ORAL HISTORY OF HARRIET SHAPIRO
April 4, 2012
This interview is being conducted on behalf of the Oral History Project of the
Historical Society of the District of Columbia Circuit. The interviewer is Judy Feigin, Esquire,
and the interviewee is Harriet Shapiro, Esquire. The interview took place at Harriet’s apartment
in Rockville, Maryland, on Wednesday, April 4, 2012. This is the third interview.
MS. FEIGIN: Good morning, Harriet.
MS. SHAPIRO: Good morning, Judy.
MS. FEIGIN: When we left, you were just about to take the law boards. I assume that
MS. SHAPIRO: I know how to take tests, that’s one thing I know how to do. It went fine.
I don’t remember that there was ever any consideration of any law school
other than Columbia, first of all Father’s history at Columbia, and ‘Becca
and Donald and Jane were in New York. When I applied for the SG’s
office, Dean Griswold said to me, “Why didn’t you go to Harvard?”
[laughter], and the reason I didn’t go to Harvard was, well I guess I said to
him they didn’t take women, but he corrected me. They did take women
beginning in 1952 I think. I did not want to be in one of the first classes in
law school that took women. I just wasn’t ready to face that, and
Columbia had been taking women for years.
MS. FEIGIN: It’s interesting, and we’ll get back to it, because obviously you were the
first woman, and you were willing to face it, to go into the Solicitor
MS. SHAPIRO: Well, I had a lot more self-confidence by then, and I knew I wasn’t going
into a hostile environment.
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MS. FEIGIN: Columbia is the only school you applied to?
MS. SHAPIRO: Yes, it was. I wanted to go to Columbia, I figured I could go to Columbia,
so I went to Columbia.
MS. FEIGIN: You say there were women in the class. What percentage of the class?
MS. SHAPIRO: Out of a class of roughly 200, there were 20 women. And when I give that
figure, I always also say, which is true, that of those 20, almost half got on
to the Law Review. We were motivated. The thing that really griped me,
and one of the reasons I thought Howie was pretty special, he never asked
me why I was in law school, although that was the standard question that
you got. “Why are you in law school?”, with the implication that you
were there to catch a husband. That really annoyed me [laughter]. I lived
in Johnson Hall which was the women’s graduate dorm.
MS. FEIGIN: Not just for law school but for all graduate students?
MS. SHAPIRO: Yes. What most of the women law students did, and what I did, was get a
buddy, another female law student that you hung out with. I don’t know
that I studied with Barbara Levine particularly, but she was somebody I
could sit next to in class and we were buddies. And Barbara Aronstein
Black was a classmate of mine, and she and Harriet Taylor were buddies.
Harriet Taylor, who later was a judge here in D.C., I think the District
Court. And Barbara of course was the Dean of Columbia Law School
later. I really have always been very fond of Barbara Black. She was a
nice girl, and she was very bright.
There was kind of a scandal involving her. She and Harriet Taylor
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used to go and visit with Professor Black in his office. At the time, he was
married, and he was also something of a drinker. But anyway,
Professor Black left his wife for Barbara.
MS. FEIGIN: So she wasn’t Barbara Black then.
MS. SHAPIRO: She was Barbara Aronstein. She was the saving of him. He was a sweet
man. He was fun, he was funny. I’m sure he gave up drinking. What
happened was when she graduated, Columbia had this rule that they
wouldn’t hire the spouse of a professor, so they went up to New Haven to
Yale where they both taught – I don’t know whether she taught history
first, but anyway, eventually she taught in the law school. Later, she came
back to Columbia, and she taught Development of Legal Institutions,
which was a freshman course, and it was taught by George Goebel when
we were there. Howie says I’m wrong, but I remember taking the
textbook, before we had the class, and opening the textbook to the
beginning, and I swear to goodness it was written in Old English. I was
looking at this thing and saying “They expect us to read this? I can’t read
this. How can I study the case if I can’t read this?”
The course really started at the very beginning of the development
of the common law. Goebel I think was something of a sadist because
what he did – and he insisted it was all for our own good because it taught
us how to deal with judges – but he would call four or five students at the
beginning of the class, he would call them up to the front, and these were
the students that he was going to ask the questions of that class. So you
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sat up there, trembling in your boots. He was kind of mean. As I say, he
said this was because we were going to get mean judges so we had to learn
how to deal with them.
MS. FEIGIN: And you didn’t have advance notice you’d be called on?
