RIP: Janet Mary Riley, Crusading Women’s Rights Lawyer
Posted Jul 8, 2008 12:10 PM CST
By Molly McDonough
A longtime Loyola University New Orleans School of Law professor who is credited with making Louisiana women equal partners in their marriages died Saturday. Janet Mary Riley was 92.
A Loyola law librarian-turned-law student, Riley was Loyola Law's first female professor, and she took the job in part because she was having trouble getting a law firm to hire her, the Associated Press reports.
Until the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1971 that the Constitution banned certain types of sex-based discrimination, Louisiana's community property law made the husband "head and master of the community" and thus granted him total control of his wife's assets.
But after the high court's ruling, Riley headed a task force to change the state law. The committee she headed disbanded, but a state senator picked up the torch using Riley's proposed "equal management" approach. The Louisiana Legislature adopted the model in 1979.