in
different locations in the state. It was hard to find a place to have a meeting that
would permit a racially integrated group. We might be able to have the meeting
at the Head Start center, but if we were bringing the board and other people to a
meeting, that place might not be big enough. About the only place we knew we
could have meetings was the Holiday Inn. Either because it was just more
progressive or because it was a national chain, we could have a racially integrated
group there. My husband Mike Trister, who was also in Mississippi at about the
same time in a Legal Services program, had the same experience of the Holiday
Inn’s being one of the few places where there could be racially integrated
meetings. I was there in the summer of ’65. He graduated from law school in ’66
and went directly to Mississippi-he was there for four years. To this day, we try
to patronize Holiday Inns. As a payback. As I said, this was the summer of 1965,
the summer after the 1964 Freedom Summer, when several murders and other
violent things happened. The conditions were better than that summer, but not
much better. And the Head Start program wasn’t nominally a civil rights
program. It just was an integrated program with federal money that was making
– 5 –
Where did you live when you were down there?
I lived at the retreat center. It was built originally as a school and then the
National Council of Churches took it over, but it basically had a few central
buildings, dormitory housing and a common area where we ate and otherwise
gathered. So it was a mini-campus. But it was not glamorous or anything like
that. The dormitories were named after martyred civil rights workers. I lived in a
dormitory named for Herbert Lee, a Black farmer who was working to register
Black voters when he was killed by a white member of the Mississippi legislature
in 1961.
Another thing I remember about that summer was that my whole life I’ve never
had a problem with my weight, except for that summer when I gained about
fifteen pounds because we worked all the time, except when we ate. We worked
at night-we were in one location, we didn’t really leave the location except when
we were traveling. And, of course, they had these wonderful women cooking this
wonderful, rich food. And we worked during meals. So, everyone would linger
over breakfast and linger over lunch and linger over dinner and we always ate
really well. I was wearing jeans and similar clothes-things that stretch. When I
left, I went home to Indiana for a week before going to New York to law school.
In those days we couldn’t wear pants in law school, we had to wear dresses and
we had to look like a professional. My mother said we’d better buy me some
clothes because in college I didn’t wear anything that formal. I discovered I was a
couple of sizes bigger than I’d ever been, and that I had gained about ten or
fifteen pounds. As soon as I got to law school, it all melted away again. But it
was directly attributable to that.
You had said you learned a lot that summer-what kinds of things did you learn?
I got a first-hand experience of day-to-day work in the civil rights movement and
of the living conditions for people who were segregated. Not just the physical
segregation, but the fear, the kind of overt harassment that people went through. I
saw what it took to be an effective organization and the bravery of those who
were doing civil rights organizing in Mississippi. I also got a sense of the beauty
of southern life in some respects, especially southern African-American life, and
the warm relationships that people had. The family and friends and, of course, the
beauty of the countryside. Mississippi is a very poor state but it’s a beautiful
state. In fact, because both my husband Mike and I spent time there, our son
Noah has always heard us talk about it. A few years ago Mike and I went to New
Orleans for the jazz festival. Noah lives in Arkansas now and he drov~ down to
go to the festival with us and our friends who live there. Noah said, “I think when
I go back I’m going to go up the Natchez Trace through Mississippi, through
Vicksburg and go back that way.” My husband looked at me and said, “That’s so
nice! I’d love to be making that trip.” Noah was doing it in part because he
wanted to see a little of “our” state. But mainly, I made incredible friends there
and learned a lot about what people were going through, and what it takes to make
And how long were you there?
– 6 –
I went down at the end of June and I came back right before law school started.
Then law school didn’t start so early, so I came back in mid-August. I was there
for just the summer and really not even the whole summer. Just a couple of
Did you ever consider, before you went to law school, working for a while?
No, I didn’t.
In those days people went straight to law school. It’s different now.
Yes. I didn’t, and because my family was able to pay for college and for law
school without my having to have loans, there wasn’t an economic reason to do
so. And I was anxious to get on with it.
Sounds like you were pretty clear as to what you wanted to do.
Yes, right.
Unusual. Right, at that stage or any stage. So when you got to law school, how
many women did you find in your class?
Actually, NYU at that time, I believe, had more women than any other law
school. My law school class was about 10% women, about thirty, I guess. And
that was considered a lot in a law school. I think the first year there were three
sections of about a hundred each. So ten out of a hundred, enough to have some,
though not enough, critical mass. But my experience there, in the sense of having
other women, seems a lot better than the experience of other people I’ve talked to
who were in law school around the same time. In fact, Marcia [Greenberger, my
co-president at the National Women’s Law Center] and I-I’m two years ahead of
Marcia-do a summer lunch program for our interns to talk about our careers,
whether we knew what we wanted to do when we were in law school, and how it
played out. We also talk a little bit about the history of the National Women’s
Law Center and how we decided to do what we’ve done here. It always sounds to
me that when she was in law school at Penn, the atmosphere wasn’t as welcoming
as it was for me at NYU. She had fewer women in her class two years later.
There were a few professors at NYU who were into “ladies’ day,” when they only
called on women in the class, or who were into calling on women for the rape
cases, but not the way I heard about it at other schools. Most professors weren’t
that way and were conscious that they shouldn’t be. And everything was
anonymous grading, so gender didn’t play into that. In part because I knew what
I wanted to do, I wasn’t interviewing at law firms where they were often making
clear that they didn’t really want to hire women. Or asking women if they were
planning to have children and the like.
There was a program called-I believe it still exists-the Law Students Civil
Rights Research Council, to which we could apply to to be placed in summer jobs
in civil rights organizations. I did that. My first summer after law school I
worked at the Congress of Racial Equality Legal Defense Fund, which doesn’t
exist anymore, but was one of the major national civil rights legal groups then.
The way it worked was that we applied to LSCRRC, as it was called. It placed
selected students in an organization and then paid them a stipend, though it wasn’t
– 7 –
very much. But the organization at which a student was placed didn’t have to
During my second year and the summer after my second year, I worked in a small
landlord/tenant firm that only represented tenants and did a lot of pro bono
representation of tenants, including those involved in organized rent strikes in
New York. I don’t remember ifl got that job directly-I think I did-I don’t
think that was a LSCRRC placement. LSCRRC was mainly placing law students
with an organization as opposed to private firms. But LSCRRC also had a
“during the year” program, in which we could volunteer to work on civil rights
cases with lawyers in firms or organizations–doing things in a more limited way.
I did that, including some work for the New York Civil Liberties Union. In my
third year, I worked part-time at one of the Legal Services programs. So from the
end of my first year on, I was working full- or part-time and making contacts and
trying out public interest law in different ways. I wasn’t going through the
regular interview process and contending with some of the issues that affected
other women in my class.
After coming from Barnard, where you were in classes almost exclusively
women, was it strange to be all of sudden in class with ten women?
No, not so much.
It’s interesting, I had a similar experience.
Maybe because I went to a coed high school, Barnard was the exception, really.
At NYU it felt like there were enough other women that I didn’t feel particularly
isolated. Marcia describes her experience as in some respects tougher-the year
that she went to law school was a year in which the country still had graduate
school deferments from the military, which kept draft-age men from the Vietnam
War. When she went to take the LSAT, men were saying to the women, “What
are you doing here? You’re just taking the spot of someone who will have to go
to war.” I took the LSA T before the war was as big an issue. But they eliminated
graduate deferments when I was in law school. Some men who had them, in fact,
switched into the night school at NYU and took teaching jobs during the day to
keep their deferments, in this instance because there were still deferments for
So, just to finish the thought about number of men, number of women.
The first year, there was a sense that, “We’re all in the same boat and don’t know
what we’re doing.” And a little anxiety about it all. One of the distinctions I do
remember is that a lot of the men in the class understood legal concepts more than
I did. I’m not saying this was because of gender, necessarily. It seemed to be
because of their personal experiences, which were in a sense, but not entirely,
gender-related. For example, I remember a class involving some kind of
consumer issue, in which the men in the class had bought a car or had some
exposure to some financial instrument and were talking about the issue from a
real-world prospective. I was trying to figure out the legal concept and I didn’t
even understand the underlying factual context. How does a loan on a mortgage
– 8 –
work, things like that? I was pretty sheltered, I guess. So, I remember feeling at a
disadvantage, that some people seemed to be ahead of me in their basic factual
understanding of some of these concepts.
There was also a group of students who were very intense about law school in
general, raising their hands all the time and jockeying for attention. If they didn’t
make Law Review they were going to kill themselves. Then there were other
people who were more laid back about school, or people like me who didn’t think
that Law Review was going to be that relevant to what we were going to do.
There were a number of people who-whether they had come to law school with
a notion they were going to get involved with some kind of public interest law or
not-were very activist, had been involved in civil rights or-the war, of course,
was heating up then-engaged in anti-war activities. So, there was a natural
group for me to be a part of, which was that group. That group was mainly men,
though. I remember a few women who were so.cial activists, but most of the
women were much more traditional, planning on going into firms, like most of the
men were. Several of the women were older, more so than the men. They’d come
back to school. I don’t remember knowing that much about whether they had
children or not. I do remember one woman, who is still a friend of mine, who was
a couple of years ahead of me and was pregnant. My reaction was, “Oh, my gosh,
how is she going to do that? I’m having a hard enough time managing this
without any encumbrances and here this woman is going to have a baby right in
the middle of this.” She was a third-year student. She’s a judge now. I guess it
wasn’t such a big deal, but it seemed like a big deal then! So, because of different
interests, I really wasn’t that friendly with most of the women in my class. There
wasn’t a sense that, “We’re in this together, we’ve got to fight.” First of all, there
wasn’t a lot of overt sexism that we would have bonded together to fight. Second,
they were on a different track than I was by and large. So we didn’t have that
much in common. Not because they were older, but because they were mostly
thinking of going to a firm. Whether they did or not is another question.
So you didn’t-the male students didn’t treat the female students poorly?
No, not in general. Yes, that’s right. That didn’t happen. There were some
women that I became close to then and stayed close to. One of them, Sylvia Law,
is a law professor at NYU now and was a brilliant student. I remember a story
she told. She made Law Review after her first year, and she turned it down. Law
Review at NYU then was based entirely on grades. She went to see the list,
which was posted publicly, and saw that she had made it. Some guy came up
right behind her and he was the next person on the list. He said, “You’re turning
it down, aren’t you? You’re turning it down, aren’t you?” She said, “That was
the one moment when I thought maybe I wouldn’t tum it down.”
There were some people who were just desperate to make sure that they made
Law Review. As I said, this was when you could only make it by your first-year
grades, totally grades. There was no writing on. Anyway, I became close to her
– 9 –
because of our shared interest in poverty law and, in fact, we worked together
after we graduated, too.
Why did she tum it down? I’m just curious.
It wasn’t important to her particularly. She knew what she was going to do,
which was to go into some kind of public interest work. She didn’t want to spend
the next two years writing on the Law Review. She wanted to spend it bringing
her legal talents to bear on the issues she cared about. She’s someone I still call
on from time to time as a colleague. She works in women’s rights and she’s
written a lot about abortion and other issues and is a well-known women’s rights
scholar. So there were a few women at NYU like that that I was close to. But it
wasn’t a “women’s thing.” It wasn’t that, “We’ve got to be together because we’re
women.” It was that we engaged in similar work and activities. So we and the
men who were like that hung out together.
Were there women law professors?
Fannie Klein, who, I believe, taught Family Law, was an adjunct faculty member
when I began at NYU and was the first woman to be appointed to the law faculty
in 1966-at the age of sixty. I didn’t have any classes with her. I didn’t have any
women faculty as teachers. There may have been a few other women as adjuncts.
But I don’t remember anyone but Professor Klein.
Were there any organizations that you were active in during law school?
Yes. There weren’t any women’s organizations. There was a Law Students
Against the War group. The Law Students Civil Rights Research Council, as I
mentioned before. Those are probably the two major ones that I was involved in.
I believe it was the year after I graduated that there began to be organized
women’s rights activities. I graduated in 1968. Do you remember when there
were national conferences on women and the law that were organized at different
law schools? Basically, some law students got together and organized a national
conference annually. It moved around the country from school to school.
Schools bid on the right to host it-the students did, that is. Then they had to
raise money for it. They charged people to come, but they hosted it. That effort
grew out of a group that organized the first one at NYU the year after I graduated,
in 1969. It was a women law students’ group that I was invited to meet with as a
recent graduate. They were forming one of the first women law students’
organizations in the country. The first national women law students’ “Women and
the Law Conference” was held at NYU that year or the next year. And one of the
key organizers of that was Liz Dunst, now a partner at Hogan Lovells.
Oh really?
Yeah. That’s how I met Liz. She graduated from NYU a few years after me. I
met her at that meeting, where she was one of the organizers.
That’s interesting.
So, my law school efforts were more focused on whatever the social issues of the
day were.
– 10 –
Were you on Law Review? Did you do Moot Court?
Yes, I did Moot Court. I was pretty active in Moot Court and was a finalist in
NYU’s competition. But mainly my time out of class was spent outside the law
school. I was working on real-world things.
What kinds of projects would you have-were those clinical?
No. There were no clinical programs in law schools at this time, so it was
working, whether it was continuing working for the landlord/tenant firm or
working as a volunteer on LSCRRC-related projects for particular lawyers. For
example, I remember working for the New York Civil Liberties Union on a big
case. They divided up assignments of different memos on different issues among
the students involved. We prepared the memos and participated in some of the
strategy meetings. The LSCRRC assignments were essentially ad hoc. It wasn’t
that that was my job for the semester. By my second year, however, I worked in
the landlord/tenant firm for most of the year, including the summer. In my third
year, I worked at Mobilization for Youth Legal Services, and that’s what got me
interested in Legal Services. I was always interested in poverty issues, but the
Legal Services program was just getting started and expanding. I ended up
applying for a job after law school with a neighborhood office of Mobilization for
Youth and with the Legal Services support center in public benefits law, both of
which gave me offers. I took the job with the support center, but my work at
MFY was one of the reasons I was offered the support center job.
Did you have any role models and mentors in law school?
Well, Norman Dorsen, who still is a professor at NYU and very active in civil
liberties-related issues, was one. He taught a course in Civil Liberties, which I
took, and Constitutional Law, which I also took from him. He was the General
Counsel of the ACLU at one point. He was very active in ACLU issues and he
may have been the person who recruited students to work for the New York Civil
Liberties Union project I just described. My advisor for my senior paper-which
everyone had to write in the third year-was a Labor Law professor, Dan Collins.
I wrote my paper on the punitive Selective Service reclassifications of Vietnam
War protesters. It wasn’t an area in which he was knowledgeable, but he agreed
to advise me on it. He was very helpful; in a certain sense it was good that he
didn’t know the area because he could ask questions about it that were quite
useful in directing me. So those were two mentors of sorts. Then, as much
because it was New York than anything else, NYU was very good at attracting
adjunct professors. Similar to the way Georgetown and other D.C. schools do
because there is such a strong practicing bar. And this was a pretty activist time.
So, for example, NYU attracted Leonard Boudin, who was a very well-known
civil liberties lawyer in private practice. I remember meeting his daughter, Kathy
Boudin, who later became quite well-known for her Weatherman activities, of
course. I also had a friend in law school who worked in his firm. That was the
ultimate job, because he was involved in so many high-profile cases. Boudin
taught a civil liberties course that I took, which was wonderful. A lot of it was
war stories, but that’s what you love about adjunct professors. And I took an
– 11 –
international human rights course from a professor, Tom Frank, who was on the
graduate school faculty at NYU and had a joint appointment at the Law School. It
was really for students who were in the joint degree program, but law students
could take it. So, again, NYU was trying to offer variations on traditional
courses. It wasn’t a traditional international law course. It was specifically about
human rights.
You were in law school during a pretty turbulent time. How did that impact on
the law school?
The Law School had faculty who were sympathetic and were themselves engaged
in the issues of the day. As I’ve described earlier, my brother Duncan was two
years behind me in college and at Columbia. He dropped out of college for a
while, so instead of graduating in 1967, he graduated in 1968. So he was at
Columbia during the 1968 anti-war protests there, in which students took over
buildings. The University had to respond. We didn’t have anything like that then
at NYU. I don’t remember any specific incidents, although the Law School was
physically very separate from the main undergraduate campus, so there may have
been more going on there. One thing I do remember is that, as I said, when I
started the men had to wear suits and ties. The women had to wear skirts or
dresses, no pants. I believe it was the beginning of my third year that they
allowed women to wear pants, but it had to be pants suits. Of course nobody had
a pants suit. They hardly even existed. [Laughter.] I guess that was good. But,
of course, then we all had to go out and buy those. So that was a liberalization
that occurred during the time I was there.
I can’t even imagine having to go to law school dressed up.
Everybody would have to have a lot of clothes.
People didn’t have that many, I guess, anymore than when they started out as
associates. I guess that was what they were preparing us for. But, for the men,
especially, because they had to wear suits, it was hard. Maybe they could wear a
sport jacket, but they had to wear a tie. It wasn’t like it was later, you know,
where the response to something like this was, “Okay, I’m going to wear my jeans
and grab a tee-shirt and put on a tie and this funky corduroy jacket.” No, they had
to look like a professional.
Wow. And the professors were all dressed up?
Yeah. I didn’t go to a college that was like that. Marcia went to the University of
Pennsylvania. There was the women’s college and, as she puts it, “the college,”
which is the way they put it, too. It wasn’t that there was the women’s college and
the men’s college. The “men’s college” was “the college.” She said she had to
wear skirts to school. We didn’t have to do that as undergraduates. So that was
different. I think other law schools had similar dress rules then, though, at least in
New York. I don’t think it was just NYU. It was aimed at getting us ready to be
in the profession.
– 12 –
So how many of the students in your class were interested in what you were
interested in. Say in civil liberties, poverty law?
A pretty small number. Maybe twenty out of approximately three hundred, sixty
out of nine hundred in the three classes. It grew some during the time I was there.
It seems like there were a lot of course offerings, however.
Yes. I don’t know if many people came to NYU for that reason the way I did.
They came there because it was a good school and, perhaps, because it was in
New York City. There were also people there who hadn’t been activists in
college but became activists there and went on to practice public interest law. So,
there were people making that conversion in law school. In part because of the
times, and in part because there was an atmosphere that was conducive to it at
NYU. But there were also people who came in as I did, wanting from the
beginning to do some kind of civil rights, civil liberties, public interest law.
There are a number of people in my class who went on to do those kinds of
things. I told you about Sylvia Law. Ron Pollack, who is now the head of
Families USA, was in my class. Alan Houseman, who is the head of the Center
for Law and Social Policy, was in my class. Jim Weill, who is the head of the
Food Research and Action Center, was a class behind me but I knew him there.
Rudy Giuliani was in my class, in the night school. Now, Carol Bellamy is an
interesting case. I would not have described her when I was in law school as an·
activist, but rather on a track to go to a firm. She wasn’t actively engaged in the
things that others of us were engaged in. And yet when she graduated, although
she went directly to a big Wall Street firm, a few years after that she founded one
of the first all-women law firms in New York, became involved in women’s rights
issues and, of course, ran for office, was elected, and did a lot of other things in
government, including as Director of the Peace Corps. So she became quite an
activist. I don’t know exactly when that transformation occurred, but I don’t
think it occurred in law school. Norman Siegel, who was in my class and a close
friend, went to work at the New York Civil Liberties Union, and eventually
became the head of the NYCLU. He also ran for Public Advocate in New York
City. He didn’t win the election, but he’s been an activist since law school. He
was from Brooklyn, went to Brooklyn College, and didn’t come to NYU as an
activist, but he became an activist there and has devoted his life to liberal causes.
He was a LSCRRC intern at the ACLU in Atlanta in the mid- to late-’60s,
working on civil rights and related issues, and one of his student colleagues was
Judy Areen, now a professor and former dean of Georgetown Law Center. One of
his roommates in law school went on to work for the Puerto Rican Legal Defense
Fund. So there were a lot of people in my class who, whether they came to law
school to do that or not, in the end practiced public interest law.
Where did you live when you were in law school?
The first year I lived in Greenwich Village-that was where the Law School
was-with some friends from college, and the second year I moved to Chelsea.
The third year, I was in Chelsea.
Did you have roommates?
– 13 –
Not after my first year. During my second year, I had a boyfriend who was also
at NYU that I later married-not my current husband.
Did you go to law school together?
Yes. He was ahead of me.
Your husband?
Yes, he was originally a year ahead of me, but he was one of the people who,
when they did away with graduate deferments for the draft, went into the night
law school and taught elementary school during the day. So, he actually
graduated with me, because at the night school he couldn’t take as many courses
at one time. Also, he had to teach all day. So I spent a lot of time with him. We
both lived in Chelsea, but we had separate apartments.
You had your own apartment.
By yourself? Did you get married while you were in law school?
No. The summer after.
So what did you do for fun? What was your social life like in law school?
As I previously described, there was a group who were fairly activist people that I
was friendly with. I went out with several other students before I started going
out with my future husband, Richard Levy. It was pretty pedestrian, I’d say. You
know, we did the things most other people did then. We were involved in some
protests and other activities, but basically we’d go to the movies or get together
with friends informally. Nobody had very much money. We weren’t clubbing or
anything like that. Richard had a motorcycle. We lived in Chelsea, so we rode to
school on his motorcycle. His family lived in Westchester, and sometimes we’d
ride up there. As I’ve said previously, my father was a radiologist, and all he saw
all day were people with broken bones from automobile accidents, so he just
hated the fact that I was riding around on a motorcycle.
I bet. Didn’t he worry when you were going off to college that you needed to look
both ways when you crossed the street in New York?
You didn’t wear helmets in those days probably.
We did, actually, but not everyone did.
I kind of went through that stage too.
I did go to one of these places-I suppose they still have them in New York, but
they had them then-where they sold old antique furs, raccoon coats and things
like that. I bought one of those for about $20 because I was freezing on the back
of the motorcycle in winter. So, we were quite a sight with me in this coat.
Obviously you didn’t have any accidents.
– 14 –
That’s good. Did you ever drive it yourself?
No. My feet couldn’t touch the ground. It was too big. I was too short. It was
just as well because I would have liked to drive it. I was always saying, “I think I
should get one, a smaller one.” But I was too much my father’s daughter to do it
since I knew how nervous he was about it.
Also, I think there are a lot of data that most motorcycle accidents happen in the
first month you have the bike. The learning-to-drive-it part is the hardest-cars,
too, the same way.
Were there any war protests going on at this time during law school? Did you get
Oh, yes. Yes, and we, of course, came to Washington. Groups were organized
and we came down with them. Richard had some family who lived here so we
always had a place to stay with them. And there were protests in New York, foo.
The first big women’s rights march of modern times was in 1970. The summer of
1970. That was after I graduated and I had been working for a while. But I
remember going to that and being amazed at the number of women who showed
up to demand their rights. It was a very exciting march because it was different
than the others.
What about your friends from law school, are you still close to many?
Yes. Some of them. Especially the ones who are here in D.C. Jim Weill’swife,
Judy Waxman, works at the National Women’s Law Center, so we see them a l9t.
And a few others that I wouldn’t say I’m close to in terms of talking to them a lot,
but whenever I do talk to them, it’s just as it was then because they were pretty
strong relationships. But my ongoing close friendships from law school are
mostly all with men-and their wives, too, now.
Did you find in law school your political views or philosophy evolving or
No, except that in college and before that, the social issues I was mainly
concerned about were civil rights-related issues and to some extent civil liberties
issues, but mainly civil rights-related issues. And, in fact, until I went to
Mississippi, which was in 1965, I really wasn’t even sure what I thought about the
Vietnam War. I wasn’t for it, but I wasn’t very actively against it. But a lot of the
civil rights organizers I met there were very involved in the antiwar movement as
well. I found that interesting and there was a lot of talk about why. Those
discussions shaped my views about the war, right before I got to law school. And
then, as I said before, I got more involved in poverty-related issues. It wasn’t that
I didn’t care about these issues, but I hadn’t focused on how to address them from
a legal perspective. The civil rights and the civil liberties stuff … I knew there
was a Constitution. But I hadn’t focused as much on the legal theories and ways
in which I could use the law to help the poor. I had gotten a first-hand look at
– 15 –
poverty in Mississippi. But in law school I began to see what some of the legal
disparities were-for example, in family law-between how the poor were treated
and everybody else. I got more engaged in those issues in law school, again, less
because of course work and more because of my work in Mississippi, the legal
work I was doing outside of school, and the inter-relationships between race and
poverty issues. Of course, when I later went to work in the poverty law area and,
as the relationship between women and poverty became much more apparent to
me and others, it’s probably been my chief motivation as a lawyer. It wasn’t
school itself that prompted my work on low-income issues, but it helped me see
how to use the law to address them.
Did you travel much when you were in law school?
You were working in the summers?
Yes. Richard had a sister who was married, had children, and lived in England
because her husband was at Oxford. We went to visit them once, which was
great. I went home to Indiana at the end of the summer each year, but I stayed in
New York for most of each summer and worked.
Did your parents come to visit?
Yes, I guess-I don’t really remember that much; I remember more going to see
them at Christmas and at the end of each summer.
When you were getting ready to graduate, did you think of clerking-doing any
judicial clerkships?
I didn’t really. I think that would have been good to do. Some of this, again, was
my peer group. Everybody was anxious to get out and use the law to do well.
And so clerking seemed a little too removed. But I always recommend it to
people now. I think it’s a good thing to do. Also, of the people in my class who
were thinking about that, there was a lot of debate about, “Well, you can’t clerk
for that person, he is horrible.” Of course, that still goes on to some extent, but
there was such an intensity about the political views we held then. I’m trying to
think whether anybody who was in my so-called activist group, and went into
some kind of public interest law, clerked. I don’t think I can remember anyone
from NYU who did.
Did you interview with law firms?
At all?
So how did you get your job, did you interview?
I had worked at Mobilization for Youth, which by then was called MFY Legal
Services, which was headquartered on the Lower East Side of New York, but I
worked in the Hell’s Kitchen office in the West 50s. As I described earlier, I
– 16 –
worked there part-time in my third year oflaw school. I was interested in staying
there potentially. They were doing direct legal services work. I had a good
relationship with the person who was the head of the office, and he had a position
that was either going to be added or coming open. So I applied for that. Then I
heard separately, I don’t remember exactly how, that the Center on Social Welfare
Policy.and Law-which, as I said earlier, was the support center for Legal
Services programs working in public benefits law-was expanding and had an
opening. I think Ron Pollack, who I mentioned before-he’s currently the head
of Families USA here in D.C.-hadjust accepted a job with them. He was in my
law school class and he told me they were looking for someone else as well. I
was somewhat more interested in that than the MFY job because it meant working
in a law reform office. I thought it would be more interesting than the direct
services work. The Center had a new director who had just come off a clerkship
with Byron White, Lee Albert. He was a Yale graduate. He was expanding the
Center. I liked the idea of working with him because he was very dynamic,
number one, and I really wanted to do more law reform-related work. Number
two, I thought that, as a first job, being in a law reform office with a very smart
boss would prepare me better than the “rough and tumble seat-of-the-pants”
practice you have in a neighborhood Legal Services office. I got an offer from
both places and I went to the Center. Ron Pollack was there, and a woman named
Lucy Katz, who was also in my class at NYU, had also just been hired. And
Sylvia Law, who I mentioned before, was there. There was a program-I don’t
know if you remember it-the Reginald Heber Smith Fellowship Program,
funded by the Office of Economic Opportunity and then the Legal Services
Corporation from 1967 through the early 1980s. Sylvia was a Reggie fellow
placed there. So, we had four people from my class there, of a staff of probably
about eight lawyers.
Oh, wow.
The director, Lee Albert, didn’t have that much experience himself. As I said, he
went to Yale and then clerked for Byron White in the U.S. Supreme Court. I
think he was five years out of law school when he and I came to the Center.
Marcia and I were talking to some ofNWLC’s students today at lunch and we
were saying, “You know, it was a very different time when we started practicing
law. We went to work in organizations where we were thrown immediately into
very high-level work because the people who were our bosses were only a couple
of years older than we were.”
They seemed a lot older at the time! In addition to the director I’ve described,
there was a senior attorney who actually had somewhat more experience, though
he, too, was only a few years out of law school. And there were two lawyers who
had been there a while longer, and then there were the four of us who had just
graduated. That was basically the group. So we got to do a lot right away.
You got settled into working your next job and what your first job was going to be
pretty quickly.
– 17 –
Right. Well, it was resolved before I graduated, but all of this was in the spring of
my third year. None of these kinds of jobs were secured in the fall the way
everybody else’s jobs were. None ofus knew what we were doing really until
late in the year. I don’t even remember how late in the process it was. It was
before graduation, but not that much before.
Did you do any interviews in the fall with the rest of the students?
Did you hear about women having issues in job interviews?
What I don’t remember is how much I heard about that then from people I knew,
and how much I heard about that later. The reason I’m saying this is that the
Center on Social Welfare Policy and Law was at Columbia Law School-it had
been started at Columbia in 1965 and became a Legal Services support center in
1966. The Legal Services support centers were placed mainly at universities. We
had a faculty member at Columbia Law School as an advisor because Columbia
was officially the grantee. When I started at the Center in 1968, there was some
women’s rights activity just beginning at Columbia Law School. Early on I met a
woman named Margy Kohn, now a lawyer in Washington and a lawyer here at
the National Women’s Law Center in our early years. At the time, she was a
student at Columbia who was a plaintiff in a lawsuit that had been brought against
some New York law firms for some of these practices-interviewing and hiring
practices. So I remember hearing more about it in the context of that suit than
hearing about it from actual peers of mine the year before. And a few years later,
in 1972, Ruth Bader Ginsburg came to teach at Columbia.
Oh right.
Before that, Margy Kohn, who as I said, was quite an activist at Columbia as a
student and involved in the lawsuit against the firm, was trying to organize a
Women and the Law course at Columbia. She told me it was going to be totally
ad hoc. The women’s group was organizing it and the school agreed to give them
some space but the group had to put it together and it wasn’t going to be for credit.
Margy asked me if I would teach a section on public benefits law and I said yes.
So that’s how I got to know her and learned about her lawsuit.
In addition, I had been working, at the Center on Social Welfare Policy and Law,
on welfare-related issues, and one of our clients was the National Welfare Rights
Organization, which had just gotten started in 1967. One of the things I was
asked to do was to help ghost write an article for the first issue of Ms. magazine,
which came out in 1972, called “Welfare Is a Women’s Issue.” I was asked to
help ghost write that article for Johnnie Tillman, the welfare recipient activist who
had co-founded NWRO, who I knew. So I’d been thinking about women’s issues
in that context. Then there was the big women’s march in the summer of 1970.
So I was getting my consciousness about women’s issues raised in all these ways.
Margy was talking to me about the course and about what was going on in some
of the law firms and her lawsuit. So, I think I learned about the problems in law
firms from that, mostly.
– 18 –
What about any experiences of sex discrimination or sexual harassment?
Well, obviously, there had been a lot of colleges I couldn’t even apply to. And
that was an issue when I went to law school, too. As I described earlier, my
advisor said, “You can apply to Yale, but I don’t think you’re going to get in
because they have a quota on the number of women students they will take.” So,
I had had some exposure to sex discrimination in schools. But in the kind of job I
had, I didn’t have a sense that gender was a factor. Of course, a lot of Title VII
law, as it applied to gender, hadn’t really been developed. That was, of course,
what Margy’s case was about. But my office had just about as many women
lawyers as we had men lawyers.
And in the Law School you didn’t hear of problems?
We weren’t physically located in the Law School. We were in a building next to
it. So there wasn’t a lot of day-to-day exposure to what was going on in the Law
School. As I said, I knew some of what was going on from Margy, but I really
wasn’t trying to be very current about what was going on at Columbia. Itwasn’t
my school. I do remember the excitement about getting Ruth Ginsburg to come
and teach there. We all knew who she was from Rutgers because she was already
starting to litigate some women’s rights cases. And when she came to Columbia
and taught a course on Women and the Law, she asked me to teach the public
benefits section of the course.
Oh, wow.
And, in fact, for several years after the annual Women and the Law conferences
that I described earlier started, I was invited to do a session on public benefits
law-and Ruth and I often did these sessions together. She talked about the
litigation she was engaged in challenging the denial of Social Security benefits
under provisions that expressly discriminated on the basis of gender. And I talked
about the litigation I was engaged in challenging the denial of welfare benefits,
including by talking about how women were affected by rules like “the man in the
house rule.” There were plenty of issues I was involved in that were women’s
issues even though they weren’t being litigated on sex discrimination theories, but
rather on statutory theories. So, we often did these sessions together.
I’m just wrapping up on law school. Given the fact that you decided to go to law
school when you were twelve, or thereabouts—did it live up to your expectations?
Well, I was certainly glad I did it. I loved certain parts of it, and I didn’t at all like
other parts of it. Some of it was just the tedium of some of the issues. I thought
some parts of it would be more exciting than they were, and other parts were more
exciting than I thought they would be. Subjects that I really didn’t know anything
about, like Federal Courts-which I took with Bob Pitofsky, who then went on to
teach at Georgetown and was a fabulous teacher-were much better than I ever
would have thought. The course involved interesting conceptual ideas that were
discussed with illustrations from cases that were going on right then-like
preemption, which was important in some of the early civil rights cases.
– 19 –
But I wish I had gone to law school at a time when there were not so many
required courses. We had a year and a half of required courses. I didn’t really
benefit much from the courses I disliked, including several of the business
courses. Although some of it’s ironic, because, for example, I remember hating
Tax. And, of course we didn’t get to choose our teachers for the required courses
either, so it wasn’t just that the courses were required; we were also assigned to a
teacher. I was lucky to get Norman Dorsen for Constitutional Law. But the
person I got for Tax was a person who taught it very much as a business course
about problem-solving, advising clients, and the like. Whereas the other person
who taught it was much more policy-oriented and taught it that way. And now, a
lot of what I do is tax policy work. Of course, I love it now and I hated it then.
So like everything else, if you get a good teacher and you are taught in a way
that’s enjoyable, you can more easily see the real-world value of it. I would enjoy
it a lot more today, even the way my teacher taught it, than I did at the time,
But I loved the school. I loved the people-the friends that I met there. I had
very good experiences generally with the faculty. But I was also glad to be able
to leave and start working. So that summer I didn’t work. I took the bar and got
Where did you take the bar?
New York
Did they have bar review courses in those days?
Sort of “a must.” Where did you take it? In the City?
I took it in the City, and I took the bar exam there, too.
Then you went home after your bar exams?
Yes, right. The bar exam was in the middle of July. Then I went home to Indiana
and got married at the end of August. Then I came back to New York and started
work in September.
And your husband had graduated at the same time?
Yes, we took the bar together.
What was he doing?
He went to work for the appellate division of Legal Aid-Criminal in New York.
So then you started your job in the fall? All these questions you’ve already
answered for me. And your position was staff attorney?
Early on, were you doing more of the policy stuff or were you doing more …
No, litigation.
Oh, okay.
– 20 –
Campbell: There were several things that were very interesting and exciting about that time.
First, we were all just young kids, and there wasn’t a cadre of people above us or
below us. So, obviously, I was doing less sophisticated work than the Director,
but even he was only a couple of years older than I was. And it wasn’t as ifhe
had a lot of people to help him, so we all got very interesting work to do.
Second, the Center had just won, in 1968, the very first welfare case that the
Supreme Court ever decided, King v. Smith. So the whole body of welfare law
was just starting to develop the very year I graduated. King was the case that said
a state couldn’t deny welfare benefits to a woman because she had a man in the
house. The plaintiff had applied for benefits under what was then the Aid To
Families with Dependent Children Program. The federal eligibility requirements
for the program were that an individual had to have a child who was “deprived of
parental support.” The deprivation could be either because the child had one
parent who was absent, one parent who was disabled, or one parent who was
deceased. The plaintiff had children and there was no other parent present, so her
children were deprived of parental support. But the state, Alabama, said “No,
you’ve got a man who visits you and sleeps with you ( or whatever) and that means
the child isn’t deprived of parental support.” He didn’t live there, he just came in
and out.
King was one of the first Legal Services program cases. One of the reasons the
law hadn’t developed is that there weren’t any lawyers to bring these cases. King
was a three-judge court case because it involved a constitutional challenge to a
state statute. The lower court decided the case in favor of the plaintiff on equal
protection grounds. At that time we were trying to develop the law that povertyrelated classifications, which we argued this was, should be treated with some
kind of heightened scrutiny. As you know, without heightened scrutiny or special
scrutiny, it’s pretty difficult to win an equal protection case. So we were trying to
elevate poverty classifications to have that level of scrutiny. That had been the
theory of the proceedings in the lower court. But when the case got to the
Supreme Court, the Court ducked the constitutional question and decided instead,
applying the federal statute, that the child was, in fact, deprived of parental
support, because the man wasn’t the parent and wasn’t fulfilling the role of a
parent. If the man had married the plaintiff and adopted the child, or simply
adopted the child, he would be a parent. But this man was nowhere near that. In
ruling on the statutory ground, the Court made clear that the federal statutory
conditions govern, and the state can’t add its own conditions if it wants to
participate in the federal AFDC program. Because this is a grant-in-aid program,
the basic scheme of the statute is “If you, state, want to get money to run an
AFDC program, you have to abide by the federal rules. That means you can’t add
your own rules.”
This was a very significant ruling because there were states all over the country
that had rules about when an individual could get AFDC. For example, the
individual had to agree to sue the father for child support, or agree to keep her
children in school to a certain age, to get AFDC. States were adding conditions
all over the place and many of them were morals-related conditions like the man-
– 21 –
in-the-house rule. So, all of a sudden we had won a Supreme Court decision that
articulated a theory that we could use in a lot of cases under the federal statute.
We started looking for restrictive state rules, working with Legal Services lawyers
around the country, telling them, “Yeah, we think we can win that under a King v.
Smith theory.” We started winning cases all around the country. At the same
time, we continued to work to develop a body of equal protection law to establish
that poverty is a suspect classification, which eventually was rejected in a later
Supreme Court case, Williams v. Dandridge. So it was good that we had the
statutory theory! Ultimately our victories led to an effort in Congress to change
the statute, and finally the whole AFDC program, to restrict this kind of litigation.
But at the time, we were winning cases right and left, and there weren’t enough
lawyers to go around. So we were helping lawyers in states all over the country
write briefs, argue cases, and plot strategies.
There was also a parallel effort to get more procedural rights for welfare
recipients. That resulted in a Supreme Court decision in 1970 in another Center
case, Goldberg v. Kelly, in which the Court held that there is a constitutional right
to a prior hearing before welfare benefits can be reduced or terminated. So that
decision, too, spawned a whole series of cases in states in which people were
having their benefits cut back or cut off without a prior hearing. At that time, due
process law was expanding generally in terms of who has rights to hearings and
under what circumstances. There was a whole body of law being developed in
this area outside of the welfare benefits context that Goldberg was helping to
spawn. I haven’t looked at the law in this area very recently, but when I was
teaching these cases-several years ago now, when I was teaching at
Georgetown-much of the expansion that happened for everybody except welfare
recipients had been cut back in later cases. In fact, welfare recipients have the
strongest due process rights under the law today, I think, because they’re one of
the few groups that have a right to a hearing before benefits are terminated.
