Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Babcock, Woman Lawyer: The Trials of Clara Foltz

Barbara Babcock's long awaited book, Woman Lawyer: The Trials of Clara Foltz has just been published by Stanford University Press.  A must read for anyone interested in women and the law, and the history of the legal profession.  Here's the book description:
Woman Lawyer tells the story of Clara Foltz, the first woman admitted to the California Bar. Famous in her time as a public intellectual, leader of the women's movement, and legal reformer, Foltz faced terrific prejudice and well-organized opposition to women lawyers as she tried cases in front of all-male juries, raised five children as a single mother, and stumped for political candidates. She was the first to propose the creation of a public defender to balance the public prosecutor. Woman Lawyer uncovers the legal reforms and societal contributions of a woman celebrated in her day, but lost to history until now. It casts new light on the turbulent history and politics of California in a period of phenomenal growth and highlights the interconnection of the suffragists and other movements for civil rights and legal reforms.
And the blurbs:

"Barbara Babcock is one of our leading legal historians. Woman Lawyer gives voice to Clara Foltz's long and fascinating life, making vivid her important contributions as a reformer, 'first' woman lawyer, and legal thinker. It will establish itself as a classic in legal studies, women's studies, and American biography."—Jill Norgren, City University of New York

"Beautifully written and meticulously researched, Woman Lawyer provides a riveting portrait of a remarkable woman and her journey as a mother of five to becoming one of the first women lawyers in United States. Yet even more memorable is this book's evocation of another frontier: California on the brink of its modern identity, forged in the middle of an economic challenge and intense racial and class conflict. Unflinching in its assessment of the temptations of demagoguery to the pioneering Clara Foltz, Barbara Babcock has produced a compelling book of enormous and enduring insight into how even gifted and visionary individuals navigate, shape, and reflect political and social contests."—Martha Minow, Dean of Harvard Law School

"Barbara Babcock's wonderful book only reinforces my view that being a public defender has been the most rewarding part of my professional career. Clara Foltz is my hero, and this book chronicles the challenges and achievements of perhaps the greatest public defender ever." —Charles Ogletree, Harvard Law School

"In her engrossing new book, Woman Lawyer: The Trials of Clara Foltz, Barbara Babcock acknowledges that, for her, full detachment from her courageous, charismatic subject—California's first woman lawyer—is not possible. In fact, full detachment from Clara Foltz is not possible for any of her 'daughters in the law,' and beyond the law. Foltz's struggles to gain a foothold in several all-male worlds, powerfully told, connect to so many of us, across the nation and across the centuries."—Judith S. Kaye, Chief Judge of the State of New York

"Barbara Babcock conjures and brings to life a nearly-forgotten feminist hero. This account of Clara Foltz's rise from an under-educated farmer's wife to an icon of the California women's movement and a national public intellectual is both riveting and strangely familiar. That a single mother of five could have exploded into the hurly-burly world of California in the 1870s and—through mastery of the media, manipulation of her public image, and dogged hard work—become a national force for early progressive jurisprudence is astonishing. That women in 2011 could have no collective memory of Foltz is tragic. Babcock brings Foltz back to us with great tenderness and subtlety, reclaiming a place in American legal history for a working mother and national thinker who has much to teach us still."—Dahlia Lithwick, Senior Editor, Slate
Read the Preface here, and the Introduction here.  And the book has a great Facebook page!  See also Babcock's Women's Legal History website, a terrific resource.