U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg told 700 Harvard Law School alumnae on Saturday that it has been "grand" to watch the downfall of barriers against women in the legal profession.
The Justice made her remarks after her daughter, Columbia law professor Jane C. Ginsburg, presented her with an award for "serving as a model for generations of Harvard Law students."
The Ginsburgs are the first mother-and-daughter pair to have attended the Law School.
Seemingly overwhelmed by emotion, and trying to fight back tears, the elder Ginsburg said, "An award from one's child, as all parents here know, is something truly to cherish."
The honor was given as part of "Celebration 40," a series of events this weekend marking the 40th anniversary of women graduates at the Law School.
U.S. Rep. Patricia S. Schroeder (D-Col.), U.S. District Court Judge Kimba Wood and Massachusetts Supreme Court Judge Ruth Abrams were among the luminaries involved in the weekend's proceedings.
Schroeder, whose keynote speech Saturday evening was entitled "When a Woman President?" was also given a "Celebration 40" award.
Ginsburg recalled her days at the Law School, when she was one of only nine women in a class of more than 400. In remarks to reporters after the speech, she said that at the time she felt there existed a lingering hostility toward women.
As one of the very few people representing hergender, she said she felt that her every move wasbeing watched. "Those days are truly over," shesaid.
Ginsburg entered the Law School in 1956, sixyears after women were first admitted. She spenttwo years there before transferring to Columbia,where she graduated in 1959.
She said when then Law School Dean ErwinGriswold first announced that "qualified women"would be admitted to the school, several students,citing the virtues of "tradition," called hisdecision "hasty."
Today, however, "women in the legal professionare establishing new traditions by their actionsand their numbers afford assurance against areturn to old ways," Ginsburg said. "The days ofthe token, one-at-a-time woman are indeed over."
Ginsburg said not a single New York City firmwould hire her when she graduated from law school.
"I struck out on three grounds," she said. "Iwas Jewish, a woman, and a mother. The firstraised one eyebrow; the second, two; the thirdmade me indubitably inadmissible."
As proof that the profession has changed, shedescribed a telling incident from her currentworkplace.
"Just last week, the Supreme Court completed anotable renovation of the robing room," she said."Looking to the future, the Court installed forthe first time a women's restroom, equal in sizeto the men's.
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