MS. SHAPIRO: No. Although if you were Italian, you were likely to be called on on
Columbus Day. If you were a woman, you were going to be called on on
MS. FEIGIN: What is Ladies Day?
MS. SHAPIRO: It was any day that he chose at the beginning of the class. I had the feeling
that he was kind of setting the students against each other. It was not a
pleasant class, and that’s the class that Barbara Black took over, and I’ll
bet when she was teaching it, it was a much better class.
MS. FEIGIN: One thing that strikes me, you said you could choose, you would sit next
to your buddy. You were allowed to sit randomly? In my day we had
assigned seating, alphabetically.
MS. SHAPIRO: I think we could seat randomly in the lecture classes because I do
remember that you kind of looked around for a seat. My memory is not as
great as it could be so I may be wrong, but that’s the way I remember it.
We sat alphabetically in the small sections taught by the Associates.
MS. FEIGIN: When you say that maybe 10% of the class was women, what about other
MS. SHAPIRO: There were maybe a couple of blacks. There was Abdul Farman Farma.
He was some kind of Near Eastern. I think we read that he got killed in an
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uprising. He was sort of a permanent student, and he was a blabbermouth.
He had a strong accent and he often would say, “To me this is fantastic.”
That became a byword among the other students [laughter]. Asians, I
don’t remember. Could have been, but not many. Mostly white males
was what it was.
Right out of Wellesley, I don’t think I could have done it, I would
have been very uncomfortable, but having had the experience in
Santa Rosa, I had worked with men, and all right, sure, what the heck.
You know, it was all right. It didn’t bother me. And I also developed sort
of a tough skin. Most of the teachers were completely unbiased. A few of
them would say every once in a while things like, “I have a great story that
I could tell you if it weren’t for women in the class.” But mostly not, and
you know, so what the hell, it’s their problem, not mine. After the first
semester, it was my old attitude from my elementary school days of,
“Sure, I’m different, but I’m better at this than most, so my difference is
nothing to be ashamed of.”
We had study groups, and I don’t know how I got into one of them,
but I was in a study group with three or four other people, and I was kind
of surprised when at one point one of them said, “We better shut up and
listen to Harriet because she knows what she’s talking about” [laughter].
So it was okay after the first semester. One of the things that was tough
about the first semester particularly was that it was primarily lectures.
Although there were smaller sections which were taught by an assistant or
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an associate who was usually a student who had graduated the year or two
years before. These sections were more informal, with more student
participation, but basically for the first semester, you had no idea of
whether you were getting it or not, and that was pretty stressful.
MS. FEIGIN: Were there exams after the first semester, or were there full-year courses?
MS. SHAPIRO: There were some full-year courses but there were at least some exams
after the first semester. I know Legal Methods had one. So then okay,
you could tell whether or not you were getting it, but the first semester
was kind of swimming without direction.
MS. FEIGIN: Were the professors mostly white males?
MS. SHAPIRO: Oh yes.
MS. FEIGIN: All? Were there any women or minorities on the faculty that you recall?
MS. SHAPIRO: Not that I recall. I don’t think so. I’m pretty sure not. Interesting, it never
occurred to me. Anyway, so I got through. I got an A+ from Professor
Black in Equity, and I have always thought that was because I used the
word “reification” on my exam [laughter]. He made a big point about
that. Reification, he didn’t use the word, but one of his points in class was
that you had to be careful to avoid objectifying concepts. So I used that
word and I got an A+. I also got a book from Professor Jones who taught
Legal Method and Contracts. On his inscription, he wrote that although
there was no Contracts prize, “somebody who did as well in their
Contracts exam [or who knew Contracts so well or something like that]
would enjoy A Ramble Through the Bramble Bush. Do you know that
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book? It’s a funny introduction to the law. It was a nice thing for him to
MS. FEIGIN: I would say. You obviously did very well.
MS. SHAPIRO: I did well, yes. I did well enough so that I got on Law Review. As you
know, at the end of the first year, the top 10% or 5% or something of the
students on the basis of their grades get invited to be on the Law Review.
MS. FEIGIN: We should say for the record, well let me ask, in those days it was solely
grades, right, no writing on like there is now.
MS. SHAPIRO: Oh yes, solely grades, no writing. At the end of the school year I went
back to California, and I was in Pasadena when I got the notice. One of
the professors invited me to be his assistant for the second year as a paying
position. He said, “You probably really ought to be on the Review, but if
you don’t want to be or if you need the money or something,” why he was
offering me a job. I wanted to be on the Review.