So these three areas of law were being developed at once. The expansion of
statutory rights under King v. Smith; trying to make poverty a suspect
classification under the Equal Protection Clause; and enforcing Goldberg v. Kelly
hearing rights. And then, of course, we had some involvement in other povertyrelated issues that other Legal Services programs were starting to develop. For
example, people were taking the King v. Smith decision and saying, “Okay, if
that’s true in AFDC, then it ought to be true in Medicaid. States shouldn’t be able
to add conditions there either. It ought to be true in social services programs, in
the child support program.” So it was really a very exciting time because the case
law was brand new. Rights were being expanded. And of course we had a much
more liberal Supreme Court. We were twenty-five years old and we didn’t know
what we didn’t know, but th~ people above us didn’t either, so we just went out
and did it.
So did you handle cases yourself in court?
Yes. But not too much because we were a support center to other programs. So, I
might write the brief, but then it was hard to get the person in the state to say
– 22 –
“Well, okay, why don’t you argue the case, too.” A few times I argued cases
because the lawyers really didn’t think they knew the law well enough. If they
lost the case below and we came into it and said, “We think you can win this case
if you argue it this way,” and then we wrote the brief, they were sometimes
willing to let us argue the case as well.
Studley: So, was all the work appellate focused as opposed to trial?
Campbell: No, some of it was-mostly it was both. But the district court cases were cases
. without factual proceedings by and large. They were decided on the law, so we
usually weren’t doing discovery or other factual development. We were going in
saying, “They’ve denied benefits for this reason; they’ve imposed an unlawful
condition.” They were usually straight summary judgment proceedings.
Studley: How did the Center get its support and funding?
Campbell: Well, at that time it was all Legal Services money. But since then, Legal Services
has been restricted by Congress in what it can do. For this reason, the Center
broke off and is not part of Legal Services today. It also recently changed its
name to the National Center for Law and Economic Justice. At the time I was
there, though, the Legal Services hierarchy was very supportive of what we were
doing. “This is great. This is what we’re supposed to be doing-standing up for
poor people,” they said. So there wasn’t any, “You guys can’t do this case or that
case.” It was, “Go for it!”
Studley: Were you intimidated at all by being thrust into this?
Campbell: Yes. I remember the first time I wrote a memo and gave it to my boss, and he
gave it back to me and said, “Okay put this in the brief.” I came home and I said
to my husband, “Put this in the brief? Just give me my B+ and let me go home.”
[Laughter.] “Put this in the brief? Someone’s relying on this?” My boss was a
smart guy. He edited it, but it was basically my work. But he was very smart and
so that gave all of us a lot of confidence in what we were doing.
But I remember a couple of instances that were intimidating. In one, I was
appointed to a case-a criminal case. That one was intimidating because my boss
didn’t want to be bothered with it. The court appointed me. It was my problem.
The client was denied welfare benefits and it turned out she was a woman who
had been getting benefits because of a mental disability. Dealing with her wasn’t
easy. I had to argue the case in state court, which I wasn’t familiar with. And get
some judge to try to tum it around. That intimidated me because I was so
unfamiliar with that court and how it operated.
There were two other incidents, I remember. One was a case that was brought in
Alabama. The practices involved in the case are unfortunately still going on-I
saw something recently about some similar incidents. We thought it was
resolved, but I think it’s going on in a different form. The case involved
individual tenant farmers on big plantations and farms in Alabama. They didn’t
have any money. They basically worked out these arrangements under which
they farmed the land and then got paid in a percentage of what the crops yielded.
The farmer gave them credit at the outset to purchase the seed and whatever else
– 23 –
they needed to grow the crops, creating a huge debt which was then subtracted
from what the farmer owed the tenant for the crops. So in the end, the tenants
hardly had any income from their effort. It was really indentured servitude. In
our case there was an issue that had to do with the way in which Department of
Agriculture crop subsidies for some of these farmers were handled-whether the
landlord could demand the tenant’s subsidies be turned over to the landlord as
payment for the loans the landlord was advancing. The case had been brought
originally by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights in Alabama, and grew out
of its civil rights work-the tenant farmers were mainly African-American
farmers and the landlords were white. The tenant farmers sued the Department
of Agriculture, challenging regulations that allowed these practices as invalid
under the Food and Agriculture Act. The case was thrown out by the lower courts
on standing grounds. In essence, they held that the tenants didn’t have standing to
sue because they hadn’t shown an invasion of a legally protected interest by the
Department of Agriculture and the Act did not, either implicitly or explicitly, give
them standing to challenge the Department’s regulations. The Lawyers’
Committee called up my boss. We weren’t really working with them on a regular
basis; but because the case involved government benefits, their lawyers asked if
we would be willing to write a petition for cert. In essence they said, “We lost but
you can have the case and see if you can win it. It involves standing and we know
that is something you are worried about for other reasons. Basically, do you want
to take this case off our hands?” My boss said “yes” and gave it to me to draft the
petition for cert. He reviewed and edited it, obviously. I’d never written a
petition for cert before. This was my first year out of law school. But I did it and
the Supreme Court took the case, much to our surprise.
So then I got to work on the case itself. We recruited a law professor at Columbia·
to take the lead on it, Harold Edgar. He had graduated from law school only a
year ahead of me, so he wasn’t that much more experienced! He was a really
smart guy, so I don’t want to denigrate his effort, which was substantial. It really
was wonderful to work with him. We worked together on the brief in the case.
He argued the case. We all went down to the Supreme Court to hear the argument
together-my boss Lee, Hal and me.
After the argument I learned that that day-the day of the argument-was Hal’s
twenty-sixth birthday. Of course, I knew it was the first time he had ever argued
in the Supreme Court, but I learned it was also the first time he had ever argued in
any court.
This is his first argument? Wow!
He did a masterful job. The case was Barlow v. Collins. We won, and it is still
today one of the more famous early standing cases.
Isn’t that interesting!
Then we sent it back to the Alabama people to litigate it from then on.
He was the law professor at Columbia?
– 24 –
Yes. He had gone virtually right from law school to be a law professor.
Obviously a smart guy.
Right. Very smart guy. He graduated from law school in 1967, clerked for Judge
Lowenthal in the D.C. Circuit, and then came to Columbia as a law professor in
1968. So that was great.
The other incident, I remember, was more traumatic. I think it involved the same
case, but I’m not sure. It definitely happened in my first year of practice. I was
working on a petition for cert. My boss had reviewed it, and I basically had to get
it done and get it out. Of course, there was no Federal Express then. No Internet.
No fax. You had to send legal papers by mail or hand deliver them to the
Supreme Court. We used a service that was a form of overnight mail. We’d go to
the main post office at Penn Station in New York. We’d put the petition or brief
or other filing on a train and then someone picked it up at the other end and took it
over to the Court. So, my petition was due the next day. I went to Penn Station at
two o’clock in the morning on the day it was due, when I finally finished it. My
secretary had stayed late to help get it out. But I actually went there myself and
put it on the train. I came into the office later the same morning. I called the
Court at ten o’clock when it opened, by when the petition was supposed to have
been delivered. It had to be delivered that day. It was jurisdictional. The clerk
said they didn’t have it. I was panicking. I called the service and they couldn’t
tell me where it was. They had to track it down and get back to me. I was,
“Ahhhh.” Here I was in my first year of practice. If this didn’t get filed, it was
jurisdictional; there was nothing we could do about it. I would have totally
screwed up the whole case. Every hour, I called the Court and the clerk didn’t
have anything to tell me. And finally at around two o’clock in the afternoon, I
called and the clerk said calmly, “Yes, it just came in, no problem.” When I told
my boss, he said, “Well, I’m glad it got there. But this wasn’t a good thing to do.
You should have gotten on the train and gone down there yourself. The margin
was too close to use this service.”
Wow. So he thought you should have done it yourself in the beginning.
Yes. We used the service quite regularly. But I don’t know ifwe ever did it that
late, in the early hours of the morning that something was due. We might have
been putting briefs on the train at say, five o’clock the night before, when there
was a little more leeway. I don’t know. I don’t even know if he knew how much
we were using the service before that. So, it was a very good lesson-when
something is jurisdictional, you don’t mess around with counting on anyone else
to make sure it gets there.
Okay. Why don’t we wrap up.
Nancy Duff Campbell, Interview 4
– 25 –
December 7, 2007
This is the interview of Duffy Campbell. Today’s date is December 7, 2007. The
last thing we talked about, so very long ago, was your early-I think the early
days of your first job after law school. At the Center?
Center on Social Welfare Policy and Law?
And you were talking about one of your experiences-memorable experiencesof trying to file a petition for cert. We had just finished that discussion about how
it had a happy ending but you learned, I guess, a pretty big lesson about making
sure things get delivered in person when you’re running late. So I think that’s
where we were. Was that an early experience?
Yes, I was thinking while you were talking about how early in my tenure there it
was. It was definitely in the first six months or so. I know I talked a little about
the person who headed the Center at the time, Lee Albert. He hired me. He had
been a Supreme Court law clerk for Byron White. He was very smart, very smart.
I feel so lucky to have had as my first boss somebody who was exacting and that I
respected so much. You don’t always realize at the time how important the
standards set by your early-especially your first-professional employment are.
People who go to big law firms have this experience as a matter of course. But I
think in a lot of employment there is unevenness in the supervision given, the
standards set. I know we certainly see people here at the National Women’s Law
Center who have come from other jobs who say, “Nobody ever told me that I
should care about this, or care about that, or be so disciplined in my writing,” and
the like. At the time, of course, you’re thinking, “Am I ever going to measure
up?” But he was great-it was a very good experience.
And, as I also said before, it was somewhat ironic because he wasn’t that much
older than I was. I think everybody at the Center at the time was under thirty. In
the early days of public interest law, which it was then, almost everyone who was
engaged in it was quite young. That was exciting in a certain sense-there was a
certain headiness because there weren’t that many people doing it and within each
office there weren’t that many resources. We each had a lot of responsibility, but
at the same time, we wanted to exercise that responsibility in a way that was
going to be effective and as strong as possible. So it was a great combination of
having somebody who wasn’t that much older than I was but who was really
exacting and a good mentor-I’m talking now more about in a “how- youpractice-law” way-not in a “how-you-make-a-career” way. That wasn’t
something that I particularly called on him for. In that job, there were four of us
from my law school class who were hired at the same time. And there were only
a few-four-other people above us. And as I said, they were all under thirty.
So, we didn’t have that many people to call on to help us with our work or to teach
us how to do it. I didn’t realize it or think about this aspect that much at the time I
accepted the job, but l did have the sense that it would be fun to work there. I
liked the issues, but the job really was also quite important in shaping how I
approached everything after that.
What kinds of things in particular was he … ?
Well, he-that’s interesting-it was a very litigation-oriented practice. Let me
back up, and try not to repeat too much of what I’ve said before. But this was one
of what were then called the “backup centers” for Legal Services programssupport centers. Since then, they have become independent of the Legal Services
program, mostly because of the restrictions that later were imposed on Legal
Services funding. They are now really entities much more like the National
Women’s Law Center in that they are independent and have to raise their own
money. But then our charge was to help Legal Services programs around the
country work on public benefits law issues. And by and large at that time, which
was 1968, most of what those centers were doing was litigation. We weren’t so
much engaged in public education and lobbying and those kinds of activities.
Those came somewhat later.
Essentially we were doing two things. Helping lawyers around the country bring
mostly welfare-related cases, but those involving other benefit programs, tooMedicaid, Food Stamps, etc. Most of the cases we were working on were ones
that had some kind of law reform impact because we were supposed to be the
national support center that approached public benefits issues in a law reform
way. We had both our own litigation and cases in which we were co-counseling
with other lawyers. So it was a lot of brief writing-most of these were summary
judgment cases, so we were briefing that or responding to a motion to dismiss.
They were generally not fact-intensive cases. There were some that had factual
components but they were mainly facts to get at what the policy was, to the extent
that we had an argument that was based on fact. It was all federal court litigation
by and large. It was traditional legal research and analysis. The learning was not
that much about research, however. That, I think, people were pretty wellgrounded in-even just from law school. The learning was really about how to
put an argument together. I remember, particularly, drafting the petition for cert
for the case I described earlier, Barlow v. Collins. I drafted the petition for cert
for the case, but I remember what my boss did in editing it and how much I
learned from the way he marshaled the arguments-the ways in which he crafted
certain arguments in a way to appeal to particular Justices. All the things you
knew in the back of your head were important, but knowing it and doing it were
two different things.
We were also working on really exciting issues. They were by and large totally
new issues in the courts. As I described earlier, the first time the Supreme Court
ever decided a welfare case, public assistance case, was 1968, in the Center’s
King v. Smith case, and that’s the year I began practicing. As I described earlier,
too, the reasoning in that case opened the door to a whole series of challenges that
we then were engaged in, as the support center for public assistance law. We
combed state statutes to see what other kinds conditions states were imposing on
people in order to get benefits that we could challenge as not authorized by
federal statute. And that we could argue therefore would not be valid under the
doctrine of King v. Smith. Local lawyers would say, “we’ve got this problem,” or
they wouldn’t even say they had a particular problem, they would call about some
other problem and we would ask, “What’s the state rule they are denying the
benefits under?” To see if we could challenge it as an “impermissible condition.”
And courts were striking down these state rules right and left. We were winning
most of the cases.
At the same time, there were important constitutional cases being developed and
won-for example, as I described previously, Goldberg v. Kelly, the Supreme
Court case on due process. The Center was involved in that case in the lower
courts before I got there. It was decided by the Supreme Court in early 1970. I
didn’t work on it. I worked later on the related issues of what it meant and how to
implement it to make sure states were providing the kinds of hearings it required.
There were also the residency cases-these were a series of cases in which states
had denied welfare benefits to people who came from another state. If an
individual lived in Arkansas and moved to West Virginia, West Virginia might
say, “You can’t get benefits in West Virginia unless you’ve lived here a year,” or
some such rule. And those rules were challenged on constitutional grounds and
struck down by the Supreme Court in Shapiro v Thompson in 1969. So there
were constitutional as well as statutory cases being won. At the time, it just
seemed to me like this is the way it’s going to be, to practice law. Now, I think of
it as one of the most exciting times of my legal practice because it’s been so hard
since then to make progress on these poverty issues, since the late ’60s and early
’70s. So, it was a very exciting time to be at the Center on Social Welfare Policy
and Law and to be working on those issues with wonderful people around the
country and in New York.
This was also the time when welfare recipients themselves were organizing into
welfare rights organizations to demand benefits ·and better treatment. The Center
on Social Welfare Policy and Law was in fact begun in emulation of the civil
rights movement’s success in combining the litigation of lawyers with the
organizing of community activists. We were counsel to, and working with, some
of those groups, including the recently formed National Welfare Rights
Organization. So, we were very involved in helping them articulate their views
and assert their rights. We were involved with people who were demonstrating,
getting arrested or otherwise asserting their rights. I learned a lot from those
individuals about organizing, building on what I learned in Mississippi, and about
how important certain strategies were, including how to couch arguments in a
way that would both promote organizing and get substantive results. It was also
great to work with the wonderfully strong low-income women who ran these
organizations. They were women’s rights activists of a sort. Their work was
focused on welfare issues, but they were very strong women. So that, in itself,
was very interesting to be a part of.
In the early ’70s, President Nixon had his. own proposed welfare plan, the Family
Assistance Plan, which at the time we thought was a terrible bill and so did the
National Welfare Rights Organization. But in looking back now, given what’s
happened since then, if we could get that bill passed today, welfare recipients
would be in much better shape than they are now. Our work on the Family
Assistance Plan also began to get us very involved in federal legislative work,
lobbying, and learning how to do that. We were representing welfare recipients in
the lobbying work, too. Coming to Washington and being involved in that kind of
Washington lawyering. So, whether it was litigation, whether it was working
with welfare rights groups on organizing, litigating or lobbying, or it was just the
challenge of the issues and our success, it was an exciting time.
For example, Senator Fred Harris of Oklahoma, before he ran for President, asked
us to write a piece of legislation for him. When Nixon put forth his Family
Assistance Plan, Senator Harris said to us, “I want to have a welfare plan that
guarantees welfare benefits to individuals also, but I want mine to be a better plan.
If you could write your own plan, what would you do?” My current husband,
Mike Trister, and I wrote that bill together in 1972. So relatively early in my
career I had the excitement of writing a bill and seeing it introduced in Congress.
In another example, later in 1972, when the Democratic presidential convention
was in Miami, the National Welfare Rights Organization decided that it was going
to demonstrate outside the convention and otherwise try to get a welfare plank
guaranteeing a minimum income in the Democratic platform. That’s the first time
I went to a national political convention. We were on the convention floor
buttonholing delegates and trying to get them to vote for our welfare rights plank.
I have a button from that fight somewhere. The demand was $6,500 a year-a
guaranteed annual income of $6,500 a year. That’s what we wanted. Which we
didn’t get, but we had a close vote on it. And, of course, the candidate nominated
there, George McGovern, ultimately had a $1,000-a-year proposal and didn’t get a
very good response to it, to say the least. Probably had the convention passed our
plank, he would’ve been in worse shape. But that effort added a whole other
dimension to the work and the skills I was learning. So that was very good.
So, you talked about representing some of these folks after they had been arrested
while protesting. Did you actually represent them in court?
Yes. Sometimes. I only had one ofthose·cases. But we were involved in a big
multi-faceted effort in Nevada in 1971. In early 1971, the State of Nevada
terminated or reduced the benefits of about half the welfare case load without a
prior hearing. That was a clear violation of Goldberg v. Kelly, and the National
Welfare Rights Organization decided to try to get people to go to the state to
demonstrate against this en masse. It also wanted a cadre of lawyers to file suit in
Nevada, challenging the denial of hearings under Goldberg v. Kelly. If we could
win that, then we could begin to represent these people in the hearings to see if we
could prevent their benefits from being cut off. I helped recruit the lawyers,
mainly Legal Services attorneys, from around the country. We asked lawyers to
spend a certain period of time in the state helping with this effort. The campaign
was going on for about a month or so, as I recall. I went there for a week. When
I got there we had just won a preliminary injunction in the case challenging the
denial of hearings under Goldberg. So I had to organize a lot of the hearings for
At the same time, NWRO had planned a big demonstration to protest the cuts.
The goal was to recruit a large number of people to demonstrate on The Strip in
Las Vegas. The NWRO organizers wanted to do something with economic
impact. They reasoned that a large demonstration on The Strip would, for
example, deter those who came from California every weekend to gamble. That
would be something the state would respond to; it would get the state’s attention.
NWRO organized a huge march. Jane Fonda came, as did other celebrities. So
we had to do a lot of the planning and work for that demonstration-getting the
permits, for example.
I remember a couple of funny stories from that trip. One occurred when I arrived
at the Las Vegas airport from New York and told the cab driver where to take me,
which was to a motel where the National Welfare Rights Organization had
arranged for us to stay on the outskirts of town. I don’t know if the cab driver
was responding to the actual motel I was going to or just that I was there by
myself, but he said, “Are you here for a divorce?” That was in the days when
everybody went to Las Vegas to get divorced, and the first step was to establish
residency for some small number of weeks. You established residency and then
you could get a quick divorce. I told him I wasn’t there for a divorce, but I didn’t
tell him why I was there. I figured that would be worse. He would think the
reason I was there was worse. Another funny story involved one of the really
good, strong Legal Services lawyers in the country, Ralph Abascal, who worked
for San Francisco Neighborhood Legal Assistance, one of the best programs in
the country. He came to Las Vegas to work on these cases, too, but when he got
there, he told us that he had at one point in his life been a croupier. So one night
he went to The Strip and won about $1,000 gambling, which he then put into the
kitty to help with the demonstration costs. [Laughter]
Wow. So he knew what he was doing.
…. right, he knew what he was doing. People came with all kind of skills!
Ultimately, we won the case and got a lot of people reinstated. Of course, the
problem with winning on procedural grounds is you can win the litigation, have
all the hearings, and then the state can still cut the benefits by changing the
underlying policies. But that’s an example of the kinds of things we were doing,
including making sure there were lawyers there if people got arrested. A lot of
demonstration cases get dismissed by the time they get to court. I’d get totally
prepared and they’d just dismiss it.
Your big chance …
Right, right to be a criminal lawyer:
Did you actually do some of the lobbying. You mentioned coming to
Washington …
On the Nixon plan, oh, yes. Against it, the Nixon plan.
Helping develop the Fred Harris legislation?
Yes. As I said, Mike and I wrote that legislation. Another thing I did at that time,
as I described previously, was in 1972, the year that Ms. magazine started. The
editors asked us, and I got assigned to do it, if we would work with a woman I
knew named Johnnie Tillmon, who was then the head of the National Welfare
Rights Organization, to write an article entitled “Why Welfare Is a Women’s
Issue” for the first issue of Ms. So, I worked on that. I remember that issue came
out as a supplement to New York magazine. I am not sure how it came out across
the country. It may only have come out that way in New York-it was the very
first issue, before they had a real full-blown issue. I still have a copy of the
article, but I didn’t save the actual issue and apparently that’s the only one of
those early issues that’s worth any money today.
Is that right?
Yes. The one that was actually in New York magazine. It’s a “collector’s item”-
from almost forty years ago. So working on that was fun, but it also made me
think more than I was consciously doing then about the women’s rights aspects of
what I was doing. I had some sense of it because I had also participated, in 1970,
in the first big second wave feminist march in New York–down Fifth Avenue.
As I previously described, I was excited to be a young professional woman
asserting my rights. But we were not actually litigating women’s equality issues
as part of our welfare advocacy. We were making policy arguments about the
AFDC program that it was a program built on stereotypes about women-“the
man in the house rule,” for example. But we weren’t litigating the issues on that
basis. And part of the reason was that the statutory arguments were so strong
after King v. Smith.
For example, a case that I worked on very early on was one in which a state said
that, as a condition of getting public assistance, a woman had to pursue the father ·
for child support. If she wasn’t willing to name the father and to actually be part
of a suit prosecuting him, the state would deny her welfare benefits. We argued
that ( a) the requirement was inconsistent with King v. Smith because there was
nothing in the federal statute that said, in order to get welfare, a mother had to
name the father and sue him for child support; and (b) there were constitutional
problems of potential self-incrimination, if the child was a product of adultery, for
example. Fornication and adultery were crimes in many states and even today are
in several states. We never articulated a sex discrimination argument, for
example, by asking whether the state would be denying benefits on these grounds
in a program that principally served men. This was before Reed v. Reed, the first
Supreme Court case to strike down a law on sex discrimination equal protection
grounds, which was decided in 1971. But we knew that the states were coming
up with some of these rules based on gender stereotyping, whether the “man in the
house rule” or a child support rule. We also knew that these rules were directed at
poor people and wouldn’t have been required in a program serving higher-income
people, and that there was a racial aspect to many of them. Why have a rule that
says mothers have to make sure that kids stay in school until they’re age sixteen or
lose their welfare benefits? Because the state didn’t think welfare recipients knew
how to take care of their kids. And there was clearly a racial and a gender and a
poor people’s aspect to that. So, while we were starting to articulate these things
as policy arguments, we weren’t really focusing on how they might be articulated
as a violation of equal protection based on gender or race. In fact, to the extent
we were making equal protection arguments, it was to try to establish that poverty
was a suspect classification deserving of a high level of scrutiny. And we won
some of those cases in the lower courts on equal protection grounds, but
ultimately lost in the Supreme Court. So we were much more, I think, focused on
that. Later, when we were lobbying against the Family Assistance Plan, the
Nixon welfare bill, I remember giving a copy of the article we had written for Ms.
with Johnnie Tillmon to Bella Abzug for a floor speech because she really wanted
to make this as a women’s issue-to argue that the bill was bad for women and
why. So that was starting to percolate.
Had the Center just started around the time you joined? How old was it?
Yes and no.
The director was pretty young.
Yes, that’s a good question. The Legal Services Program started as part of the
Office of Economic Opportunity in 1965. The Center started the same year, as
part of Columbia, and was funded by Legal Services as one of the first support
centers in 1966. The founder and first director of the Center was a man named Ed
Sparer. He was a somewhat older (late thirties perhaps!) and very smart guy who
developed a lot of the original legal theories in public benefits law and ways in
which to use these theories that dovetailed with what the welfare rights organizers
were trying to do. In fact, as I’ve previously described, his vision for the Center
was to build on the civil rights movement’s success in promoting justice through
both the courts and the work of community organizers. But he left the Center
before I came. So the director that I worked under, Lee Albert, had come to the
Center shortly before I did; he hired me, but he had been there just a few months.
Ed Sparer left to teach first at Yale and then at the University of Pennsylvania. In
fact Marcia Greenberger, my co-president here at the National Women’s Law
Center, had him as a professor, and she was just a few years behind me in law
school. Later-I don’t think when Marcia was in school at Penn-he actually got
the University of Pennsylvania to make his course in public benefits a required
first-year course. Maybe it was called Poverty Law. I don’t know exactly what it
was called, but it was a very different kind of required course than those offered
by other schools. When Marcia’s daughter, Sarah Greenberger, who graduated
from Penn Law School a few years ago, went to Penn-I don’t remember if this
was offered to her before she came or after she got there based on her academic
achievements-she was the recipient of the Edward Sparer Fellowship.
Unfortunately, he died quite young-in his mid-fifties, I believe. He did a lot of
the early thinking, helped make sure there was a support center on public benefits
law, and shepherded a lot of the early work in the area. In fact, as I’ve already
described, both King v. Smith and Goldberg v. Kelly were Center cases. I came
right after King was decided by the Supreme Court and a year or so before
Goldberg was. So it was pretty early in the Center’s history.
Did things go more smoothly for you after your first Supreme Court filing?
Things went fairly smoothly before that. I’m not sure what you mean by
smoothly. I considered the issues with that filing an aberration! I got increased
responsibilities as I went along but, of course, we all were given a great deal of
responsibility from the beginning. In fact, as I’ve said before, one of the things
that students or young lawyers say to me today is that those of us in my
generation of public interest lawyers don’t fully appreciate how much
responsibility we had early on because we were thrown into a situation in which
there weren’t many people with more experience than we had. So we got to do
far more than we allow young lawyers to do now. For good or for ill. I’m sure
we made lots of mistakes. I had pretty much responsibility at the beginning, but
obviously I was there for six years and over time the Center got bigger, and we
expanded beyond litigation more, and I starte.d doing far more legislative work.
The way I met my current husband, Mike Trister, was mostly through this
legislative work. When I first met him, he was a Legal Services lawyer in
Mississippi and we consulted on some cases. Then he came to Washington from
Mississippi in 1970 to join a new organization headed by Marian Wright Edelman
that ultimately became the Children’s Defense Fund. It was originally called the
Washington Research Project. Originally the lawyers there did some poverty
work, some Title VII work, some general “whatever they felt like doing” kind of
work, before WRP became CDP. As part of his work at WRP, Mike represented
the National Welfare Rights Organization and so did I as a Center lawyer. So, at
about that time, the early 1970s, the Center moved from mostly litigation work
into the broader policy arena as NWRO, too, was using its organizing efforts to
fight harmful legislation. The Center also did a lot of work on welfare regulations
at what was then the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, which was
responsible for implementing the AFDC program. We were trying to get HEWparticularly in the Carter Administration, when we had a somewhat more
sympathetic administration-to issue regulations prohibiting state conditions on
the receipt of welfare that we said were forbidden by King v. Smith, without our
having to sue to strike them down. We did a lot of work on regulations-trying to
get better regulations and better policies established administratively.
You probably told me this before, but what was the breakdown of the staff?
There were how many of you?
I think, let’s see, when I came there was a director and there were three “senior”
lawyers, all of whom had three or four years of experience when I arrived. One of
them, Henry Freedman, is now the director of the Center and has been for many
He stayed there?
Yes. He left for a brief period to teach and then came back as the director.
Yes. The director was probably, let’s see, I was twenty-five, he was probably
twenty-nine or thirty. Henry was probably twenty-eight or maybe twenty-nine,
because he was a year ahead of my husband Mike in law school, and Mike is two
years older than I am. There were two other lawyers who were probably around
twenty-eight or twenty-nine. And then there were four ofus who came to the
Center at the same time, all from the same class at NYU Law School. As I’ve
previously described, one of those four was a Reginald Heber Smith fellowSylvia Law, who is now a law professor at NYU. The other two were Ron
Pollack, who is now a lawyer here in Washington and runs Families USA, and
Lucy Katz, who left the Center before any of us because her husband moved to
Connecticut to practice law. But there were four ofus right out oflaw school.
And that was pretty much it, not including support staff.
And the gender breakdown was pretty even …
Yes, it was, actually. But we thr~e women were definitely the first women
lawyers at the Center.
That’s interesting. Did you experience any gender issues?
You mean personally working there?
Workplace issues?
Not particularly. My memory’s so bad. I’m sure there were things said in the
general scheme of things, but it was a pretty progressive group.
Pay and things like that?
Yes, well as far as I know, all of us were at the same level.
And did you get promotions or titles?
Yes, we pretty much moved along together. Sylvia came as a Reggie for a year
but then stayed, I think, another year. She left to join Ed Sparer at Penn, who had
by then started a health law center there. So she really wasn’t there that long.
Ron Pollack came with a particular interest in food and nutrition programs. And,
in fact, in the first year we were there, he developed and the Center brought
litigation-if I have the number right-in twenty-six different states all at once,
challenging the way in which they were administering the Food Stamp Program.
We filed these cases simultaneously in all the states with local counsel, which
made a big splash. I don’t remember exactly how long Ron was at the Center
before he decided he wanted to start a separate food and nutrition center. And so,
he started the Food Research and Action Center, which still exists and is now
based here in Washington and directed by another NYU Law graduate who was a
year behind me, Jim Weill. The reason I don’t remember exactly when Ron
started FRAC and when he officially left the Center is because the two
organizations shared space for a long time.
He started that up in New York?
Yes. He was working on hunger issues at the Center originally and then he
decided to do that work as an independent center. He raised some money and
hired a few staff to work with him. So in a sense, he promoted himself by starting
this other entity, which he led. Sylvia left to join Ed and I can’t remember exactly
when Lucy Katz left. The Center, of course, added other staff in these early
years, too. The truth is, there wasn’t very much hierarchy, period. I think after a
certain number of years, instead of being called a staff attorney, I was called a
senior attorney, but that was pretty much all there was of hierarchy. There wasn’t
a deputy director, just some more senior lawyers. Ultimately, one of them
became the director, as I’ve said. The person who was the director when I came,
Lee Albert, left to teach at Buffalo, where, I believe, he still is. There was another
director for about a year and, after his brief tenure, Henry Freedman, the current
director, came back as the director.
So many people, I think, women, coming out of law school when you did and
even for a while after you did, I think experienced some bias, whether they
recognized it at the time, in terms of even work assignments or where you were
channeled into, in the practice. Did you experience that?
No, not really. No, I can’t remember anything like that. Assignments were
mostly based on interest and availability. Ron was involved in the food issues, so
those were what he spent most of his time on. There was a senior person who was
very interested in mental health issues, and he spent time on those benefits issues;
and there was another senior person who worked on disability issues. There was
also a lot of freedom. I worked early on with others, and with Sylvia to some
extent, on how to use King v. Smith to strike down restrictive state rules in as
many places as possible. When I later became engaged in legislative issues and
the Nixon welfare plan, I was probably the one who worked on those issues the
most and went back and forth from Washington to New York to do that. Again, it
was because that was what I was interested in. I loved working with the welfare
recipients who were organizing in opposition to the Nixon legislation and in fayor
of more progressive legislative approaches. I really liked that part of it. I was
willing to travel and didn’t have any kids I needed to get home to.
And you were married?
Yes. To my first husband, until we split up in 1972.
I was reading in the Washington Lawyer interview with Sally Determan. I don’t
know if you saw that.
She was talking about the pressures that she felt …
Yes, in a firm.
In a firm. Being the first woman and she termed it a “special pressure” because
she kept thinking about all the people coming behind her and that if she messed
up, the doors were going to slam in the faces of all these other people whom she
didn’t know. And she felt some intimidation and pressure. Did you feel anything
like that?
Well, no-I knew that was going on because I had contemporaries, obviously,
who were in similar kinds of situations. But it wasn’t going on where I was andof course, I’m thinking to myself now-well, this is one of the reasons I wanted to
do public interest law work. But, you know, that wasn’t the reason I wanted to do
this kind of work. I wanted to do it because of the issues.
As I’ve previously described, I got involved in women’s issues in another way,
which arose out of the fact that our Center was at Columbia University Law
School. That didn’t affect our day-to-day work much, but we had a faculty
advisor who gave both general advice and from time to time got more involved in
our work. But at that time there were women law students at Columbia who
wanted a Women and the Law course. This was in the late ’60s, early ’70s, when
those courses didn’t exist. They were pressing the Law School administration,
saying essentially, “There is a whole body of law here that people ought to be
paying attention to. You should have somebody come and teach it, but if you’re
not going to do that, we’ll teach it ourselves. We’ll pull together and teach it
ourselves.” As I’ve previously described, Margy Kohn, who was a student at
Columbia, came to see me at the Center to talk about the course and ask if I would
teach a session on public benefits “or whatever you want. Basically, what would
you be willing to teach?” I said sure, and, as I’ve discussed, that’s how I met
Ruth Bader Ginsburg, even before she came to Columbia. That also made me
think a little bit more about the issues I was working on as women’s issues and to
talk about it with others even ifwe weren’t articulating the issues that way in
some of the court cases. So I did that. When Columbia eventually got Ruth to
come there and teach in 1972, she taught the course.
As I described previously, when she got to Columbia, she invited me to teach a
session of her class on welfare law, and we did sessions on public benefits law
together at various Women and the Law conferences, because she was litigating
the Social Security cases and I was litigating the welfare cases. She was teaching
and litigating these cases for the ACLU. That’s how I got to know her. The
students at Columbia were pressing women’s issues, including the ways in which
women at the Law School were affected. I was exposed to that through Margy
and others. “We need more women teachers, we need to have a course on
Women and the Law.” As I also descriped previously, Margy was one of a group
of students who sued some of the law firms over their recruiting policies. Then
when I came to the Center for Law and Social Policy, the predecessor of the
National Women’s Law Center, one of the reasons I came is because Margy was
working here and she approached me to see if I would be interested in coming.
How did the Welfare Center gets its funding?
It was entirely funded by Legal Services.
That’s where your paycheck came from?
Right, right. We weren’t federal employees. A federal grant was made to
Columbia University, which was technically our employer and wrote our
What were your hours like? Were they similar to your friends in law firms?
They were better. I don’t quite remember how much I knew about law firm hours.
First of all, a lot of my close friends were in public interest organizations or small
law firms with specialized practices, like labor law. Because of the draft, some of
the men in my class weren’t even practicing law. They were in the military or
were teaching or doing other things that kept them out of the draft. So I didn’t
really have a lot of close friends in law firms to know how they were doing there.
But my general impression was that it wasn’t so crazy-it wasn’t like it is now.
I’m sure they worked longer hours generally than we did. But we worked long
hours when needed and on weekends, too. It wasn’t that we had 9-to-5 jobs. In
fact, my contempories in big firms weren’t even making that much more money
that we were.
When I came out of law school, it was the same thing. I worked in the
government. My co-clerk came out and worked for a Wall Street firm, and the
difference in our salaries was only a couple thousand dollars.
In 1968, when I graduated, the starting salary in the big Wall Street firms was
$15,000, and I was making $11,000.
It wasn’t a major trade off.
Yes. Well, I didn’t even consider it. It wasn’t an issue.
You were married. Were you self supporting at this point?
Yes. Also, because my parents put me through law school, I didn’t have any debt.
What was your lifestyle like at this point in New York? Had it changed very
much from when you were a student?
Yes. It was better. I had money [Laughter]. I had a two-bedroom, eat-in kitchen,
rent-controlled apartment on the Upper West Side. That sounds very good in
New York today, and it was then, too. Two bathrooms. It was pretty nice.
Tell me about what you were most proud of in terms of accomplishments in this
job? You were there for six years?
I was there for six years. It’s hard to say. There were so many exciting things
that I worked on, including all the successful cases based on King v. Smith. One
of the issues that I worked on a lot was one that we ultimately lost, so I can’t
really say it’s what I was most proud of. But it’s one I helped develop. The Legal
Services Corporation funded a group in Chicago, the National Clearinghouse for
Legal Services. It has since been renamed the Sargent Shriver National Center on
Law and Poverty. It had two purposes then. One was to be a repository for briefs
and materials that Legal Services lawyers were producing, which was wonderful
because we could all send our materials there. If somebody else had litigated a
similar case, we could get all the pleadings there. It was especially useful to us as
a support center, because, of course, we didn’t have faxes, computers, or anything
else-we barely had a copying system. We could tell people who were calling us
for our pleadings that they could get them from the Clearinghouse. In addition
the Clearinghouse published a newsletter, Clearinghouse Review, which came out
monthly. It listed all the materials the Clearinghouse had collected and provided
updates on related case developments. We didn’t have to call up to find out if the
Clearinghouse had something, just check the newsletter. The items were listed by
category-a housing category, welfare category, domestic relations category, all
the Legal Services categories. The Review also contained articles written by
Legal Services lawyers and others about bigger issues-things people wanted to
expound on. It was essentially a law review for poverty-law issues. I did a series
of articles exploring the extent to which a winning plaintiff in a welfare case
could get retroactive benefits for the period during which the law had been
violated. Because mainly state benefits were involved, the articles reviewed
Eleventh Amendment and sovereign immunity issues, among others. The articles
were designed to counsel lawyers on how to successfully secure retroactive
benefits. If a plaintiff couldn’t get benefits retroactively, all a state had to do in
litigation was stall and stall and stall the case. Every month a case stalled, the
client lost and the state saved more in welfare benefits. So if the client could only
get prospective relief, it was an inadequate remedy. And it meant the client really
didn’t have much of an entitlement in the first instance. But sovereign immunity
and other legal concepts were a potential barrier to getting damages against states
in certain instances. Could we call it equitable relief instead of damages and
avoid sovereign immunity problems, as had been done in some other types of
cases? These were the kinds of questions the articles discussed. I wrote a series
of four articles to spur people to litigate these issues around the country, which
people did successfully in many instances. Until an Illinois case that we worked
on with lawyers in Chicago to settle this issue reached the Supreme Court,
Edelman v. Jordan, and we lost, 5-4 [Laughter].
