Without Precedent: The Life of Susie Marshall Sharp

By Anna R. Hayes | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 4
FALSE START

Jim Sharp wasted no time in ordering new “Sharp & Sharp” letterhead and adding “Miss Susie Sharp” to his standard ad in the newspaper. Miss Sharp was ensconced in her own office in one of the law firm's three rooms on the second floor of the Whitsett Building in downtown Reidsville.1

Her father intended for her to become his equal in the law practice. Despite his determined equanimity, however, such an attitude toward women in the workplace was by any measure exceptional. For example, less than a month later the news that the vice president of the United States was going to have a “girl secretary” made the front page of the Reidsville Review, complete with a picture of the trailblazer, one Miss Lola Williams.2 At the time, even the secretaries of important persons were male, as of course were nearly all important persons. In the United States, the percentage of lawyers who were women nearly doubled between 1910 and 1930, the year after Susie Sharp first entered practice, but this remarkable increase merely brought the figure from 1.1 to 2.1 percent.3 The numbers were even lower in North Carolina, where women in the legal profession were virtually invisible.

Great fanfare therefore greeted the announcement that a young woman would be practicing law in Reidsville, North Carolina. Newspapers across the state carried reports, most accompanied by photographs. It was not the first such arrangement in North Carolina, following as it did the earlier partnership of UNC law school alumna Kathrine Everett and her father in 1921, but it was sufficiently novel that even the UNC campus newspaper initially reported that Sharp & Sharp was the first of its kind and then was compelled to issue a correction.4 For the rest of her life Susie Sharp would be the subject (or victim, she might have said) of countless newspaper articles and photographs, and her experience with the press would be repeated over and over again: flattering attention, inaccurate information, and objectionable photos.

-55-

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Without Precedent: The Life of Susie Marshall Sharp
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents ix
  • Illustrations xi
  • Preface xiii
  • Introduction 1
  • Part1 5
  • Chapter 1 - Family 7
  • Chapter 2 - Formative Years 20
  • Part II - Pursuit of the Law 33
  • Chapter 3 - University of North Carolina School of Law 35
  • Chapter 4 - False Start 55
  • Chapter 5 - Sharp & Sharp 80
  • Chapter 6 - Politics and Public Life 99
  • Part III - Superior Court (1949–1962) 127
  • Chapter 7 - Appointment to Superior Court 129
  • Chapter 8 - Judge Sharp, Presiding 146
  • Chapter 9 - Ambition 167
  • Chapter 10 - Theory and Practice 184
  • Chapter 11 - The Road to the Supreme Court 209
  • Part IV - North Carolina 247
  • Chapter 12 - Taking the Veil 249
  • Chapter 13 - Opinions 274
  • Chapter 14 - Federal Job Proposals 298
  • Chapter 15 - Out of Court 319
  • Chapter 16 - Chief Justice Election 336
  • Chapter 17 - Chief Justice 367
  • Chapter 18 - Equal Rights Amendment 389
  • Chapter 19 - Stepping off the Stage 406
  • Epilogue 431
  • A Note on Sources 439
  • Notes 441
  • Selected Bibliography 521
  • Acknowledgments 531
  • Index 533
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