I didn’t really realize, maybe I did, but anyway, when you got
elected to the Review, you were supposed to come in the summer and start
working on a note or a case note. I was in California, and I decided I
wasn’t going to go back. I had a job, so I wrote and said, “Yeah, I’d like
to be on the Review but I really can’t get back.” Ken Jones was my
editor-in-chief, and he was a real star. He ended up teaching at
U-Michigan and then coming back and teaching at Columbia. The other
thing that you have to realize is that since I’d taken a couple of years off, I
was a little bit older than most of the students, and Ken was a little bit
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younger, so he was about three years or so younger than I was, but he
clearly was God [laughter]. He wrote back and said okay, but I should
work on a note while I was home and I could bring that back and do the
revising when I came back. I kid Warren Schwartz, who was then the
research editor responsible for figuring out what would be appropriate
notes for the second year students and is now a good friend, about my
note. My assigned note topic was prosecutor misconduct. Warren insists
that was a great note assignment; it was a terrible note assignment.
MS. FEIGIN: Why?
MS. SHAPIRO: It was such a big amorphous topic. Prosecutor misconduct? I mean it had
no real boundaries. What it ended up being was a list of a variety of kinds
of prosecutor misconduct, trying to figure out some kind of reasoned
analysis of why they led to reversals or not, and then suggestions about
improving how they were dealt with.
So I wrote my note, which I thought was adequate, and came back
and got assigned Yale Kamisar, who had come back after serving in
Korea. This would be 1952, 1953, something like that. Actually, I later
discovered he was a marshmallow, but he was big and blustery; he yelled.
He decided that for every statement, I had to have at least three citations, a
federal case, a majority case, and a minority case. Well, I got them. I
spent the whole second year working on that blasted note, and
periodically, I would go in and I would show Yale what I had done, and he
would yell [laughter].
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One of the reasons I was taken with Howie was Howie kind of
likes to yell, argue and yell, and he would pile in there, and he and Yale
would yell at each other, and I would kind of sneak off into the corner
[laughter]. Howie kind of saved me from Yale.
MS. FEIGIN: We should say for people down the road who Yale is.
MS. SHAPIRO: Yale Kamisar went on to teach at Michigan. He’s an authority on criminal
law, particularly the Miranda warnings and procedural issues. Yale was
an important person in my life. The outgoing third-year class selects the
officers for the incoming third-year class, and because I spent the whole
year working on this note, Yale was the only one that I had worked with.
Most people did a note, then they did a couple of case notes, so that there
were at least three third-year students who were familiar with their work.
But only Yale had reviewed my work. Of course the notes editor and the
editor-in-chief had, but Yale was the one who really had worked with me.
I now think that getting me elected editor-in-chief was kind of a power
play for Yale, but what he said was that when he went back and read the
note that I had handed in at the first, it was very much like what we came
out with at the end, and so he was impressed. I’ve told Warren of my
theory, and he insists I’m wrong. He says everybody read both versions of
the notes and reached the same conclusion.
Everybody knew that Mike Sovern – who later was Dean of the
Law School and then President of Columbia University – was going to be
editor-in-chief. It was obvious that that was what was going to happen. I
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think perhaps Mike rather got the backs of the revisers up by joining in
this assumption. Nobody was more surprised than I was when that didn’t
The second-year members of the Review were told before the
elections that if you didn’t want to be an officer, let the Board know. The
voting was late at night, and a couple of women that were on the Review
and in Johnson Hall came to my room after the voting, and woke me up.
They said, “Who do you think is the editor-in-chief?” And I said, “Mike,
of course.” And they said, “No, you” [laughter]. So needless to say, I was
shocked. Howie and I were serious by then. The next day I said to
Howie, “I’m not real sure that I can do this. I mean we’re getting married,
and this job is a big responsibility. I’m not sure about this.” Howie said,
“Do it. You’ve got it, do it. If you don’t do it, you’ll regret it. We can
manage. Do it.” So I did it.
MS. FEIGIN: Before we get into what it involved, I know it’s an enormous amount of
work, let me go back a minute, again for people who read this down the
road and may not understand the time. When you say it took a year and
you needed three citations, this was pre-Lexis days.
MS. SHAPIRO: Oh yes. Sure. It was before computers. I had to go to the actual books to
read the cases.
MS. FEIGIN: It was a major undertaking, whereas now it would just be a few computer
strokes so I want people to understand.