Pretty close … [Laughter]
Right. Right. [Laughter]
Some of my early work litigating child support issues at the Center involved me
in an issue I’ve worked on my entire career. As I described previously, that work
started with challenges to state laws that required women to seek child support, or
cooperate in seeking support, as a condition for receipt of welfare benefits. We
won some of the first cases on constitutional arguments, mainly that the
requirement violated the constitutional protection against self_;incrimination
because adultery and fornication were crimes in many states. And then, after
King v. Smith, as I also described previously, we won on statutory arguments. But
winning a case often prompted a state to try different things to get around the
ruling. Instead of making child support cooperation a condition of eligibility for
benefits, for example, a state might just threaten to criminally prosecute a woman
who wouldn’t cooperate. We kept winning the cases until probably the mid-’70s,
when Congress started clamping down on cases that were being brought to give
welfare recipients all these rights. Congress decided it would expressly make it a
condition of eligibility that a woman cooperate in securing child support. But,
ultimately that led to a much more affirmative statutory effort, in the mid-1970s,
to establish a federal-state child support enforcement program to actually help
people get child support so they wouldn’t have to rely on welfare. By then I was
teaching, but when I came to the National Women’s Law Center, I worked on
ways of expanding the child support enforcement help provided by that statute.
For example, I brought a case to establish that the program wasn’t just for welfare
recipients, but for anybody who needed help in securing child support, Parents
Without Partners v. Massinga. But my work on child support issues always had
two parts: first to help low-income women get the support they are due and
second, to ensure that they wouldn’t lose their welfare benefits if they had good
reasons for not pursuing support. One of the reasons women didn’t want to
cooperate in securing support was domestic violence. A woman didn’t want to
name the father or cooperate in suing him because she was afraid of him and
didn’t want him to know where she was. The work that I did early on at the
Center on Social Welfare Policy and Law made me an advocate for the need
women have for a strong and good public benefits system and the need they have
for a strong child support enforcement system. Of course, a complication in the
latter instance is that many of the men who father poor women’s children don’t
have much money to speak of either. So the states’ attempts to make it a
condition of eligibility for women to pursue these men for support was
particularly punitive-and more about limiting welfare benefits than actually
collecting support. It’s been a difficult issue over time to figure out what’s the
right policy and how to implement it.
But it laid the foundation for your career.
Yes. And to the extent I started thinking about and working on some of the public
benefits issues from a women’s perspective, that carried over.
Why did you leave the Center?
I left in 1974 mainly because I wanted to come to Washington. By then I was
seeing the person who is now my husband, Mike Trister. He was in Washington.
I had been commuting back and forth from New York. I wanted to move here to
be with him. I commuted some for work reasons, but mostly, I came on
weekends just to see him. Or he came to New York. We had been going back
and forth for two years. I was tired of it. Then the question was what was I going
to do? I was interested in teaching, in part because of the work I had done with
Ruth Ginsburg, and I thought maybe I could get a teaching job. I was really only
interested in it if I could teach in the areas in which I had been working or areas
that were mostly related to that, because I saw that as a way of encouraging others
to go in to these areas of the law.
You enjoyed your experience teaching at Columbia?
Yes. Teaching would be an overstatement of what I did. It was more like coming
and talking for an hour about the issues I was involved in. Once, I started
teaching, I realized how different it was. In the individual class presentations, I
wasn’t trying to think about the ways in which what I was talking about fit into a
body oflaw. How it fit into a whole curriculum and a whole course. I enjoyed
standing up in front of a class, talking about the issues, interacting with
students-they were only a few years younger than I was. In thinking about
coming to Washington, I wasn’t particularly interested in moving out of povertyrelated issues. I wasn’t sure what I would look for in Washington. I didn’t
particularly want to work for the Legal Services Corporation, which was and still
is based here. I didn’t want to be helping administer the program. I wanted to be
doing things related to what I had been doing.
Clinton Bamberger, who was then the dean of Catholic University Law School,
had been the first Vice President of the Legal Services Corporation. I didn’t
really know him but I knew of him. People told me that he was trying to create a
more diverse law school curriculum, for example, by including a public interest
·perspective in the curriculum and having faculty teach traditional courses by, let’s
say, teaching a property course that addressed public housing issues as well as
more traditional property issues. People said, “You ought to talk to him.” So I
wrote to him. He said Catholic didn’t have any regular positions available but
they had visiting positions. And if I’d be interested in that, it would give me an
opportunity to try teaching and see if I liked it.
And where did you live when you first moved to Washington?
Dupont Circle with Mike, which is where we still live.
When you were in law school, did you ever think you’d be a law professor and
No. [Laughter] And probably if anybody had suggested it, I would have said,
“Why would I want to do that?” [Laughter] Not to mention, “How do I know
enough?” Once I started doing it, I realized no one knows anything. [Laughter]
That’s an exaggeration, but in many respects the law school attitude is if you’re a
smart person, you can teach anything. I don’t think that’s a good attitude, by the
way. You definitely bring more to it if you have had some years of actual legal
practice. Preferably in the area in which you are teaching, but at least in some
area. Yet plenty of law schools hire people right out of law school. I told you the
story of the Columbia faculty member I worked with on the Barlow case in the
Supteme Court. He had never argued in any court before he argued in the
Supreme Court. And he did a really good job, so maybe they’re right. Why don’t
we stop because I’m afraid I’m going to repeat myself1
Nancy Duff Campbell, Interview 5
January 4, 2008
Studley: I think where we were when we last met, which was just about a month ago I
· guess. You were talking about … you were about to make the transition I think
from your work on the welfare rights cases-in New York-and moving to
Washington DC. I don’t think we got into anything relating to your teaching.
career, but-one question I guess I had for you is given all the work you did in
welfare reform or welfare issues, what did you think of the Clinton era welfare
reform? I’m sure you testified on and wrote about it, but I was curious as to how
you think this issue has evolved.
Campbell: I thought it was terrible. In the 1970s, during the previous big welfare reform
effort, I was at the Center on Social Welfare Policy and Law, where I worked
very closely with the National Welfare Rights Organization on that effort, as I
described previously. The Clinton legislation was essentially antithetical to the
Nixon Family Assistance Plan-which if we actually had in place right now,
would look pretty good. This is hindsight, because if the Family Assistance Plan
had become law, it would have resulted in real setbacks for welfare recipients at
that time and we and NWRO opposed it for that reason. But the heart of the
Nixon Plan was the recognition that, while some low-income people could work
and should be required to work, there were people for whom that would be much
more difficult, either because they had young children or they had disabilities or
they had other serious health-related problems. So there was a recognition that
this was a diverse group of people who needed different things, but underneath it
all they needed some basic living standard ensured by the federal government.
And most of the fight then was about that standard. What should be the amount
of the basic living standard and what conditions should be attached to receiving
When Bill Clinton campaigned for the presidency and uttered the catch-phrase
“end welfare as we know it,” no one knew exactly what he meant when he said it.
It could mean a lot of different things to different people. That was, in a certain
sense, the beauty of it for him. If you didn’t like the welfare system at all and
thought it was a bad system, created dependency, etc., and you heard that phrase,
you could say, “Well, we have to change that. We have to cut the program back.”
If you, like me, thought that there were problems with the current system, but
there was a need for some basic living standard for many people for whom work
was not a very viable option, as well as a need to help people who could work,
ending welfare as we knew it might be a good thing. Although we surely had our
doubts that he meant this!
And, of course, there now is a lot of speculating in hindsight about the Clinton
Administration-the different things that Clinton wanted to accomplish and the
order in which he tried to do them. Whether it was health care reform or the
welfare ch~nges-I don’t call them welfare reform, given how they turned out.
Some people think that if the Administration had tried to do some of the welfare
changes first, when Clinton had a Democratic Congress, the result might have
been better. Both for welfare recipients and in terms of the outcome generally in
what became the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation
Act that passed in 1996. It might also have been better for health care not to try to
do that first-to do it later in the Administration. All these things are hard to
know because so many different things happened during that period of time. But
at the time it became fairly obvious early on that, although there were lots of very
well-meaning people, including people who understood these issues well, like
Peter Edelman, in the Clinton Administration, and that these people were pushing
for a welfare package that gave more recognition to what the real needs were and
what should be done to address them, there were also a lot of people on the other
side. People who weren’t in the Administration, who were outside the
Administration and who wanted a much more conservative approach. That’s a
nice way of saying it, I guess. And whether the Administration didn’t stand up to
them because it didn’t disagree with them as much as I would have liked, or
because it was itself already weakened or because it was very important just to
pass something-we may never know. In the end the bill was so controversial
that people like Peter Edelman and Donna Shalala and others in HHS
recommended that Bill Clinton veto it. And some of them resigned afterwards in
protest. I didn’t like the bill the Administration started with, but it was certainly
far better than the bill that was the end result. The National Women’s Law Center
took a position against it, the Children’s Defense Fund did-most of the
progressive groups that had been working on it took a position against it. So, we
were very disappointed in the final bill.
It’s still a little too early to evaluate what the long-term consequences are. Yes, a
lot of people are off the welfare rolls, but I don’t think that’s because they are not
poor. Poverty, if anything, is worse. And now we have a Bush Administration
that is much more hostile to the poor, so it’s hard to measure what are the causes
and what are the effects here. The changes in the system were not good changes.
We don’t have a system that’s really helping people to get jobs, and certainly not
to give them a decent basic income. Basically we have a system that says, “You
can get some assistance for five years and then you’re on your own.” Where all
those people are, how much they’re in the underground economy, what’s
happening to their children is all very, very hard to know. And it’s particularly
hard to know because the bill eliminated the collection of data by HHS on a lot of
the effects. So, we don’t have very good tracking mechanisms. For a while, some
of the think tanks-the Urban Institute, Brookings and others-had funding to try
to track the effects and documented the harmful effects of some of the provisions.
But that funding is not continuing, so we may well not have longitudinal data of
the effects on the people who were recipients before the 1996 changes or might
have been recipients under the old system but are not because of the new time
limits on receipt of assistance or other kinds of restrictions. This includes people
who never received assistance or received it for only short periods of time. And
it’s particularly distressing because it was not the general pattern for families to be
on welfare for a long period of time. That was a myth. Yes, there were some
who were on the rolls for several years, but they were isolated cases. They really
were the hardcore poor for whom it was hard to work. But most people cycled off
and on as the economy changed, as they had jobs and lost jobs. Because so many
low-wage jobs don’t have benefits, if a child gets sick, a mother can lose her job
because she doesn’t have sick days-that’s just one example of why people cycle
off and on the rolls. So it remains to be seen what the long-term effects of the
1996 changes are going to be.
I guess I was just thinking about all the time you had put in early on in your career
in this area.
Yes. It was very disappointing. Especially since there had been a period-and it
was a period when I was just starting out as a lawyer- when it looked as if there
was a real willingness to address poverty and an expansion of poor people’s
rights. There was also a growing understanding of the particular problems of
women with children, and that there’s a woman’s face to poverty because there
aren’t adequate supports for child care or enforcement of child support. Things
that would especially help women. There were positive changes in public
benefits law in the late ’60s and early ’70s, in part through the work we were
doing at the Center on Social Welfare Policy and Law and that other Legal
Services lawyers were doing around the country to articulate basic rights and to
win, in the courts, rulings that the federal statute intended to protect these rights.
But the victories we won started getting cut back when Congress began, in
response to these victories, to restrict these rights. That was clearly happening
before Bill Clinton said we should “end welfare as we know it.” But the changes
that took place in 1996 in the Clinton welfare measure were-far, far more
significant in terms of the program than earlier legislative changes had been. So
the enactment of the new law was particularly hard to accept.
I think when we last met you were beginning to talk a little bit about your
decision to move to Washington. And what motivated you on that and how that
came about.
Well, some of it was personal, as I’ve said. But I had been practicing for six
years, doing a lot of public benefits law work, both litigation and lobbying,
including around the then-welfare reform measures that were being advanced by
the Nixon Administration. And I had been interested in the policy-related work
that was going on in Washington. But I was also interested in the idea-I guess
that a lot of people who aren’t law professors have-that as a law professor you
can step back and be contemplative. That teaching is a way to start organizing
your thoughts-the things you’d been thinking about-and not only transmit them
to another generation but also sort through them yourself, write about them and be
involved in other ways of furthering them. And I had always liked the related
work that I had done. I did a lot of training of litigants, and some of law students,
when I was in New York. I’d always enjoyed that; I thought that I was able to do
it in a fairly straight-forward, simple way and that I’d like to try to develop it
more. I also saw teaching as a way to transition to Washington, to figure out what
I might want to do in the longer term when I got there. I didn’t go into it with the
notion that I was changing my career-that I really always wanted to be a law
school professor and now I was going to go do that. I saw it much more as an
opportunity to try something different, to see if I liked it-and to see how I liked
being in Washington.
As I described earlier, I was interested in Catholic University because Clinton
Bamberger, who was then the dean, had been one of the first leaders-Vice
President-of the Legal Services Corporation and, since he had been at Catholic,
had established a focus on both clinical programs and on courses that were
poverty law-related. That made Catholic seem like the place to start. And the
Law School was looking for people. So I applied and-I can’t remember what the
timing was exactly, but I was initially hired as a visiting professor because I
applied past the time when law schools usually hire for the following year. I think
I decided I wanted to apply in April instead of the previous fall, when the hiring
usually occurs. So, I was hired originally as a visiting professor. I was interested
in Catholic not only because of Clinton Bamberger, but also because there’s a
very strong social justice element to a lot of Catholic teachings. That was
partially the basis for a lot of the Law School’s interest in poverty issues.
At Catholic, I originally taught Administrative Law, Torts, and a seminar in
Welfare Law. Often when you begin teaching law, you teach one course the first
semester. Sometimes you teach it twice, sometimes you only teach it once. At
Catholic, new teachers didn’t have that luxury. As I recall, I had to teach Torts
and a seminar in Welfare Law the first semester. The seminar on Welfare Law
wasn’t so hard because it was basically putting together a lot of materials on
issues that I already knew. In fact, when I was at the Center on Social Welfare
Policy and Law, we had developed a set of materials for teaching welfare law to
lawyers. So I took those materials-they were a few years out of date-and
updated them with later cases and materials. It was a seminar so it only met once
a week for two hours. I essentially made my own casebook. And I loved teaching
Torts because it was great to teach a first-year course; the legal issues are not that
complicated, and many of the cases are fun. The students catch on to and
understand them pretty well. The second semester I taught Torts and
Administrative Law. Later, I also taught a seminar on Administrative Law. But
the first year I taught four courses, three of which were new and one I had to
create, which was very unusual. It was a lot of work. No time for contemplation!
I created the seminar on Administrative Law, too. It was basically a public
interest law seminar, using a lot of poverty law cases-actually, not just cases, but
other materials as well-and included discussions of how to lobby and engage in
other types of advocacy. I started at Catholic in 1974, so it was before a lot of
clinical programs were really underway. Clinical programs were starting but they
weren’t very far along. There weren’t a lot of them. Catholic had more of them
than some other law schools, but there weren’t a lot of them. And I didn’t teach a
clinic. It was a regular course. But it was great.
I liked teaching a lot. The irony was that Clinton Bamberger, although he had
been there when I was hired, took a leave of absence the year I came. I think he
already had it planned. It wasn’t that it was a surprise. And he didn’t come back,
so I never was there under him.
It was hard the first year because I had to teach, as I said, three new courses. In
fact, I never even took Administrative Law in law school. Of course, law schools
don’t care about that. “You can teach anything if you’re a smart enough person.”
That’s their theory about these things. Which is always so shocking to me. Just
stay a few hours ahead of the students and you’ll be fine. [Laughter] But it was
great. The students were great. The students were more lively and interesting
than I expected, to the extent I had any expectations. I really didn’t know. And
the seminar courses were just ten to fifteen people. Even the other courses
weren’t very large; the Administrative Law course was about fifty or sixty people,
and the Torts course-even the required, first-year Torts course-probably was
only about eighty people.
Law schools were then, I would imagine, pretty male-dominated.
Yes, that’s interesting. There were a few women teaching at Catholic that I knew
before I was hired. Florence Roisman, I don’t know if you know her, but she was
for many years a lawyer here in Washington. She had been at the Legal Services
support center in housing law, the National Housing Law Program, and was a
nationally known expert on housing law. She was teaching as an adjunct at
Catholic-teaching a housing law course. When Brooksley Born and Mama
Tucker taught the first Women and the Law course in Washington, DC, it was at
Catholic. I didn’t know them then, and they weren’t actually teaching it when I
was there. That’s because someone else that I knew, although not well, a woman
named Jane Dolkart, was teaching it.
The reason I knew Jane was interesting. When I was at the Center on Social
Welfare Policy and Law in New York, as I’ve described, we were originally part
of Columbia University. And Jane was a student at Columbia Law School when I
was first there. So she was a few years younger than I was-maybe as many as
five but no more than that, probably more like three. She was one of the students
who, with Margy Kohn, was trying to organize a Women and the Law course at
Columbia. Margy first recruited me to teach the session on welfare law, as I’ve
already described. I didn’t even know that Jane had ended up in Washington and
was teaching at Catholic until I got interested in teaching law. I don’t remember if
I knew before I went to the interview-or somebody said to me, “Remember that
Jane Dolkart is there and you should call her.” I think I called her beforehand,
and she said, “Oh, yeah, we have openings,” and then she put me in touch with
one of the deans or the search committee chair. But, in any event, she was
teaching Women and the Law. So Catholic had a Women and the Law course
that was a regular course by then. Jane hadn’t been there very long herself. I was
six years out of law school by then, and, as I said, she was three or four years
behind me in school, I think. She had come to Washington to Victor Kramer’s
graduate program at Georgetown, which was then called the Institute for Public
Interest Representation, or INSPIRE. It was a program that provided both a
Master’s degree and work in a public interest law clinic. Jane had been in that
program for a year or two. Then, I think, she went right from there to Catholic to
teach. So she was teaching Women and the Law and Family Law. She was
teaching Family Law from a very feminist perspective.
There was also a young woman who came at the same time I did, who I believe
still teaches there, Nell Newton. So there weren’t a lot of women on the faculty,
but there were four or five ofus and we were also relatively the same age-in our
twenties or early thirties basically. There was some recent history of other
women faculty, including Florence Roisman, who was still teaching on an adjunct
basis. And, of course, Brooksley and Mama had taught Women and the Law as
adjuncts beforehand; I knew about that before I knew either of them-knew about
the course and that they had started it there.
So they taught before you?
Yes. I don’t remember how much Jane was using materials they had put together
or whether she was using materials partially from the course she had organized at
Columbia when she was a student. But she had a lot of interest in the topic. She
was a much more academically oriented person than I am in a sense that she not
only put this course together, but she was also writing for a feminist literary
magazine, reading feminist history and steeping herself not just in the legal
aspects of women’s rights law, which was what she was teaching, but also broader
legal history, women’s legal history and the like.
In addition to this group of women faculty, there were men, relatively younger
men, on the faculty who had been working in related public interest areas. Roger
Wolf, who had been a long-time Legal Services lawyer, was teaching in the clinic
there. Bill Taylor, who had been at the Civil Rights Commission and was doing
civil rights litigation, had started a civil rights clinical program at Catholic. Roger
Hartley was a young-like several of us, in his late twenties-Labor Law
professor. So there was a group of faculty members who were pretty progressive
and in that group were several of us who were just learning how to teach. So we
shored each other up with questions such as, “How do you handle this in a
classroom?” And then there were the more senior people on the faculty who
mentored us all,. as well.
One of these for me was Harvey Zuckman, who had been at Catholic for several
years and was teaching Torts. Since I was going to teach Torts, he was the person
that I turned to with questions such as, “Which casebook should I use?” And
when I was having a hard time figuring out whether I should teach a certain case,
or what I should do about a certain issue, or when a student asked me a question
that I had to say, “I’ll get back to you on,” he was very helpful. One of the
reasons that I mention him is that he’s in his seventies now and he called me early
last summer. I had kept up with him a little. He and his wife are contributors to
the National Women’s Law Center. He’s a very lovely guy. He actually started,
after I left Catholic, ·a media law project there. He told me that he had been
retired for a few years, but that he was bored and would like to volunteer for the
National Women’s Law Center, ifwe were interested in having him.
How nice.
Yes. He was particularly interested in working on some of our Title IX issues.
And he did. He came in and started last summer. He’s been working for us parttime, totally as a volunteer, since then. It’s been fun. He says I’m the mentor
now. In addition, his daughter, who, of course, I knew as a young girl, Jill
Zuckman, is a congressional correspondent with the Chicago Tribune-a pretty
well-known journalist, if you follow the Hill. This past year, when we had our
fundraising dinner, she was one of the speakers at a breakfast the morning after
the dinner that we traditionally have, mainly for out-of-town guests. It’s a short
program that usually focuses on some topic of particular interest that year. She
spoke about the climate for women’s issues in Congress and ways in which the
election might affect them. Harvey was sitting in the audience, and I was sitting
in the audience and here’s little Jill, as I remember her, all grown up. So that was
That’s great.
So, it was a small school and a small faculty and it was fairly close knit.
Were the courses that you taught, which were other than Torts, I guess, more
social justice oriented? And the women’s law course which you didn’t teach.
Were they taken as seriously or given as much credence by the facultyespecially the older faculty-as Con Law and some of the more traditional law
Interesting. I don’t know. I wouldn’t say “no.” I wouldn’t say necessarily “yes.”
I think what was good was that, maybe because it was small, maybe because there
was a Catholic social justice perspective, maybe because of Bamberger, maybe
just because of the faculty who had come there for all of these various reasons,
there was an openness to trying different ideas for courses. “You have an idea for
a course? Okay, do it.” There wasn’t a heavy negotiation on my part when I took
the job to say, “Oh, I’m only going to come if I can do this.” First of all, I wasn’t
in a position to do that. I was just a kid. And second, when I interviewed, they
asked me, “What would you be interested in doing?” They needed somebody to
teach Torts. It seemed like I could do that. I certainly wanted to use the welfare
law background that I had. And obviously a lot of my practice had been in
administrative law, although it was heavy on the federal courts aspect of
administrative law-challenging administrative procedures, litigating against
federal agencies-it wasn’t rate commissions and regulatory agencies work.
As I said, they needed Torts. And they needed Administrative Law because the
person whose place I was technically taking as a visiting professor taught
Administrative Law. I don’t think he taught Torts. It may have been that Harvey
Zuckman was teaching two sections of Torts, and he wanted to teach something
else. He taught Family Law also. So, the idea was I would teach Torts and
Administrative Law. Nobody said, “Well, how are you going to teach these
courses?” or anything else. This was true when I taught at Georgetown, too. As
I’ve said before, it is still amazing to me that law schools hire people right out of
law school to teach law school. And they take the position that you don’t have to
practice in an area in order to teach it. That you don’t even have to have taken the
course to teach it. And they also don’t do much to help you learn to be a teacher.
There may be mentoring and the like, but there isn’t instruction in techniques of
teaching that goes on in law schools, or at least not in my experience. Maybe it’s
changed and maybe it’s different in some schools, but I have talked to a lot of
people about this and I don’t think it has. There’s a general sense, as I said, that
you’re a smart person and either you’re going to do it well or not. As we know, in
a lot of places, they care more about the writing and similar evidence of
scholarship than they do about teaching anyway. That wasn’t true of Catholic.
They really did care about the teaching. But they didn’t quiz me on, “How are
you going to teach Administrative Law?”
So, in the first semester when I was teaching Torts, as I said, I’d talked with
Harvey Zuckman about which book to use. And he told me the pros and cons of
different books, and he told me the one he was using, which other people told me,
too, was the hardest one to teach from, but the most interesting-the most
stimulating book to teach from. I remember, unlike some books that came with a
Teacher’s Guide-leading the teacher through certain issues, providing questions
to ask-this book didn’t have anything like that. But it was a wonderful book, and
I was glad I picked it. As I said, he was a great help. But in the first semester,
while I was teaching Torts and Welfare Law, I was also having to prepare to teach
Administrative Law in the second semester. There I was at more of a
disadvantage in the sense that I’d never even taken the course. And there wasn’t
anyone else teaching it at the time because that was the person whose place I was
taking. There was only one section of it. So I didn’t have another faculty
member to ask, “Well, how are you going to … ?” or “What book are you going to
chose?” But I ended up picking a book that was, I think, a new case book, maybe
it had even just come out that year, by Jerry Mashaw and Richard Merrill. Their
administrative law case book was more public-interest oriented than a lot of older,
more traditional books. That wasn’t its entire orientation by any means, but you
could find a housing case in there, for example. You might even find a welfare
case. Of course, it was a newer book and administrative law principles were just
being developed by a lot of Legal Services lawyers in these kinds of cases at that
time. For example, Thorpe v. City a/Durham was a famous housing case in the
Supreme Court that was a pretty classic case in administrative law as well. And
so, Mashaw and Merrill were putting those kinds of cases in the book. That was
the casebook I used. Then I added to it, sprinkling in examples from what I knew
from my years of practice. I tried to teach it in a very practical way, even though
it was a pretty traditional second-year course for most students. And, of course, a
lot of people in Washington law schools take the course because they think it’s
essential to a Washington practice. So I tried to teach it very much from a
litigator’s perspective and a policy person’s perspective. But it was challenging
because there wasn’t anybody to talk to about it. I had to do it on my own. I
would occasionally talk to the Labor Law faculty members because they had
related cases, or if I had labor cases I wanted to use I’d try to get some
background from them on how the cases also fit into Labor Law. So I could make
sure I was not talking about the case in a vacuum when it illustrated not just an
administrative law principle but also a labor law one.
Since Catholic University is a Catholic school, did religious considerations
manifest themselves?
Not so much at the beginning. I really didn’t answer your earlier question, which
was how did they view the public interest courses. People were teaching core
courses but also seminars in various areas. And again, the nice thing about a
small school is the ability for the faculty to do that. But there were also several
unusual courses being taught, in part because it was a Catholic school, and not
just a Catholic school, but the Catholic University of America. It’s the official
one. There was somebody teaching a Canon Law course, for example. And there
were priests on the faculty, too. And one thing that was controversial was that
they had a priest teaching Family Law.
Oh wow.
And that had been a problem because of the need to teach divorce. The person
whose place I was taking was a quite progressive priest who had left to be a
visiting professor at North Carolina Central. He was a very smart guy. And a
very beloved guy. He had gone to teach at North Carolina Central, a historically
Black university. He went as a visitor but he didn’t come back. He stayed there.
Which was one of the reasons I was a visitor and then, when he didn’t return, I
got a regular position. There were other priests in the university who were quite
progressive as well. But the priest who was teaching Family Law was much more
traditional. This was all before my time, so I’m not sure exactly how much
Bamberger engineered this or it just happened-but, I think, Bamberger moved
him out of teaching Family Law, and assigned Jane Dolkart and Harvey Zuckman
to teach it instead because the law school couldn’t have a Family Law course that
didn’t teach divorce. So this had been an issue that Bamberger had finessed and
modernized the school’s approach, if you will.
What was more controversial, or beginning to be more controversial, is that there
was beginning to be developed already in Catholic law schools a number of
Catholic legal arguments against Roe v. Wade and even questions about whether
abortion and reproductive rights-this was now a developing area of the lawshould be taught. Roe v. Wade had been decided in 1973 and I went to Catholic
in 1974. Of course, the student body had Catholic students, but by no means only
Catholic students. The Law School was probably much more heterogeneous than
the rest of the University, as graduate schools tend to be. So there were questions
about the effect of these arguments on us as teachers. Most of us thought there
was an obligation to teach the law. The students were going to have to take a bar
exam, and whether they ever practiced in these areas, whether they agreed with
the legal principles as they had developed or not, they had to know these areas of
the law, at least enough to have the basic rudiments. The Law School–or a
teacher-couldn’t say we couldn’t teach them. In fact, there could potentially be
accreditation issues if that happened. The Family Law issue at Catholic, to the
extent there was one, focused mainly on the fact that there was one particular
person teaching Family Law who had a problem teaching divorce, as opposed to
some doctrinal issue in the University. The abortion issue was a much broader
issue because that was far more doctrinal as far as the rest of the University was
concerned. So, these were issues that didn’t touch me that directly in terms of
what I was teaching, but that created a kind of buzz among the faculty.
After I had been there the first year, I got a regular, tenure-track position and kept
teaching the courses that I had been teaching, since I wasn’t going to take on
another new course.
Leaming something new ….
Right away. Certainly. I started in the summer of ’74 and got a regular position
in the summer of ’75. Bamberger, who had been the dean but was on leave,
didn’t come back. So the Law School had an interim dean my second year. It
obviously had an interim dean the first year he was away-that was someone on
the faculty who took over the dean’s job temporarily. Then, when he said he
wasn’t coming back, the school had to find a new, permanent dean. So it started
the search process. That was something the faculty obviously cared about and
was involved in. The search directly raised issues about “What does it mean to be
the dean of a Catholic law school in a Catholic university?” Some of the issues
that had been percolating around came to the fore. “What’s the University
looking for and what do we want as a Law School faculty and are they the same?”
The person who was, in the end, the leading candidate from the faculty’s
perspective was Jewish. He also was a non-traditional candidate in other respects.
By non-traditional, I mean he was a popular teacher, and a brilliant guy, but he
wasn’t a traditional academic. He wasn’t a person who hung out with the faculty
or a “slap you on the back,”. networking kind of guy. And his only priority wasn’t
teaching. He had an outside law practice in which he was very active.
He taught at Catholic?
Yes. He was a full-time, tenured faculty member, but he also had a pretty fulltime practice.
And it was partially because he was brilliant that he could do all of these things.
But it meant he wasn’t around the Law School that much. He threw his hat in the
ring toward the end of the process. The end result was that there was a big
brouhaha because the faculty voted for him, but the president of the University
did not select him. The president hadn’t said that the dean had to be a Catholic or
had to have the views he wanted. And the faculty candidate wasn’t a person who
was particularly expressing his views. He wasn’t a person who was engaging in
big debates about abortion or divorce or anything else, and he wasn’t teaching in
those areas. He was just doing his thing, teaching his courses-which were in the
antitrust area-and practicing law. But it seemed that the president had been
unwilling to select him because he wasn’t a Catholic or because the president
wasn’t sure of his views on certain Catholic issues.
The faculty didn’t pick him because we wanted an in-house candidate. We just
thought he was the strongest candidate and that he might shake the place up a
little because he wasn’t a traditional academic and was practicing as well as
teaching. He said that if he got the job, his practice would recede. It wasn’t that
he was going to be an absentee dean. But as a result of the president’s failure to
select him, there was a lot of concern among the faculty that being a Catholic was
important to advancement. And perhaps having views that are consistent with
Catholic doctrine was also. That was of particular concern because a lot of us
didn’t have those views.
And those of us who didn’t have tenure were quite taken aback that this was a
place that we had come to, not thinking that much about the religious aspects, to
tell the truth. In my case, of course, I was thinking about the religious aspects, but
from a social justice perspective. In fact, I was told one of the things that
Bamberger had done before I got there was to take down the crucifixes that had
been on the wall in every classroom and office. Bamberger just took those down.
I don’t know if there was any controversy about that when it happened. I don’t
know why he did it, but there wasn’t one in my office and there wasn’t one in my
classrooms. He was modernizing the place in ways that were probably rubbing
some people the wrong way, but were quite wonderful and the right thing to do as
far as other people were concerned.
Was he Catholic?
He was Catholic. So, when the president didn’t appoint the person that the law
faculty wanted, there really wasn’t another strong candidate. There was a process
that the faculty committee had gone through, followed by a vote by the full
faculty. We had selected our candidate. So when the president said “no,” he gave
the job to one of the senior members of the faculty. He taught in the trusts and
estates area. He was a Catholic, but the areas in which he taught didn’t have
anything to do with these disputes. And, again, he wasn’t out there proselytizing.
He hadn’t applied for the position, but he thought there should be a Catholic dean,
too. As I said, the candidate we favored was non-traditional. There were reasons
on the merits you could reject him, but it didn’t seem that was the reason the
president had done so.
And the way it was all done was quite unusual, to reject the faculty appointment
and then name someone else who didn’t go through any faculty process, although,
in the latter case his appointment turned out to be only on an acting basis. So
when that happened, which was in the spring of ’77, several members of the
faculty decided that they weren’t sure they wanted to stay, me among them. First,
the person who had been the faculty candidate for the dean left. He’s become the
dean of the Massachusetts School of Law.
Those ofus who were the younger faculty, who didn’t have tenure, were
particularly worried about what was going to become of the Law School. Was
this going to be a hospitable place for us? If the University was going to do this
to a tenured faculty candidate, what was it going to do to us when we came up for
tenure? Was this a place that was going to be hospitable to our views? Those of
us who had distinct views on abortion and divorce felt it even more than those of
us who didn’t necessarily have those views. Even though I wasn’t teaching in the
areas affected, I certainly had views on these issues that weren’t consistent with
Catholic theology.
Because the hiring process for law schools goes on in the fall, not the spring, we
had to scramble to find new positions. Jane Dolkart got a visiting position at the
University of North Carolina. I got a visiting position at Georgetown, again just
by luck, because someone was going on leave and the school needed someone to
teach Torts or Administrative Law. I don’t remember which it was, which one it
was that I taught that fit. I knew Judy Areen at Georgetown a little. She wasn’t
the dean then. She was on the faculty. I called her and said, “Do you have any
positions?” She knew something about the situation at Catholic. There was a lot
of talk, especially in the local law schools, about what was happening at Catholic.
There was also a student strike at Catholic that had gotten some press attention.
The students had also voted for the candidate the faculty supported to be the dean.
There were protest demonstrations by students. It was covered by the Washington
Post and local TV stations. As law school controversies go, this was a fairly big
I got a visiting position at Georgetown and Jane left. There was a young faculty
member who was four or five years older than I-an African American faculty
member who taught in the business area. He left, too, and went to teach at
Antioch-now the University of the District of Columbia School of Law. So
several of our contemporaries left. I officially took a leave of absence to become
a visitor at Georgetown, but I was pretty sure I wasn’t going back to Catholic. I
just thought I’d see what happened after my year at Georgetown. I don’t believe
any of the people who left went back. Four or five people out of a faculty of
under twenty was a pretty big group to leave. And the man that the University
president appointed as the dean only stayed on the job for a year and then went
back to the faculty. So the school had a whole new search process.
So you were there for how long?
I was there from 1974 to 1977, and then …
You went to another Catholic university? A Jesuit university.
Right. So I was at Catholic for three years.
Three years?
Yes. This controversy all happened in 197 6-1977. I left in 1977 and went to
Georgetown. I taught the same courses-Administrative Law, Welfare Law and
Torts, and a seminar on Administrative Law. Besides Judy Areen, I knew John
Kramer, who was the associate dean at Georgetown, because he had been an
important advocate on poverty issues. He had worked on the Hill. He was
somebody who worked in the areas that I worked in. So, when Judy said, “Well, I
think we might have some visiting positions, even though it’s April, call John,” I
called him and Georgetown hired me for a year.
That was a great year, too. Georgetown was a much bigger school than Catholic.
I was teaching much bigger classes of Torts and Administrative Law. The basic
courses. But Georgetown had more resources than Catholic and could provide
more support for the faculty-a very interesting and collegial group of people.
Since I had just come from the frying pan, I was very happy that I was not
jumping into the fat-that I was coming into a collegial place. But, after that
year, the only positions Georgetown had that opened up were in Trust and Estates
and other areas I didn’t think I was qualified to teach. Although as I said, I’m not
sure that matters to the schools sometimes, but I really didn’t want to teach in
those areas. So, I began, in the spring, to think about what I wanted to do next. I
had been a member of the Steering Committee of the then-Women’s Legal
Defense Fund, now National Partnership for Women and Families, which was the
committee that decided whether the Fund was going to take particular cases or
other matters to resolve. In 1974, the year I came to Washington, Judy Lichtman
was hired to become the first paid staff person at the Women’s Legal Defense
Fund. The Fund had started right around the time that the predecessor
organization of the National Women’s Law Center had started in the early 70s-in
the Fund’s case, 1971.
She had been hired?
She had been hired in 1974. When I came to Washington in 1974, she had just
been hired as the executive director and first paid staff person at the Women’s
Legal Defense Fund. It was a volunteer organization before that. It had been
started by a group of women lawyers who thought there ought to be a Washington
presence on these issues. Brooksley Born was one of the founders and Mama
Tucker-there were ten or fifteen of them-Sally Determan is another-lots of
people you and I know. But it had been running as a volunteer organization.
Judy was hired to be a full-time staff person there. I knew her because my
husband Mike had been in Mississippi with Judy and her husband Elliott. They
were friends. I had just met her in 1974; I didn’t know her well. But she knew I
was coming to Washington to teach at Catholic and that I had done welfarerelated work and was interested in women’s issues. So, she asked me if I would
serve on the Steering Committee of the Women’s Legal Defense Fund, which was
a group of about five or six people who met, I think, once a month. We reviewed
requests for assistance from individuals and helped find volunteers to help the
individuals whose issues we decided the Fund should take on. People wrote in
asking for help, for example, to challenge a restaurant’s practice of only hiring
male waiters or a laundry’s practice of charging more for women’s shirts than
men’s. All those early issues. I say “early,” but we’ve still got some problems in
these areas.
I asked the question. And they give me an answer.
Like haircuts. “Oh, we’re not charging any more for women than for men. It’s
that women have longer hair.”
So I said I would serve on the Steering Committee. That’s how I met Lois
Schiffer, who was then a lawyer at the Women’s Rights Project of the Center for
Law and Social Policy, the predecessor organization to the National Women’s
Law Center. And I reconnected with Margy Kohn, who had been one of the
students at Columbia organizing the Women and the Law course that I described
earlier. Margy was by then also a lawyer at the Women’s Rights Project of the
Center for Law and Social Policy, with Lois and Marcia Greenberger. So, I was
getting to know Judy and Lois. And to know Margy better.
So, while I was teaching at Catholic and then at Georgetown, I was working on
women’s issues, in part through the Women’s Legal Defense Fund Steering
Committee, but also by continuing to participate on various panels at various
places, including at Women and the Law conferences. As I said before, Ruth
, Ginsburg and I had a little dog-and-pony show for a while because we were often
asked to do presentations on public benefits issues together-she usually talked
about Social Security and I talked about welfare. So I was getting to know all of
these people better. While I was casting around trying to figure out what I wanted
to do as my time was coming to an end at Georgetown, Margy called me and said
that Lois Schiffer was leaving the Women’s Rights Project to go into the Carter
Administration, they were looking for somebody to take her place, and was I
interested? So that’s how I came to apply for and ultimately take what became
my current job.
So you were at Georgetown for one year?
