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Sisters in Law

Monday, December 27, 2021 1:39 PM | Kate Stuart (Administrator)

Recently, I read Sisters in Law: How Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg Went to the Supreme Court and Changed the World by Linda Hirshman.

Hirshman did a nice job fleshing out the women’s rights movement as a backdrop for O’Connor’s and Ginsberg’s experiences and tying that context to their opinions and their work at the Supreme Court.

Hirshman covers O’Connor and Ginsberg from their early lives and education through their time on the Supreme Court particularly in the context of the work they did individually and together on the Court. Of course, O’Connor and Ginsberg were not very much alike. O’Connor grew up on a ranch in the West; Ginsberg grew up in a city on the East Coast. O’Connor was conservative; Ginsberg was liberal. O’Connor spent years working in the Arizona legislature, hardly “practicing” law at all. Ginsberg worked in academia and practiced law at the ACLU.

What I loved most about this book was the way that, though Hirshman was obviously a bigger fan of Ginsberg, she understood and showed that O’Connor’s appointment to the Supreme Court was just as beneficial to women. Hirshman discussed the ways in which O’Connor helped women’s rights just by being a voice at the table. The primary purpose of the book was to show the ways in which Ginsberg and O’Connor were essential to the progress of women’s rights, and equality in general, during their time on the Court.

If you’re a fan of Ginsberg, there wasn’t a whole lot of new material here. If you’re a fan of O’Connor, this book might be something of a disappointment. Hirshman obviously struggled with O’Connor’s legacy. But I would say, it’s still worth reading such an insightful and illuminating discourse on the legacy of the first two women on the Supreme Court.


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