Supreme Court Decisions and Women's Rights: Milestones to Equality, Second Edition

By Swygart-Hobaugh, Amanda | Feminist Collections: A Quarterly of Women's Studies Resources, Spring 2011 | Go to article overview

Supreme Court Decisions and Women's Rights: Milestones to Equality, Second Edition


Swygart-Hobaugh, Amanda, Feminist Collections: A Quarterly of Women's Studies Resources


Clare Cushman, ed., SUPREME COURT DECISIONS AND WOMEN'S RIGHTS: MILESTONES TO EQUALITY, SECOND EDITION fwd. by Assoc. Justice Ruch Bader Ginsburg; spons. by Sup. Ct. Hist. Soc. Washington, DC: CQ Press/Sage, 2010. 351 p. bibl. index. $65.00, ISBN 978-1608714063; pap., $55.00, ISBN 978-1608714070.

At the 1848 Woman's Rights Convention, Elizabeth Cady Stanton said, "The 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." She then delineated the various laws of the day that propagated this tyranny. (1) This reference work enumerates the key U.S. Supreme Court decisions from the 1800s to the present that have eroded the legal instruments of tyranny over women.

This revised edition retains the organization and largely the same content as the original 2001 publication, to which various authors contributed; new content in this edition is provided solely by the editor, Clare Cushman. The work opens with a discussion of how the notion of "romantic paternalism," wherein women were viewed as inherently vulnerable and thus in need of protection, prescribed the unequal treatment of women in the legal arena. Throughout the remaining chapters on sex discrimination (in jury duty, the family, education, the armed forces, the workplace), sexual harassment, and reproductive rights, the presented Supreme Court decisions illustrate the slow chipping away of this paternalistic conception and consequent achievements of equality for women under the law. While the works title implies that "women's rights" is of primary concern, several cases elucidate how the legal codification of traditional gender role assumptions infringed on men's rights as well.

The topical groupings of cases fittingly illustrate the precedential process by which the Court, when making new case decisions, draws on past decisions from cases with similar circumstances. Likewise, the interspersed discussions of key legislation aptly reveal the reflexive relationship between judiciary actions and law: Chapter 7's presentation of the Courts applications of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Equal Pay Act of 1963, and the Courts role in the development of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, is particularly strong. The boxed inserts with illustrations derailing key individuals engagingly bring the abstract issues down to a personal level--for instance, the backstory of McCorvey, of Roe v. …

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