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MS. SHAPIRO: It was a major undertaking. As a matter of fact, this was part of Howie’s
and my courtship. The only people that could be in the library after hours
were Law Review people. The library was open until about 9:00, but we
worked after hours. In order to get into the library, you had to get the key
from the security people. Howie always had me ask for the key. Howie
has a very good ear. He didn’t want to ask for the key because the guards
all had such strong Irish accents that he was afraid that he would pick up
their Irish accent if he talked to them and they would think that he was
mocking them, so I had to ask for the key and return it [laughter]. When
you were on the Review, you lived in the library. You went to the books
and you looked it up. I never have worked as hard. It was just a slog.
Every time I say something about my mother, it seems kind of
critical. I really loved her, and she was good to me. I would write home
and say “This is horrible, I’m so tired of this note,” and she would reply,
“Give it up. You don’t have to do that. If it’s too hard, you don’t have
to.” Well, I did have to. This was a job I had set for myself, and by gum,
I wasn’t going to give it up.
MS. FEIGIN: So it really was a goal at some level to be editor-in-chief?
MS. SHAPIRO: No, not to be editor-in-chief. But to do a decent job. Yale insisted that
this was the way it had to be, so okay, this was the way it had to be, and I
was going to do it. I wasn’t going to give up. No, I had no notion that I
was going to be editor-in-chief.
MS. FEIGIN: I meant was it ever a subliminal goal?
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MS. SHAPIRO: No. Not at all.
MS. FEIGIN: You were only the second woman ever?
MS. SHAPIRO: Yes, I was the second woman ever. The first woman was in 1951, I think.
I’m really fascinated by Yale’s motivation. One of Howie’s colleagues at
the law firm was at Michigan and she had Yale as a teacher. Yale went
through a very bitter divorce. He came to visit us when we were down
here after we were married. My younger son, I should have taken him out
of the room, but he sat there with his face getting whiter and whiter and
whiter as Yale vented his anger at his ex-wife. When Howie’s colleague
was a student, she said Yale was very mean to the women, that he would
pick them out and just be mean to the extent that at one point when he was
being mean to her, the class booed him. That was after his divorce. I
know he didn’t have that kind of feeling about me. He was just being
MS. FEIGIN: You obviously became friends, but you never talked to him about the
dynamics that made you editor?
MS. SHAPIRO: No. As I say, everybody knew that Mike was going to be editor-in-chief.
Well he ended up being Articles editor, and I have all kinds of admiration
for Mike because I think he’s – I know – he’s ambitious. He’s a big name,
and the reason he got to be president of Columbia is because he was
instrumental when – you probably don’t remember, but in the 1960s, I
think, there were a lot of sit-ins and student revolts and stuff, and Mike
was mediating all that stuff and doing a darn good job.
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MS. FEIGIN: What was his position then?
MS. SHAPIRO: He was dean of the Law School. But that’s where he made his name
really, as a mediator in those really tough times. But the thing that I
admire so about him was that he never showed any resentment of me. We
worked very closely together, and he and his then-wife, who he later
divorced – he was kind of a womanizer, I guess – but he and Howie and
whatever her name was, and I were buddies. We did things together.
Mike and I came down to Washington to solicit articles. Mike had
never been on a train before we came down. You know my background. I
had done all these things before. Mike and I came down and we went
around to some firms soliciting articles. We went to the Justice
Department, and Oscar Davis was at that time First Deputy Solicitor
General. He was a wonderful man. In the 1920s and 1930s there were a
whole bunch of very bright Jews in the Department because Jews had a
hard time getting into private practice, and so the government benefited
tremendously. Oscar Davis was one of those. Bea Rosenberg was another
one of those. Anyway, Oscar didn’t give us an article but he sat us down
for half an hour or so and explained to us what the Solicitor General’s
Office did. I thought wow, this is the absolute dream job. I certainly
didn’t have any idea that I could have that job, they didn’t have any
women, but oh wow, what fun! [laughter] This was the first I had heard
about the Solicitor General’s Office.
The other thing that happened on that trip was that Mike showed
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me how to play pinball. The trick is you have to jiggle the table just
enough to make the ball go where you want it to go but not enough to
make it tilt, and he was good at that [laughter]. We had a good time.
Anyway, I guess I was okay as the editor-in-chief. I don’t think I was
MS. FEIGIN: What do you think makes an outstanding editor-in-chief?
