Women in the Shadows of the Supreme Court
Published by: NYU Press
304 pages, 6.00 x 9.00 in, 15 black and white images
- ISBN: 9781479895915
- Published: May 2020
The inspiring and previously untold history of the women considered—but not selected—for the US Supreme Court
In 1981, Sandra Day O’Connor became the first female justice on the United States Supreme Court after centuries of male appointments, a watershed moment in the long struggle for gender equality. Yet few know about the remarkable women considered in the decades before her triumph.
Shortlisted tells the overlooked stories of nine extraordinary women—a cohort large enough to seat the entire Supreme Court—who appeared on presidential lists dating back to the 1930s. Florence Allen, the first female judge on the highest court in Ohio, was named repeatedly in those early years. Eight more followed, including Amalya Kearse, a federal appellate judge who was the first African American woman viewed as a potential Supreme Court nominee. Award-winning scholars Renee Knake Jefferson and Hannah Brenner Johnson cleverly weave together long-forgotten materials from presidential libraries and private archives to reveal the professional and personal lives of these accomplished women.
In addition to filling a notable historical gap, the book exposes the tragedy of the shortlist. Listing and bypassing qualified female candidates creates a false appearance of diversity that preserves the status quo, a fate all too familiar for women, especially minorities. Shortlisted offers a roadmap to combat enduring bias and discrimination. It is a must-read for those seeking positions of power as well as for the powerful who select them in the legal profession and beyond.
"Stunningly original in its focus and its careful research, Shortlisted is beautifully written and an important addition to the literature about the Supreme Court, the process of nominating justices, and the role of gender in American law." ~Erwin Chemerinsky, Dean and Jesse H. Choper Distinguished Professor of Law, University of California, Berkeley School of Law
"Masterfully tells the story of the women who were considered for nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court. It is a must read." ~Carla Pratt, Dean of Washburn University School of Law and former Associate Justice for the Supreme Court of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, North Dakota
"Shortlisted is remarkable not only for what it tells us about the women who made the presidential shortlists of potential Supreme Court nominees but for what it tells us about how our nation then and now continues to struggle with understanding equality. May the stories of these extraordinary women and the demonstrated leadership of the women who have made it to the pinnacle of the legal profession through service on our highest court drive us each to realize the great potential of our country that still awaits us." ~Judy Perry Martinez, American Bar Association President
"This is a major contribution to the story of women lawyers. The authors study women whose trajectories were never before systematically examined - women shortlisted for the Supreme Court. What they describe is all the more remarkable because it involves remarkable women – portraying women in gendered and unfavorable ways; emphasizing diversity by putting women on shortlists, but not selecting them; saving a seat for certain groups but not for women. It sounds so familiar in other contexts, but it is shocking in this one. The message is clear and troubling: If women who are the elite of the profession can be treated shabbily, we have much more to do." ~Hon. Nancy Gertner, U.S.D.Ct. Judge (Ret.)
"This fascinating book reconstructs a chapter of women's history that has been hiding in plain sight: the numerous qualified women whose names were floated for the Supreme Court but who never got there. Just as they were overlooked, so have their individual stories been—until now." ~Linda Greenhouse, New York Times contributing columnist
"Piecing together their personal papers and archives, as well as relevant news coverage, Johnson and Jefferson introduce readers to the ambitious women who built influential legal careers and advanced a female presence in the federal courts, especially the Supreme Court...The authors compellingly argue that representation of diverse women in leadership positions is in everybody’s best interest. An excellent contribution...and essential for anyone who values diversity." ~Library Journal
"[Shortlisted] tells the political and personal sagas of women publicly considered for appointment to the Supreme Court but never actually nominated by a president... With fresh research, the authors effectively humanize the women who never received the nominations they deserved." ~Kirkus Reviews