One year. While I was there I taught the courses that by then I had taught a
couple of times, so I didn’t have to teach anything new. I also finished a long law
review article that was published in the Georgetown Law Review. I remember
when I was leaving Georgetown, at the end, I got on the elevator with somebody
on the faculty and he said, “You just wrote a 200-page law review article and
you’re leaving teaching? What was the point? Why did you bother?” I said I’d
been writing it for two years. I felt that it was terrible that it had taken me so
long-even as I was trying to teach four new courses. I hardly had any time to
work on it, except in the summer. And I had taken a whole summer off in 1976
when Mike and l went on a big trip. So, I felt like I was way, way behind even
though I wasn’t going to keep teaching.
The article was about what was then-I guess it’s still-called “reverse Freedom
oflnformation Act lawsuits,” which involve situations in which a Freedom of
Information Act case is filed requesting information that has been given to an
agency by a company, usually, and the company sues to prevent its release. I got
interested in the issue in my work with the Women’s Legal Defense Fund. When
I was on the Steering Committee, Margy and the Women’s Rights Project of the
Center for Law and Social Policy were trying to get Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission reports that companies were required to file on the
composition of their workforce by gender-insurance companies in particular.
There had been a lot of problems, a lot of discrimination issues. Before the
EEOC handed the reports over, they told the companies that the request had been
made. The companies then sued, claiming that the reports couldn’t be disclosed
because it would violate the trade secrets or other exemptions of the FOIA. This
was happening in various other areas, too, mainly with public interest lawyers
trying to get documents and companies trying to prevent disclosure. My article
was about these “reverse FOIA” cases, an issue no one had yet written about.
What was the process? Were these cases legitimate cases? Were they FOIA
cases? Were they some other kind of Administrative Procedure Act case? What
were the rights? Who were the parties who could intervene? What kind of
animal was this? So mainly what I did at Georgetown, beyond teaching, was to
finish the article-Reverse Freedom of Information Act Litigation: The Need for
Congressional Action, which was published in the Georgetown Law J oumal.
Nancy Duff Campbell, Interview 6
I’m here with Duffy Campbell for the ABA Women Trailblazers in the Law
Project. Today is April 4, 2008. Duffy, I think the last time we met you were
talking about your year at Georgetown and the beginnings of your work with the
Women’s Rights Project. I think you had just talked about your law review
article. I think we covered how surprised some people were that you were leaving
teaching right after you completed this large article. So, a couple of things we
didn’t talk about with respect to Georgetown as much as we did at Catholic. One
thing was whether you had any mentors at Georgetown as you did, I guess,
Harvey Zuckman and others at Catholic.
Yes. When I went to Georgetown, there were a few people on the faculty that I
knew already. As I described earlier, I knew Judy Areen a little. The person that
I probably ·knew the best was John Kramer, who was the associate dean at the
time. Actually, I like to think of John as a modem-day renaissance man. He was
one of these people who is very knowledgeable about a lot of different areas. In
particular, he had been active on poverty-related issues. He was counsel to the
House Committee on Agriculture at one point. I originally met him through work
on food stamps and related nutrition issues when I was at the Center on Social
Welfare Policy and Law. He did a lot of the dean-level supervision of the clinical
programs at Georgetown. So he was one of the people that I had talked to about
the possibility of coming to Georgetown. While I was there he wasn’t really so
much a mentor, in terms of helping with teaching or supervising teaching, but he
was someone I talked to about issues and who generally made sure I was doing
okay. And because I was still engaged both in my teaching and outside the law
school on poverty-related issues, we would often talk about these issues. Peter
Edelman wasn’t there yet, who now teaches in some of the areas in which I taught
(and I have since taught his class a couple of times). So there really weren’t, that
I can remember, beyond John, particular faculty members who were focused on
the poverty side of public interest law. There were people involved in
environmental and other kinds of issues. I was teaching Administrative Law and
Torts, as I had at Catholic, and a seminar in Administrative Law and a seminar in
Poverty Law. So I talked a little to John about the poverty seminar. Judy Areen
didn’t really teach in the same areas, but she was a welcoming presence at the
school. I hadn’t known her well before but we became friendly while I was there.
But again, she wasn’t teaching in my areas. There weren’t a lot of women on the
faculty in those days. We gravitated to each other. Wendy Williams was there,
who I knew a little from her women’s rights work. So we were colleagues. Pat
King, who I didn’t know before I went there, became a friend. There were, of
course, a lot of men on the faculty who were friendly, too. It was a very collegial
atmosphere. People were doing their own thing, but everybody was willing to
help others and talk about issues. There were more people who were teaching
Torts and Administrative Law than I had had at Catholic, where Harvey was the
only other person teaching Torts when I was there. So, if I was trying to figure
out how to teach a particular issue or a case, or figure out how to use a case, other
faculty were very open and welcoming.
At either Catholic or Georgetown, did you experience any gender discrimination,
gender issues vis-a-vis salaries or assignments or comments?
Yes. In fact, at Catholic, after I got there I learned that someone who had come to
teach the same year as I did, a man, from practice, as I did, was making more than
I was. He hadn’t taught before and had practiced fewer years than I had. He
wasn’t making a lot more-I don’t really remember what the differential was. I
went to the dean and complained and he said, “Well, he has a Master’s degree.” I
said, ‘Yes, but a Master’s degree isn’t usually considered”-! didn’t think that was
generally considered a factor for faculty salaries. As a result, the school raised
my salary immediately. I told you that I had been hired by Clinton Bamberger
when he was the dean. But he wasn’t there the year I came. I don’t know who
made the initial decision about salary. I don’t even know that Dean Bamberger
had anything to do with it. But he wasn’t the dean at the time I discovered this, so
it was the acting dean that I complained to. In fact, as I said previously, Dean
Bamberger never came back to Catholic. He was on leave, but he didn’t come
back. Anyway, whether it was express gender discrimination-“Oh well, he’s a
man, he needs more … ” or not, the dean didn’t articulate it that way. He said it
was because the man in question had a Master’s. It might be true that that was the
reason. It might have been that he asked for more money than I did. He probably
was making more money than I was when he came. But whatever the reason, the
school immediately addressed the disparity.
As for assignments, I knew what they wanted me to teach when I took the job,
both at Catholic and Georgetown. In fact, at Georgetown, when Judy Areen first
called me, she said that they wanted me to consider teaching Trusts and Estates,
which I didn’t want to do and didn’t think I knew much about. But I said that I
would come and talk to them about it. They wanted somebody to teach it because
the person who was teaching it was thinking of taking a visiting position. And
then he ended up not doing that, which was lucky for me. I’m not sure I would
have taken the position if I’d had to teach that. But it all worked out at
Georgetown. They often need people to teach the larger courses like Torts and
Administrative Law. So they were fine with that. They were fine with my
continuing to teach my Administrative Law seminar. And they were fine with my
teaching the Welfare Law seminar. I had to teach four different courses, which
was unusual there, but I had taught them all before. So, it was really shaping,
updating and adapting to some extent to bigger classes that was different at
Georgetown. Georgetown had larger classes. The differential was the biggest in
the first-year classes, obviously. There were twice as many people. A course like
Administrative Law had maybe sixty to seventy people in the class, where at
Catholic it would be fifty-not a huge differential. Plus the seminar sizes were
about the same.
Going back to the Catholic situation. One time when I was looking back over the
interview, one of the comments you made was that, I guess a motivation for
leaving then was that it raised a lot of questions in your mind, in the minds of
some of the other professors about what their future was and the chance to secure
tenure. Were you considering yourself on a tenure track or were you considering
seeking tenure? I guess that would imply teaching as a profession at that time?
Well, wh~n I was hired at Catholic, it was for a visiting position. But after the
first year I was given a regular, tenure-track position. When I began there, I
didn’t know whether I would like it enough to stay long enough to get tenure. My
recollection is that Catholic’s tenure system was longer than the norm for law
schools. It was longer than Georgetown’s, for example. I started writing a law
review article while I was at Catholic, really because it was something that I was
interested in, but also because I knew I needed to do that to get tenure. I went to
Georget()wn as a visiting professor. I didn’t have any particular expectation that I
was going to stay, mostly because I didn’t know whether there would be a
position open the following year or whether they would offer it to me. In fact,
when I was first talking to Georgetown about teaching Trusts and Estates, it was
unclear whether there even was a position for a visitor. I was particularly eager
not to have to teach that because I was just going for one year, and that was really
a big investment for something I wasn’t going to continue and wasn’t interested in
teaching. As a visitor, you’re not in a tenure-track position.
I liked teaching a lot, particularly the interaction with the students. It was not as
contemplative as I expected it to be, however. That may be because I was still in
my early years and I was spending ten hours outside of class for every hour inside
just to make sure I was ahead of the class and knew as much as I could about the .
topic. So I didn’t really teach for a long enough time to be in a position to do a lot
of other things in my field as well. Once I left Catholic, I was pretty sure I wasn’t
going back. I had officially taken a leave, but I was pretty sure I wasn’t going
back because of the reasons I left. At the end of my year at Georgetown, the Law
School didn’t have any positions open in the areas in which I taught. The
opportunity to go to the Center for Law and Social Policy came up at the same
time that I was wondering, “Should I be thinking about trying to teach
elsewhere?” I had some conversations with people at the University of Maryland,
because I didn’t want to. leave the area. I had some conversations with people
there about whether there was going to be a position open, but then, when the
opportunity came up to go to the Women’s Rights Project at the Center for Law
and Social Policy, I decided that’s what I wanted to do.
I still have my teaching notes. My husband jokes with me, “Can we throw this
stuff away now?” I say “Well, what if I want to teach this course again?” He says,
“Do you think these are going to be valuable after twenty years, thirty years,
they’re still going to be good?” I say, “Hey, Torts is Torts.”
That’s true. Do you ever consider going back to teaching?
No. If I were retired, I might consider teaching a course. But I don’t want to go
back to being a full-time teacher. Even part-time, it’s certainly more work than I
can handle right now. I marvel at people who have a full-time job and then teach
a course and keep up. Even if it’s in their area.
Studley: .
There are a lot of people who do that.
There’s a lot of preparation involved in doing it well. People do it because they
love it. It’s a wonderful thing for students, of course, because they’re getting great
practitioners who can illustrate what they’re teaching.
What did you like most and what did you like least about teaching?
What I liked the most, I think, was the actual teaching and the interaction with the
students, both in the classroom and outside it. What I like most about being a
lawyer is developing arguments and making a case for something. Doing the
advocacy part. In the classroom, I enjoyed trying to convey how to do that,
including by using examples from, in my case, a public interest perspective
whenever I could. First of all, I wanted the students to realize these interesting
issues come up outside of the corporate area. And, second, I wanted to show
them something different. Sometimes it’s easier to understand a principle in a
housing case than it might be in a more complex litigation case. So that’s what I
really liked the best.
What I liked the least about it? I don’t know. I guess what I liked the least,
because of the stage I was in, was that there wasn’t a lot of time to do other things
as much as I thought there would be. When you’re on the outside, you think,
“Teach two courses a semester? How hard could that be?” Of course, there’s also
committee work, there’s office hours, there’s obligations that you have not only to
the school, but often to the university. You get put on a university committee.
Law professors have to do as much as anybody else. In fact, one of the things
about being at Georgetown that was nice was that, because I was a visitor, I
wasn’t expected to be on any committees. So I did have a lot more time. That’s
one of the reasons I was able to finish the article.
Probably just one or two other questions about your experience. What were you
proudest of, your most important accomplishment and what you look back on
now as most valuable in that experience?
From teaching, the general experience?
How many years total? Four years?
Yes. I’m glad I did it because it was so different from what I had been doing
before that. It was another way of sharpening my skills in a different
environment. So I think that my accomplishments were much more personal than
other-directed. I hope there were some students who were inspired and that I
helped along, but to me it was much more that … I think when you’re a student
you, like it or not, have a certain amount of awe for your professors. I got to see
the clay feet obviously. But I also felt proud that I could do it and that I did it
pretty well-that I got good reviews from the students. Both of the schools also
had a process whereby, at some point in the year, unannounced, another professor
comes to your class and watches you teach and then gives you feedback on it.
That was gratifying.
In general, I felt that teaching was a lot of fun. I liked it a lot and thought that it
was something I was able to do. I was honing my legal skills, but in a different
way. It’s hard to articulate exactly how it helped me, but I think it helped. It also
requires standing on your feet and having to respond the way you might in a
courtroom, but in a slightly less intimidating situation, obviously. A lot of my
practice now is talking to people. Talking to people about the law, conveying
things about the law, often not to lawyers, and writing things that are for lay
people. So it was another way of learning to communicate legal issues and
principles and helping other people sharpen those skills as well. What I’m
proudest of is I was able to do it, and that I enjoyed it, and that I felt it brought
another dimension to my experience. I don’t know that I can articulate it in other
than in very broad ways.
Do you ever run into any former students or have you stayed in touch with some?
Oh, yes. I haven’t so much stayed in touch, but I see them in my work. There are
a number of them who practice law in Washington and work with organizations
that I work with. In fact, I saw one just the other day and we were joking about
how long it had been. You know, I still think of her as my student and she’s been
out of school since … Well, we were joking that we really were a lot closer in age
than it seemed at the time.
When that happens, when you get older you realize, whether it’s in high school or
college or law school, in particular, that there’s really not that much difference in
Campbell: Exactly. And occasionally I run into students that I have no idea who they are,
but they’ll say “I was your student at such and such.” Sometimes they weren’t
necessarily in my class. But usually I do remember who they are. I might have
said before, Charlene Barshevsky, the former U.S. Trade Representative, was one
of my students. She chaired the National Women’s Law Center annual dinner a
few years ago, so that was nice.
Studley: So, this was about the time when you were at Georgetown, you started to get
active and involved with the Women’s Rights Project?
Campbell: Not really. As I described earlier, when I came to Washington in 1974, actually
when I was at Catholic, I got recruited by the then-women’s Legal Defense Fund
to be on its Steering Committee. That was when the Fund moved from being a
volunteer organization to having an office with Judy Lichtman as its first full-time
staff person. My husband Mike and the Lichtmans had been in Mississippi
. together and were friends. So, Judy recruited me to be on the Steering
Committee, which was basically a group of volunteers who decided whether the
Fund should get involved in certain cases, or other matters. While I was on that
committee, one of the cases that the Women’s Legal Defense Fund decided to get
involved in was a case of the Women’s Rights Project of the Center for Law and
Social Policy, the predecessor to the National Women’s Law Center. Margy
Kohn was a lawyer on that case, which involved an effort to get Equal
Employment Opportunity records from various insurance companies that resulted
in the insurance companies filing a reverse Freedom of Information Act case to
prevent the records from being disclosed. As I described previously, that got me
interested in that issue and that’s what I wrote my law review article on. So, I
knew Margy a little from that, as well as from when she was a student at
Columbia, as I’ve described previously. I hardly knew Marcia Greenberger at all,
knew her more by reputation than anything else. Lois Schiffer, who was the third
lawyer at the Women’s Rights Project at the time, was on the Steering Committee
with me. So I knew her through that. I was the Women’s Legal Defense Fund
liaison to the case. The Women’s Rights Project kept me informed about it as a
general matter. There wasn’t very much of a connection. But I knew the lawyers
there through that. Then Lois left to go into the Carter Administration and Margy
approached me to see if I would be interested in Lois’s job. ·
I think I read, maybe in some of the National Women’s Law Center materials, that
the Women’s Rights Project really.grew from some internal turmoil at the Center
for Law and Social Policy. The women who worked there had some demands.
That was very interesting origin.
Yes, the Center for Law and Social and Policy (CLASP) was started–actually
there’s a book about it that Charlie Halpern wrote. Charlie Halpern, one of the
first lawyers there and the first director, has written a memoir, Making Waves and
Riding the Currents: Activism and the Practice of Wisdom. He describes the
beginnings of the Center for Law and Social Policy in the book, part of which was
excerpted in The American Lawyer. Charlie was a lawyer at Arnold & Porter and,
with some other lawyers, decided that he wanted to practice public interest law
before there really was something known as public interest law. He recruited
former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Arthur Goldberg to serve as CLASP’s first
chair of the Board and got funding from a few foundations to start CLASP. This
was in 1969.
There were four lawyers originally, including Charlie, all of whom were men.
But in early 1972, the women who were the secretaries at the Center for Law and
Social Policy organized themselves. In fact, they wrote a wonderful memo that is
a very interesting pay equity tome before we knew the term “pay equity”-a
memo as to why they should make more money than they did. They went to the
male lawyers at the Center for Law and Social Policy with three demands. They
wanted to make more money, they wanted CLASP to work on women’s issues
and hire women lawyers, and they didn’t want to serve coffee anymore. To their
credit, the men agreed to all of these. That’s how Marcia was hired. She was
hired to come to CLASP in 1972. She was working at Caplin & Drysdale. She
had come to Washington from Philadelphia with her husband because her
husband had a clerkship on the D.C. Circuit. The theory was they were going to
come to Washington for a year for his clerkship and then they were going to go
back to live and work in Philadelphia. Marcia took a·job at Caplin & Drysdale,
and Arthur Goldberg was of counsel to the firm. He had left the Supreme Court
in 1965 to become U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and left that position
in 1968 when Nixon was elected. Marcia worked with him there and he told her
about the formation of the Center for Law and Social Policy and that it was hiring.
So, CLASP hired Marcia and the first assignment she was given was to write a
memo about whether there was enough work to keep one lawyer busy full time
doing women’s rights work. Needless to say, she never wrote the memo. She just
started working. Sure enough, there was plenty of work.
She didn’t have time.
Margy came as a-I think she originally came on some kind of a fellowship.
There wasn’t really a Women’s Rights Project.. Marcia was working on women’s
rights issues and Margy came to work at CLASP generally, on a fellowship. They
ended up working on some women’s rights issues together. And, when Margy’s
fellowship ended, she started working more on women’s rights issues with Marcia
and, shortly thereafter, Lois came. So there were three of them for a few years in
what was by then called the Women’s Rights Project. Then Lois left to go.into.
the government and I took her place in 1978.
The Center for Law and Social Policy had five different projects when I came.
There was an International Project; there was a Mine Safety Project; there was an
Employment Project; there was a Health Project; and there was the Women’s
Rights Project. It was actually one of the first public interest law firms in the
country. But it had divisions of labor within it. So I came specifically to work in
the Women’s Rights Project. By that time people were working in specific areas.
Tell me about the work the Center did then.
Well,· first of all, Title IX, the law prohibiting sex discrimination in federally
funded education programs, was passed in 1972. That was the year Marcia came
to CLASP. So Title IX was one of the first things that the Women’s Rights
Project worked on because it was new and so was the WRP. Consequently,
education was an issue from the beginning. Marcia came in November of 1972,
and Roe v. Wade was decided in January of 1973. So reproductive rights and, to
some extent, health issues were some of the early issues, too. One of the first
issues that she and Margy and Lois worked on was the involuntary sterilization of
low-income women as a condition of receiving federally funded Medicaid
services, including by getting regulations of the Department of Health, Education
and Welfare (HEW), the predecessor agency of the current Department of Health
and Human Services and the Department of Education, to prohibit that. CLASP
both brought litigation to challenge HEW’ s failure to regulate on the issue, Relf v.
Weinberger, and did follow-up work to get effective regulations. From the
beginning, there were these two issues, education and health issues, and the third
issue was, of course, employment because employment was one of the first issues
that women lawyers, working in women’s rights, addressed. For example, when
Marcia first arrived at CLASP, the Gilbert case challenging pregnancy
discrimination under Title VII was going to the Supreme Court-General Electric
v. Gilbert. One of the first things Marcia did was to work on that case with Ruth
Weyand, who was the lawyer in the case, representing various amici. That was .
one of the first issues-pregnancy discrimination-that the Women’s Rights
Project worked on. After the unfavorable decision, holding that denial of benefits
for pregnancy-related disability was not sex discrimination, we-by that time I
was at WRP-worked to get the Pregnancy Discrimination Act passed, to
overturn Gilbert. So, the things one might guess would be the principal issues in·
the early ’70s were education issues, employment issues, and reproductive rights
and health issues.
I had done litigation at the Center on Social Welfare Policy and Law. I had done
lobbying work. I’d done administrative advocacy. And I was interested in all of
the issues that the Women’s Rights Project worked on. I told the CLASP lawyers
when I interviewed that since my background was in poverty and welfare, and I
had already been thinking about these issues and working on them as women’s
issues, what I really wanted to do ifl came to the Women’s Rights Project was to
develop more of a focus on poverty-related issues. They thought that was great.
It wasn’t that WRP hadn’t been involved in poverty issues-for example, the
sterilization case. Margy had also worked on a CLASP case, both before and
after she was at the Women’s Rights Project, challenging the failure of DC
General Hospital .to serve low-income people. The case had gotten the hospital
put into receivership because of its failures. So, there was definitely an interest in
low-income issues within the Women’s Rights Project, but CLASP was very
receptive to my focusing on these issues as women’s issues and expanding WRP’s
work on them. And that was what was most appealing to me-to be able to
continue what I was doing but do it in a new and different way. And to make
things happen again, as I had in New York. And, of course, in a different city and
different environment.
Where were your offices?
When I came-they’ve been in different places-when I came they were in a
townhouse on N Street, in Dupont Circle. It was quite an interesting building.
The second floor had a big room that had been a ballroom-it was a mansionsized place. The woman who owned the building-I never met her-wouldn’t let
us break up the second floor. So we had a big library, which was also a
conference room, in this room that had been a ballroom. Then we had another
room on the same floor that was also quite big, another conference room. The
whole second floor was a big open area because of these larger rooms; there was
also a kitchen on that floor. But our offices were these little warrens higher up in
the building, because the rooms above the second floor had been broken up into
offices. In fact, my office had a fireplace; it didn’t work, but it had a nice
decorative mantel. The building also had an elevator, which was one of those old
cage elevators-when you get in, you pull the cage shut-and it was always
breaking down. People got stuck in it all the time. So there was always the
question, “Do you take the elevator or don’t you?” I remember when I was
pregnant thinking, I should be walking these steps, and then saying no, I’m getting
on the elevator. Usually you didn’t get stuck for very long. You didn’t want to
take it at night if you were the only one there! It was a great, fun building. The
down side of it was that you were always going up and down stairs to find people.
You’d call someone and if the person wasn’t in his or her office, you didn’t know
where the person might be, and trying to find people in the building was
difficult … they could be anywhere, and we didn’t have an intercom. They could
be in the kitchen-you would find yourself wandering around the building as
opposed to leaving a message and having them call you back.
How many people were there? How many lawyers?
Oh, gosh, there were-each project had four or five people. There were five
projects. So there were a fair number of people.
So the Women’s Rights Project was its own project?
Yes, it had three lawyers and an assistant. The International Project was three
lawyers. The Employment Project was smaller. I don’t really remember the
actual divisions, but there were three or four lawyers in each one and some shared
support staff.
Did you work on-if you had a matter or case you were working, did Marcia and
Margy work with you?
Oh, yes, it was very collaborative and there was so few of us. We had a lot of law
student help, too, however. One of the things the men who started CLASP felt
very strongly about and one of the ways they sold the idea to the foundations that
first funded them was that CLASP would have a clinical aspect to it. That was
before there really were clinical programs in law schools, in 1969. So they
worked out a deal with five different law schools that the schools would let their
students come to CLASP for a whole semester. The program had a seminar
component, as well as the clinical aspects. We had students to help with the .
work. They paid their tuition to their law schools. We didn’t get any money out
of it.· We just got the services. As I said, it was really a clinical program before
there were clinical programs in a certain sense. The original schools were Yale,
Penn, Michigan, UCLA and Stanford. The men who started the Center had to talk
the schools into .it, which they did. By the time I got there, Berkeley and Virginia
had been added as participating law schools. So we had full-time student help,
basically. That was great. Each project had a law student who was there for each
semester. But even so, there were only about four or five people in each project.
I mentioned one of the early Women’s Rights Project cases earlier-WEAL v.
Weinberger. I didn’t work on it; the case was being settled when I arrived
(though, in fact, it continued for several years through a series of contempt
motions). A case had been brought by civil rights groups against HEW for failure
to enforce Title VI, the law prohibiting race discrimination in federally funded
programs. Individuals were filing education discrimination complaints on the
basis of race and they weren’t being processed by HEW. That case, Adams v.
Weinberger, had originally been brought by civil rights lawyers to challenge this
failure. As it was moving along, it became apparent that there was going to be
some kind of a settlement or a court order that might mean that HEW would
process those complaints, but potentially let the Title IX complaints languish.
And the agency already essentially wasn’t processing any of the Title IX
complaints either. This was during the Nixon Administration. They weren’t
doing much to process any complaints. We intervened in the case on behalf of the
Women’s Equity Action League to make sure that they processed the Title IX
All these complaints were filed by individuals?
Yes. They were individuals who claimed they had been discriminated againstthey were filed mainly by faculty, but some were from students.
And they filed them with the HEW Department?
Yes, the HEW Department. Using the administrative process, under those
statutes. After we intervened in the case, lawyers representing disability groupsas I described earlier, including my old friend from Indiana and Princeton who
was then at Covington, intervened to ensure that HEW processed Section 504
complaints as well. So the original case became a much bigger case and resulted
in a court decree under which the agency had to process all civil rights
complaints. That case was in the process of settlement when I came to the
Women’_s Rights Project. But a significance of it beyond the substantive impact it
had, specifically for WRP, was that we got attorneys’ fees in the case that, in
combination with some recently expanded funding, made us think we could
expand the Women’s Rights Project. So a few years after I came, we hired two
more lawyers.
CLASP was receiving funding from the Ford Foundation generally, but when
Marcia came to the Center to begin the women’s rights work, the Center got
money from Ford specifically for that work, too. And that was an interesting
story, too, because when Ford gave CLASP the money for women’s rights work,
not only was the staffing for that work just Marcia, basically, and Margy part of
the time, but CLASP’s Board was practically all men as well. So, the Ford
Foundation said the Women’s Rights Project needed an Advisory Board that was
better representative of people who knew something about women’s rights issues.
Brooksley Born and Mama Tucker had taught the first women’s rights course here
in Washington, as I described earlier, at Catholic University and were recruited to
be on the Advisory Board. And that’s how they came to be on our Board from the
very beginning.
This would be the Advisory Board to the Women’s Rights Project?
Yes. That’s right. Ford basically insisted that the Women’s Rights Project have
an Advisory Board that was more representative than the CLASP Board. So, the
Advisory Board didn’t have the authority the parent board of CLASP did. But,
actually, CLAS~ then put both Brooksley and Mama on the parent Board as well.
By the time I came to CLASP, there were women on both the Women’s Rights
Project’s Advisory Board and the CLASP Board. By the time we got the
attorneys’ . fees, we had also started to branch out beyond Ford to get money from
other foundations. This was the heyday of the second wave of the women’s
movement. So there was more happening on women’s issues generally, and more
foundations were getting interested in the area. There was a greater ability to
attract funding by the late ’70s than there had been when Marcia first came in
Not too long after I came in 1978, we hired a few more lawyers and we had four,
and then five of us; Pretty soon the Women’s Rights Project was getting bigger,
and the Center for Law and Social Policy in some respects was getting smaller.
The funding in women’s rights was expanding but it was contracting to some
extent in the other areas at CLASP. Some of these were pretty specialized-. the
Mine Safety Project, for example, was a pretty specialized project, so it always
had a hard time raising money. And although CLASP had attracted general
support money, too-that’s how it supported all these different projects-none of
its projects was self-sufficient. We were each supposed to try to raise our own
money. We could expand as we raised our own money. There was core money
from Ford that we all shared, and then we were all expected to raise other,
project-specific money.
The other thing that happened around the same time was that the person who was
the Director of the Center when I came, a man named Herb Semmel, who was
part of the Health Law Project, left. The result was that, for a year or so until we
split offfrom CLASP, I was the Co-Director of CLASP, sharing the job with a
lawyer from the International Project. So I have a history of being a co-director!
Part of the reason I think CLASP had a co-director arrangement then was that the
Women’s Project was getting bigger, and the rest of CLASP was getting
somewhat smaller. There was a feeling that we all should share more in the
administrative parts of running CLASP.
Once the Women’s Rights Project got to be five lawyers, as I said, we were the
biggest of the projects. There were five of us and there were only five or seven,
total, of everybody else. So those ofus in the Women’s Rights Project started
talking about whether it made sense for us to be a separate entity. It was all
amicable as regards the rest of CLASP, but we had the ability to think about this
option because we had been successfully expanding our funding. And we had a
cushion of attorneys’ fees, which we had received but hadn’t spent. We were
holding it as a reserve against exigencies that might happen.
And you could keep that within the Women’s Rights Project?
Well, technically it was CLASP’s money. That was one of the issues, in fact, that
we had to resolve. It was not an issue while we were there, but when we left.
In any event, we started talking about whether we should become a separate
entity. Actually, I was one of the people pushing the conversation. We weren’t
the first project to do that. CLASP had a history of projects that had spun offwhat’s now called the Bazelon Center, but for a long time was called the Mental
Health Law Project, had spun off from CLASP. The Media Access Project had
been part of CLASP and spun off to become an independent entity.
To me, there were a few things driving the conversation. One was the size
differential that was developing. We were becoming disproportionately larger.
Did it did make sense to have four different projects that were the same size as
one project? Or was that just not a great dynamic? A second was whether our
destiny, if you will, was more tied to the public interest law movement or the
women’s rights movement. Not that those are split, but we were doing less
traditional lawyering, even if you called it public interest law lawyering. Yes, we
were bringing cases, but we were also working very much in coalition with
women’s groups that were not legal groups. They, themselves, were proliferating
at this time. So we were engaged in a lot of work that involved bringing our
community together and figuring out what our agenda was together. We weren’t
just lawyers sitting in our offices waiting until someone brought us a case. It was
a more activist stance … not that we were more activist than the rest of CLASP, I
don’t want to make it seem that way. But we were very much in the mode of
trying to figure out an agenda for women and how to move that agenda. There
was a lot of relating to groups that were not legal groups, but that were women’s
groups. That was natural. Third, I was working in a poverty-related area in
which those of us working in this area had had a lot of litigation success in the
early years-as I described earlier-but as a result there had been a lot of changes
in the law to cut off litigation rights. So, some of the work that I was doing was
probably even less litigation-oriented than other Women’s Rights Project or
CLASP work-the poverty-related work, that is. I was working on Title IX, too.
I did some of our Title IX litigation, as we all worked on all the issues. We didn’t
have subject-matter divisions. But the issues I was working on around Social
Security and welfare and other public benefits were much more … I was working
with organizers. I wasn’t just working with other women’s groups, or with
lawyers. I was working with community organizers-who were organizing
welfare mothers and other poor people. At the same time, we were a legal
organization. We wanted to stay a legal organization. It wasn’t as if we were
going to cut all our ties and become another type of women’s organization. We
wanted to have a legal focus. So we started discussing becoming a separate entity
with ourselves, with our Advisory Board, with our funders … ultimately with our
funders but not until we had basically made a decision that that’s what we wanted
to do.
The end result was that in 1981 we started the National Women’s Law Center. It
was scary, obviously because ·we had had a certain base of support from the
Center for Law and Social Policy. Of course, we had shared support staff with
the rest of CLASP, and I’m not just talking about a secretary or an assistant. I’m
talking about a bookkeeper, an office manager, a receptionist. We hoped we
could continue to share staff to some extent but we also realized that there are a
lot of things you have to do when you’re a separate entity, which we really didn’t
know the half of then, by and large. We also didn’t know if financially we could
sustain what we had.. It was somewhat of a leap of faith to make the
determination to be a separate entity. We had our core money from Ford for the
Women’s Rights Project. We had a few other funders and thought we could
sustain our staff size … we were already five lawyers. But we wanted to be able
to take our attorneys’ fees with us to help start the new entity. The amount was
$150,000. It seemed like a fortune then.
Our Advisory Board supported our taking the fees and, to their credit, so did the
CLASP Board, with Arthur Goldberg leading the way. His pitch was that
everyone should be happy that we were so successful that we could be
launched-and continue to do great things. He made a very strong statement in
the Board meeting and the Board voted that we could take the fees.
Now, we didn’t physically leave. We continued to stay in the same building. We
already had an arrangement to share expenses according to how many people each
CLASP project had. So we continued to share staff and expenses, but now as
separate entities.
When you got the Ford Foundation funding for the Women’s Rights Project. ..
That was funding for the Women’s Rights Project at the Center for Law and
Social Policy. But we weren’t a separate entity, so it was provided to the Center
for Law and Social Policy, though it was earmarked for us-for our women’s
rights work.
But did some portion of it have to go to overhead?
Yes, in a technical sense. No, in fact, because we weren’t self-supporting. So
there was general support money that came into CLASP that supported all the
projects. In addition, all of the projects had some project-specific money. So,
when I said we were raising more money, it was that we were raising more project
money that was designated specifically for us than the other CLASP projects were
raising for their project work. We believed that we could sustain that grant
money. We had our attorneys’ fees as a cushion or, potentially, to spend. We
continued to share staff with CLASP, but we now were two separate entities. We
actually were a renter, sharing space in a slightly different fashion than we had
before. We had to write by-laws, we had to have a real board. We converted our
Advisory Board into our Board. We expanded it, obviously, over the years. We
had to get a tax exemption and do the things you have to do to become a nonprofit
organization. Brooksley Born became the chair of our Board, a position she has
held continuously, except when she was in the government in the Clinton
The other thing we had to do was pick a name because we were the Women’s
Rights Project of the Center for Law and Social Policy. Obviously, we couldn’t
keep the CLASP part and calling ourselves just the Women’s Rights Project
seemed too generic. This was in the days before focus groups! We had internal
discussions and discussions with our Board. There was already the NOW Legal
Defense Fund. There was the Women’s Legal Defense Fund. There was Equal
Rights Advocates, which was in California. Anq the ACLU had a women’s rights
project-the ACLU Women’s Rights Project. And there was a women’s rights
project at Cleveland State University Law School. There was the Women’s Law
Project in Philadelphia. There were a lot of legal groups with similar kinds of
One of our Board members, former member of Congress Patsy Mink, said “Well,
what’s really important is to have ‘National’ in our name.” She was the politician,
and she said, “We’ve got to make a splash. We’ve got to think to the future. It’s
important to have ‘National’ in our name.” And since we had always been part of
a “Center,” we should have “Center.” That should be part of our name. So there
weren’t that many other words that we had to pick. We weren’t overwhelmed by
the name, National Women’s Law Center, because it was pretty generic also.
· Were we really going to sound like anything? It was sort of … “Well, it’s the best
we can come up with of the ones that we have been playing around with.”
Georgetown had become Georgetown Law Center. The law schools were
becoming “Centers” too. So we thought National Women’s Law Center was the
best one.
My husband Mike, who practices nonprofit law, incorporated us pro bono. But he
told us that we couldn’t trademark our name because it was too generic. He said,
“If you are going to have that name, you can have it, but you need to get out there
and use it because it isn’t going to be protected.” Then the first time we used our
new name in a public forum … probably not the first time, but early on when we·
used the new name at a speaking engagement, whoever the staff person was, said,
“I’m so-and-so and I’m from the National Women’s Law Center,” and the person
she was speaking to said, “Oh, I’ve heard of you!” [Laughter] This was in the
very beginning-we were just two weeks into the new name or something like
that. Then we decided, maybe generic is good! But we clearly didn’t pick it with
any great science behind it.
So all five of you were very strongly linked together about the concept?
Yes, it’s interesting because the two newer lawyers, Shirley Wilcher and Diann
Rust-Tierney, were younger. We were all young so it is all relative here. But
they had just been in practice a couple of years and Marcia, Margy and I had ten
· to thirteen years of experience each. Shirley and Diann also weren’t the ones who
had been trying to raise the money, as Marcia, Margy and I had, and they had
little idea what all of this meant. In fact, Shirley had come to the Women’s Rights
Project because we had gotten a grant for a project she was doing. She knew her
work had to be funded. So I think their position was, “What do we know?”
“What’s our choice? We’ll go along for the ride. They’ve raised the money to get
us here … they’ll keep us here, we hope.”
I think it was probably the easiest for me because I had been at CLASP only a few
years when we started talking about it. I think it was harder, a little harder, for
Marcia and Margy because they had been with the Center for Law and Social
Policy longer and had more of a history with CLASP than I did. Most of the
career that they had each had at that point was at CLASP. The group that started
CLASP by the time I came had already turned over. Many of them went into the
Carter Administration. Charlie Halpern himself, who had been one of the
founders, had left in 1974 and had been instrumental in spinning off the Mental
Health Law Project. Joe Onek, a later director, had left before I came. So a lot of
the early Center people had moved on by the time I came. I was really in the
second wave of people. Marcia and Margy were effectively part of the first
wave-they had that history. Looking back, I’m kind of amazed that we were as
bullish as we were about the financial side of starting a new entity.
Nancy Duff Campbell, Interview 7
April 25th, interview of Duffy Campbell for the American Bar Association’s
Women Trailblazer’s Project. Duffy, when we last spoke which was only a few
weeks ago, we ended by discussing the very beginnings of the National Women’s
Law Center. I think we talked about the choice of the name. And I asked you
how strongly all of you .. .I guess there were five of you … supported this pretty
momentous decision to move and to separate yourselves from the Center for Law
and Social Policy. You mentioned that Marcia and Margy had a little harder time
with it than you did because of their longer history at the Center. You all must
have had a certain level of confidence about this to be able to pull it off. It would
seem to me that it’s a pretty bold move. Were you very confident, feeling
Well, first, I don’t want to overstate Marcia and Margy’s views because-· and this
is related, I think, to your question-yes, they had a longer history with the Center
for Law and Social Policy. But they also had more experience than I and my
other two colleagues did in what it took to raise money and run a program. And
so, in a certain sense, rather than their being more reluctant, it might have been I
was more nai’.ve. It’s true that I didn’t have the same kind of longer, emotional ties
to the Center for Law and Social Policy that they did. But I think it is fair to say
that we all felt some trepidation, but also some degree of confidence that we had
the ability to make a go of a new Center and its then-size. That was for the two
reasons I described earlier: one, we had a fairly strong base of support from the
Ford Foundation for the women’s rights work we were doing; and two, we had
gotten attorneys’ fees in the WEAL case that we were taking with us. So between
the two of those, the amount of money was maybe $300,000-$350,000. It was not
a huge sum by today’s standards certainly, but it was enough to run the place for a
couple of years and to build on. So we thought that between the core support we
had from Ford and our attorneys’ fees, we were launching in as strong a position
as we could expect.
I don’t think I asked you this, but maybe I did. Were there any hard feelings or
animosity felt by the folks at the Center?
No. First, we all had an emotional connection to each other. Second, as I
described previously, the dynamics of the Center for Law and Social Policy was
changing some: as the other projects were getting somewhat smaller, the
Women’s Rights Project was getting somewhat larger. We were becoming half
the size of the whole place. So, in a certain sense, in a de facto way, we already
had roughly half the people. Third, it wasn’t going to be that different after the
legal separation, so to speak. We were going to continue to share office space and
certain staff. We were still going to be able to work together on issues. Finally,
CLASP had a history of other projects that had spun off from it, as I described
previously. So it wasn’t as if we were the first to rend the fabric.