MS. SHAPIRO: Being a leader and being a first-rate editor. I had not had that much
experience, maybe none of us had, but I don’t think I was a particularly
good editor. I’m sure it’s very different now. In those days the secondyear students wrote the notes and the case notes. The notes were long
pieces, the case notes were an analysis of a single case. Then the Law
Review also had articles and book reviews, which were written by nonstudents, so that there was a book reviews editor who was in charge of
getting the books in and getting the people to review them. There was the
articles editor who sought articles and evaluated submitted articles. There
was the research editor who was in charge of choosing topics for the notes
and deciding which cases we should write up in case notes. There was the
notes editor who did the super review of notes, then there was the case
notes editor who did the super review of case notes. The other people in
the third-year class were the reviewers, and the second-year students wrote
the notes, wrote the case notes, and did the cite checking, ran the purples.
MS. FEIGIN: What does that mean, “ran the purples?”
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MS. SHAPIRO: In those days, there were maybe twenty or so people on Law Review. For
each class that had anybody on the Review in it, at least one second-year
member of the Review taking the class was responsible for taking notes
for the Review. The notes were then run off on the purple machine, and
the net effect was that because they had these purples, most members of
the Review didn’t go to many classes.
MS. FEIGIN: Purple was the mimeograph machine? The purple ink?
MS. SHAPIRO: Yes. It was a terrible system. It was an awful system [laughter]. I’m sure
it’s been abolished long since. We were on our honor not to let anybody
not on the Review see the purples. One of the reasons that the second year
was very hard for me was that I was assigned to do the purple for
Wechsler’s class on Federal Jurisdiction. It was a rather elite third-year
class – one of the classes the third-year Law Review members actually
attended. I was kind of thrown into it as a second-year student. It was
fun, partly because most of the other students were third-year members of
the Review and Wechsler was a really good teacher who was stimulated
by his students. So I was kind of swimming with the big fish. Just for my
own education, it would have been better if I had had more of the
background in conflicts and other second-year classes that this course
assumed. The Federal Jurisdiction casebook, in addition to the cases, had
a whole series of questions to which there were never any answers. They
were the kind of questions that were really the sorts of basic questions that
must be considered and reconsidered over time. Anyway, I got to know
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Wechsler pretty well, and he recommended me for a Supreme Court
I gather now you don’t apply to a single Justice, you apply to
everybody. Well, in those days, you applied to a single Justice, and
Ken Jones, my predecessor, was clerking for Justice Clark, and I think
Wechsler had kind of an in with Clark, so he recommended me. I didn’t
make it. Howie is convinced it was sex discrimination. I’m certainly not
convinced of that.
MS. FEIGIN: Did you have an interview with Justice Clark?
MS. SHAPIRO: Oh yes.
MS. FEIGIN: What was that like?
MS. SHAPIRO: I don’t remember particularly. I think he was a southern gentleman. His
son was Ramsey Clark, who was eventually Attorney General. Anyway, I
don’t really remember the interview. I remember coming down to
Washington for the interview.
MS. FEIGIN: So you only applied to a Supreme Court Justice? You didn’t apply to any
appellate courts or district courts?
MS. SHAPIRO: No. What I did apply to was the Atomic Energy Commission, mostly
because I thought it would be interesting to be in a new agency, and also
because the interviewer they sent to Columbia was a very nice fellow. I
liked him very much.
I was worried because of Hope’s history with the U.N., and I
asked the interviewer about that, whether he thought that would be a
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problem, and he said that as a matter of fact, since the AEC was serious
about security, they did a better job of evaluating possible security risks so
that probably would not be a problem. As it turned out, I don’t think they
ever found out about the Hope connection. The only thing they ever asked
me about was Father’s letter during the McCarthy Era to the House UnAmerican Activities Committee saying what a rotten thing they were
doing. So they asked me about what his politics were or something like
that, and I told them, and it wasn’t a problem.
MS. FEIGIN: Before we get to your post-law school job, I want to hear a little more
about Law Review. Tell me how it came to be that you had lunch with
MS. SHAPIRO: Oh yes. This was in the era when she was going around talking up the
United Nations so that any group that asked her to come and talk about the
United Nations, she did. So we figured okay, we’d like to hear about the
MS. FEIGIN: “We” being?
MS. SHAPIRO: The Law Review. So the Law Review asked her to come talk to us about
the United Nations.
MS. FEIGIN: Do you remember anything about the luncheon?
MS. SHAPIRO: I do remember – the thing I remember about the luncheon was I really
liked her. She was very good about making small talk with anybody and
their brother. She came and she had on a dark blue skirt and a dark blue
jacket and they didn’t match [laughter]. I noticed it, and I thought “great,
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she doesn’t care; that’s fine.” And she talked to me about Franklin, she
called him Franklin, and the TVA.
