“Pinstripes & Pearls” by Judith Richards Hope

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From the Powell’s Page:

To illustrate the challenges facing women of her generation, author Judith Richards Hope describes the lives and careers of a handful of barrier-breaking women, including herself, from Harvard Law School’s pivotal class of 1964, who fought and overcame preconceptions and prejudices against their entering what, at the time, was a male vocation. Despite their struggles in law school and in the workplace, they maintained their ambition and ultimately achieved remarkable success. They look back on law school as a time of enormous personal and intellectual growth.

In 1961, before modern civil rights legislation and women’s liberation, women were generally regarded as undesirable candidates for law studies. Most law firms believed that women couldn’t keep up the pace, that they couldn’t avoid emotional outbursts, and that their place was in the home. Nonetheless, 48 women applied to Harvard Law that year, 22 were accepted, and 15 graduated in a class of 513. The rigorous training at Harvard Law taught these women to survive and to thrive in one of the toughest, most competitive professions in the country. It took grit, confidence, resourcefulness, thick skins, and a certain irreverence for them to succeed. These qualities propelled Judith Richards Hope and her classmates into some of the most prominent careers of their generation, yet they did not sacrifice their more traditional female roles. Their achievements have helped pave the way for women of subsequent generations.

Pinstripes & Pearls illuminates the extraordinary trajectories of these women : among them Pat Schroeder, Judith W. Rogers, and Hope herself : who forged an old-girl network and became lifelong friends. Through compelling and often witty anecdotes, unprecedented archival research of Harvard records, and revealing testaments to the difficulties faced by women harboring serious career goals, Pinstripes & Pearls personifies in these women the emergence of a new type of American female, one whose “goal is to reach the destination, not just to avoid humiliation on the way.”

Read a review here at Ms. JD.

Joanna Grossman reviews it here.

–Ann Bartow

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0 Responses to “Pinstripes & Pearls” by Judith Richards Hope

  1. hysperia says:

    Yeah but … yeah but …. Pinstripes and PEARLS?! I admit that I was 12 years later than these women in entering the profession and I can’t identify with pearls in any way (as a result?) but surely the pearls weren’t what differentiated these women from their male confreres. I’m so glad this book has been written but I mourn that the signifier couldn’t have been different and less … what? I can’t think of a word for it.

  2. Ann Bartow says:

    I agree, but it is nicely alliterative, and for many women wearing pearls is a signifier of womanhood, I think. Many Supposedly Liberal Doods like to use the expression “pearl clutching” when someone, usually a man, is showing fear, as a way to accuse them of acting like a sissy girl. I was happy to just miss the era of floppy bows, which professional women wore with suits as a tie equivalent.