How long did you share office space and staff?
We became an independent entity in 1981. We continued to share some space
and staff for several years. In 1985, we both had to leave the townhouse we were
in, and we both moved to the same, more traditional office building. In the
townhouse, we were all interspersed. We moved to a more traditional office
building at 16th and P Streets that is owned by Resources for the Future, an
environmental group. We had separate offices there, but were still in the same
At that point we shared only a bookkeeper, and, I believe, a receptionist. Pretty
soon, we both grew enough that we didn’t have any shared staff members. And,
of course, this was before computers, so there wasn’t an easy way to work
together if you didn’t share space, as you can today.
So you continued to work on some matters?
And we still do, we still do. We work closely with CLASP staff on a number of
issues, particularly the issues I work on, which are principally the family
economic security issues, because they’ve developed a significant program and
presence on low-income issues.
Good. When we were talking about the name, we went through a little bit of a
laundry list of other organizations. Probably the one that I’m most familiar with
in Washington was the Women’s Legal Defense Fund. How did the role of the
National Women’s Law Center differ from that of the Women’s Legal Defense
Well, as you might guess, this is a question we get frequently. Today as well.
The Women’s Legal Defense Fund had a somewhat different history from ours in
the sense that it had started as a volunteer organization. Maybe you remember
this. As I described earlier, the first person to be a paid staff person there was
Judy Lichtman. She became a paid st_aff member in 1974, the same year I moved
to Washington, which is why I remember it so well. We had started as a project
of the Center for Law and Social Policy in 1972. The Fund started as a volunteer
organization in 1971, a year before us. But, we had paid staff starting in 1972,
when Marcia came to the Center. So, whereas we grew out of an all-male public
interest law firm, the Fund grew out of a largely female, volunteer-lawyer effort.
But certainly in the beginning, and it’s still true today, we worked on a lot of the
same issues and approached things very similarly in many respects.
In the beginning, we did more of our own litigation, again because we grew out of
a public interest law firm model that was very heavy on litigation-more heavy
than I think that model is today in Washington. We also had paid staff to do the
litigation. We had three paid lawyers by the time Judy was hired to be the first
paid staff person for the Fund. So working as a largely volunteer organization,
the Fund was more likely to rely on people in firms or elsewhere to help with
litigation. But from the beginning, we worked on a lot of issues together.
As I described earlier, I actually met Judy before I met Marcia because my
husband Mike had been in Mississippi with Judy and her husband Elliott. So,
when I came to Washington in 1974, the Lichtmans were a couple we socialized
with early on. I was teaching at the time, so I wasn’t working in women’s rights.
But, as I described earlier, Judy asked me ifl would be on the Fund’s Screening
Committee, helping to decide what kinds of cases it would take. So I got to know
her professionally pretty soon after I moved to Washington. In fact, as I also said
earlier, it was work on the Fund’s Screening Committee that got me involved in
the Women’s Rights Project at the Center for Law and Social Policy. So, I know
about some of the early work together from that experience. For example, one of
the first things that Marcia worked on when she came to the Center, as I said last
time, was the Gilbert case-the pregnancy discrimination case. After that
litigation lost in the Supreme Court, there was a successful effort to pass the
Pregnancy Discrimination Act to overturn the decision. Judy and Marcia worked
on that together. So there were a lot of issues we worked on together from the
Of course, both organizations at the beginning had fairly small staffs. But then as
the years went by, I think what’s been the more common pattern-and probably
more accurately describes the pattern today-is that we began, as we each got
more staff, to carve out areas in which one organization might take the lead on an
issue, and the other might take the lead on another issue. Though we still have a
lot of issues that we work on together. An example of what I’m talking about is
that we tend to take the lead on child care issues and the National Partnership for
Women and Families (the Women’s Legal Defense Fund’s successor
organization) takes the lead on family and medical leave issues. Those are both
issues that affect work/family life for a great number of women. We work on
family and medical leave and the Partnership works on child care, but it tends to
do more on family and medical leave, and we tend to do more on child care. In
the health care area, we both work on big issues like health care reform and
reproductive rights, but the Partnership has been working a lot recently on quality
of care issues, including the Patients Bill of Rights. We’ve been working on some
of the contraceptive coverage issues and the Medicaid issues that are also related
to our poverty work. These are not formal divisions of labor but examples of
ways in which, in some instances, the divisions evolved naturally.
I think the other piece of this is that there aren’t enough organizations like both of
ours doing this work. In a certain sense, over the years, it’s become fewer rather
than more. So it’s important to have several groups representing the same interest
to give it some “oomph.” So we don’t think that even when there’s some
duplication, it’s a problem.
That may be the answer to another question I was going to ask you, which is were
there ever any discussions or did people ever suggest that the two organizations
Well, there haven’t been discussions in any but a joking manner. For example, if
we’re debating an issue, one ofus might say, “Well, after we merge, you’re going
to have to do this.” [Laughter.] But the answer to your question is really “no” for
the reason I just said. There is a sense that as one organization we would not
necessarily have the strength we have as two. The notion of a merger is you
merge, you get bigger, and you have more influence than the sum of your parts.
It’s been hard to judge whether that would be true. And, obviously, part of the
equation in evaluating this is, could we sustain one organization better than two?
Many funders will give you $35,000 or $100,000 or $200,000 and that’s their top
grant. If you’re both getting grants of that size and you become one organization,
they’re not necessarily going to double it. So it would certainly take a lot of
groundwork, including making the case ahead of time that we want our funders to
fund us at least at our combined level, not cut us back. The same could be true for
individual donors. In theory, if you now give to both, then why wouldn’t you
continue to give the same total amount to one? But, I don’t know if that’s the
psychology. And for the moment, we think we have doubled our effectiveness by
being two.
An interesting thing is how you decided to govern yourselves in your leadership
structure. How did that come about and was it from the very beginning that you
No, it wasn’t The Center for Law and Social Policy had what we sometimes
jokingly call a “1960s structure”. Although the founders had come out oflaw
firms, they were deliberately trying to be fairly non-hierarchical. And, of course,
they were small and so a lot of decisions could be made by consensus. We, as the
Women’s Rights Project there, pretty much followed the same model. There
wasn’t any one ofus that was in charge or needed to be in charge because we
were part of the larger Center. As I think I said before, when we split off from
them, I was the co-director of CLASP. Marcia had been the co-director before I
came for a while as well.
So, when we became an independent entity, we had five lawyers and, I think, two
support staff. But we knew that we now had to sign legal documents and have
by-laws and all the other things an independent organization needs. So, we
agreed that one of us would be responsible for those kinds of things, but we would
rotate these responsibilities. I can’t remember exactly what the original
arrangement was-I think one of us was going to do it for two years and then
someone else was going to do it. Marcia was going to do it first. We called her
the Managing Attorney. There was a sense that we didn’t want a “director,” we
wanted a manager. It was part of continuing the egalitarian model. It’s not that
different from law firms with partners obviously. There may be partners and
associates, and then there are partners and other partners, including a managing
partner, but the differences among equals don’t tend to be reflected in the titles so
much. We did that for the first two years.
At the end of that period, as the Center started to get bigger, we were all feeling
the pressure of increased work on the administrative side and what that meant for
being able to work on the substantive side. So for the following two years
Marcia, Margy and I shared the managing attorney responsibilities, dividing up
the administrative tasks in particular. Then in 1985 Margy decided to leave the
Center to go back to school to be credentialed as an elementary school teacher.
So Marcia and I had to face in a more serious way the best way to structure our
responsibilities. We had some informal conversations with an individual we
knew who worked as a management consultant to nonprofit groups. We said,
“We’re struggling with what to do here. We don’t necessarily want to reinvent the
wheel.” She talked it through with us. At the end of the conversation she said,
“Well, I don’t know why you don’t just both continue to do it. Then you can both
be able to do substantive work. And you have the relationship to be able to do it
together.” So that’s how we decided to do it. I have made a short story long. But
essentially the management grew out of the fact that we wanted to be able to
continue our substantive work, and we didn’t want to have one person in charge
who could end up doing far more administrative than substantive work.
Obviously, such an arrangement only works if you have a relationship that can
make it work. In the beginning we were explicit about dividing up the work and
we have tried to continue this, although it sometimes goes by the wayside more
than we’d like. We have always divided the substantive areas. So that was easy.
We were already starting to do that more as we got bigger anyway. So whereas in
the beginning, I worked a lot on Title IX issues, because we had a lot of work in
that area, I was also working to expand the Center’s work on low-income issues.
For example, I organized a Women and Poverty coalition of women’s groups in
Washington that met periodically to work together on these issues. We started by
working on Social Security issues, including what became the 1983 Social
Security Act Amendments, which included improvements for women. So as the
poverty work grew, I worked less on Title IX issues, although I was still doing
some work in that area. And Marcia had always worked on Title IX issues, so
that was fine. She had always done work on health issues, but at the time I came
we were not doing as much health work as we had in the beginning. Then that
started to pick up, so she started taking on more of that. I was expanding the
poverty work. That work involved lots of different government programs. So it
was not a small area. What are we going to do on welfare reform? What are we
going to do on child care? What are we going to do on tax policy? So, from
when we first became co-directors, we divided up the substantive work. That was
fairly easy to do.
What was harder was how we should divide the administrative areas. Generally,
at the beginning Marcia was going to do more of the personnel side, and I was
going to do more of the financial side. But the problem is-and I think we didn’t
anticipate this-that that works pretty well when you are not making the highestlevel decisions. When you are making the highest-level decisions, however, you
want to run those by the other person, or at least we do.
One of the reasons the arrangement works is that we are good friends and have
become that in this job. We socialize together, our husbands are friends, our kids
grew up together and went to school together. So there is a lot of good feeling
between us. And we’ve never really had a serious disagreement about anything,
including how to proceed substantively on an issue. It’s not that we haven’t had
disagreements that we have had to work through. But we come at the issues a lot
alike, both in terms of how to position the organization, and in terms of what we
think will work and won’t work. We are both very-and this isn’t necessarily
good by the way-detail-oriented. But as a result, we have very similar standards
in the quality of the work we want and expect. So, if someone gives us a draft
and one ofus sees it and says, “This isn’t going to work,” the other one is usually
pretty confident that she would think the same thing. There is not a lot of, “Oh,
she thought it was okay, and she didn’t.” I don’t think we had any sense of that
when we started. We knew we were friendly enough. But we weren’t close social
friends then, because it wasn’t that long into our relationship. We both respected
each other as lawyers and obviously had worked together, but I don’t think we
realized that the ways in which we approached things in a management way
would be as similar as it is. As I said, we know when we need to touch base and
when we don’t. But it’s not always so easy for other people to figure out. And it’s
not necessarily an asset when what you might want really is for one to be strong
in some areas, and the other in other areas. You could really divide more that
way. I think that we don’t divide as much work as it would be optimal for us to
divide. But we also don’t have major disputes about how to address something.
In the management area, do you divide up administrative and management
Well, yes. I manage the people who work in my substantive areas and she
manages the people who work in her substantive areas. There’s some crossover
because some people work in both substantive areas, as do we in some instances.
And we manage together the parts of the Center that cut across the organizationadministration, communications and development. But even within those, it
depends. Within development, our development team is divided up by issues on
the foundation side. On the individual side, not so much. So, I work mostly with
the development people who work in my areas, and she works with the ones who
work in her areas. We both work on individual giving and corporate giving-the
more general support-oriented funders.
We also do a lot of ad hoc division of work, “I’ll do this and you do that”-which
doesn’t fall under any clear line. For example, if one ofus is going to be out of
town or is having a really busy time, we may shift responsibilities. We haven’t
ever had a deputy, in part because we are deputies to each other on issues where
the other takes the lead. So there are management decisions that are made
together and there are decisions that one of us makes and on which the other just
defers. Obviously it has its pluses for us. It has its minuses too, especially, as I
said, because the lines of authority are not always clear to others and others are
not always sure the extent to which they need sign-off from both of us. They can
give something to both of us to review if they want, but if one of us doesn’t want
to look at it, we say so. We tend to both look at things that have more Centerwide implications. These include not just pieces that have substantive content in
both our areas that we each have to review, but also pieces requiring agreement
on the way they are positioned-our annual report, annual dinner invitation, and
the like. But items such as a press release relating to one of our substantive areas,
no-the other one never sees it until it’s out. There are lots of things that are
produced in her substantive area that I’ve never read, and the same is true for her
with respect to things in my substantive areas.
Those are pretty discrete issue areas …
What were your early years like? You were much smaller obviously? I imagine
you all collaborated a lot more. Were the types of cases that you took different
then? I’m sure they’ve evolved to some extent.
Yes. Well, litigation was a bigger part of the total then, which I think was true in
public interest law generally then, too; today we all rely on a greater range of
tools to achieve our goals than we did in the early years. We were also smaller
then. And in certain areas, like Title IX, the WRP lawyers were very conscious of
wanting to shape the interpretation of the law, because it was brand new. It was
passed in 1972, the same year Marcia came to CLASP. And it was clear that a lot
of that shaping was going to come through early litigation. The Women’s Rights
Project was also involved in getting good regulations, challenging bad
regulations, so the work from the beginning wasn’t all litigation. Some of it was
administrative advocacy.
Of course, WRP’s beginning was also the beginning of the second wave of the
women’s movement in the 1970s, and there were a lot of pretty clear-cut issues to
be resolved. For example, Women’s Rights Project lawyers filed amicus briefs in
a lot of the cases that Ruth Bader Ginsburg argued in the Supreme Court to
establish the parameters of equal protection law and its application to gender
discrimination. So, litigation as a method of operation, either in the cases that
WRP did itself or in amicus briefs or in strategizing with other lawyers about
which types of cases should be brought and when, was a big piece of that early
At the same time, from the beginning, litigation was used more in our basic
discrimination work in education and employment than it was in the economic
security work that I was developing. While a lot of what I had done before I came
to the Center was litigation with similar goals-that is, to shape the basic
direction of law in the welfare arena-by the time I came to the Center, the ability
to do that was being cut back by Congress. The early welfare cases, as I
described before, were mainly won on statutory interpretation grounds, and
Congress’ response was to change the statute. So, already in the economic
security area, we were shifting into more of an administrative advocacy or
lobbying strategy. Another example was in Social Security. While we were
pressing for greater attention to women’s issues in Social Security, the instances
of on-its-face discrimination in the program-in which men and women were
expressly treated differently-in many· respects had been corrected by the late
’70s, thanks to Ruth Ginsburg. So, a lot of what I was doing was trying to make
the case to the Administration and Congress that, while the Social Security Act
might be gender-neutral on its face, there was much in its structure that was not
advantageous to women and, in fact, was hurting them. So, even in the early
days, a lot of my work wasn’t as focused on litigation as some of the work of the
other parts of the Center. Even so, in my early days at the Center, I was mostly
engaged in litigation. That has changed over the years, both for me and for the
Center as a whole.
In addition, as I described previously, when we split off from the Center for Law
and Social Policy, we were working very much in coalition with other
organizations of people who weren’t lawyers, mainly other women’s
organizations. And, of course, there was a proliferation of those organizations in
the ’70s, when we began. A lot of what we were doing was educating them, and
they were educating us, about issues that we were all identifying in these
exploratory days as “women’s issues.” As I said earlier, I organized a Women and
Poverty coalition, whose purpose was to look at a lot of the issues that we were
already all looking at as women’s organizations, but through a low-income
women’s lens. For example, to be sure there was a voice not just about Social
Security and working women generally, but also about Social Security and poor
women and how they were faring under the program. So, we were already, in our
women’s rights work, doing this kind of coalition work. Our focus was broadly
on women’s legal issues, not just women’s legal issues in a narrow sense. The
mode of operation of a public interest law firm then was, “We’ll take any issue
and we’re there to represent the public. We’re doing ‘the lawyer’ part.” We were
working with a lot of groups and everything we were doing wasn’t necessarily the
“lawyer part.” On the other hand, we were trying to bring the law, as broadly
defined, to those debates and use our skills as lawyers to do it.
Another, related way in which the Center has evolved over the years is that we
have broadened our program staff beyond lawyers. We recognized that we
needed other skills to really make change. We needed communications staff, for
example. We needed social scientists, to gather and evaluate data, to make the
strongest case in support of our positions. And, of course, as we got bigger, we
needed more development staff and administrative staff, who, of course, aren’t
lawyers either by and large. So I think the ways in which we work have expanded
considerably over the years, and the kinds of people and the kinds of skills we are
trying to bring to those issues have expanded as well. At the same time, we have
made a conscious decision, which we have re-examined several times, to stay a
legal organization. Keep our “legal” name, and articulate that what we are about
is using the law in all its forms to bring about change for women. The law is an
important part of our identifier.
Particularly in the early days, how did you find your clients, since you were doing
Well, we found them in different ways. Some heard about us because of other
cases we brought. They might have read about a case in the newspaper, for
example, and literally called us up. Some came to us through the women’s
organizations that we worked with in coalition. For example, the WEAL case that
required HEW to process civil rights complaints and resulted in the attorneys’
fees that allowed us to strike out on our own, came about because of a
concentrated effort by the Women’s Equity Action League, which at the time was
an active Washington women’s organization. Its members were engaged in a
concentrated effort to file complaints under Title IX on behalf of teachers who
weren’t being paid well, or were suffering other discrimination. They were filing
complaints with HEW but they weren’t getting any responses. The agency wasn’t
doing anything. Women’s Rights Project lawyers intervened in the ongoing
Adams litigation on their behalf, since Adams was challenging HEW’ s failure to
respond to race discrimination complaints.
As another example, from the beginning in some of our Title IX work, we worked
on athletics-related issues. And we worked closely with the Association of
Intercollegiate Athletics for Women, which was at that time the female
counterpart of the National Collegiate Athletic Association. The NCAA was
essentially only representing men’s college athletics programs. It was a men’s
sports organization and AIA W was the parallel women’s sports organization. So
we worked with AIA W both in shaping the Title IX athletics regulations and then
as interveners in some of the cases when the regulations were challenged.
A third way we identified clients was through networks outside the women’s
community who were identifying issues and plaintiffs, for example, on economic
security issues. But, from the beginning, because we were ourselves women, we
knew a lot of the issues ourselves. It didn’t take having an individual client to
know that we needed to do something about the Gilbert case and ensure that the
law protected women who were pregnant.
In fact, that law, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, was very relevant to us as
individuals. One of the things that happened when we were still part of the Center
for Law and Social Policy was that when Marcia became pregnant, she discovered
CLASP’s health insurance policy didn’t cover pregnancy. She said, “What’s
going on here? I’m litigating these cases!” CLASP tried to get the insurance
company to cover it but it wouldn’t. So, CLASP self-insured for pregnancy
disability. We were arguing in the courts that under Title VII pregnancy should
be treated like other disabilities or medical conditions by employers, and that was
the rubric under which the medical care related to pregnancy should be covered.
So, the Center determined to self-insure for that. We worked on the cases and we
worked to get the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. And then my son Noah was
born on April 29, 1979, the day the PDA went into effect. We joke about that,
because at that point, finally, our insurance company had to cover pregnancy. It
isn’t technically an obligation on the insurance company. It’s technically an
obligation on the employer. But insurance companies before the PDA just weren’t
doing it. But once the law required employers to do it, lo and behold, insurance
companies decided, “Oh, I guess we can cover this.” So, our insurance company
had already told us that it was going to start to cover it on that date. Noah was
born early. We used to joke that I made sure that he was born no earlier than the
day the PDA went into effect, to save CLASP some money. We wouldn’t have to
self-insure any more. That’s just an example of a women’s issue we knew, from
our own experiences, was important.
You mentioned NCAA being male only. When did it become both genders?
In 1981, the NCAA began to sponsor women’s athletic tournaments. For about a
year AIAW continued to sponsor women’s tournaments as well, but increasingly
schools shifted to participating only in the NCAA tournaments. Before that, not
only was the NCAA representing only men’s athletic programs, but there was a
great deal of tension between the two organizations. The AIA W was very
supportive of Title IX, for example, but the NCAA opposed many of its
Did their coverage or inclusion of women athletes … ?
The NCAA essentially saw the handwriting on the wall; if there are going to be
more women college athletes, then why are we letting this other organization … ?
Right. That was probably creating problems for them, I would guess … either
suing or support the people who were challenging …
It was as much that there was action to be had. “If women are here to stay, then
we want to be the ones who are representing them.”
So are they very supportive? Is there still tension?
Yes, by and large they are embracing of women’s athletics now.
I always think of the NCAA as fairly male-oriented.
One of the issues from the outset was that the individual schools, or the athletic
departments at the schools at least, who didn’t like Title IX, hid behind the NCAA
in a certain sense. The NCAA brought the cases so the schools didn’t have to be
out front saying, “We don’t want women or we don’t think this is the right
interpretation,” or whatever else was the argument. So the NCAA would bring a
case against HEW challenging a Title IX regulation. We would intervene on
behalf of AIAW in support of the regulation. But from the court’s perspective,
both organizations were representing athletes at the same schools. There were
standing challenges in some of the early cases. But I think that, again, there was
diversity among the schools on the athletics issue. Some of the bigger schools
embraced women athletes. And ultimately the NCAA did, too.
What were the most memorable, or significant cases that you think had the most
impact, in terms of your early cases?
There were some important cases that the Women’s Rights Project at CLASP
handled before I got there. As I described earlier, one secured new HEW
regulations to protect women from being involuntarily sterilized in order to get
Medicaid services, Relf v. Weinberger. So that was an important early case. The
WEAL v. Weinberger case, which I’ve already described, to get HEW to process
Title IX complaints, was an important early case. When I came in 1978, WRP
was working to shape the law under Title IX in other ways as well. We sued
Temple University in the first case to challenge an entire intercollegiate athletic
program’s treatment of women, Haffer v. Temple University, an important case
that I was very involved in. A big part of that case was our effort to establish the
principle that the receipt of federal money by a school brought all of its programs
and activities under Title IX, even if not all of those programs and activities
received such funding. Temple argued that athletics departments didn’t get
federal financial assistance and so shouldn’t be covered. We thought that our case
was going to be the one to go to the Supreme Court on this issue. I argued the
case in both the District Court and the Third Circuit, where we won in both
instances, but another case got to the Supreme Court first, in which we filed an
amicus brief. We were involved in some way in nearly all of the early Title IX
litigation that really shaped the law. Most of these cases we won, some we lostincluding on some of these funding issues, but we then got legislation to overturn
the adverse funding decisions in the Civil Rights Restoration Act. We were
involved in an early case in which a high school student was dismissed from the
National Honor Society because she got pregnant, but the boy who was the father
was not dismissed, Wort v. Vierling. The Honor Society didn’t know who that
boy was, but that was the point. It could identify the women to whom this
happened, but not the men. The court held that Title IX prohibited the Honor
Society from treating men and women students differently based on their actual or
potential parental status. We were also involved in early cases establishing that
sexual harassment was covered by Title IX and cases articulating the extent to
which in an employment discrimination claim under Title IX-involving, say, a
teacher-should be handled according to principles that had already been
established under Title VII.
One of the early things we also did was to train lawyers in Title IX litigation-in
Title IX itself. We wrote a manual for lawyers that collected a lot of pleadings
and other materials-a training manual. Not a textbook, more practice-oriented.
Then we convened training sessions around the country, with the goal of ginning
up other lawyers to work on these issues. So that was one of the important, early
things we did to try to shape the law that I was involved in. Our Title IX work
involved litigation, but it also involved working to develop the early regulations,
working with groups of athletes, working with other women’s’ organizations,
working with WEAL to bring the case challenging the HEW complaint process.
We were trying to make and keep Title IX strong, coming at it in different ways.
Going to college campuses and talking about the law and what it meant. So,
we’ve been involved in virtually every case or issue that has shaped that statute.
That’s clearly important work.
In employment law, we’ve done less direct litigation than under Title IX. In the
early years, beyond Marcia’s work on the Gilbert case and the Center’s work to
secure the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, we represented interveners in a
Department of Labor case against a Chicago bank that secured $14 million for
women and minorities, the largest-ever back pay award under Executive Order
11246 prohibiting discrimination by federal contractors, Department of Labor v.
Harris Bank. We’ve also worked since the beginning to improve laws in
Congress, shape regulations, and press for effective enforcement. Again, there
are so many employment cases that are individual cases, and we’ve tried generally
not to bring individual cases unless they’re representative of a broader principle
that we’re trying to establish. But in every employment case that involves sex
discrimination or has implications for sex discrimination that has gone to the
Supreme Court, we’ve filed an amicus brief. We tend not to file that many
amicus briefs in lower court cases because of resources, but we sometimes make
an exception. If it’s an issue that we’ve been trying to shape all along, or we have
a parallel case on it, then we’re much more likely to file an amicus brief in the
lower courts.
In the early years of our economic security work, I litigated a case that established
a right for individuals to receive state child support enforcement services without
regard to income, Parents Without Partners v. Massinga. We’ve also been
involved since I came to the Center in efforts to expand the federal Child Support
Enforcement Program, resulting in legislation over three decades that
strengthened the remedies women have to collect child support. Both this
litigation and legislation are efforts I have been very involved in, building on the
work I’ve already described when I was at the Center on Social Welfare Policy
and Law. A lot of the remedies are in the law now. There is definitely a better
system in place because of our work. But there are still enforcement issues,
including issues about how seriously enforcement is taken.
I also worked on the 1983 Social Security Act amendments, which are best known
for shoring up the system financially but also included important benefit
improvements for women.
One of the most important pieces of legislation that we’ve been instrumental in
securing-and that I personally was very actively involved in-is the Child Care
and Development Block Grant. This was enacted in 1990 and was the first
comprehensive federal child care legislation since World War II. We’ve
continued to increase the funding for that program in the years since its passage,
as well as to work on related child care issues.
For example, since 1981, we’ve been very involved in getting better provisions in
the tax code to offset child care expenses for families at all income levels. We
were-and I personally was-actively involved in securing both the 1981 and the
2001 amendments to the federal Child and Dependent Care Credit to ensure that
more of its benefits go to lower-income families than to higher-income families.
The 1981 amendments established a sliding scale for determining how much a
family gets and the 2001 amendments improved that scale. For example,
currently a family with income above $43,000 gets a smaller percentage of its
expenses as a credit than a family with income below $15,000. At the same time,
one of the big fights we’ve had over the years is against continued efforts to limit
by income the families who can claim the credit. We’ve taken the position that
when the credit was put into the law, its purpose was to treat child care as a workrelated expense-to recognize that it is a high work-related expense for people
who have the expense. The credit is available only to people who are in the labor
force and need child care to work. We have consistently taken the position that, if
Congress wants to start capping by income other employment-related expenses
that receive favorable tax treatment-for example, if it wants to deny a tax
deduction to a person who puts an oriental rug in his law office because he
doesn’t have income under $50,000, then fine. We’ll cap the Child and
Dependent Care Credit at that income level, too. But until Congress does that, it
shouldn’t be singling out for an income limitation this credit that means so much
to women. So, we’ve successfully kept the amount of the credit inversely
proportionate to family income, but we’ve also kept it from being phased out
entirely for higher-income families, at least until Congress decides to limit other
kinds of employment-related expenses by income.
After the 1981 change in the law to provide more of the Child and Dependent
Care Credit’s benefits to low-income families, we designed and led the successful
effort to get the Internal Revenue Service to add the credit to the short form tax
return. This, too, is an effort that I was very involved in. I developed a strategy
that involved, at the outset, filing comments on the tax forms with IRS. That was
an interesting story in and of itself. The man who was the head of the Tax Forms
Coordinating Committee at IRS was so surprised to get comments on the forms
that he called us up and invited us to come meet with him. IRS was resistant to
“complicating the short form,” however, so we next directed our efforts to
securing the support of the tax-writing committees in Congress (Senate Finance
and House Ways and Means), the Congressional Caucus on Women’s Issues and
the White House. The 1982 mid-term elections had revealed a significant gender
gap and the Reagan White House was eager to close that gap. We went to see the
head of the White House Office of Public Liaison, Elizabeth Dole, arguing that
our proposal was one that would especially benefit women. It didn’t hurt that she
was married to Bob Dole, the Chairman of the Senate Finance Committeewhose support we had already secured. In the end, our man at the Tax Forms
Coordinating Committee heard from a lot of high-level public officials on the
issue, and IRS agreed to add the credit to the short form. Our essential argument
was that because Congress had changed the credit to provide greater benefit to
low-income families, it was important to add it to the short form, because lowincome families don’t use the long form. And we were right-in the first year
that the credit could be claimed on the short form, over one million additional tax
filers claimed the credit. That’s something I’m especially proud of my role in.
We’ve also worked more broadly on tax issues since fairly early in our history.
We were-and I personally was-very actively involved in the effort that led to
the Tax Reform Act of 1986. We co-chaired a big Women and Taxes campaign
in the early ’80s to articulate why taxes were an important issue for womenpointing out ways to improve the Child and Dependent Care Credit that I just
described, among other issues. We also made the case that it was wrong to tax
heads of household like single individuals instead of like married couples
because, by definition, a head of household has to have a dependent. And in the
1986 Reform Act we were successful in making the tax treatment of heads of
household closer to the tax.treatment of married couples, among other reforms
that benefited women. The biggest reform we helped secure in that law was a
significant expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit, which especially benefits
single-parent families. We have continued to work successfully to expand this
and other tax credits that help women and their families. But I think that,
unfortunately, we’ve come a long way in our tax law from the advances in the
Tax Reform Act of 1986. It would be nice if we could get the tax code back to
recognizing some of the basic principles in that Act, and we’re still working on
those issues.
So those are some of the big early issues.
How have the Center’s priorities or even just the issues changed over the years?
Well, in the very early days, before I got there, the Women’s Rights Project was
working principally on employment discrimination issues, education issues, and
reproductive rights issues, as I’ve described earlier. I think it’s fair to say that we
started fairly traditionally by focusing on discrimination issues, with some
reproductive rights overlay as these issues were developing. Of course, Roe was
decided in 1973, so that was the year after the Women’s Rights Project started.
So very early on we worked on reproductive rights issues. The Relf sterilization
case I described earlier was part of that. So in the beginning, most of the work
was on sex discrimination and reproductive rights issues. Even before I came,
some of that work was focused on low-income women-the sterilization case, for
example. But when I came, we made a conscious effort to work much more on
low-income issues, particularly these arising in the benefit programs that serve
low-income families. So that was an expansion substantively of the work. And
because a lot of those issues didn’t lend themselves to litigation, even in the early
days, as much as the discrimination issues did, our work on those issues was a
factor in expanding the .kinds of things we did to have an impact. So there has
been, over the years, both an expansion of the issues that we work on and the
ways in which we work on them. Now, even early on, we understood that the socalled Washington lawyer was more than a litigator. There was lobbying to be
done and administrative advocacy. We were doing that kind of work from the
beginning. But it has expanded over the years. And, as I’ve said previously,
we’ve increased our appreciation of the importance of communications in making
our case-and by that I mean not just press, but also other communications with
the public, both online and offline. We’ve had a great expansion of that work in
recent years.
Nancy Duff Campbell, Interview 8
October 31, 2008
Duffy, when we last met, which seems like a very long time ago, we were
discussing how the Center’s priorities and issues have changed over the course of
your years here. I think you said that discrimination and reproductive rights were
in the forefront in the beginning and, over time, other issues emerged-issues
such as economic security, child support, child care and tax policy. I don’t know
if there is anything you want to add to that.
Well I don’t want to overstate .. .I don’t want to suggest that our issues at the outset
were particularly narrow. When we started as the Women’s Rights project of the
Center for Law and Social Policy in 1972, it was the beginning of what’s now
known as the second wave of the women’s movement-and essentially the first
wave of the organized women’s legal movement. So the early WRP work focused
on sex discrimination issues, in part because there were laws prohibiting
discrimination in employment, Title VII, and prohibiting discrimination in
education, Title IX. As I’ve described earlier, Title IX had just been passed in
1972. And, of course, equal education and employment are critical issues to
women’s advancement, as are reproductive rights. Roe v. Wade was also decided
soon after WRP started, in 1973. And so, the focus on those issues was because
they were-and are-critical bedrock issues for women’s advancement and
because there were the legal underpinnings to advance them. At the same time,
some of the issues WRP worked on during those early years were ones that
particularly affected low-income women. For example, as I’ve described before,
WRP had a case that secured federal regulations prohibiting states from requiring
women to be sterilized in order to get Medicaid-from requiring low-income
women’s to give up their reproductive rights in exchange for federal benefits. So
it involved both a reproductive rights issue and a government benefits issue. So,
from the beginning there was work on the economic security issues that we work
on today. But when I came to WRP, it was specifically to develop and expand the
issues that we worked on affecting low-income women. It was to build on what
WRP had already started. Mainly, beyond these three areas of health and
reproductive rights, employment, and education, to add some broader focus,
particularly on issues involving government benefits and the role of government
programs, including the tax system, in effectuating change and improving
women’s lives. All of our areas have grown since then. And these are essentially
the areas in which we work today.
Tell me a little bit about how the National Women’s Law Center grew-the major
changes, turning points.
Well, I hope I’m not repeating too much here. When we first became an
independent center in 1981, we had five lawyers and a couple of support staff.
Now we have a staff of nearly sixty. And we have a greater mix of staff on the
program side. We have lawyers. We have policy analysts, including some who
are quite experienced and skilled in quantitative analysis. We have
communications staff who work on press and on outreach to the public and other
advocates, as well as manage our entire online community of 35,000 [ over
100,000 as of July 2011] people and growing. We have, of course, development
staff and we have a much larger support staff.
We grew incrementally for the most part. But on our 25th anniversary, we
undertook a serious strategic planning effort, to re-examine our work, our
mission, and our structure.
We decided, as a result of that process, that we needed to add more people to our
staff who weren’t lawyers but were critical to our policy work-for example, as I
said before, serious analytical work. The analytical work was a particular need in
the economic security area because much of what we were trying to do was to
make arguments based on economic data-what women’s economic situation is,
what the impact of a particular bill or government or private action would be, how
to analyze tax and other economic proposals and determine their impact on
women and their families. And while there are organizations in Washington that
do that, which we work with, getting them to produce the analyses we needed,
when we needed them, wasn’t always that easy. And so building some capacity
in-house to do that work was important.
We also reaffirmed that we were and wanted to remain a legal organization. We
defined that broadly, in the Washington lawyer tradition-to include lobbying,
research, litigation and other forms of advocacy. We decided to keep our focus
on legal work broadly defined.
In a related decision, we determined to keep our broad substantive focus.
Especially when there are limited resources, there’s always a tension between
going deeper on fewer issues and keeping a broad focus even if it means you can’t
necessarily devote the resources you would like to each of the issues. And that’s
been a struggle since the beginning and probably is for most nonprofit
organizations. But we decided, as we were reaffirming that we wanted to stay a
legal organization, that we wanted to keep our breadth of issues-and, in fact, that
it was one of our strengths. At the same time, we knew we needed to do a better
job of, internally, cross fertilizing our different areas and, externally, making sure
that people we worked with in one area knew that we had resources to bring to the
table in other areas. As we were getting larger, we also knew we had to have
more of a structure than we had when we were quite small. As we like to say
jokingly, our generation in the 1970s to some extent rejected hierarchical or very
structured work models. But by the 1990s we were too big to continue that way.
So, we instituted a vice presidential structure that not only put high level-staff in
charge of each of our program and administrative areas, but also gave them
dedicated staff. While we still have some staff who are shared, and work across
more than one program area, at that time we had a more informal way of
assigning staff work than we have now. Then, it was, “Oh, we need to work on
something and we’ll assign people to it.” And while that has its benefits, because
you can shift people around easily, it has its limits because people aren’t
developing the kind of expertise necessarily to go deeper on particular issues,
despite limited resources. It affects hiring, too-you’re not thinking the same way
about the kind of person you want when you’re hiring for a particular area, as
compared to hiring a generalist. So, as a result, although we have more staff, they
are more concentrated in each program area than they used to be, and their
expertise and their interests are in these areas.
At the same time, we recognized a need to maintain some flexibility. For
example, when we set this structure up, one of the women who became one of the
vice presidents was someone who had worked in, and was very interested in, a lot
of our different program areas. She had always been a generalist in some
respects. And, in fact, what interested her and stimulated her was being able to
work on different issues. She originally became our vice president for
employment programs. But in figuring out what issµes we were going to put
under employment, we had a lot of choices. For example, child care was an issue
that we could have put in economic security, in education, or in employment. We
put it in employment because she wanted to work on child care because she hadn’t
worked on that issue before. As time went by, both she and we became more
interested in drawing on her experience as a generalist. So she essentially became
our vice president for cross-cutting issues. We had a better title than vice
president for cross-cutting issues, but the idea was that she would be the person
responsible for trying to think about cross-cutting Center issues and how we could
all work together better on them. So, for example., she worked on judicial
nominations, which obviously affects all of our areas. She had worked on health
and reproductive rights issues, both when she worked on the Hill and at the
Center. Obviously, she had worked on employment issues; and when she was the
vice president for employment, she started and managed a contraceptive coverage
project, which at the time was working to get the Clinton Administration to issue
EEOC guidance that if an employer’s health plan didn’t off er contraception as a
prescription drug benefit when it covered other prescription drugs, it would
violate Title VIL And so again, that project married our reproductive rights work
to our employment work. We then moved employment issues under our vice ·
president for education, because both areas of work involve principally
discrimination work. We moved child care into family economic security,
because our focus there is mainly a government benefits focus. As a result of this
restructuring, we now try to hire more people for specific areas. And yet draw on
the benefit of our different areas in cross-cutting ways.
Another example of cross-cutting is the way in which our economic security work
dovetails with our health work. We have a big priority right now on health care
reform. And the major plans that are under consideration have tax aspects, so the
tax staff in our family economic security program area are working with our
health and reproductive rights staff. We are looking at Medicaid issues in health
care reform-a health issue that is also a public benefits issue that is critical to
low-income families’ economic security. So our health staff and our family
economic security staff are working on these issues together.
How many lawyers do you have?
We’re.a little over halflawyers. We have increasingly distinguished less in our
hiring between lawyers and others with Washington smarts and experience who
are policy staff-though not quite the same as the staff who have quantitative
skills and are doing that kind of policy analysis. As I said earlier, we have a
significant number of communications and outreach staff, too.
You talked about the time of the 25th anniversary when you had this process of
rethinking. Was it a formal process?