MS. FEIGIN: What did she say?
MS. SHAPIRO: I don’t remember [laughter]. I don’t remember much about it really.
MS. FEIGIN: Where was this luncheon?
MS. SHAPIRO: It must have been in the Columbia Faculty Club. It certainly wasn’t in the
Review, but I don’t think it was in a public restaurant, so it must have
been the Faculty Club.
MS. FEIGIN: You were editor-in-chief at the time?
MS. SHAPIRO: I was editor-in-chief so that was why I was sitting next to her, and I
introduced her as the author of Betty and Bob Come to Washington
MS. FEIGIN: She may have welcomed it; she wasn’t just his wife.
MS. SHAPIRO: She certainly wasn’t just his wife. I was so impressed with her that I
couldn’t think of anything to say. It was like my first argument in the
Supreme Court. I was petrified, and I was kind of stumbling around but I
was okay until Justice Douglas – he never asked any questions – he
always just sat there. He asked me a question! And I was like, this is
Justice Douglas. He has been a Supreme Court Justice forever and he’s
asking me a question! I just froze completely [laughter]. And it was kind
of like that with Eleanor Roosevelt. Me, with Eleanor Roosevelt? Come
on, this is crazy! [laughter].
MS. FEIGIN: Do you have any pictures of you and Eleanor?
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MS. SHAPIRO: No. It wasn’t a picture-taking occasion.
MS. FEIGIN: That is quite exciting. Something else happened that I’d like you to talk
about. I know you got a letter from Justice Frankfurter when you were
editor of Law Review. I’d like you to read it, and then I’ll ask you
questions, if you wouldn’t mind.
MS. SHAPIRO: Okay. “My Dear Miss Shapiro.” That was wrong. We got married in the
summer before the third year, so I was elected to the chiefship but I hadn’t
yet started it, and Howie said, “Do you want to keep your maiden name?
Maybe it would be a good idea to keep it because you’re on the masthead
as Harriet Sturtevant and people won’t know.” Well, I said phooey. I’m
Mrs. Shapiro. So I was on the masthead as Harriet Sturtevant Shapiro.
When I went to the SG’s office, Howie was head of the Appellate Section
of the Antitrust Division, and they asked him – because he was there, I
wasn’t – they asked him what my nameplate on the door should be, and he
said, “Harriet Sturtevant Shapiro,” so all the time I was in the SG’s Office,
my nameplate, in tiny little letters, said “Harriet Sturtevant Shapiro”
MS. FEIGIN: In those days including your maiden name was more unusual. Now that
would be common.
MS. SHAPIRO: Yes, I guess.
MS. FEIGIN: We should also say for people who may not understand the reference,
when it says “Miss Shapiro,” you weren’t a “Miss” any longer, but there
was no “Ms.” in those days; you were either Miss or Mrs.
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MS. SHAPIRO: That’s right, he had to guess. Anyway,
My Dear Miss Shapiro:
On my very first day as a law student at Cambridge, my
roommate, a second-year man, took me for a walk. His easy manner
suddenly changed, as he said to me in a hushed voice, pointing to a
figure ahead of us: “There goes the Editor-in-Chief of the Harvard
Law Review.” There could not have been more reverence in his
voice if he had pointed out to me the Holy Ghost or the Angel
Gabriel. The awe which was thus engendered for the Editor-in-Chief
of a law review has never been exorcised. To this day I do not feel
wholly at ease in the presence of that great personage, even though I
have had perhaps half a dozen Editors-in-Chief as law clerks. And
so, tremblingly as one of a fast vanishing race who likes to think we
are a learned profession and that learning implies fastidious respect
for hallowed form, I want to protest as vigorously as my feeble voice
permits against what I regard as a kind of book-burning. Why do not
you esteemed Editors-in-Chief reprint the Reports of the Supreme
Court prior to 91 U.S., reentitle them U.S. 1 to 90 and disregard the
fact that the Reports on which the profession was bred and which to
this day the Supreme Court would not think of citing other than Dall,
Cranch, Wheat., Pet., How., Black, Wall., are to be cited as such.
There is no such thing as a “U.S.” prior to 91 U.S.!
Having in my time as editor of a law review deemed it my duty to
overrule the Supreme Court without ado of course I expect law
reviews to do that. But I am still of the opinion that the Supreme
Court might be entitled to decide how its Reports should be cited,
particularly when in doing so it is merely conforming to fact and to a
long, honorable tradition.
