The Women’s Movement: 150 Years and Counting
One hundred and fifty years ago, in 1848, the Suffragettes held their first official meeting: the Seneca Falls Conference in Seneca Falls, New York.
United in their task, they proclaimed that “[t]he history of mankind is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations on the part of man toward woman, having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over her. ” They set forth the facts supporting their Declaration of Sentiments, some of which, thankfully, no longer ring true (“He has denied her the facilities for obtaining a thorough education, all colleges being closed against her”). Others remain as true today as they ever were (“He has monopolized nearly all the profitable employments, and from those she is permitted to follow, she receives but a scanty remuneration. He closes against her all the avenues of wealth and distinction which he considers most honorable to himself. As a teacher of theology, medicine, or law, she is not known. ”).
Next, they made certain Resolutions, including my favorite: “[r]esolved, that the speedy success of our cause depends on the zealous and untiring efforts of both men and women, for the overthrow of the monopoly of the pulpit, and for the securing to women an equal participation with men in the various trades, professions, and commerce.”
Take a moment and think about the courage that these women mustered to speak out against inequality in our society. Think about their fathers, brothers, and husbands, and how these brave women had to navigate those relationships in order to claim equal standing in the world. Our modern day problems pale in comparison, don’t they?
Now, take a moment to think about the fact that these women had male allies standing with them. They were joined by men who also believed in the principle that “all men (and women) were created equal.” Most notably among their compatriots was Frederick Douglas. Humbling, isn’t it?
In this 150th anniversary year, let us celebrate the progress that has been made, and let us acknowledge the challenges we still face: as women, as women trial lawyers, as mothers, sisters, and spouses. Let us appreciate the men among us who understand our struggle, and who are not threatened by our success. Mostly, let us be grateful for the fearlessness of the Suffragettes, and for the personal sacrifices they made for each and every one of us.
Today, four of AAJ’s six Executive Officers are women. While women comprise 16% of AAJ’s membership, we hold 22% of AAJ’s Board of Governors’ seats, and regularly top 25% of Convention attendees and more than 30% of AAJ Presidential appointments. We work hard. We are fierce advocates for our clients. We are the most trusted voice in the courtroom and are increasingly found in judgeships, political office, and other positions of power. Times have indeed changed.
The Women Trial Lawyers Caucus (WTLC) is steadily increasing our numbers, visibility, and influence within AAJ. Here are some ways that you can get more involved:
- Apply to speak at an AAJ Education program or submit an article to Trial magazine. We all have expertise to share and AAJ is truly dedicated to providing women opportunities to shine. If you don’t know where to start, contact one of the WTLC Education Co-Chairs, Esther Berezofsky, Ellen Presby, and Betsy Greene.
- Join the WTLC Listserv. All women AAJ members are automatically enrolled in the WTLC. However, you must “opt in” to the WTLC listserv. Have you? If not, you can sign up at www.justice.org/ under “Professional Resources.”
- Attend the Winter Convention in New Orleans in February 2014 and the Annual Convention in Baltimore in July 2014. The WTLC hosts a reception on the Friday night preceding Convention, so come early! Other WTLC events during Convention include the WTLC Membership Meeting and the WTLC Brunch.
- Attend the Women’s Leadership Summit in Baltimore on July 25, 2014. You’ll gain valuable insights on how to be the best trial lawyer you can be, and how you can lead in your community, in your law firm, and in your profession.
- Help the WTLC raise funds for pro-civil justice candidates. AAJ has a strong record of supporting winning candidates, and taking back the House is a real possibility in 2014. The WTLC plays an integral role every campaign cycle, and this one will be no different. To help shape the next Congress, contact one of the WTLC Fundraising Co-Chairs, Jennifer Moore, Victoria Schall, and Rebecca Langston.
- Become politically active. Our Political Outreach Committee helps WTLC members build and maintain relationships with lawmakers. These relationships are key to promoting pro-civil justice legislation and combating so-called “tort reform” measures. Contact Co-Chairs Tiffany Ellis, Lauren Barnes, and Genevieve Zimmerman to get started.
- Become a mentor/mentee. The WTLC Mentor program is a great way to get to know another woman trial lawyer. She may be in a different city, or even have a different specialty, but these personal relationships are vital to professional success. Contact Co-Chairs Erin Dickinson, Katie Hubbard, and Ingrid Heide if you’re interested.
We women have been sticking together for 150 years, and we’re going to keep on picking each other up, pushing each other along, and watching out for each other. In the spirit of our Suffragette sisters, if I can be of any service to you, please do not hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Chair, Women Trial Lawyers Caucus