Yes, it was a formal strategic planning process. We hired an outside consultant to
manage and facilitate the process. It was the first time that we had done anything
that formal. We generally do a staff strategic planning session at the end of
December or early January each year, looking forward·to the coming year,
especially if it’s been an election year in which there have been significant
changes in Congress or an administration. That process helps us prioritize and
allocate resources for the year. But we had never done a serious, formal strategic
planning process and our 25th anniversary year seemed a good time to really take
stock. It was in 1997. We involved all the staff. The consultant interviewed
people outside the Center on their views of the Center and the issues they thought
we might take on. She analyzed what other groups were doing on women’s issues
and where there might be gaps that we could fill. We then spent some time
discussing the issues and where and how we might more effectively address them.
As I said, out of that grew our current vice-presidential structure and an
agreement that we wanted to add staff with real quantitative analysis expertise.
We also decided to expand our communications staff, especially because, as we
were getting bigger, we knew we needed to be stronger on the communications
side, to really get the word out to a broader audience and to engage them in our
When we presented the plan to the Center’s Board, the consultant came to the
Board meeting to present the results. When she raised whether we should narrow
the issues we work on in order to do more on each of them, the Board was
overwhelmingly of the view that we shouldn’t give up any of our issues.
“Yes … maybe if there isn’t something happening in an issue-say, Social Security
or child support-in a particular year, we won’t work on it that year. But the
breadth of our issues is our strength. We have to be able to maintain and build on
that strength.” We didn’t disagree and had reached the same conclusion, but the
Board was very clear that we should definitely stay a multi-purpose organization.
How big is your board?
About twenty people. We have authority for up to thirty-five. It fluctuates some,
but it’s generally in the range of twenty to twenty-five.
Is that plan the current plan, the strategic plan that you are following now?
Yes, as to its general contours. Basically that was a three-to-five year plan. Since
that time, we’ve had, as I said, annual planning sessions ..
We’ve had at least one other more serious planning session, using the same
consultant. It was at the beginning of the Bush Administration.
Good timing.
It was good timing, except that my recollection is that we set the date for it before
we knew who the President was. [Laughter] So, there was a lot of “if this
happens … and if that happens … ” discussion. In the end, we put most of it off
until January. We’re currently planning this year’s session for soon after the
election, to reassess again. Last summer we developed and released our
“Platform for Progress,” on the issues and actions we think should be priorities for
the next administration and the new Congress. It includes recommendations that
go beyond the two-year session of the new Congress, but the idea was to
articulate the areas in which we hoped a new administration and new Congress
could make progress. Since that time, we’ve been developing more specific
transition recommendations, some that are “first-hundred-days” issues, some that
are first-year issues, in our different program areas so that we can hit the ground
running in the period between election day and January. So we’ve planned an
initial staff meeting two days after election day, for a half day. Then we’ll have a
longer session at the end of November so that we will, hopefully, be ready to start
the New Year strong. There will also obviously be transition work going on
during that whole period, too.
Do you typically get involved and have individuals involved in the transition
You mean officially?
Do you mean give staff leave to do that? We have not typically done that but we
have a couple of people right now who are on leave to work in election
campaigns. I think if someone wanted to do that we would seriously consider it,
depending on what the timing was~ and who the person was and what the impact
would be on us. But what I meant by transition work is the Center’s work to
influence the transition process in our program areas-pressing the new
administration to put our issues on the agenda.
How do you select your clients, your specific issues, which you are going to take
on? I know you have a plan …
Right. Different ways. [Laughter] The plan is usually developed through a
combination of ways. We believe it’s important to have a group process because,
although the staff who work in each of our program areas are very
knowledgeable, getting input from staff outside that program area is important,
too. What issues does the “outside group” think are important, do they have
strategies they have used in one area that could be applied to another area-there
is cross-fertilization that occurs just from the discussion. So generally, we start
with asking staff to identify the issues that are the most important to work onthat will really make a difference for women and their families. Then, to identify
what we are bringing to the table on those issues. For example, is an issue very
well covered by a lot of other organizations such that our role may be a supportive
one, but won’t be leadership role? If so, that issue might not warrant a lot of our
resources, particularly when compared to other issues with fewer dedicated
resources. Conversely, if we already have-or could have-a leadership role,
more resources might be warranted. Then we address what we think are effective
strategies for accomplishing what we want to accomplish in the areas we select.
Other factors in considering an issue or a strategy might include who do we have
as partners and how much can we count on them? And then, of course, is there
money? Do we have the funding to do it or can we raise the funding to do it?
For example, before we had the planning process we scheduled at the beginning
of the Bush Administration, I had been involved in organizing a meeting on tax
issues with the heads of a few other organizations around town in December,
before we knew who the President was going to be. We brought together a core
group to talk about the fact that both of the presidential candidates, Al Gore and
George Bush, had proposed large tax cuts as part of their campaigns. And the
Clinton Administration was leaving the country with, on paper at least, a fairly
large budget surplus. We were quite worried about, whoever was the President,
what was going to happen on tax issues and the consequences it would have for
funding critical federal programs. We and some of the other groups who
traditionally worked on tax issues thought it was important to reach out and bring
other groups into the fold to work on this, because its resolution would have
consequences for the programs that a lot of us supported and wanted to see
expanded with the money that might otherwise be devoted to tax cuts. We had
already had some of these meetings before the National Women’s Law Center’s
strategic planning meeting. At the Center’s meeting, the economic security staff
made the case for devoting more resources to tax issues than we had devoted in
recent years. By then we knew that Bush was to be the President. And we knew
this was going to be largely a defensive battle. He had proposed far larger tax
cuts than Gore. This was going to be a major debate in the Congress and the
county, and it was an area in which we had expertise and we were already taking
a leadership role.
Similarly at the same Center meeting, we talked about concerns we had about the
judges Bush would nominate. We had worked on judicial nominations to a
greater or lesser degree, at different times during several administrations, and we
agreed this was a time when we needed to step up our work. We were concerned
because there were a lot of vacancies in the federal courts. We also thought there
were going to be Supreme Court nominations, which, of course, there were, and
that, too, meant we had to step up our work. We had to consider that this work
was something we didn’t then have dedicated funding for. So, we had to consider
potential sources of such funding and the extent to which we could allocate
general support funding for this work because it’s so important. So, in short, the
questions were, “What are the pros and cons of stepping up our work on judges;
what will it take; do we think we can play a leadership role such that our work is
value-added; can we be successful? Can we raise money for it, etc.?”
Do you have a senior staff group that does this?
Well, it’s interesting. We start the process with a meeting to which everyone who
wants to come is invited. And we usually have good attendance because everyone
here has a view on what are important women’s issues. Then as the issues get
honed down, the vice presidents develop with their teams what they think is
possible in each of their areas. Then there is a meeting to refine the agenda. Then
if there are really hard choices to be made, Marcia and I may say, “Let us think
through this, including the extent to which we think we should allocate general
support resources, and get back to everyone.” But usually it’s a very consensusdriven process.
Does your board get involved at all?
Yes. We report to the Board on our conclusions for discussion with them. And,
of course, the more formal 25th anniversary process involved the Board in a more
formal way as well. And, if we’re thinking of going into an area in which we
haven’t worked before, or in which there might be sensitivity, we want to be sure
we’re all of the same accord on it. For example, on the judicial nominations
issue, we thought it was important to go the Board and say, “Even though we’ve
worked on this issue before, we really want to step up our work here, and that
means we may end up taking positions on more judicial nominations than we
have in the past.” We never took a position for or against any judge until Robert
Bork’s nomination to the Supreme Court. So we were pretty far into our history
before we did that. We also have a Board rule that requires us to get Board
approval before we take a position on any individual nomination, whether it’s to a
cabinet post or federal government post or state post or judicial post. That’s
because of the sensitivity involved in opposing a named person. It’s a higher bar
than taking a position on an issue. So when we decided that we needed to step up
our work on judicial nominations, and that it was going to take-at least at the
outset-some allocation of general support funds, we wanted to make sure the
Board felt comfortable with that.
I know volunteers were an important part of the process early on. Is that still a
part of what you do?
Yes. I’m not sure what you mean by early on. As I’ve previously described, we
don’t have the same history as the Women’s Legal Defense Fund, now the
National Partnership for Women and Families, which really grew out of a.
volunteer organization. We grew out of another public interest organization. But
from the very beginning, we’ve used pro bono lawyers. That’s probably the first
use we made of volunteers in an organized way. And that continues today.
In addition, as I’ve described previously, we’ve always-since our Center for
Law and Social Policy days-had a law student component to our program.
Originally, before there were clinical law school programs, we had law students
with us full-time for an entire semester. We worked out arrangements with their
law schools under which the students paid their tuition to their law school but they
worked for us. We have some students who still do that for a more limited period
of time, on special arrangements with their schools. But these arrangements are
less prevalent today because most schools have full-blown clinical programs
during the school year. So most of our law students-at least those that are fulltime-are with us just in the summer. We also have college students who
volunteer to work in both our substantive program areas and in communications
and development. We have students who are in public policy school, or thinking
about going to public policy school, and are interested in the policy side of our
work. We, from time to time, call on academics for volunteer help. In recent
years, again as we’ve gotten bigger and the work more complex, we’ve used law
firms not only for basic research and litigation, but for transactional issues. We
have a firm now that reviews all of our contracts, for example, on a pro bono
basis. We have two firms that advise us on a pro bono basis on nonprofit law.
They provide briefings to our staff on issues like lobbying rules, changes in IRS
requirements that affect us, the kinds of policies we should have on gift
acceptance. Those kinds of things. We have a firm that helps us on benefits and
employment compliance issues. We’ve also just started to attract retired lawyers
who volunteer their time on a regular basis-I described earlier the arrangement
we have with my former colleague on the Catholic Law School faculty, Harvey
Zuckman, for example. Then we have people we don’t know who call us or visit
our website and say, “What can I do? How can I help?”
As you know, in the last year we also started, in honor of our 35th anniversary, a
new effort we call “Leadership 35.” We asked some of our long-time, biggest
supporters to nominate lawyers around the age of 35 to serve as an advisory
committee to the Center. There were several reasons for this. One, we wanted to
do something significant to celebrate the anniversary. Two, we thought,
especially as those of us in the top leadership are getting older, that it is very
important to hear more officially from younger people-about the issues they
think are important, about the ways in which the issues may be different for them,
and about the ways in which they think they should be addressed. And three, we
wanted to develop core relationships with lawyers of a younger generation than
the lawyers who were first associated and affiliated with us. So Leadership 35 is
an organized way of doing all this.
We also have something called the Progressive Leadership Advocacy Network,
which we started a few years ago. This is a cadre of what we call “emerging
leaders.” We select these individuals in a competitive RFP process that targets
those who are in the mid-level of nonprofit organizations around the country
working generally on our issues. · We bring the initial class together for two or
three days in Washington. It’s a group of about twenty to twenty-five individuals.
We provide them with leadership training. We provide them with training on
issues that we work on, some of which may be issues they work on, but others
may not be. We provide them with communications training. We provide them
with development training. The idea is to provide both training for, and a network
of, the next generation of leaders. We want to help them rise in their own or in
other organizations, to be stronger advocates on our issues. After this initial
training, we bring them back approximately six months later. At the second
meeting, we invite the previous classes as well. It is a more substantive, issuerelated meeting. They may go and lobby on the Hill. They get otherwise engaged
in our issues . .In between these meetings, we communicate with all of them by
email, phone, webinars. We help them work on their issues; they help us work on
our issues. They don’t all work on all of our issues; in fact, most of them don’t.
The child care people might be engaged in something we’re doing on child care.
The reproductive rights people on reproductive rights issues, etc. We have some
limited scholarships, but essentially they or their organizations pay their own way
to the meetings. Their organizations give them time off and pay for them to
come, and we foot the bill for the meals and sometimes the cost of their stay. The
idea is to develop, over the years, individuals-we are now in our third class of
young, mostly but not entirely, women-who are connected to us, learning more
about our issues, talking to us about what’s going on in their states and being our
eyes and ears outside of Washington on the issues for us.
That seems to be a very wise thing to be doing. There is another issue I wanted to
raise with you. I’ve gotten a little involved with the D.C. Bar Foundation’s Loan
Repayment Assistance Program to help foster getting young lawyers involved in
public interest and pro bono work. Law school debt is so huge. Is it hard, do you
think, for young lawyers to choose public interest or pro bono jobs?
Yes, I think it is. It’s a little hard for me to judge the extent of the problem from
our experience. We very rarely hire people right out of school, even a year or so
out of school. Part of the reason for that is that we participate in a number of
fellowship programs, under which we get people who come to us usually right out
of school or maybe off of a clerkship. They are paid by the fellowship program to
work for us for a year or two. So we usually have a cadre of three or four people
at that level at any one time. Sometimes we hire them at the end of their
fellowships, but usually we can’t absorb as many as we might like. But whether
it’s the Skadden program or the Georgetown Law and Public Policy program or
Equal Justice Works, or Yale’s Lyman program-some of the schools have their
own programs-we’ve been quite lucky to get top-notch, recent graduates. We
therefore try to use our limited resources to hire people with somewhat more
experience-at the three-years-and-up experience level. By then they may have
paid their debts, for example, because they are shifting from a law firm to a public ·
interest practice.
Certainly we hear a lot from our law students about how hard it’s going to be to
repay their law school loans. At the same time, we hear from them that there
aren’t many public interest openings for recent graduates. So I think both things
are affecting public interest hiring. It’s a different world from our generation,
when a lot of public interest groups were just starting up. Many of us were pretty
inexperienced when we got our initial public interest jobs, whether they were in
Legal Services or in public interest law firms or even in some new government
agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency. There were more jobs, and
there were fewer people who had any experience in these areas, so employers
were willing to hire relatively young people with little legal experience.
There also wasn’t the debt-load there is today. And there wasn’t as huge a
disparity in compensation as there is today.
Right. Right.
Would you say you’re not having difficulty attracting and retaining talent because
of the … ?
You mean because oflaw school debt? I’d say that it does affect us. It’s hard to
know how much it affects us because, as I said, we don’t tend to hire people right
out of law school when their debt loads are the heaviest. For those who are more
experienced, I think one of the points you made is as much a factor. If you are
working in a large law firm, you’re really going to take a pay cut to work for us
because the compensation disparities are much greater than they used to be. So,
even if you’ve paid your debts, aren’t married, don’t have any kids and are fancy
free, that’s still a big change to make in your life. And you may feel, “Well, it’s
what I want to do, or it gives me more flexible hours,” or whatever the reasons
may be, but you’ve got to pause and think hard about the economics, in that sense,
too, before you make that judgment. We tend to get applicants who are either
coming from the government or from other public interest groups much more than
from firms. So money may in some way be affecting that.
Do you have much turnover?
We don’t have a lot of turnover among lawyers. Right now, we have some
openings that we’ve had for a little while. Some of them are in communications,
and we think that is because a lot of communications people are working on
political campaigns. This is a time when people are out working in campaigns.
After the election, we expect to have a broader pool. Two things are happening
right now that are affecting us. The first is there are people who are working for
candidates, especially in the areas in which we currently need people, like
communications. That’s less true for lawyers, but more true for communications.
Second, there are people who aren’t out working for candidates, but want to be
working for the newly elected and so haven’t been looking to change jobs in the
last six months or so. So we have seen in the last six months that it’s been harder
to recruit people into program positions. It has been less of a problem on the
administrative side or on the development side, and more of a problem on the
program side. And particularly in communications. And, of course, we may lose
some people to the newly elected. That’s the downside of being here in
Washington, more than elsewhere.
What is the gender mix of your staff?
It is almost all women. We currently have two men. We usually have at least one
or two men.
What do you see is the greatest challenge or challenges facing the National
Women’s Law Center?
Well, this is not a good time to be answering the question because of the financial
downturn we’ve all just experienced. [Laughter] We just finished an endowment
campaign in April. The Ford Foundation gave us $10 million ifwe could raise $5
million over a three-year period. We raised the $5 million by the deadline at the
end of April and we were counting on approximately $700,000 for this fiscal year
from a combination of our endowment and a small reserve fund. So far, we don’t
have it. With the big drop in the market this month [October 2008], our
endowment fund is below its principal. Under the terms of the gift, we can’t dip
into the principal, except in an emergency. Our reserve fund is supposed to be a
reserve fund. We use some of the earnings of that fund for operating expenses,
but we try to keep six months of expenses in reserve, and we’re probably down to
about four months now. We currently have an almost $11 million budget that we
raise every year. We hadn’t yet raised all of that for this year as it was, even
without losing the $700,000. So right now the first step is to reassess, to make
sure we keep a strong financial base. We’ve never had to lay people off. We’ve
never had a financial situation where we had to contract. We’ve always been
extremely careful about finances. In a certain sense, it’s good we haven’t filled all
of our positions because that means we’re not currently spending at our budget
level either. So we first want to make sure we have a strong financial structure
and base.
Second, and at the same time, this is an enormously important time, with the
upcoming change in presidential leadership and with a new Congress. We’ve got
a lot of things we want to get done. It’s an unfortunate combination of less money
[Laughter] and more work, but it’s not the first time that’s happened. So our
challenge really is to prioritize, to hone in on what we hope will be some quick
victories, to think strategically about how to go deep on some of the longer-term
issues, and to begin to build the case for and to be effective on those longer-term
issues, too. And if we have a more sympathetic administration and Congress, the
hope is that they, too, are strategic in what they do, so we all really can build for
longer-term progress.
There isn’t only one particular issue that is really important, but we think that
whoever the President is there’s going to a major focus on health care reform. We
are very actively involved in articulating what we think are the principles for that,
making sure that women are well served. And that’s not just making sure that
reproductive health care and other health care that meets women’s needs are
covered, but that the financing structure or fee structure of the legislation also
meets women’s needs. So health care reform is going to be a priority area for us.
Another immediate issue is, obviously, related to the economic issues the country
is facing right now, beginning with the effort to craft an economic recovery
package and, from our perspective, ensuring that it is one that includes provisions
that will help the very lowest-income people, so many of whom are women. For
example, there are some basic things we want in terms of unemployment
insurance, both modifications to the program that would particularly help women
and extension of basic benefits for a longer period of time because of the
economic downturn. We want to restore recent cuts in child support enforcement,
which have hurt women’s economic security. We want to be sure a jobs package
includes money for child care. In short, we want to have an impact on the
economic recovery package not only to help ensure its success for the country as a
whole, but also to ensure its success for women.
A third and related issue is that with the upcoming expiration of the Bush
Administration’s tax cuts of 2001 and 2003, we know there’s going to be a big
debate on taxes. Both of the presidential candidates have positions on this issue,
and Congress has to do something or those tax cuts will all expire within the next
two years. So, we know what some of the immediate issues are going to be.
We also have high hopes, depending on the administration, that we can pass the
Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and overturn the Supreme Court’s equal pay decision
in her case, Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. That might even be a
quick fix.
There are administrative regulations that we want, both to move forward and to
correct harmful interpretations in areas in which we’ve lost ground. There is the
potential for some real gains at the administrative level.
For example, I work on issues affecting women in the military. At the beginning
of the Clinton Administration we argued to Secretary Les Aspin, when he became
Secretary of Defense, that women had really proved themselves during the Gulf
War conflict and that, as a result, more military assignments should be opened to
women. We pointed out that there were only two laws that restricted the
assignments women could perform. One said women couldn’t serve on combat
ships and the other said women couldn’t fly combat aircraft. We made the case to
him that women were flying all kinds of other military aircraft and could clearly
fly combat aircraft, and that they were serving with distinction on other ships and
could serve on combat ships. We asked the Clinton Administration to support
repeal of those two pieces of legislation, which it did. After repeal, we asked
Secretary Aspin to take a serious look at the additional ways in which the policies
of the Pentagon, not the laws in Congress, were restricting women’s military
assignments and administratively open more positions to women. For example,
women were serving as military police, so why couldn’t they perform similar
combat-related assignments? Secretary Aspin agreed, and DoD opened up about
250,000 positions for women in the first year or so of the Clinton Administration.
So, we’re hoping now to get rid of all of the remaining restrictions-the express
restrictions by DoD policy-on the positions that women can hold in the military.
That doesn’t mean women shouldn’t have to compete with men for these positions.
For example, if they can’t do what’s necessary to be a ground combat soldier, then
they shouldn’t be a ground combat soldier. But if they can do the job, it should be
available to them. This isn’t just a matter of equality; it’s a matter of having the
most effective military possible. Right now, if the best person for a military
assignment is a woman, she still may be banned by DoD policy from that
assignment. That shouldn’t be. Whether we can completely open up all military
positions to women, I don’t know. But I think it’s possible. And if it happens, it
will not only directly affect a great many women; it will also strike down what is
in effect the last form of de Jure sex discrimination in federal policy. So it has a
symbolic value as well as actual value in the number of women who may be
affected and its salutary effect on our military strength.
You and Marcia have been running the Center for a long, long time. Have you
put together any kind of plan or training for the next generation leadership, the
next Duffys and Marcias? [Laughter] Not to put too fine a point on it. Law firms
are in the same way. Chesterfield Smith ran our law firm for a long, long time.
And at some point when he was probably … when I first met him actually … not
that he didn’t stay active and involved and maybe really ran things for a while, but
he started talking a lot more about getting other people to be in positions of
leadership and that kind of thing.
Yes, we have talked about this, including with our Board.
It’s continuity …
Right. Right. And, well, we have a couple of things going for us. One is that the
vice presidential structure has in and of itself given us a next tier of leaders that
we are trying to develop. Whether any one of them would be interested in taking
over from us remains to be seen. But we are continually and expressly trying to
develop their skills and expertise. Second, we have restructured the position of
one of our vice presidents into a position that includes general counsel duties as
well as work on cross-cutting women’s issues. We are currently hiring for that
position. The idea is that Marcia and I have been doing a lot of general counsel
and similar organizational development issues, with the help of outside pro bono
counsel. But as we have gotten bigger, there are more and more of these issues
and they are all getting lodged only in our brains. So we want someone else with
that expertise who will also work on cross-cutting issues. That will give us
another person at the vice-presidential level with expertise about the organization
and its issues.
We also have an emergency backup plan if something should happen to one of us,
or both of us, precipitously. In a certain sense, we are luckier than most
organizations because if something happens to one of us, there is another one of
us in place-unless we’re on the same plane. Outside of an emergency, we have a
written succession plan that lays out the amount of notice we have to give the
Board of a planned departure and the Board process to find a successor.
Right now we’re not planning any changes for another few years at least. Marcia
is three years younger than I am, so I’m likely to leave before she does, although
we keep joking that we should do it at the same time. Our recommendation to the
Board, when we’re both gone, or if one ofus leaves before the other, is to have a
president, not co-presidents. Because, although this structure has worked
wonderfully for us, to try to find two people who would agree to do it and get
along well enough to do it isn’t easy. It’s possible that some similar arrangement
might grow out of the staff, but I’m not sure that’s likely. In the end, that will
obviously be a Board decision.
So, in short, we’ve been trying to develop at the vice presidential level not only
substantive expertise, but also expertise on other organizational issues. We want
all our vice presidents, for example, to have some development expertise. It’s the
“running the organization” skills that are the harder ones to develop, but in a new
general counsel we will at least be developing expertise on the legal side of these
issues in someone other than us.
One of our foundation funders helped us think through some of these issues. I
think somebody in that foundation looked around one day and sawthat most of
the leadership of nonprofit organizations in Washington, DC, is about the same
age. There’s going to be a massive turnover at some point, and the question the
foundation asked was whether the organizations were preparing for this leadership
change. As a result, the foundation retained a consulting firm to work on these
kinds of transition issues with the nonprofits they fund, including us. Marcia and
I met with the consultants to talk through such a transition. “What is an effective
plan?” “What is the responsible way of doing this?” That’s when we decided we
should put on paper both an emergency backup plan and a longer-term succession
plan that outlines the succession process. The consultants talked to us about what
the lead time is for more specific work on such a transition. Their
recommendation was to build skill. sets internally the way we have been doing,
including by hiring a general counsel to continue our expansion of the expertise of
current staff. So we’ve been following that advice. But the hardest part right now
is we don’t have a plan for ourselves. [Laughter] And in the current economy,
we’re not rushing to make such plans.
Yes, I think everyone shares that view right now.
That’s the good thing. Everyone understands that when you say it.
Absolutely. It’s true. Everyone talks about it.
All of us who are still working are glad we are. [Laughter]
Yes. I think about that. I think about a friend who retired about a year ago. I’m
sure it’s a little scary.
There are always some ups and downs. In theory, if you planned well, you
planned for the down times, too. Also, my husband is two years older than I am
and Marcia’s husband is about the same age as she is. So I have a slightly
different situation both in being older and having an older husband. My personal
dilemma about this is how to stop working in time to have fun while I can still get
around [Laughter], but not so early that I become bored. Having things in
retirement that you want to do is important.
And having both of you be at the same place too.
Right. I’m pretty good at puttering and thinking of things to do. I’ve got things on
my list that I would like to do if I had more time. Whether I get them done within
the first few weeks of retirement or not, I don’t know, but I’ve got them on a list at
least. And my husband’s tom because he doesn’t really have such a list. .. he
really likes to work. Anyway, we’re working on it. [Laughter] As for Marcia and
me, we want to be responsible and keep our Board informed.
Well, it sounds like what you are doing is responsible. You’re thinking about it
and learning about how best to do it.
The other thing the transition consultants ·said to us is that we should think about
what we want to accomplish at the Center before leaving, not just what we need to
have in place to make our departures work. In other words, most. people assess if
there are certain systems that they’ve muddled through, but wouldn’t want to leave
resolution of for the next person; they know they have to address those. But what
people don’t think about enough is what they substantively want to accomplish.
Of course, that’s hard to assess in an advocacy organization like ours because we
don’t totally control outcomes. We may say, “Yes, I’d like to have world
peace … but can I get it?” But nevertheless, the consultants advised us that in
thinking about our own situations to think about that, too. And I hope that when
one or both of us does step down, we still can be of some benefit to the Center, as
volunteers or in some useful capacity.
So wrapping up a little bit on the National Women’s Law Center, of all the
wonderful work you’ve done over the years at the Center, what things are you
proudest of or you think have had the most impact?
Oh, gosh. That’s very hard. In honor of the Center’s 35th anniversary, we
prepared and distributed a document of our victories over the years. There are
many of them, realiy in all of our program areas. I described some of our early
important accomplishments in our last session and, obviously, there’s been a
tremendous expansion of the equal rights of women during this period. We’ve
really been engaged in the formative period for the development of a lot of the
laws-and law–on both sex discrimination and women’s rights more generally.
And, of course, we’ve seen a tremendous rise in women’s accomplishments and
engagement-whether it’s in paid work or in other areas. We’re always looking
forward at what we still have to do. But when you look back at everything that
has occurred, we’ve really been engaged in most of the major battles that have
expanded a lot of opportunities for women.
I think, turning the question around a little, I had hoped that we would have made
more progress on women’s poverty, which is still quite high and still tied so much
to women’s caregiving responsibilities. Despite the advances of women in the
workplace, we still have a large cadre of the poor who are women and children.
Getting at this issuehas been much less amenable to legal strategies in the
traditional sense. We-and I personally-had a lot of successes in litigating
poverty and benefits issues early on, but, as I’ve described earlier, a lot of these
victories were based on congressional statutes that, in response to these victories,
were changed. Some of the early constitutional theories of equal protection didn’t
really pan out-for example, the attempt to make poverty a suspect classification
or something requiring more than “reasonable basis” analysis. Beyond legal
strategy, improvements in anti-poverty programs cost money. So advances in
those areas have been difficult. At the same time, when I started at the Center,
there wasn’t a national child care program. There wasn’t even a sense that child
care was a government responsibility. We haven’t yet gotten where we want to
be in that program, but we’ve established it and continued to improve it over the
years. That’s something I have personally been very involved in and am proud of.
Similarly, there have been significant improvements in the federal child support
enforcement program that I’ve been very involved in securing, both early in my
legal career and here at the Center.
There’s a whole construct of work/family issues that we’ve identified and, again,
we aren’t where we want to be on theseissues, but we have the Pregnancy
Discrimination Act and the Family and Medical Leave Act. We need to have paid
leave, which some states now guarantee but we need a federal guarantee. We
have, I think, in the current younger generation a greater appreciation of shared
responsibilities for children. And we have a greater acceptance of women in the
work force. How much that plays out in changing the day-to-day lives of
women-obviously, that is a very individualized thing. But I’m hopeful, since the
initial problem we had in advancing these issues was to persuade people that
women’s place was not limited to the home. That there were contributions for
women to make in all spheres of life, but for them to be able to make these
contributions was going to mean some accommodation to their childbearing and
child-rearing responsibilities, not only by their families and their employers, but
by society as a whole and ultimately the government-by providing funding for
. programs that would help in this regard, such as child care programs.
Another area in which we’ve had real success is education, including the success
of Title IX in increasing the number of women not just in sports but in education
generally. There are more women than men in college now. There are far more
women in graduate programs than there were before Title IX. There are clearly
continuing challenges-for example, how to prevent young women from
dropping out of high school because of pregnancy and other barriers to their
continuing ~ducation. Reforming career education programs that aren’t now
tailored to making sure women are trained for the kinds of higher-paying jobs that
men are trained for. So, there are still issues that were there at the beginning that
definitely aren’t resolved, but there’s been a lot of overall progress. Although I’ve
personally been less involved in the Center’s work on Title IX issues in recent
years, I was very involved in the beginning in the Center’s work to shape the early
developments in the law.
Looking at employment issues, there, too, we’ve got some very good laws, and
interpretations of those laws that have been developed over the last several
decades because of the Center’s efforts. But we still have issues that aren’t
resolved or that we thought were resolved but we now have to resolve again-like
the Ledbetter issue. We’ve got issues with the kind of damages you can get under
Title VII. There has been a rollback of some employment rights in recent
Supreme Court decisions that we’re working to correct. And we’ve got the
military issues I described earlier, although we’ve made tremendous progress
there. There has also been an incredible increase in the number of women in the
workforce generally and into high and important positions. But we need a higher
minimum wage and more attention to job training and other efforts to improve the
employment prospects and economic security of low-wage women.
In the economic security area, as I said, we’ve definitely made progress in child
care and in child support enforcement. We’ve made progress in improving many
benefit programs. We’ve made progress in improving retirement security,
including by securing Social Security improvements for women, which I’ve
played an active role in. And we’ve made the tax system more fair and more
beneficial for women, especially low-income women, another area in which I’ve
been involved for many years. But we haven’t made the progress in the
constellation of economic security issues that we have in some areas. And in
recent years, some of the early progress we made on tax issues has been
undermined as the tax code has become less progressive. Some of these
economic security issues are quite intractable in many ways. There are still a lot
of challenges.
I noticed that you have a Wikipedia entry. Did you know this? I “googled” you
earlier when we started this. And I did it again looking for some information and
I noticed there is a Wikipedia entry on you which is interesting.
I don’t know how that happened!
Wikipedia is a very interesting thing.
And I know it’s participatory, but they have a monitoring process don’t they?
Yes, I think so.
So if I don’t like it or something’s wrong with it, what do I do?
Yes, I think you can edit it. You should look at it, obviously. It’s not very
It looks like it’s taken from my bio?
Yes. It looks more like a thing from your bio. But because you have a Wikipedia
entry, I noticed that you have successfully participated in Supreme Court
litigation which they note. Which I’m sure is something you’re proud of. How
many things that you worked on over these years went to the Supreme Court?
Well, there are two cases that the National Women’s Law Center actually argued
in the Supreme Court-both of which we won. But we-and I personally-have
also participated as co-counsel in a number of cases in which we were not the
ones actually arguing the cases. So there are many cases in which we worked on
the main brief and helped develop strategy for the case and prepare for argument.
There are even more cases in which we wrote amicus briefs. For example, the
Center-and I personally-was very involved in a case that married our sex
discrimination work with our public benefits work. That case challenged a
provision of what was then the federal-state Aid to Families with Dependent
Children program. As I’ve previously described, in order for a child to get
benefits under the program, the child has to be deprived of parental support
because of the unemployment, death or disability of a parent. With respect to
unemployment, originally the program required the unemployment of the father.
Then Congress in the late ’60s, early ’70s, changed it to provide that the
unemployment be of a parent. And then another, later Congress changed it back
to a program under which only the unemployment of the father conferred
eligibility, if you can believe this. When I worked at the Center on Social
Welfare Policy and Law in New York on public benefits issues, we had been
involved in the original, successful effort to change the program to one that
recognized the unemployment of either parent, not just a father. So, that Center
brought a case challenging the new restriction to the father’s unemployment on
equal protection grounds. I advised on the writing of the main brief. And Ruth
Ginsburg and I, when she was working with the ACLU Women’s Rights Project,
wrote an amicus brief challenging the restriction. We won the case not only on
the merits but on the appropriate remedy. The choice before the Court was
whether to invalidate the program because of its unconstitutionality, thereby
denying benefits to children of all unemployed parents, or to extend it to children
of both uneipployed men and unemployed women. Because, of course, to provide
equal protection, you can go either way to remedy the discrimination. The Court
agreed with us that Congress would have intended, in a remedial way, that the
program be opened to children of unemployed mothers as well as fathers. So, we
had a victory on both fronts. That case, Califano v. Westcott, was in 1979.
Nancy Duff Campbell, Interview 9
July 10, 2009
Duffy, when we last met, it was Halloween and it was just a few days before the
election. I think you were talking about your accomplishments with the work at
the Center and, in particular, a couple of Supreme Court cases. I think I had read
your Wikipedia biography and it mentioned a couple of Supreme Court cases.
The case you had discussed was the one you worked on with Justice Ginsburg,
regarding the AFDC pro gram. We ended before you finished, I think, because
you mentioned there were two cases, and I think you only had discussed that one.
Two cases that the Center had been particularly active in. But what you might
want to do is take a look at the transcript and come back to that later if you want.
Okay. We’ve been involved in lots of Supreme Court cases. The two that Center
lawyers actually argued in the Supreme Court were Title IX cases. The first case,
Davis v. Monroe Co. Board of Education, established that student-on-student
sexual harassment is covered by Title IX. That case was decided in 1999 and
involved a young girl who complained she was being harassed by a boy in her
class. The school essentially refused to take any action, even to allow her to
move her seat. The Court held that schools can be held responsible for such
harassment under Title IX’ s prohibition against sex discrimination in education.
The second case, Jackson v. Birmingham Board of Education, made clear that
Title IX prohibits retaliation by schools against those who complain about sex
discrimination. It was decided in 2005 and involved a high school basketball
coach who was fired when he complained about the inferior practice and game
conditions provided for his girls’ team compared to those provided for the boys’
team. The Court held that the law’s protections extend to anyone who complains
of civil rights violations, not just the victims of that discrimination.
Most of the cases we’ve been involved in-either as counsel or amicii-have
raised civil rights-related issues, involving educational discrimination or
employment discrimination or discrimination of some type. I’ve been particularly
involved in several of these, including Cannon v. University of Chicago, which
established that individuals have a private right of action under Title IX, and
Grove City College v. Bell, which established that “indirect” federal funding, in
the form of student financial aid, subjects a school to Title IX. Grove City also
limited the reach of Title IX to programs or activities that actually benefitted from
federal financial assistance. The Civil Rights Restoration Act of 1987, on which
we also worked, overturned that aspect of Grove City by making clear that
discrimination is prohibited throughout an entire entity if any part of that entity
receives federal funds.
We’ve had fewer cases in the general economic security area than in the
discrimination area. The one that I worked on with Ruth Ginsburg, Califano v.
Westcott, was one of those. There have been fewer Supreme Court cases in this
area partially because, as I described earlier, there has been a pretty strong
curtailment of the ability to sue to challenge government benefit programs. So,
early in my career, pretty much all I did was work on cases that established or
tried to establish greater rights for beneficiaries of government programs in
welfare, Social Security, unemployment compensation, Medicaid and the like. As
I’ve described, in part because of the victories that we and other Legal Services
lawyers had in those areas, most of which were based on statutory entitlements,
the entitlements themselves were then significantly cut back by Congress. In
addition, the right to sue has been constrained, either by statute in some instances,
or by the courts in refusing to find causes of action or implied causes of action or
reading very narrowly the expressed causes of action.
So in the area of government benefits, by the time I came to the Center to
continue this work, litigation was a much less effective strategy than it had been
early in my career. In 1979, the Center was involved in the Westcott case that I
described earlier, in which I filed an amicus brief in the Supreme Court with Ruth
Ginsburg when she worked with ACLU Women’s Rights Project. It successfully
challenged on equal protection grounds the Aid to Families with Dependent
Children Program’s restriction to children who had been deprived of parental
support because of the unemployment of the father. If the deprivation was
because of the mother’s unemployment, the child wasn’t eligible for benefitsonly if the deprivation was because of the father’s unemployment. We worked on
that case with lawyers at the Center on Social Welfare Policy and Law, where I
worked early in my career, who had brought the case.
There are a few other Supreme Court cases in the benefits area that the National
Women’s Law Center-and I in particular-have been involved in as well. One,
Blessing v. Freestone, involved whether individuals who had been harmed by a
state Child Support Enforcement Program’s violation of its responsibilities under
the federal Child Support Enforcement Program could sue to challenge these
violations. The federal Child Support Enforcement Program, which is a part of
the Social Security Act, provides funding to states who choose to participate in
the program and agree to abide by the federal requirements. The state programs
provide assistance to individuals who are trying to collect child support. The
plaintiffs had applied to the Arizona program for help in collecting support but the
program had not taken adequate steps under the federal law to help them get child
support-actually get the money. The question was whether the plaintiffs had a
right to sue to enforce the federal requirements that Congress had established orbecause this was a grant-in-aid program to the state-was adherence to the
program’s requirements just between the federal government and state, such that
individuals couldn’t sue to enforce it. This is an issue that has come up in
program after program after program. In recent years, courts, including the
Supreme Court, have been restricting the right to sue. With respect to Blessing,
there had been prior Supreme Court cases involving similar grant-in-aid statutes
that had upheld an individual’s right to sue, including King v. Smith, a case I
described earlier. And Blessing presented a pretty sympathetic situation. One of
the plaintiffs, for example, had gotten the state’s assistance in collecting child
support but the state had failed to give her the portion of the support she was
entitled to after the state repaid itself for the public assistance it had provided to
her. But based on the ways in which the Supreme Court had been cutting back on
the right to sue in grant-in-aid cases, we were worried and we knew it was a case
with potentially broader implications. So, we got involved in the case, which was
brought by a Legal Services office. We recruited a prominent woman lawyerMarsha Berzon, who is now a judge on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals-to
argue the case for the plaintiffs and we filed an amicus brief in the case as well as
worked with her generally on it. We effectively won the case, but the decision
was a narrow one that said there was a right to sue on some issues, but not all
issues. It was one of those cases in which both sides claimed victory
afterwards-put the best face on it. We were somewhat heartened by the fact that
the Court did not put this case in a developing line of cases that would really have
wiped out a lot of rights that people thought they had before. In fact, when I was
first starting out, we brought many cases to force states to adhere to the federal
requirements under the parallel Aid to Families with Dependent Children
program. After King v. Smith, nobody thought twice about whether individuals
had a right to sue under the program. That’s another indication of how much the
law in the benefits area has changed since then. But, in the Blessing case, the
Court remanded it for a determination of whether some of the claims of the
plaintiffs could go forward, and ultimately some plaintiffs were able to do so on
some of the claims. But on other claims they couldn’t, because in the Court’s
view, Congress’ intent to permit a right of action on them wasn’t sufficiently
clear. So in the benefits area, it’s been much more difficult of late because of
these kinds of cases. And frankly, there has been some reluctance to take cases
all the way up for fear that rights are going to be further circumscribed.