All of which is respectfully submitted,
Miss Harriet S. Shapiro is down on the bottom [laughter].
Do they still do that?
MS. FEIGIN: You mean have Cranch?
MS. SHAPIRO: Yes. In the Supreme Court reports?
MS. FEIGIN: To the best of my knowledge, but I don’t know. But I have two questions
about this immediately. One is did he write to other editors?
– 80 –
MS. SHAPIRO: Oh yes, I’m sure he did.
MS. FEIGIN: All editors of law reviews?
MS. SHAPIRO: I think the editors who wrote the blue book – it still exists, doesn’t it?
MS. FEIGIN: Yes.
MS. SHAPIRO: And I think it was Harvard, Yale, and Columbia that put it out. I’m pretty
sure of that. There may have been others, but I think it was just the three
of us, and what engendered that was that whatever revision we were
responsible for had, I think for the first time, changed from Wall and
Cranch to 1 U.S. and 2 U.S. And this was his reaction to that.
MS. FEIGIN: Did you respond to him?
MS. SHAPIRO: No [Laughter]. How could you respond to that? There’s no response
possible. But the funny thing is, it never occurred to me to respond. I got
a letter from Felix Frankfurter. Should I answer it? Of course not
[laughter]. It really didn’t occur to me. I don’t know whether the other
two did or not.
MS. FEIGIN: Did you, with your responsibilities with the Law Review, did you also
have responsibilities for the blue book or was that a separate group of
MS. SHAPIRO: The Law Reviews put it out, so yes, we were responsible.
MS. FEIGIN: So you worked on that as well as your note and everything else.
MS. SHAPIRO: Not as a second-year student. I don’t know how it was actually done. My
Board and I certainly reviewed any proposed changes and discussed them
and had meetings about them, but who held the pencil, I just don’t
remember. Maybe the Harvard people did. I don’t know.
– 81 –
The other thing that was different in those days well before
computers was that there were two hired employees of the Review who
typed up the material that was submitted to the printer. When it came
back from the printer, the second-year students proofread the copy so we
had to know about printer’s marks. We proofread it and checked each
citation. The secretaries were responsible for doing the mailing back and
forth and for the typing. They were important people. You had to submit
clean copy. They didn’t take just any old stuff. I think most of us typed,
but not very well. The secretaries must have typed up the mimeograph
sheets for the purples. That was the other thing that the second-year
students did, they ran the mimeograph machine.
MS. FEIGIN: We should explain that that’s a primitive copying machine.
MS. SHAPIRO: A primitive copying machine, yes. That purple thing was bad. But one of
the things they revealed, since you had the purples from the years before,
you could tell whether the professor was just giving the same lecture year
after year or whether it was new; how much work he put into it [laughter].
MS. FEIGIN: Interesting.
MS. SHAPIRO: It was kind of interesting.
MS. FEIGIN: The other big thing that happened in law school – well maybe there were
others – but certainly we have to talk about your getting married.
MS. SHAPIRO: Yes. Howie is very private. In discussing these interviews, he said, “Do
you have to talk about me?” I told him I couldn’t just say I got married
– 82 –
Howie was on the Review. I didn’t know him in the first year
particularly. My buddy Barbara Levine was much more outgoing, socially
adept, than I was. Every once in a while we would run into Howie and she
would talk to him and I would kind of stand there with my thumb in my
mouth [laughter]. I often saw him having a large cookie at the local
Howie was born in 1926, so he’s two years older than I am. When
he got out of high school, he was in the Merchant Marine and then the
Army in Japan for the occupation. He was a clerk/typist there, and he
decided that the people who knew what was going on were the lawyers, so
he’d be a lawyer. He went to the University of Illinois on Navy Pier in
Chicago and foolishly decided that if he was going to go to law school he
should major in accounting. Howie is not an accountant [laughter]. He
should have majored in languages, but he struggled through accounting.
He waited tables to save the GI bill for law school. He went through
Columbia on the GI bill, and one of the reasons he gives for marrying me
was for his GI bill. When we got married, his GI bill went up by $35 a
month [laughter]. I had had scholarships pretty well through my earlier
education so I was still on the Nobel Prize money, so we did alright. We
couldn’t afford butter, and we had tea because coffee was too expensive,
but we were fine [laughter]. We didn’t go to plays or anything like that,
but we didn’t have time to anyway.
MS. FEIGIN: Where did married students live?
