Thursday, July 9, 2020

Risinger on Law Librarians as Pioneer Woman Law Professors

D. Michael Risinger, Seton Hall University School of Law, has posted Female Law Librarians as Pioneer Women Law Professors: A (Belated) Response to Dean Kay, with Some Suggested Additions to Her Canonical List:
The late Herma Hill Kay was the preeminent cataloguer of the pioneer women law professors of the modern era, that is, those who taught after the advent of formalized quality recognition of law schools, either through membership in the Association of American Law Schools (which began in 1900) or through American Bar Association accreditation (which began in 1923). Dean Kay excluded from her list female law librarians who held titles of ordinary faculty professorial rank, apparently because, form her point of view, they were not recognized as “full-fledged” faculty members. In my view this was a questionable omission. The very fact that they were granted professorial rank, at a time when such status was rare for law librarians and even rarer for female law librarians, cuts strongly in favor of adding them to any list of pioneer women law faculty, and to that end the article identifies those librarians who carried professorial rank at ABA/AALS law schools from 1923 through 1959 for inclusion on the list of pioneer woman law professors.

But first, the article address a broader methodological point concerning Dean Kay’s list. Dean Kay sought to include in her list of female pioneer law professors only those who would have been fully recognized as members of the legal academy, even by the dominant males of the academy. Under this stringent standard, she counted only female faculty members at schools that were both ABA-accredited and admitted to membership in the Association of American Law Schools (AALS). I have no quibble with a restrictive approach, directed as it is to an important question of the status of women in the legal academy. However, accepting Dean Kay’s time frame, which is anchored to the beginning of ABA accreditation in 1923, I believe it was a mistake to exclude female full-time faculty with professorial rank at ABA-accredited law schools which were not members of the AALS. There were not many of these—the article only identifies three. But these three should be on any list of pioneer woman law professors.
--Dan Ernst

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