Well, just kind of wrapping up on your work on women’s rights over the last
thirty-five, forty years, you’ve made great strides, thanks to your leadership and
the Center’s work. How secure do you see the victories? Now, you may have a
different view than you might have had several months ago.
Well, I think some of the victories are pretty secure, in concept at least. The
difficulty, of course, is that legislation, litigation and other efforts can chip away
at what we think are basic rights. I’ve described earlier how that has happened in
the welfare area. Pretty soon, there isn’t anything left. So, I’m very concerned
about what I’ll call broadly “access to the court” issues, especially for poor people,
because, as we were just discussing, there’s been a constriction of those rights in
recent years. And it’s spilling over into civil rights issues generally to some
extent, too. It’s not just in the area of benefit programs. And all these rights
obviously are pretty important.
Before Justice O’Connor’s retirement, I would have said that in the area of equal
protection, the standard used for sex discrimination challenges is pretty
ensconced, and even moving closer to strict scrutiny in some cases. That’s where
we would like it to end up, obviously, in name as well as deed. But in recent
years three current Justices have voted to uphold sex-discriminatory laws in the
face of equal protection challenges. In addition, to the extent that there are fewer
intentional sex discrimination claims and more disparate impact claims, we still
have a long way to go-as the Supreme Court in the last term showed-in terms
of how the law is evolving. Everybody is concerned about that. So, even with
broad acceptance of the constitutional standard for evaluating sex discrimination
claims, many issues that come to the Court today are fairly nuanced. Thus, there
is still a lot of interpretive work to do to resolve them.
With respect to statutory law, and specifically some of the new statutes that have
particularly helped women, like the Family and Medical Leave Act, there’s very
little Supreme Court case law. Although again, the few decisions we do have are
fairly good ones. So, there are still areas in which we don’t know enough about
what some of the litigation issues may be because they haven’t gotten into the
courts, or gotten high enough up in the courts.
Having said this, I think there is a pretty strong public embracing of the notion
that women’s issues are legitimate issues. That equality for women has strong
support. Again, what that means in any particular situation is less clear, but I
think that we have, in the minds of the public, generally won the battle on that.
But in the areas in which I work principally, which are those affecting lowincome women-we still have far to go in terms of the kinds of programs we
need, in terms of legal rights, and in terms of just basic, decent treatment. Public
opinion is less clear here, too. There a general sympathy for the poor. But there
is still a lot of blaming the victim and unwillingness to address the root causes,
including women’s caregiving responsibilities. That’s part of the reason for the
intractable nature of women’s poverty. And it’s far more intractable than I would
have said 40 years ago. I would have thought we would be farther along in terms
of reducing poverty rates. We’ve hardly reduced poverty rates at all. It’s not just
the current recession. Through good times and bad, they are staying at 12%, 15%
of the population.
Would you say that those are the biggest issues left to tackle?
Well, these are the issues that are my passion. I see them and care about them a
lot. I hesitate to say they are the biggest. Reproductive freedom isn’t secure.
That is a very big issue for women’s equality. We got an interesting note from a
colleague in California just this week who was responding to something on
reproductive rights the Center had disseminated. I think it was about health care
reform and reproductive rights. She wrote it to Marcia and said that she did not
know Marcia but she knew me because she was a child care advocate. She
wanted to say how much she enjoyed that communication and that she agreed that
reproductive rights were probably, definitely, one of the most important rights for
women’s equality, but that she thought that child care ·was the second most
important one. Because, she said, in both cases there’s an issue of freedom.
Women can’t succeed unless they can both make their own decisions about having
children and have the supports they need to provide for their children. So, it’s
always interesting to see someone else putting these issues together this way. I
think these are some of the biggest issues, but I think they’re very difficult issues.
It will be interesting to see if there is real health care reform and we begin to think
of health care as an entitlement, or that it is guaranteed on some other basis. I
would have said 40 years ago that I thought that day was right around the comer.
I would have said that by now we’d have agreed as a nation that there’s a basic
level of subsistence below which we shouldn’t let anybody fall. But we don’t have
either of these established.
How has the election, presidential election, made a difference?
Well, we now have another whole branch of government to work with that we
didn’t work with much in the last eight years, except from the outside. So, it’s
opened up a lot of opportunities to affect government policy. We’ve been very
engaged in all kinds of ways since January with the new Administration teamand, really, before January, with the transition team as well–on a whole range of
Obviously, some of the issues that are in the news, like health care reform, we are
very engaged in. As you know, last summer we laid out an agenda for what we
thought needed to happen for women at the federal level over the longer term and
in the short term, our Platform for Progress. We’ve obviously been pressing a lot
of those issues.
We had two immediate issues, ones that we said we wanted strong, immediate
action on: passage of the Economic Recovery Act with important provisions for
women and passage of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, to reverse the Ledbetter
Supreme Court decision. We were quite successful on both of those. Ledbetter
was the first bill President Obama signed. It was very exciting to be at the White
House to celebrate this. As for the Recovery Act, in the beginning, there was a lot
of focus on jobs and job creation in crafting the bill, and there wasn’t much
discussion about job supports and the need to protect the safety net when so many
people were out of work and otherwise hurting. Extending unemployment
insurance, for example, was in the package, but one of the things that we wanted,
which we had been working on for a few years, was a package of amendments to
the unemployment insurance program that gave states authority and financial
incentives to make changes in the program that would be particularly beneficial
for women. For example, by letting part-time workers qualify for unemployment
benefits on a pro-rata basis. And by recognizing that someone who leaves a job
because of serious family reasons is not leaving work voluntarily, and should be
eligible for unemployment benefits. We successfully got these into the package.
We also had a series of meetings, first, with HHS transition people, and then the
Administration, to get some real money for child care into the package. We
argued that an effort to increase jobs must have a a child care component, too, and
specific funding was then added to the bill for child care. We also argued that it
was important that jobs for women be addressed. There was a little bit of a
skirmish about the emphasis in the bill on construction jobs-the so-called
stimulus kinds of jobs-and green jobs rather than also on the kinds of jobs
women tend to hold. So we wanted to make sure that there were civil rights
protections in the bill and to encourage outreach to women for those jobs. But we
also made the point, including to some of our sister organizations, that the money
that was in the bill for Medicaid and child care and state fiscal relief was
addressing the need to protect women’s job’s, too, because women
overwhelmingly hold the jobs in these fields. So there was a women’s jobs
component to the effort; it just wasn’t being touted as a jobs component for
women. Because states were, and still are to some extent, under enormous budget
deficit pressures that are causing them to lay people off, this new funding was
helping to protect these women’s jobs. We also worked on same of the tax
provisions in the bill designed to get money into people’s hands quickly-such as
expansion of the Child Tax Credit so that low-income people would benefit more
from it. We were pretty happy with the package in the end. And the overall
results on our two big early priorities.
Then, of course, right after these efforts came the intensive work on health care
reform, which we are still very involved in. We are also working with states, and
state advocates, to make sure that states are taking advantage of the new stimulus
money in the Recovery Act. We prepared and disseminated materials suggesting
particular ways to use the new child care money, for example. We’ve
disseminated similar materials to make sure people understand the improvements
in the tax provisions, so they’re sure to claim them at tax time. We are working
very hard on the financing of both health care reform and expansions of other
programs that the President has made his priority-like energy and education-to
ensure those programs are paid for in a progressive way. For example, we’ve
done some work on the tax provisions that we think would be the right ones to use
to pay for health care reform. So, it’s a busy time. Exciting but busy.
So are you optimistic for the future?
Well, I’m pretty optimistic in general as a person. I think that achieving health
care reform is going to be enormously hard,. The jury is still out as to how
comprehensive a program we are going to get in the end. But, there seems to be a
very strong commitment on behalf of, not just the Administration, but the people
in Congress who are working for this. If it happens, that is an enormous
Are you having much success with tax proposals you’ve suggested to pay for it?
It’s a little hard to know yet because the Finance Committee hasn’t come out with
their proposal yet. We supported the Obama proposal to cap the charitable
deduction, for example.
You did?
Yes. First of all, it would affect only about 2% of the population, and yet it’s a
big-dollar number. We have advocated in general that we should not just be
looking for health care tax changes or health care cuts to fund health care reform.
But that’s a very delicate question right now. The Republicans are basically
saying that the money has to come from health. There are corporate tax changes
that we think could and should be considered. It’s going to have to be a package
of financing pieces. It’s not like there is one magic bullet. We have made our
own series of recommendations. Many of the ones we recommended are ones
Congress is considering, but where Congress is going to be in the end, nobody
knows really. I think we are at a stage right now where our major newspapers
have to write about health care every day and there are only so many things they
can write about. So there’s a lot of speculating about things that may be today’s
news and not tomorrow’s.
Why don’t we talk about your personal life, which we’ve touched on, on and off.
Also I want to say that, at any time if you want to add things, or if I ask you
something that you think would be particularly-you know if there was a gap or
something you’d like to talk about, certainly, you can insert or edit.
If I can remember what we left out!
That clearly is something that you should do and feel free to do. We talked about
your childhood. And we talked a little bit about your first marriage. I don’t know
if you want to talk about it at all in terms of were your parents supportive, what
kind of wedding you had, those kind of issues. If you don’t want to talk about
that, we don’t have to talk about that. But then it’s been so long, I’m not sure I can
remember a whole lot other than I do recall you were in New York, and just out of
law school. But how long were you married?
We were married in 1968, and we split up in 1972. So not very long.
So, you were how old?
I was twenty-five when I got married. Our divorce was amicable. My parents
were supportive of the marriage and were supportive of me when it didn’t work
out. He’s a lawyer in New York. One of his clients is a local union of the Service
Employees International Union, a union the Center works with on a lot of issues,
so I see him occasionally at SEIU gatherings. My current husband does a lot of
labor work, so they see each other sometimes at gatherings. There was one last
fall and Mike came home and said, “Well, I saw Richard and he sends you his
How did your marriage and your divorce affect your career … at all?
When I got married I really didn’t think about its effect on my career. I was just
out oflaw school and I knew I wanted to practice law. And, as I’ve described
earlier, 1968, the year I graduated from law school, was really the beginning of
the second wave of the women’s movement. There was a big march in New York
in 1970. People were talking about women’s rights in a way that I hadn’t thought
about that much. I came from a family with a strong mother and both my parents
always encouraged me to be whatever I wanted to be. But I wasn’t thinking about
that from a feminist perspective. I worked at a place, the Center on Social
Welfare Policy and Law, that was very welcoming of women. My employer
didn’t distinguish between the kind of assignments women received and the kind
of assignments men re~eived. I ultimately met my current husband, Mike Trister,
through my work. So my personal life and my work have always been very
related in a good way.
How soon after the split-up from your first marriage did you meet your husband?
Well, I knew him before, but we didn’t get married until 1977.
How did you meet?
I met him through my Legal Services work. He was the head of North
Mississippi Rural Legal Services, which was the Legal Services program in
northern Mississippi. I had some contact with his office, but mainly with
someone else who worked there who was an old boyfriend of mine. He had
called me about some welfare issues. Mike was the head of the office, but I only
knew him by name really. Then I went down to Mississippi to argue a case in the
Northern District of Mississippi in 1970. When I got there, the judge delayed the
argument because there had been a big demonstration the night before and the
judge needed to hear an emergency motion related to the demonstration. It
involved a group-I think the group still exists-called Up With People.
Oh, yes. I remember it.
Up With People had come to Ole Miss-the University of Mississippi-to give
some kind of a program. Black students disrupted the program to protest
grievances they had against the University. In the hours immediately following
the protest, Black students all across the campus-over ninety in all-were
arrested and carted off to the state penitentiary at Parchman. Mike represented
them and had an emergency motion before my argument to try to get the judge to
release them. I didn’t know anything about this; I was j~st there for my argument.
I was working with another Legal Services lawyer who wasn’t in Mike’s program;
he was in another program that was also in the Northern District of Mississippi’s
jurisdiction. It was a welfare case. We were waiting for the argument. We didn’t
know what the delay was. People kept saying, “Oh, we’re waiting for Trister.” I
knew his name because I knew he was the head of the North Mississippi program
and that he was a colleague of my old boyfriend. He literally came running in to
court complaining of the arrests and treatment of the students. So the court heard
his emergency motion before my scheduled argument. Afterwards, I went over
and introduced myself because we knew each other by name. That’s literally how
I met him.
The relationship, needless to say, didn’t start then. But he came to Washington
later that year. He left North Mississippi Rural Legal Services and moved to
Washington to work at the Washington Research Project with Marian Wright
Edelman. Later in that job, he became a lawyer for the National Welfare Rights
Organization, as was I while I was at the Center on Social Welfare Policy and
Law. Mike and I worked on welfare issues together and that’s when we got to
know each other better.
Tell me about-did you have similar upbringings, backgrounds?
Generally, yes, but particularly, no. Obviously, there was a tie because he was
doing Legal Services work in Mississippi, where I had also spent a summer. And
when he came to Washington, he was doing some welfare rights work, as was I.
And, in fact, after I actually met him that day in court, there were some cases that
we consulted on while I was in New York and he was in Mississippi, but I don’t
remember that much contact. So we had similar interests in that respect.
The way he got to Mississippi and to Legal Services in Mississippi is interesting.
He went to Yale Law School. The year that he graduated, Ole Miss was
recruiting for law faculty. It had received some money from the Ford Foundation
to upgrade the law faculty, and the new dean of the Law School was getting a
graduate law degree at Yale before taking office. So he spent some of his time at
Yale trying to get Yale students to teach at Ole Miss after graduation. This was in
1966. Mike graduated from law school in 1966, and he went directly from law
school to teach at the University of Mississippi Law School. He thought it would
be interesting work because of the civil rights aspects of being in Mississippiand teaching was at that time a basis for deferment from the draft.
After Mike had been at Ole Miss about a year, he and a good friend of his,
another Yale law graduate who went to Mississippi at the same time to teach at
Ole Miss, George Strickler, began working part-time in the Legal Services
program that had just been established at the Law School. When the Legal
Services program’s work became too controversial for the University in 1968,
however, it expelled the program, hoping that would shut it down. As I also
described previously, at that time Office of Economic Opportunity programs,
including Legal Services programs, were subject to governor’s veto unless they
were located at educational institutions. So expelling the program from Ole Miss
was a serious threat to its continued existence. But the program was able to find a
small, Black college to sponsor it, and Mike and George continued to work in the
program part-time. At that point, the Law School fired them because they were
engaged in part-time work outside the Law School. But many other law
professors at the University had a private practice part-time. It wasn’t because
they were working part-time, it was where they were working part-time and what
they were doing when they were working part-time, which was helping to bring
cases that were trying to change things in the state in a significant way. So Mike
and George sued the University, alleging discriminatory terminations, and they
won in the Fifth Circuit on equal protection grounds. By then-it was two or so
years later-Mike was working full-time at North Mississippi Rural Legal
Services and wasn’t interested in returning to full-time teaching and George had
left the state to take a civil rights job in Louisiana. Mike became the director of
the North Mississippi program.
The case is Trisler v. University of Mississippi. The name of the case was decided
by the two of them flipping a coin to see who would be the lead plaintiff. Mike
won or lost, depending on how you look at it. [Laughter] I joke, “Why didn’t you
get damages?” The suit didn’t request damages, but at one point in the litigation
Mike was offered $20,000 to settle but he said he wanted to teach, not money.
In any event, Mike’s and my relationship grew out of working on the same issues
with the National Welfare Rights Organization, which was a very active
organization in the 1970s. As I’ve previously described, at the same time that we
were winning the welfare cases there was a lot of organizing of welfare recipients
going on, fed in part by the fact that things were improving, organizing was
making a difference, cases were being won, and the law was expanding. It was
also a time in Congress when rights were being expanded. So it was a kind of
perfect storm. It was an exciting time to be working on these issues.
Where was he raised?
He was born in Montreal. That’s an interesting story in and of itself. His parents
were from Montreal. They were part of the Jewish community of Montreal, a
tight community. His father came to the United States to Princeton University to
pursue a post-doctoral fellowship in chemistry. That was one way in which Mike
and I had similar family backgrounds, because my grandfather was a chemist.
My father was a physician, and Mike’s father was a chemist-both scientists.
Mike’s parents thought they were going to go back to Canada after the fellowship.
So when Mike’s mother was pregnant with him, she went back to Canada to have
There are two versions of why she did this. One is that she did it because she and
Mike’s father were planning to go back to Montreal and wanted him to be born in
Canada. I don’t think that’s it exactly. I think she did it because that’s what
women often did then. They went home to their mother’s to have their babies.
She’s told the story that way, too, so I don’t know which version is accurateperhaps both. But as a result, Mike’s father didn’t see him until he was several
weeks old. Which just seems so unusual now-different notions of birth and
travel and culture-a new father not seeing his child for that long. It’s just
amazing. Mike was there for three months before his mother brought him back to
Princeton, because she didn’t want to travel with a yowng baby. Thinking of this
today … you take the kid across the country the day after he is born if you feel
like it [Laughter]. So in the end Mike had to be naturalized because his family
never went back to Canada. His father left Princeton to work in northern New
Jersey at one of the chemical companies there. So Mike grew up in northern New
What town?
I grew up in New Jersey too. Bergen County.
And he went to an all-boys public high school.
An all-boys college and an almost-all-boys law school-Yale.
An all-boys public high school?
It was a public high school. There was an all-girls and an all-boys public high
And it wasn’t an academic or gifted all-boys public high school. It was the
regular public high school for boys in Elizabeth. It was very mixed in terms of
the economic backgrounds of the students and had career as well as academic
programs. Mike often says that he regrets having had so much of an all-male
environment in school.
High school, college and then law school?
That’s right.
We didn’t encourage that for our sons.
We didn’t either. Of course, I went to a women’s college.
I did, too.
Well, that’s different! [Laughter]
It is different. In some way it is, especially then.
When Mike came to Washington from Mississippi, as I said earlier, he came to
work at what was then called the Washington Research Project with Marian
Wright Edelman and Ruby Martin and Richard Sobol. The basic idea was to
create a Washington entity that would do some civil rights work, continuing what
they had all been doing in different parts of the South, but not just legal work.
Richard came from Louisiana, and Marian and Mike from Mississippi. Ruby
came from heading the Office of Civil Rights at the Department of Health,
Education and Welfare in the Johnson Administration. Mike knew Marian and
Ruby from his work in Mississippi. It was a largely legal, but not entirely legal,
organization-it was going to do research and other kinds of advocacy and to
work on low-income issues, not just civil rights issues. Hillary Rodham-before
she was Hillary Clinton-worked as a student intern there, which is how Mike
and I first met her. The Washington Research Project ultimately became the
Children’s Defense Fund, with a more concentrated emphasis on children’s issues.
A few years after it became the Children’s Defense Fund, Mike left and, with
Richard Sobol, started a private legal practice. Because, although they were
interested in children’s issues, they didn’t want to work on them exclusively. And
they wanted to see if they could make a go of it in a private, public interest
practice. That practice evolved over time with different people-including Winn
Newman, who was General Counsel of the International Union of Electrical
Workers and then the American Federation of State, County and Municipal
Employees (AFSCME), and Jim Abourezk, former Senator from South Dakota.
After Richard went back to Louisiana, Mike started a new firm with Elliott
Lichtman, Linda Singer and Gail Ross. That firm evolved, too, and is now
Lichtman, Trister and Ross.
Mike’s practice is almost entirely representation of nonprofits. He does a lot of
election law. He’s represented some candidates for public office. He represents
several unions and also several (c)(4)’s and other nonprofits engaged in partisan
electoral activity. He represents some foundations and a lot of(c)(3)’s, including
the National Women’s Law Center pro bono, advising us on what we can do on
issues such as lobbying rules, employment rules, IRS rules and anything else we
can get him to help us with.
So Mike’s and my work still overlaps to some degree because he represents a lot
of groups that the Center works with. And, of course, he helps us.
What first attracted you to him?
I guess his passion for what he was doing. I saw that first-hand in a courtroom as
he was pushing me out of the way-figuratively-to get his motion heard.
[Laughter] As I said, the relationship didn’t start then, but I remembered that
when I worked with him again after he moved to Washington.
So were your parents supportive of this relationship?
They were. My parents, as I have already said, were not judgmental people in the
sense that they would say, “Oh, you shouldn’t do that or you shouldn’t do this.”
They might give me their view. But, their approach was, basically, that I needed
to make my own decisions. I remember, after I had been seeing Mike for awhile,
saying to my mother that I’d like her to meet him because she was coming to
Washington. We all went out for dinner. It was perfectly fine. You know, it was,
“We’re moving on.”
Did you have a big wedding?
No, no. We got married by Gladys Kessler. We were the first wedding she
performed. We got married the day after she was sworn into office. It was
July ?1\ 1977, which we didn’t even realize was 7 /7 /77. It was a Thursday. That
was convenient for her. It was a second marriage for both ofus. We didn’t want
to make a big deal of it. My parents were out of the country. Mike’s mother (his
father was deceased) was living in New York then and we had agreed all the
parents were going to come for the weekend to celebrate. We all went out to
dinner together. But we did the ceremony just with Gladys and Mike’s daughter,
Karen, who was seven at the time. We all went down to Gladys’ chambers on the
subway. When we were coming back on the subway, we saw some people from
Mike’s office-he was still working at the Children’s Defense Fund. They said,
“Oh, what are you doing?” Karen was with us. I wasn’t wearing a long dress or
anything but I was wearing a suit. I looked nice; he looked nice. We had a little
girl in her cute little pinafore. We said, “We just got married.,,. They said, “You
got married? On 7/7/77. That’s great!” We said, “What?” So I said to Mike, “I
guess we’re never going to forget the date. [Laughter] There won’t be any
excuses.” We went to Auberge Chez Francois over the weekend with our parents.
We had a nice time … a nice dinner. And we went back to work the next day.
In the summer of 1976, the bicentennial summer, Mike and I took off seven
weeks and traveled across Canada. We camped and hiked in a range of different
national parks. Karen flew out and met us in Colorado and hiked with us in the
Rocky Mountains and we all drove back to D.C. together. So we had had a nice
long trip together before the wedding.
Where were you living?
I moved to Washington in 197 4. We were living close to where we live now-on
Church Street in Dupont Circle. We now live on Q Street.
Your step-daughter lived with you?
Only on alternate weekends.
How was that … having a daughter?
Oh, fabulous! Actually, the first time I met Mike, when I introduced myself to
him in the Mississippi courtrpom, he said, “What are you doing here?” and I told
him. And he said, “When are you going back?” I said, “I’m going back on a
plane late tonight, ten o’clock tonight.” He said, “Well, why don’t you come and
have dinner with my wife and me?” Which I did. So, I first met Karen then,
when she was nine months old. So I’ve known her for a long time. But, by the
time I really met her, when I was seeing Mike, she was three. So, it was a great
age to get to know her.
I really have to thank Karen’s mother for the relationship I have had with her.
Karen got married in 2001. At the rehearsal dinner, when we were all giving our
little toasts en famille, I talked about Karen and how important she is in my life
and how at the time that I really got to know her, when she was very young, three
years old, I really hadn’t thought very much about whether I wanted to have
children. Probably if you asked me ifl did, I would have said, “Oh I don’t know.
I’m very-at best I am ambivalent.” But she was so much fun and we had a great
relationship from the beginning and still do. I turned to our son Noah and said,
“So, you really have her to thank for being here.” And then, after I spoke, Mike
got up to speak. Karen’s mother, Diane, had spoken before me. As each person
who wanted to speak stood up, we introduced ourselves because not everybody at
the dinner knew everyone else. So when Mike stood up he said, “I’m Mike. I’m
the person who brought Duffy and Diane together.” [Laughter] Everyone
cracked up.
Afterwards, Diane’s brother, who is a psychiatrist, said to me that he had never
heard a stepmother say that about a mother before, especially in a public
gathering, and that that was a real tribute to something. I said it was all true. It is
all true. And it is a tribute to Diane. If Diane hadn’t been as open and as
welcoming of my relationship with Karen, it never would have turned out the way
it did. I credit Diane, not just because she is a terrific person, but also because her
field is child development. She believes that a child benefits from relationships
with a lot of different adults. That a child can have lots of different, warm
relationships. Our families have had a strong, close relationship. Karen has a
younger sister, Allison, who is a little more than a year older than Noah, but only
a grade above him. All three children went to the same school. Allison and Noah
were not close friends-but they were friendly with each other and she joked with
other students “that Noah is my brother, sort of.” Things like that.
She lived nearby?
Yes, right. Diane’s married. Diane and Lowell married before Mike and I did,
actually. Long second marriage. Long second marriage.
Actually I had a similar situation and also have a very good relationship with his
ex-wife. Not hard at all, but apparently not common. So when did you start your
Well, Noah was born in 1979. So he and Karen are ten years apart. They always
got along great. [Laughter] Not so hard when they are that far apart.
Did you take time off when you had Noah?
Four months. And then I worked four days a week until he was five.
Where were you working then?
Here at the Center-when it was still the Women’s Rights Project of the Center
for Law and Social Policy.
That’s right you were pregnant … I remember you told me about the policy and
the …
Yes, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. He was born the day it became effective.
So you worked-until he was five you worked …. ?
Four days a week. And Marcia did pretty much the same thing. Marcia has two
children-when I came here to the Center in 1978, Marcia was pregnant with her
second child. Anne was born in October of that year. Marcia took off about the
same amount of time. I’m not sure how long she took off for her first child, but
that’s what she did for her second child. Then she worked four days a week, I
believe, pretty much until Anne was in kindergarten. Anne is a year older than
Noah. They’re pretty good friends, too. So we both had similar patterns. Of
course, the Center was a lot smaller organization then. On the one hand, that was
bad because if a person left, there wasn’t anyone to pick up the slack. But on the
other hand, we were accepting of the fact that less would get done. Noah was
born ten days early and I had planned to work right up until the last minute. So I
thought I had another week or so to finish a memo that the Center had contracted
with another organization to do. I didn’t finish it, but Marcia picked it up and
finished it.
Did the Center have any kind of policy with respect to this in terms of part time
policy or maternity leave policy or were you just doing it as it came?
I don’t think there really was a “policy.”
There probably wasn’t.
As I said, we were still part of the Center for Law and Social Policy at that point.
As I’ve described earlier, Marcia had discovered when she was pregnant that
CLASP’s health insurance policy didn’t cover pregnancy. She couldn’t believe
that we had never looked at it, given our work on the issue. CLASP responded by
self-insuring. Then the PDA took care of it for me-in the wake of the PDA
insurance companies began to offer health insurance coverage for pregnancy.
CLASP had a bookkeeper who had a child and took some time off and then came
back. So the policy on leave was pretty ad hoc in terms of how much time a
person took off and how soon she came back. But we didn’t get paid leave. We
took off and used our accrued leave and if we wanted more time, it was unpaid
leave. If we came back and worked four days, we got four days of salary.
But CLASP was a very accommodating place. In the beginning, I was nursing. I
worked four-fifths time. I worked every day, but I nursed Noah twice in the
morning-when he woke up and again around ten o’clock. I lived five minutes
from the office. I came to the office, and stayed as late as I could before I had to
go home to nurse him, usually around six. He had one bottle when I wasn’t there.
And, literally, I’d run home to nurse him again. I nursed him for almost a year. I
remember traveling to Toronto to give a speech when he was three months old; I
took him with me and the university where I was speaking provided child care for
him during the speech.
I was very lucky that I found an absolutely fabulous person to take care of Noah
at home, and that I had the resources to do so. She was a woman who had worked
for George Will for many years. I found her through a Washington Post ad. It’s
fair to say she interviewed me more than I interviewed her! She stayed with us
for five years until he went to kindergarten and would have stayed longer, but we
really couldn’t keep somebody full-time then. She went from working for us to
working for Judy Lichtman’s sister, and ultimately to working for another
colleague of ours, in fact someone who now works at the National Women’s Law
Center. She stayed at each place for four or five years. And we still see her
occasionally. She’s Haitian by birth and a fabulous caregiver. She was so great
with Noah. I’m sure much better than I would have been if I’d been home fulltime. He has a very low-key, warm personality. Not much like my personality at
all. My husband, Mike, has a very low-key personality and she reinforced that
aspect of Mike’s personality in a very warm, loving way. She was just great with
In another way, too, I was fortunate. As I described earlier, my mother was
involved in a lot of volunteer activities, including, ultimately, as the president of
several organizations here in Washington. So she was traveling between
Washington and Los Angeles quite a lot by the late 1970s. Shortly after Noah
was born, Mike and I renovated the English basement of our Dupont Circle house
into an apartment that she-and my father, when he accompanied her-used
when she was in town. She was quite busy during the day, but she often had
dinner with us. And when she was here on the weekends, she often took care of
Noah so Mike and I could go out. Later, after my father retired, my parents
bought a condo in Georgetown and spent even more time here. So, despite the
fact that they lived in L.A., both my parents spent a fair amount of time with
Noah when he was growing up–and Karen, when she was here-which was
So, how would describe your balancing of work and family and personal time?
It wasn’t easy, obviously. I don’t think anybody has it easy. I think having great
care at home, living as close as I did to the office so that I could work until the
last minute and be home in five minutes, having the resources to be able to work
part-time, and having a supportive husband and an accommodating workplace
made it far easier for me than it is for many women. I had a pretty flexible
arrangement with Noah’s caregiver also. In the beginning I was working parttime every day, so she came late and when I came home she left. Then, when I
switched to working four days a week, she switched to that schedule as well, but
she was available on the fifth day if I needed her or if I needed to switch her day
off to another day. She didn’t work on the fifth day. I paid her full-time to work
four days. So if I had to be someplace on a day I was usually off, she was
available to work. As Noah got older, we shared her care giving with someone
else in our neighborhood. That was great because Noah was in preschool. The
neighbor had a baby and the caregiver could take the baby with her to pick Noah
up at preschool and bring him home. So I had a very supportive workplace and a
very supportive home place. But a stressful job. It was a constant pull and tug.
Did she also do housekeeping for you?
A little light housekeeping. We had someone else who came once every two
weeks for more serious housekeeping-to change the beds and things like that.
But the house was picked up when Mike and I got home, Noah was bathed and
had eaten, and Mike and I could just play with him. Also, Noah was always a
night owl and we encouraged that because it meant we had more time with him.
Karen’s children~ur grandchildren-when we visit them, their two-year-old is
in bed by seven o’clock. That would never have worked for us. We didn’t get
home until between six and seven. So Noah was always up until nine o’clock,
even as a young child. He slept late as a result, too. And he still stays up late and
likes to sleep late. But, I don’t think it hurt him any … good preparation for
Well yeah, eventually that was going to happen anyway.
Did you and your husband have shared responsibilities in terms of child rearing
and household chores?
Probably no is a fair answer to that. Mike also worked close to home and there
was a lot spelling of each other if Noah got sick or if somebody had to be there for
some trades person, and he helped in picking up around the house, things like
that. But he doesn’t cook. He didn’t have in his head when does this child have to
go to the dentist or what are we going to eat tonight? Now, the good thing was
that he had those years when he had Karen on his own for part of the week-I
was there some but not all of that time. And he was the responsible one, the one
who had to pick her up, had to think about what she might have for dinner. So he
felt, I think, joint responsibility for Noah from that experience, too. But you
know, even just the ten-year difference between the children was significant.
When Karen was born, Mike and Diane were living in Mississippi. They went to
Memphis to have her because that was where the closest good hospital was. And
the notion that a man would be in the delivery room or anywhere near it was a
totally foreign one. So when Noah was born, Mike found it the most enchanting
thing to be there. Karen was born in 1969 and Noah in 1979. But, Mike also
understood that if he wasn’t going to do housekeeping, we were going to be
paying people to do it. Dinners were not going to be elaborate. That’s still true!
How do you handle that, now? Do you prepare dinner?
Much less than when Noah was home. And less during the week than on
weekends. Since we live in a neighborhood where there are lots of little
neighborhood places within walking distance, it’s easy to eat out-and we have
long days. But we ate at home then.
Did you feel any social pressures about working … you were in an environment
that was supportive and your family was probably supportive. But in terms of
neighbors or friends or others who …. ?
You know, not so much, but maybe because everyone knew what kind of work I
did. No one was going to argue with me about it. [Laughter]
And most of our peers were working. Some might have taken longer time off
because of children, but they went back to work. And because our children were
ten years apart and one wasn’t there all the time, it was easier for us than for other
families with two children. Because Karen was older, we had relatively short
periods of time when we had a small child-and those periods were ten years
Did you feel that your family responsibilities impacted your career or career
choices or limited you in any way at all?
Well, that’s hard to say because I was here at the Center. I loved what I was
doing. The Center was an accommodating place for it. But, I work long hours.
I’ve never been happy about that, but I don’t seem to be able to deal with it very
well. I say I’m going to work a more regular schedule. I think we talked about
the fact that I had ovarian cancer? That was a pretty sobering experience. A_fter
that, I was of two minds-life is short and I better do what I can to enjoy it
outside of work. But also, life is short, and I want to accomplish things.
When did you have ovarian cancer?
1988. Noah was nine. And Karen was in college. So, she was little a more
removed from it. She wasn’t seeing day to day what it was like. But, I was pretty
young and it was pretty scary.
I bet.
I knew, from my father and some of the work that we’ve done here at the Center,
that ovarian cancer is usually pretty deadly, even though in my case everybody
was saying, “Well we think we caught it early. We think we got everything.
We’re giving you a heavy dose of chemotherapy, but we think it’s just
prophylactic.” But you never know.
How long were your treatments?
About six months.
How did you discover that you had this?
I had had endometriosis. I had that before Noah was born. I remember my
gynecologist saying, “You know, if you get pregnant … that will help.” I was not
quite ready. Then with and after my pregnancy, it did go away and it didn’t come
back until a year or so before the cancer was diagnosed. I had a very painful
abdominal attack. My gynecologist thought it was maybe an endometrial cyst
that had burst. That would cause a lot of pain. But she wanted me to have a
sonogram. She had also been saying for a while, “You could have a hysterectomy
because you can get rid of the endometriosis when you’re pregnant and you can
get rid of it by having a hysterectomy.” I wasn’t ready to have a hysterectomy,
not because I was having any more children, but because, again, I knew about
estrogen. I knew I wanted to keep getting estrogen naturally as long as I could.
My father used to talk about women who, when they were finished having
children, had hysterectomies just so they wouldn’t have periods anymore, or
because their doctors pressured them to do it “to avoid later problems.” So I
thought, “No, no, no. I’m not doing that unless I absolutely have to.” After I had
the sonogram, my gynecologist said, “Well, if you have to have surgery, if you
have to have a hysterectomy, I want you to go a specialist.” She said it was
because I only have one kidney that she wanted an expert to do any kind of
surgery I might need. I don’t know to this day whether she knew there was a
problem and she was actually sending me to a couple of other doctors to confirm
that. I went first to the head of OBGYN at GW who said, “Oh, I doubt you are
old enough to have anything serious. Come back and see me in a month.”
But when I went to the other physician my gynecologist recommended I see, he
said, “You need to have surgery now.” I was about to go on vacation. My father
happened to be in town. He came with me to the appointment. I think the doctor
really thought it was cancer, but perhaps he wasn’t sure. Maybe he didn’t want to
scare me. So it wasn’t till after the surgery that he told me it was cancer but, “We
think we got it all.”
Of course, before the surgery I had consented to have a total hysterectomy if I
needed it, and I thought I was probably going to have it. But I thought that was
because it was probably time to do it. The endometriosis was getting out of hand.
Not because I had cancer.
The first doctor said, “Come back in a month.” Who knows if a month would
have made a difference?
Yes. But you know you hear so many stories like this and you realize how
serendipitous it is whether you find out, whether you do something …
Right. I was about to go on vacation and I thought, “Well, he says I can wait a
month … ” The other doctor was very adamant, “I don’t think you should wait. I
think you should have the surgery now.”
That was probably good. Otherwise you wouldn’t have had a very nice vacation.
Yes. No, definitely
You’d have been stressed. Wow.
I don’t know why I never thought that’s what it was.
Well, a lot of it’s age.
Yeah, it is. And I didn’t know that much about the risks. I had endometriosis, so
I knew I was having these recurring pains that could have been cysts and I
probably needed to have a hysterectomy ultimately. My parents were both here
for the surgery. Mike and I decided that Noah should to go to Los Angeles with
them for a while after the surgery. He went every summer for a few weeks to
L.A. to be with them. That wasn’t unusual. It was about the time he would have
gone anyway, when we got back from vacation. We decided he should go after
the surgery because it might be easier for Mike and me. This is all before we
knew it was cancer. When we told Noah that it was cancer, he said-even then he
was a total sports nut-“Len Bias had cancer, and he died, didn’t he?”
We said, “Yes, but not everyone does. 11 We talked about several people who
didn’t die. We told him, “We are very hopeful. 11 On the one hand, we wanted to
be encouraging, but we didn’t want to be lying either. He was too young to know
very much about it so he accepted what we said, I think. He never said he was
worried about it. But while he was gone, I got an infection and had to stay in the
hospital longer than expected. So I was home for only a few days before I had the
first dose of chemotherapy. I lost about fifteen pounds. I weighed about ninetyfive. I looked horrible. But when it was time for Noah to come back from L.A., I
told Mike I really wanted to go to the airport to meet his plane. I missed him so
much and I wanted to go to the airport to meet him, though I really hadn’t been
out of the house since the surgery. My father was bringing him back and they
were coming into Dulles. As I said, I hadn’t really been out of the house at all.
Mike said okay and that we would have another little treat. We would stop for
lunch at a little deli restaurant out by Dulles that we had heard about. Something
he thought would be fun. We did that and I could hardly eat anything. I felt very
weak and when we got to Dulles I could barely walk into the airport. I sat down.
Noah and my father came in from the plane. I got up and tried to have a big smile
on my face. My father later said I looked like somebody from a concentration
camp. It was summer; my arms are skinny enough as it is. I was just so thin.
So, how did this experience affect your work?
Well, Marcia was great. And so was everyone else at the Center. But, it was
hard. It was hard to come back to work. It was hard to be at home.
How long had you been out?
The surgery was the last couple of days in July and I came back to work right
after Labor Day. So I was out for about a month. I did some work from home.
