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Women in the Law

Stories in Need of Revision: O’Connor’s First Job Offer, Women Triumphing Over Bias

Posted Mar 5, 2008 2:18 PM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Legal journalist Jan Crawford Greenburg of ABC News recalls a conversation with Justice Sandra Day O’Connor in a blog column about how far women have come—and the biases they still face.

Today many women have an abundance of choices. They can have children, and they can decide to work or to stay home, if their financial situation allows it. They don’t have to choose work over kids like many in the older generation, and they have real opportunities in the working world. The situation was different when Sandra Day O’Connor graduated near the top of her class at Stanford Law School.

There is an oft-recited story that says the only job O’Connor could get was an offer to work as a law firm secretary. The story is not exactly correct, O’Connor once told Greenburg in a private conversation.

O’Connor didn’t get the offer for a secretary job because she refused to take a typing test as required by the law firm. Instead, O’Connor volunteered to work for free in a local prosecutor’s office and got her start there. When she had children, she stayed home from work for a while.

Greenburg concludes that women have come a long way, but not far enough. She wonders why there is so much bashing of Hillary Clinton, and why more feminists don’t object to it. “Commentators have repeatedly underestimated Clinton and written her off as dated and tired and shrill. But for huge groups of women, that stuff isn’t so funny or easily dismissed,” Greenburg writes. “It’s too familiar.”

A hat tip to How Appealing, which posted the column.

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