Georgetown Law’s memorial notice for Anne Fleming, with remembrances from faculty, students and staff, is now online. (A few other faculty members and students had earlier shared their memories on social media, including here and here.) I’d like to provide some context for my quote in the notice, a sentiment I stammered out during an online convening of the Georgetown law faculty on Thursday.
I have attended quite a few panels at quite a few annual meetings of the American Society for Legal History, but I can remember only two in which I teared up. One was “The Surprising Effects of Sympathy,” a memorial discussion of the work of Elizabeth B. Clark at the 1998 meeting in Seattle. The other was a Kathryn T. Preyer Award panel in November 2011. Named for a great mentor of legal historians, the Preyer Award is an annual prize contest for graduate students. That year Mary Bilder chaired, with comments by two senior legal historians whose work I had admired since my own early days in the field, William Wiecek and Charles McCurdy. I remember Chuck McCurdy’s comment in particular. As Karen reported in a post, Chuck said, “Kitty would have loved these papers,” explained why, and concluded that, with new entrants like these, the field of legal history was certain to thrive for years to come. A similar thought had occurred to me as I listened to the papers, and to hear Chuck articulate it, connecting a departed generation represented by Kitty Preyer through him and Bill Wiecek to an entering generation, was very moving. Two of the award winners that year were Kevin Arlyck and Michael Schoeppner. The third was Anne Fleming, for “The Borrower's Tale: A History of Poor Debtors in Lochner Era New York City,” which she subsequently published in Law and History Review and as a chapter in City of Debtors.
In the brief time Anne Fleming wrote legal history, she more than delivered on the promise that was so evident in 2011. As I told my Georgetown colleagues, she was the kind of person who, when you looked around and realized she was engaged in the same enterprise you were, made you think the activity must be worthwhile if someone that good was also committed to it. Now when legal historians look around and realize Anne’s not there, we’ll feel diminished by her absence but also grateful for all she did when she was with us.