But I had-which is common with a hysterectomy-I had recurring sharp
abdominal pains that I was told were gas pains. It takes a while for your whole
system to adjust. And also in my case, because there was so much endometrial
tissue, they had to do a lot of cutting. The reason I got an infection was that the
bleeding from the cutting didn’t absorb fast enough. So I had a longer recovery
from the abdominal surgery than most people have. Before that, I never knew
what it meant to have gas pains. They were sharp pains that continued for half an
hour or more, during which time I was literally writhing in bed. That’s all I could
do. The first time I had one, I called the doctor and by the time I got to his office
it was over. There’s nothing you can do for the pain-you just have to wait it out.
It’s similar to what people describe with a kidney stone. You want to jump up and
down and do all these things to stop the pain but none of this stops the pain.
When I came back to work, I was still having intermittent pain. I had that for
probably a year.
Less and less often as time went on. There was a couch at our office. I would lie
down on it when the pains came. But there was no point in going home because I
couldn’t do anything about it. I was also having chemotherapy treatments about
once a month. So, there was some debilitation. And, of course, I had no hair. I
didn’t feel very social. I didn’t feel much like going out in public. So I engaged
less-at least in person-with the outside world than I would have. And Marcia
picked up the slack. When Marcia got breast cancer several years ago, I did the
same for her. It’s what you do.
Did it affect the way you looked at your job?
Well, it did in a sense that I told myself I was going to have a more balanced life.
But that didn’t really happen. Well, it probably happened temporarily. I’m not
even sure I know the impact it had. My husband had a harder time with it than I
thought at the time. Partially because he was worried about me … and that nineyear old kid he would have to take care ofby himself.
But in part because, he told me afterwards, that a lot of people asked him how I
was doing. But no one ever asked him how he was doing. He didn’t expect me to
ask him that because he didn’t want to talk to me about that particularly. But he
didn’t know what was going to happen. He had no control. I didn’t feel like I had
that much control either, but at least I was engaged in the fi~t: “I’m going to do
this and do that. I’m having chemo today. I’m going to be sick for a few days.
I’m … going to get through this day by day.” Because of the effect it had on him,
because we have since then had friends in this situation, he has tried to reach out
to the spouse of the person, if he knows that person well enough, to ask, “How are
you doing?” He’s not an outgoing, effusive person. But he has tried to give this
kind of support.
A different perspective.
You don’t think about it so much. You think about the kids a lot, but you don’t
think about the spouses. They are supposed to be the ones holding everything
Right and they’re not going to talk about their fear.
Also, I’m kind of a fearful person. I’m not a pessimist, the opposite. But I worry
about things, like riding in a car. Some of this, I know, is from my father.
Because he was a radiologist, as I’ve described, he saw the results of accidents all
the time and was always cautioning us. I also read a lot about health issues. I
don’t particularly say, “Oh my, I’ve got a pain, I’ve got to run to the doctor.” But,
I have a residual worry that something’s going to happen to me or somebody I
love, somebody I know. But of course then when it does happen, you’re never
prepared. Though inevitably it does.
Well, you were talking about family responsibilities at one point. Did you feel
you had to make trade-offs in your career?
Oh, yes. I felt them on the personal side and the work side. I didn’t say, “If I
work four days, I’m not going to be able to do my job.” I was doing my job, and
the Center had accommodating policies. But I felt it generally in terms of how
much I could take on, either at home or at work. Even if I say that I didn’t cut
back as much as I would have liked, there are things I didn’t do because I wasn’t
willing to work every weekend. Or even most weekends. But, I didn’t feel those
as trade-offs as much as others might, because there wasn’t someone else telling
me what to do or measuring me in that way.
I wasn’t being compared to anyone else. In fact, we were trying to make that
exact accommodation for everybody. So it wasn’t that I was in charge and so I
didn’t have to worry about this; rather, it was that other people at the Center were
also working part-time because they had children, or taking time off from work
because of child birth or for other family reasons. We all know we’re not going
to produce as much in that situation. Either we’re going to do less, which is what
we usually did, or if something has to get done, somebody else is going to have to
pick it up. Probably we mostly didn’t do as much. Because the Center doesn’t
really have enough people for someone to pick up the work that doesn’t get done
by someone else who is on a reduced schedule.
We talked about the interview with Sally Determan. She talks a little bit about
this. She made the comment that she traded time for money.
I did that, too, traded money for time-got paid less to have time athome.
One of the things she said was that she didn’t feel … it was almost as if she was
grateful she had that choice whereas a lot of people, particularly men, really didn’t
have a choice …
Or exercise it.
Yes, if they could, and they’re not as easily allowed to do that. Do you think that’s
still the case probably?
Yes, probably. I think it’s true for some women too.
To allow themselves the choice.
Yes. In fairness, some don’t want it. Even if they can afford to do it. I mean each
person has to decide what she wants.
Not everybody wants to make any trade-offs.
Or, someone doesn’t feel she needs to have a part-time schedule. She doesn’t
want it. As the kids get older, they are in school most of the day.
But too many women don’t have the resources to exercise these choices. They
have to work full-time to make ends meet.
My situation was somewhat different, too, because we had two children, but one
was older and she mostly lived with her mother and stepfather during the week.
And the younger one … well, it was a short period of time when he was under
five. So for me, it wasn’t a question of having to extend the time off, as it is when
you have more than one child and they are close in age.
I loved the schedule-I loved having that day off. It wasn’t like a weekend day,
because on a weekend day I was trying to do things with Mike or we were
running errands. And Karen would often be there, so we had to figure out
something to do that two kids that far apart in age would both like. But that one
day off during the week was just for Noah and me. Usually it was a Friday, so it
was a very relaxing entree into the weekend. So I really coveted that day. But
when I went back to work full-time, I realized that I actually felt in some sense
more relaxed. Noah was in school. That day wasn’t going to be a day with him.
Artd I hadn’t really realized how much I was cramming into those four days of
work. I really wasn’t doing four days of work and then having the fifth day off. I
was trying to do five days of work in four days of time.
Nancy Duff Campbell, Interview 10
July 31, 2009
When we last met, which wasn’t that long ago, you were speaking about your
schedule when Noah was little. You were working four days a week, taking
Fridays off perhaps. But you found when you went back to work, that really what
was happening is that in those four days you were trying to do a full time job.
· When you finally went back full time it was a better pace for you in some ways. I
think we were talking about this in the context of various tradeoffs in what you do
when you have family obligations. At any rate, I don’t know if there is more you
want to say about that.
Well, the only thing that I would add is it’s true that I felt less pressed at work, but
I really enjoyed that time off with Noah. So it was definitely a tradeoff that I
would make again.
And how long did you do it?
In the beginning, right after he was born, I worked a short day every day. Then I
switched, as he got older and stopped nursing, to working four days a week. I did
that, working an 80 to 90% schedule until he was in first grade. As I’ve described
earlier, he had a very wonderful caregiver during this period who was with us
until he went to kindergarten. So, when he started kindergarten, he was
experiencing several changes all at once. He had been in preschool for two years,
but now he was going to a new school, and going to school for a longer day. He
was also losing his long-time caregiver because we no longer needed a full-time
person. And he was adjusting to a new caregiver, who picked him up at school,
brought him home, and took care of him for the rest of the afternoon.
This transition was harder on him than we expected. We worried about how
much of this was related to the loss of his very long-time caregiver. That it had
more impact on him than we had thought it would. I don’t know if that’s what it
was. But it sorted itself out as the year went on.
We also have talked about trade-offs obviously that you made. Do you think it is
easier today or harder today for young women and mothers to balance career and
I hope it is.
You hope it is easier.
Yes. As I said, I was extremely fortunate to work where I do. The Center hadand has-a commitment to this kind of accommodation. I obviously had friends
who had harder times. Both professionally and personally, I still hear about
people who have harder times. Of course, it is hard even when the employer is
accommodating. You are still worrying about whether you are going to get the
work done or do what you have to do to succeed. And at the same time you are
worrying about whether you are being a good mother and doing what you need to
do for your kids to succeed. So, I don’t know if, any time soon, we are going to
rid ourselves of the worrying, but my hope is that workplaces are becoming more
One of the questions is that, with all the connectedness that we have now with
technology, does that make it easier or harder, because you are never really in
either place. Or at least you are constantly being pulled to the other place much
more readily than you would have been before. Your child care provider can call
you on your cell phone, and your office can, too. It does seem that younger
people are total multi-taskers. Maybe it is fine that they are and they can do it.
Maybe they just do it better than somebody of my generation does it because
that’s how they have grown up. I would marvel at the fact that our kids could
listen to the radio, be on the computer, be doing homework, be talking on the
phone, and doing it all in the same five-minute time period. And that somehow
the homework would come out okay.
I think that’s right and I think technology has been a blessing in some ways
because it has allowed us to do things that-·
Remotely, but it is also a curse because it allows us to do things remotely. You
can do it anywhere.
Our son-in-law Pete is living with us now because he took a job in the Obama
Administration. Karen is in New York with their two young children. When he
first started working here, he signed up for Skype so he could talk to the kids at
night before they went to sleep. They were at home on the computer and he was
in his office on the computer. He said in the beginning they were excited to see
him and talk to him, but soon it was, “Oh, hi, Dad.”-and then they ran off.
There’s only so much that technology can do for you. You can’t chase a kid into
the other room to see what.he or she is really doing.
Well, that’s one of my questions. I know you have a daughter who has children.
How does she handle these issues? Does she have a greater or lesser challenge
than you did?
Well, right now, of course, she has a greater challenge because her husband isn’t
there during the week. He goes home on the weekend. She works three days a
week. Her older child is just starting kindergarten. The younger one will be three
in November. She has a caregiver who comes to the house for the three days that
she is at work. But, she is definitely on a part-time schedule and wants to be for
this period of time. And she’s fortunate enough to be able to be. She’s a nursemidwife. She left her clinical practice to teach, in part because that was more
accommodating. She also wanted to do it, so that wasn’t the only reason. But it
made it easier to have a part-time schedule.
Does she talk with you about the struggles and seek advice?
Some. More when there are issues that come up. “How should I handle this?” as
opposed to a general “Oh, dear, what am I doing?” She definitely consults me on
women’s rights issues. For example, she had a friend who was having trouble
getting pregnancy leave – and she wanted advice on how the friend should handle
it. Things like that.
How do you think the legal profession handles these kinds of issues? Is it better
or worse than other professions?
Than other professions? That’s really hard to know. It seems that the larger law
firms have accommodating policies in place and by and large are using them.
Although, I was just talking to somebody the other day at a firm who was saying
that his assistant was out because she was on maternity leave. I said, “How long
is she out?” And he said, “I’m not really sure. We don’t really have a policy.
We just give people what they want.” So I didn’t know if that was good or bad.
Is that a big firm?
Wow, that’s surprising.
Then sometimes there are self-imposed restrictions; nobody takes more than six
weeks after a pregnancy, so I won’t either. So even if an employer has a policy
that says an employee can take six months or four months or three months, no one
does. But at least employees know what’s permitted. And nobody expects the
employee to be back in two weeks!
I know that the American Bar Association’s Commission on Women has done
some model policy work on this and is encouraging firms to adopt its model
policies. And, of course, as lawyers, we know there are laws that prohibit certain
practices and policies. So we may be doing better than the other professions for
that reason. But I think that the psychological pressure on women lawyers is still
pretty strong to be at work. And I don’t think men take much time off at all.
Right. Still, even though the policy provides?
Right, exactly right.
I have a nephew who did it, but I think he was looked upon by colleagues as odd.
I think men will take a week or so off when the baby is born, and perhaps work a
little less afterward-but not easily take extended time off. On the other hand, we
have someone in our office who took six months off after her child was born, and
her husband is now taking six months off. They’re trying to cover a whole year
that way. They’re going to address child care after that. So it isn’t unheard of.
Do you think the nonprofit world is more welcoming to women and
accommodating in some ways?
Than the for-profit world you mean? I don’t know. I think, again, there’s an “ad
hocness” about it in the nonprofit world as well sometimes. There are all kinds of
different nonprofits, of course. I think a bigger place can accommodate more than
a smaller place, for financial reasons. The mom-and-pop store or nonprofit with
three employees probably has to hire somebody when one person is out. But a
law firm or nonprofit with 200 people can probably make do without one person
for a while. A law firm may not be making as much money because it doesn’t
have a person there billing hours but it probably has enough people to get its work
done for whatever short period of time an employee is out.
Do you think that the nonprofit world, the public interest world, has offered more
opportunities in terms of interesting work or responsibility to women than maybe
law firms or other … ?
Well, there are a lot of women in nonprofit organizations. Of course, there are a
lot of men, too. It’s hard to generalize about these things because so much
depends on what the job is. If you are a low-level clerk in a nonprofit
organization, it’s not much different from being a low-level clerk in a big law
firm, except that you probably make less money.
I remember when I came to Washington, which was thirty some years ago, I
thought it was a very-especially compared to where I was coming from-a very
open place for women. Lots of opportunity. And I think it was largely driven by
the government which seemed to provide more interesting opportunities, more
responsibility perhaps and things like that, more quickly. I don’t know if that’s
still the case, hopefully not, that it’s not just the government but I was thinking,
whether-certainly when you started out whether the nonprofit world had more
appeal for a variety ofreasons but if that might have been one of them. I don’t
I don’t think, as a young lawyer, that I thought about whether the nonprofit world
would provide me with more responsibility, for example, though in the end it
probably did. But it’s very true that I thought about what I wanted to do and what
would be interesting work. As I’ve said, I went into law to do certain things. I
wanted to do a certain kind of work and thought being a lawyer was the way to do
it-the best way to do it. I wasn’t thinking about whether I would move up a
career ladder, or choosing a place to work based on that.
I think people, for example, litigators, talking with our son and my husband, go to
the US Attorney’s Office, for example. You’re going to get so much more
opportunity to litigate, to get hands-on experience than if you start out in a law
firm and stay there. Although I now understand that for the US Attorney’s Office
you have to be out of school for a few years before they even want you. So it’s a
little different. ·
Same thing, I think, with public defender and prosecutor offices.
That’s when you get the trial experience if that’s what you’re interested in.
Although, when I started at the Center on Social Welfare Policy and Law in New
York, we were doing a lot of litigation. It was all federal court litigation. I started
doing litigation immediately. Of course, I was working with people more senior
to me who were the chief counsel on these cases. But thinking back, and as I’ve
said before, they seemed a lot more senior then than they were. They were only a
few years older than I was, because the public interest world didn’t have really
senior people. In fact, some people say that there’s going to be a big problem in
the public interest world when everyone in my generation leaves, unless we really
have built the leadership behind us to take over.
But we talked about thaty es. I and others of my generation were thrown into doing a wide range of things
immediately both because we were in offices with a small number of people and
because everyone there was about the same in terms of age and experience. But
again, in my case, the decision that led me into public interest work focused more
on the issues that I wanted to work on and what I thought I wanted to do, than that
I wanted to be a litigator. Although, I was less interested in doing direct service,
direct legal services work. I was more interested in policy and law reform work.
Just to close up on the work/life stuff, how family friendly is the Center and how
has it evolved in its own thinking?
Well, I think it has always been pretty family-friendly. As I said before, when I
came to the Women’s Rights Project of the Center for Law and Social Policy in
1978, Marcia was already there. She was pregnant with her second child and had
just discovered that CLASP’s health insurance policy didn’t cover pregnancy.
She said, “What? How could this be?” So there were things that we brought to
CLASP’s attention that it rectified. And, of course, we pressed for the Pregnancy
Discrimination Act and other laws to change that situation for everyone. But
we’ve also tried in our family and medical leave policies, for example, to go
beyond what the law requires. We give paid leave. And we have on top of that, I
think, a pretty good benefits program. We are pretty flexible about allowing
people informal kinds of leave. There are some employers who don’t even allow
employees to take an hour off to go to a child’s teacher conference or other
activities like that. We have a number of staffers who work part-time because
they have children. We’ve tried to accommodate part-time schedules as best we
can. Even though that means less work will usually get done.
I think a lot of places are finding it to be a challenge on both ends-an
employee’s end as well as the employer’s. Let’s talk some more about your
children. You told me a little bit about Noah and what he was like growing up.
Anything else you want to talk about?
If only I could remember what I’ve already said.
He sounds like a pretty interesting kid. Were both of them good students?
Yes. Both Noah and Karen went to Georgetown Day School. They are ten years
apart. So we had a lot of years at that school as a result, though with only two
children. Karen, the older one, majored in Sociology at Barnard, graduating cum
laude, and then worked in various jobs before she decided to go back to school to
become a nurse-midwife. She got a Master’s in Nursing from the University of
Pennsylvania. In many ways her interests have always been very people-oriented.
And she is in a job that has a lot of contact with people.
Noah has always had a fascination with numbers and, as I’ve described, he was
also an incredible sports fanatic from a very young age. I’ll give you an example.
When he was in the third grade, his teacher used a team approach in some of her
learning exercises. In this instance, the kids formed teams and she asked them
questions that they tried to answer quickly as a team-like a game show almost,
to make it interesting. They had to confer before they answered. One of the
questions she asked was, “What was the shot heard around the world?” Noah
blurted out, “Bobby Thompson’s home run to win the pennant for the New York
Giants,” and the rest of his team just looked at him and the teacher said, “No. The
Boston Tea Party.” He came home and said, “My teacher said I got this wrong.”
He went to his bookshelf and found one of his sports books and the story of
Bobby Thompson and why it was called the shot heard around the world. He took
it to school the next day to show his teacher. It didn’t involve a grade or
anything, but he was very determined. She said, “Very good, I’ll give you credit
for that. I didn’t even know this myself.”
Many years later, when he wrote his college essay, the instruction was to write
what you care about. I don’t know what the question was, but, as we know, most
college essay questions allow you to write about almost anything. He didn’t talk
to us about it. But after he wrote it, he brought it to us to read. He had written up
this episode. He started out with something like, “I’ve always been a total nut
about sports.” He wanted to write about something he was passionate about. He
was applying early to Princeton. He proceeded to recite recent important
Princeton sports victories. He explained that his obsession had not always stood
him in good stead. Then he proceeded to tell his third-grade story in a pretty
funny way. At the end of it he said, “So I learned a lesson from this.” You think
the lesson is going to be is that you have to understand the context. But he said
something like, “Bobby Thompson’s home run was in 1951 not 1953.” He had
gotten the date wrong. It was very clever. I said I didn’t know anything about
these things. It had been ten years since Karen wrote essay questions. I had no
idea what to say, except that I thought it was well written. His guidance
counselor had advised generally that, “If you’re going to be funny, be sure you are
funny.” Noah said his guidance counselor had read it and his English teacher had
read it and it seemed fine to them, so he used it. And the next year the school
used it when they were giving out samples of good essays to other kids.
It was to show a way in which you can think about your essay that is a little
different. The other thing that was funny about this process was that the
application form had a little area-I think it was called potpourri or something
like that. It consisted of short-answer questions that it described as “telling us
something about yourself … don’t think too much about your answers … we’re
not judging you on this. We just want to know something about you.” What’s
your favorite movie; what’s your favorite book, etc. Noah said that his favorite
movie was “Airplane.” I was looking the application over and I said, “Airplane?
That’s what you think is a good thing to say?” He said, “They said to say our
favorite.” I said, “Alright, alright. What do I know?” On the day that the
acceptance and rejection letters were supposed to arrive, Noah had some sports
team practice, so he was at school late. He called Mike and said, “I t4ink the
Princeton letters came today-the early decision letters. Will you go home and
look at mine?” My husband went home. I was here in a meeting and I didn’t even
know that this was the day or that he had called Mike. Mike came to the Center
and I was in a meeting. I saw him standing outside the room, waiting for me, and
I thought “Oh, my God. Something’s happened.” So I went out immediately and
he told me that Noah got into Princeton. When I got home, Noah was not home
yet. When he came home, the first thing he said to me is, “I guess it’s ok to like
He majored in Politics at Princeton, graduating magna cum laude.
He’s always liked to write. He’s always liked sports. He knew he wasn’t going to
play at the college level. But when he went to college we said that it might be
interesting to him to write for the school paper, which is a daily. He did that and
ultimately became the sports editor. And that’s probably one of the reasons he
got his current job. That is what he does-he’s a sports reporter.
What sports did he play?
He played soccer, basketball and baseball. But he knows something about almost
every sport. I don’t know how. Sometimes I say to him, “I saw this story in the
paper and what’s this about?” He always knows. He’s in Arkansas. As my
husband says, “Everyone should live in a red state sometime.” As I’ve described,
my husband lived in Mississippi for several years. Noah’s met a group of friends
and made a life there.
He’s with the newspaper there?
No, he’s with the Associated Press. He’s the sports reporter for the state. He
mostly covers the University of Arkansas. AP has a regional system. He covers
whatever happens in sports in the state. He’s in a bureau, so if it’s not a big sports
time-like now-he covers other stories.
So you have to live there, go to the games?
Yes. That’s how they work in every state. The Associated Press is a nonprofit but
it has bureaus in every state and, actually, all over the world. He’s been to three
Olympics and he’s going to the Vancouver Olympics next year. Sometimes AP
sends him to cover sports outside of the state, like NASCAR racing in Mexico
City. He’s covered several bowl games-football-because Arkansas has been
in one or because the games were in Florida or Texas and AP didn’t have enough
people there to cover them, since they are all happening at roughly the same time.
He’s covered a prize fight, Women’s Regional NCAA basketball games. Last
year he covered the Men’s Regional NCAA basketball games in Memphis. We
watched on TV and every once in a while we got to see the back of his head at the
reporters’ table.
So he’s not married?
So we know your daughter is married.
Right. Two children.
Two children.
One is a little over five and the other will be three in November. I see them some
when I go to New York on business, if I’m lucky, but it’s only for two hours or
something like that-it’s not extended time when I’m there on business.
They live in New York City?
Now, will your daughter move here?
Yes, yes.
That’ll be nice.
Yes. Yes. Can’t wait.
How wonderful!
She had just taken a job-a teaching job-when her husband got the job in the
Obama Administration. She had been trying to get the job for a year. It was
part-time. It was the perfect position. She didn’t want to leave it because, (a), she
loved it, and (b ), she didn’t want to leave it after trying to get it for a year. So the
idea is that by next summer they will all move here. Whether they really make it
until then, I don’t know. But it is hard to move now because our grandson is
starting kindergarten. Changing schools in the middle of the year wouldn’t be
easy. They have to decide, obviously. Mike and I love having our son-in-law
with us. It’s fun to get to know him better on his own, though we hardly ever see
him. He leaves at seven in the morning and comes home late.
Where is he working?
He’s working at the Department of Housing and Urban Development. He’s a
Special Assistant to the Secretary. He worked for Shawn Donovan, the Secretary,
in the Bloomberg administration in New York, and he came to Washington with
him. Donovan brought him.
That’s great.
He leaves at seven in the morning and gets home around eleven at night, partially
because he is trying to cram as much as he can into the days he’s here. Now, he’s
pretty much got it worked out that on Friday he works in the HUD regional office
in New York. So he can leave here on Thursday after work and get home late
Thursday night. He often doesn’t leave New York until Monday morning. So
he’s trying to cram it in at that end too. He loves his job. They both love what
they’re doing, so they are accommodating it.
They are dealing with the classic dilemma-family challenges. One of the other
things I was going to ask you was how your career and commitment to working
influenced your children. I guess you can see it probably more in your
daughter-how it impacted them.
Neither of them ever said, “Oh, can’t you stay home today?” They just
understood, this is how it is. Maybe because they always knew it that way. I’m
not saying there weren’t school events or things like that that they wanted us to
come to, but we usually were able to do those things. As I said, they both had
after-school activities. And Karen wasn’t with us all the time. Usually we saw
her one night during the week when she was young and otherwise on weekends.
But as she got older, the one night a week during the week didn’t happen because
of homework. So our time together was more on the weekends. So she didn’t see
the pull to work that both Mike and I had very’much. Noah had a lot of afterschool activities, too-sports mainly. So he usually wasn’t home after school.
It’s interesting that neither of them chose to become lawyers. What kind of
family activities when they were growing up did you engage in? Did you always
have the home in the Adirondacks?
You mean when they were growing up? We always did a lot of outdoor activities.
It’s such a wonderful area around here, with the canal and the Shenandoah. We
always liked hiking and swimming-outdoor activities. Skiing in the winter. We
got our house in the Adirondacks when Noah was eleven and Karen was twentyone. We had been going there for several years before then. That’s how we
ended up buying a place there. The first time we went there, Karen was four. We
really liked it, but then we didn’t go back until Noah was four. We camped when
Karen was little and we camped when Noah was little. By the time Noah was
four and Karen was fourteen, she was much less interested in camping. She was
much more into, “When are we going to a motel? Into town?” And Noah quickly
saw the fun of that. That sounded good to him, too, once he got to the motel, saw
the pool and the town. As I said, we went there when he was four and she was
fourteen. On the drive home, we stopped in a little town that we all really liked.
We decided to see if we could rent a place near there for the following year, –
which we did. We rented for several years in the same area. It was great because
they both really liked it. Once we had a house to rent, we weren’t camping
anymore. Karen would often bring a friend since there was such a big difference
in age between her and Noah. He didn’t usually bring a friend until he was older,
but sometimes we went with friends with children his age. It was a place that
everyone liked. So unlike the beach or other places we had tried, it seemed to fit.
Then my Aunt Margaret died and left me some money. The confluence of that,
my getting cancer and saying, “Life is ·short,” led to our decision to buy. We had
looked at places a couple of times, mostly just to do something on a rainy day, but
the Adirondacks are far away from D.C. and the places weren’t particularly
cheap. So it wasn’t as if we could buy a $20,000 cabin. We missed a summer
when I had cancer and we went hiking in Europe the summer after that. But we
went back to the Adirondacks the following year. We had a very rainy time and
for the first time we really didn’t like the house we had rented. We started really
looking around and, because I had some money from my aunt and we realized
how much we loved it there, we ended up buying a place. As I said, we’ve had it
since Noah was eleven and Karen was twenty-one. By then, she was out of
college in New York City and she used it with her friends, too. So that was nice.
Where was she in college?
As I described earlier, she originally went to Connecticut College but she
transferred in the middle of her sophomore year to Barnard. So she was in New
York. She stayed in New York after college. She got her Master’s in Nursing at
Penn but then returned to New York. So she is a lot closer to the house than we
are. Although it’s still a six-hour drive for her. It’s not that close for her, either.
Do you drive?
We drive if we go for at least a week. If we go for a long weekend or a short
time, we fly to Albany, and then drive two hours. Noah was working in New
York for the Associated Press before he went to Arkansas. So he used it with his
friends some then. He’s more interested in going when we’re there and
somebody’s cooking and he doesn’t have to clean up afterwards.
How often do you go with your family?
Well, now the family probably goes all together only once a year. We usually all
go for the 4th of July, for a long weekend. We all try to go then because that’s my
· husband’s birthday. Karen usually goes to see her husband’s family for
Christmas and her mother and stepfather for Thanksgiving. Right now, Karen and
her husband really aren’t on a schedule where they have that much vacation.
Before they had children, she and Pete went with friends. Noah tries to come for
a few days when we’re there in August sometimes. He says he’s coming this year
for a little longer time because there’s a Springsteen concert nearby, and he’s
bringing some of his friends to stay with us. That’s great, that was the idea of it.
So when you go up now-you’re going to go up next week?
Yeah, next week, yeah.
Is Noah going to be there?
Well, Noah will come towards the end of our stay for a few days. Karen won’t
come up then because they’re going to the beach with Pete’s family. Pete has a
brother who has four children who are older than Karen and Pete’s kids, but not
by a lot. And they all spend time at the beach together in August.
Where is Pete from?
Springfield, Virginia.
They didn’t know each other here. They met in New York. So all the families
are here. The nice thing is that when they come here, we’re all here. That’s also
a problem though, because they have to try to split their time between the three
They’re stretched.
If we lived in a different city, when they’d come to that city, they’d really just see
us. But they are pretty good about trying to juggle and we are all pretty easy to
How long have they been married?
Since 2001.
And what are your grandchildren’ s names?
Jeremy and Mara.
Mara’s the baby?
Yes, Mara’s named after a Revolutionary War relative of Pete’s. Pete’s last name
is Grace. And Mara Grace was a nurse in the Revolutionary War. Pete learned
about her fairly recently. Karen’s a nurse-midwife. They liked the name Mara
and the association so they named her after Pete’s relative.
This is probably a question that could take forever to answer. Again going back
to how the legal profession has changed since you began. Certainly when I look
at law firms, I can see in my own career-I can tell that things have changed. I’m
curious how you see it from your own personal perspective?
Certainly the number of women in the profession is just incredibly different. I
think that’s had a salutary effect. Not just on these accommodation issues that
we’ve been talking about, but on the way law is practiced and on the collegiality
of the practice. It’s been very exciting to see that transformation. When we went
to law school-when I told my parents’ friends that I was going to law school,
they said, “What?”
What are you going to do with that?
Even if it wasn’t that, it was-“Y ou mean you are going to be a lawyer?”
(Laughter) And now it’s so common that you can’t think of anyone saying
“What?” about that. I remember a story when Noah was young, involving his
pediatrician, who was a woman. One day we were talking to some other friends
and the other child said he had just been to the doctor. Noah said, “Well, what did
she say?” and the other child said his doctor was a man. And Noah said, “Really,
men can be doctors?”
That’s good!
It’s so great for kids to know that there are women in all sorts of occupations.
Certainly, of the professions, the law has grown to include more women the
fastest, I think. I may be wrong about that, but pretty close to it, if not the fastest.
It’s interesting to see how your children experience these changes. Noah was a
little kid when he said that. But more recently, when he was starting as a sports
reporter at Princeton, he had to shadow other staff reporters on his first
assignments. His first assignment on his own was to cover a women’s ice hockey
game. He called us afterwards, excited to report that he had gone to the game,
written his story and completed his “first solo outing.” We said, “How was it?”
He said, “It was great but there was only one problem.” I said, “What was it?”
He said, “They wouldn’t let me in the locker room.” [Laughter]
That’s funny.
But, you know, his reaction was, “How could that be?” Whereas when that was
the case with women, we knew how it could be. We didn’t like it, but we
certainly knew how it could be.
There were big fights about it.
Right, exactly. He did say that they weren’t letting any of the reporters in. It
wasn’t just because he was a man. I don’t think it crossed his mind that it would
be for that reason.
Oh, ok.
Our first reaction was “Whoa!”
That is funny.
And, you know, as I’ve described, one of the issues I work on is women in the
military. Certainly, there has been an expansion of opportunity there. It wasn’t
that long ago that women couldn’t have a rank above Colonel. And now there are
numbers and numbers of women Generals. They’re in intelligence. They’re in all
kinds of fields. The original ones, of course, were nurses. The transformation is
in so many areas. But it’s fair to say, I think, that the law has been a leader in this
in terms of the numbers. Obviously, there are still issues. But you don’t hear
many people say out loud that women shouldn’t be lawyers.
There have been so many changes that young women don’t really understand
what it was like and how much has changed.
One day one of our lawyers was cleaning out her basement. She found a
newspaper she had used to line a drawer, or something like that. It turned out to
be the Employment Section of the Washington Post, which showed “Jobs for
Men” and, separately, “Jobs, for Women”. She brought it in to show the younger
women here. There are some things that are just so stark when you see them,
even though we all remember then.
What keeps you motivated still?
Oh, how interesting the work is, and how wonderful the people that I work with
are. Of course, now we have a new Administration and a new Congress and a lot
of new opportunities. But it’s really about the substance of the work and the
colleagues most of all.
Do you find yourself still learning new things?
Oh, definitely yes. Definitely. Certainly new issues.
If you had it all to do over again, would you become a lawyer?
Oh, definitely yes, yes. It is always hard to know what your career path would
have been, if it had been different. If you had gone to a different school, taken
different jobs. Those are questions that are sometimes hard to answer. I was
happy about all of my choices. But I was my choices, too. The
colleges that are open to women now weren’t open to women when I went to
school. It’s true about law schools, too. Although in law schools it was more
about quotas than it was about absolute bars. But being a lawyer is really great.
What I have always liked about it has been using the skills to resolve issues. But
there are also interesting intellectual, analytical components to it-solving a
problem, proving to somebody else that you’re right, getting the result you
want-· it’s all pretty heady.
Also meeting and spending time with interesting people.
Today, I’m doing less original research and more reviewing of other people’s
work. But when I see something that has to be rewritten, and I get into it more, I
realize that I miss that deeper involvement, too. There’s a trade-off.
When you mentor young people, what advice do you give young lawyers?
Mainly to try to be really excellent in their work. I think this is because, as I’ve
described, in my first job I had a very smart and very demanding boss-in a good
way. I’m struck sometimes by work I get that is not good work. Especially when
the person who gave it to me is of a caliber that should be producing better work.
So I don’t know if she thinks it’s okay to do a draft that someone else will fix
up-if that is her attitude-or whether she hasn’t been held to higher standards.
So I advise students to try to make sure their first job is a demanding job. And
when a student or a newly minted lawyer knows she hasn’t written something
well or is struggling with an issue, to say to me, “I know this section still needs
work.” She shouldn’t give it to me and if I say, “There are problems with the
draft,” she shouldn’t then say, “Oh, yeah, I knew I had to rewrite that.” My
reaction is, “Why didn’t you do it?” My assumption is that this was work for me
to review, not work that she is still developing. I think it’s important to be serious
about work in that sense. Obviously, if the student or lawyer is having a problem
with something, she needs to talk more about it, she can’t find sources, our case is
weak or there is some other problem, I want to know that and work through the
problem with her. But she shouldn’t paper over that. She should bring her best
work to the table.
That’s very good advice. Do you ever think about leaving public policy work to
do anything else?
Well, from time to time I have thought about whether I wanted to go into the
government in some capacity. Actually, before I came here, when I left teaching
at Georgetown and was trying to decide what to do, I was considering whether I
should go work at the Federal Trade Commission. It was during the Carter
Administration. I was genuinely interested in consumer issues. I was teaching
administrative law. I had some general background. They were interested
enough to talk to me. But, in the end, the job at the Center was a much more
appealing prospect. Since then, obviously, as administrations change, there’s
always a question about who is going to go in and who isn’t. Now it’s just so
exciting to be here at the Center. We’ve built something. This is an
entrepreneurial effort for Marcia and me. I want to see it through until I’m ready
to stop. So it has not been particularly tempting. It was more so when I was
So this time when you move on–do you think about what’s next? What you
want to do next?
A little. I think it would be nice to be able to phase down my work life as
opposed to stopping cold turkey. You’re a good person to talk to about how to do
that. It might be by staying here at the Center in some kind of mentoring, parttime role. But that might not work because whoever is running the place-well, it
might not be good to have me still here. On the one hand, there are certain things
I can do to help. On the other hand, I could get into somebody’s hair, too. Marcia
and I talk about it because there’s always the question of whether we are going to
leave together or we are going to leave separately. But nothing is resolved.
I think we both would have an interest in some phase-out as opposed to just
leaving entirely all at once. But I don’t think I want to have another job. I might
do some other project-oriented work for some other entity, just as I might do that
here. I definitely would like it to be part-time and definitely without the
responsibilities I have now-to run the place, raise money, etc. I’d rather work on
a particular case or something else that is discrete.
Is the raising money part the least fun part of your job?
You’d think yes, maybe. But there’s a certain bringing of the lawyer skills to that,
too, which is enjoyable. You’re making an argument about why an individual or
entity should support a cause that you’re passionate about. So when you’re
successful, that’s exciting too. There are aspects of my job that aren’t particularly
fun. But I think it’s some of the administrative parts that I like the leastresolving personnel problems, for example. We’re now losing people to the
Administration, so we have to hire people. It’s a process we have to go throughtrying to find good people, etc. Those are the tasks I won’t miss.
Personnel issues …
Right exactly. Those are always difficult.
Earlier in the interview you mentioned that you have a list of activities to do when
you retire. What’s on your list?
Well, to be outdoors more. I really like being outdoors. I exercise now mainly by
walking fast. I try to do two miles in thirty minutes or less several days a week.
I’d like to have more days when I can do an hour or so. Walk farther. Also do
more hiking. I’d like to spend more time in the Adirondacks. I don’t really have
on my list traveling to particular places, which I’m not adverse to, but traveling is
tiring, also. Obviously spend more time with my grandchildren and my children,
too-visit them, take them places. My husband and I are birders, so I’d like to do
more birding with him.
And there’s always the household tasks I’ve never completed. Shouldn’t I get my
photographs organized? Especially photographs of the members of my family
that nobody knows who they are except me. My kids are probably going to toss
them anyway, so why should I organize them, on the one hand. And on the other
hand, it seems like I should do my part for posterity and then they can decide. I
want to play bridge, which is an idea I actually got from Brooksley Born because
Brooksley took it up again in retirement. I think she plays with Sally Determan
and several other women. They hired somebody to give them lessons.
Well, good.
I played bridge when I was in … well, I’ve never played very well. I didn’t play in
college. I played in law school and played a little after law school. I really
haven’t played in nearly forty years. Everything is different apparently now. I
was talking about this to a friend of mine who is retired and she said, “Oh, that’s
great. I’d love to do that.” She then got organized, found a place to take lessons,
asked me if I wanted to come. Of course, it’s during the day. No, I can’t do that
and I don’t particularly want to go at night while I’m still working. So she’s now
way ahead of me. I won’t be able to play with her! I’ll have to find other people
to play with unless she’s very patient.
I’m also a very good, what I call, putterer. I’m pretty good about doing nothing.
You know, puttering around the house, reading-I love reading. But, I’ll need
something to engage me that’s beyond me. Beyond these kinds of pursuits. I’m
not too worried about it. I’m more worried that my husband isn’t engaged in as
many things outside of his work. So to work this out together is challenging.
He’ll probably keep working.
Perhaps. That wouldn’t be so bad because I could do some things he doesn’t want
to do anyway. He doesn’t want to play bridge.
Especially since traveling isn’t a priority.
Right, that’s right. And I can spend time with the kids and grandchildren without
him, too, as well as with him.
Let’s see … what do you want your legacy to be?
I feel incredibly privileged to have been involved in three legal movements in
their early, formative years: the civil rights movement, the welfare rights .and
poverty law movement, and the women’s rights movement. I hope that I have
made contributions to the success of each and all of these. With respect to
women’s rights, I hope that my colleagues and I have accomplished something
more as well-the establishment of the National Women’s Law Center as a
strong, effective organization. We have built an organization that has
accomplished a lot, has strong staff and supporters, and hopefully will continue to
thrive. It has an endowment that doesn’t support it entirely, but provides an
important base of support. It has made a difference on a lot of issues, including
some that I haven’t worked on but others at the Center have. And it has made a
difference on a lot of issues that I have worked on and that I care deeply about.
And, of course, I have another very real legacy in my children and grandchildren.
I should ask you what have I not asked you that I should ask?
I think I’ve talked so much there can’t be any!
Nancy Duff Campbell, Interview 11