– 83 –
MS. SHAPIRO: There wasn’t any special place for married students. We lived in a fourth
floor walkup on Columbus Avenue around 106th Street. Howie and
Len Sims, who was also on Review, had been roommates in that
apartment as second-year students before we got married. It was an
Hispanic neighborhood. It was loud in the summer particularly, with lots
of beating on garbage can lids. Periodically you would hear yells from the
other apartments saying things like, “I’m gonna cut ya.” It was kind of
scary. Howie reported that once somebody drew a knife on him but he
was only about 7 years old, so Howie said, “Don’t be silly.” [Laughter].
It was a good walk from law school to the apartment.
We had a party in the apartment once. Everyone was working late,
and we just said let’s all go to our apartment and we’ll have a party. I
guess we bought liquor on the way, and Ernie, one of our third-year
colleagues who was a small man, passed out. One of the second-year
students, a big guy, carried Ernie all the way downstairs from the fourth
floor. Ernie said he woke up the next morning and he couldn’t figure out
why he had bruises all over his body [laughter].
Actually, the Law Review was the first time – well, maybe not, but
pretty much the first time that I ever really belonged to a group. We were
a group. We were a clan. I had about three or four friends in college, and
I guess we were kind of a group then. But on the Review, I really
belonged for the first time. When I was little, it was academics. I didn’t
have particularly close friends in elementary school or high school. But
– 84 –
boy, in law school, yes. And it was nice. It really was pleasant, even with
the second year note.
MS. FEIGIN: Is there anything else we should cover about those law school years?
MS. SHAPIRO: I can’t think of anything else. It certainly is true that we were a group.
When we came down here after law school, Howie was in the Justice
Department Honors program. That was one of the very early Honors
programs. The Justice Department didn’t usually take people straight out
of law school, but they had then a new program in which they took a few.
The deal was that the Honors program people would move around,
spending a few months in various sections or divisions. It was kind of an
intern program. Actually, Howie started in the Civil Division and stayed
there until years later he went to Antitrust. We came down to Washington
right after law school. A lot of the New Yorkers said, “What? You’re
leaving New York? Why are you leaving New York?” But we weren’t
I can also tell you a bit about the status of women in the law in my
time as distinct from earlier. It must have been in my first year that the
Women’s Bar Association of New York invited the women law students
to a tea. It was very interesting because the older women who had started
practice 20 or 25 years or so earlier when it really was unusual and tough
for women were pretty – I don’t want to say ruined, but they had had such
a tough time that they were kind of anti-men. You could tell that they had
been hurt by their experience, that it had been really unpleasant. The
– 85 –
women that started practice 10 or 15 years before us had a tough time but I
didn’t get the feeling from them that it had been so tough that they were –
well, I thought kind of deformed by the experience. I didn’t think that
about the women who started in the late1930s or 1940s. But for the
women in the 1920s and early 1930s, being a female and a lawyer was a
horrible experience apparently. This is what struck me just from that one
experience with them; that was my impression.
MS. FEIGIN: Did most of them get jobs as lawyers?
MS. SHAPIRO: Yes. The ones I met then did, because they were part of the Women’s Bar
Association. My aunt, who was my mother’s older sister – Mother
graduated from college around 1916, so I think Aunt Rachel must have
graduated in about 1912 or 1913 – took the bar exam three times, failed it
three times, and was totally convinced that it was because of sex
discrimination. I’m not convinced that it was, I’m not convinced that it
wasn’t. I’m not totally convinced that she would have passed the bar if
she had been a man. But she was convinced. Many of these women from
her era, the 1913s, the 1914s, the 1920s, were totally convinced that they
had been discriminated against, that life was unfair to them, that men were
unfair to them, that men were the enemy. By the mid-1930s, sure, it was
rough, but there was enough acceptance so that it was possible to succeed.
There was a t-shirt worn by a woman in the Justice Department gym that I
always liked. It said on the front, “To succeed, a woman has to be twice
as smart as a man” and on the back it said, “Fortunately that’s not hard”
– 86 –
[laughter], and that was kind of our attitude. Okay, so you hold me to a
higher standard? So what, I can do that. Which is very different from the
feeling that I’m never going to get a fair shake.
MS. FEIGIN: If there’s no more about law school, this is probably a good time to end,
and when we start our next session, we’ll start on your legal career.
MS. SHAPIRO: Okay.
MS. FEIGIN: Thank you so much.
MS. SHAPIRO: You are very welcome.
ORAL HISTORY OF HARRIET SHAPIRO