- Fairly Equal: Lawyering the Feminist Revolution by Linda Silver Dranoff
I hope that every woman reading this book understands the importance of working together with other women in sisterhood.—Linda Silver Dranoff, Fairly Equal1
This book, the eighth in the Feminist History series, provides a great read for anyone interested in the history of the women's movement, feminist lawyering, and feminist struggles for meaningful law reform in fields such as family law, pension credits, pay and employment equity, sexual harassment, and violence against women. It provides both a memoir of the struggles and successes of a feminist lawyer who started law school in 1969 when women were a tiny minority and an account of the hard work that was done to make changes to law that many now take for granted. The author also offers thoughts for further work that must be undertaken to sustain the feminist revolution and make further necessary changes.
Linda Silver Dranoff, a third-generation Canadian (both sets of her grandparents emigrated to Toronto in 1907 after fleeing Poland's anti-Semitic pogroms), went to university about fourteen years before I did and entered law school five years earlier than I did. She encountered more overt discrimination in both realms than I recall. Much of what she has written in Fairly Equal resonated for me nevertheless, partly because I lived and worked through many of the events and initiatives that she describes. She was the first girl in her family to attend university, and she did not come from a privileged family background. As she points out, it was then financially feasible to attend university by working part-time and summer jobs. Even as an undergraduate student, Linda noticed and protested discriminatory practices based only on sex. For instance, she challenged the exclusion of women from a debate between John F. Kennedy and Stephen Lewis at Hart House at the [End Page 190] University of Toronto. (Disappointingly, Kennedy himself was quoted as saying: "I personally rather approve of keeping women out of these places").2
Later, at Osgoode Hall Law School in 1969, as a single mother (after marrying and divorcing during the 1960s), Linda found herself one of only fourteen women in an entry class of 300 and the only one with a child. Despite the lack of an organized women's group at the law school or any women law professors, her consciousness of women and the law grew. She was inspired by the Royal Commission on the Status of Women report (1970)3 to write a research paper (subsequently published) on women in the legal profession in Toronto and identified numerous inequalities. Once her post-law school life began, she experienced some of these herself. Although interviewed by several major Toronto law firms, none offered her an articling position. It seems that some senior lawyers at some firms had vetoed the hiring of female lawyers. The intervention of Dean Harry Arthurs was required before she landed an articling job. Unfortunately, articling taught her not only about the practice of law but also that "[t]he fact that I was a woman mattered, and not in a positive sense."4 The book offers concrete examples of the overt discrimination that Linda experienced in legal practice, some of which will resonate today for anyone who differs from the norm and enters the practice of law.5
Reminding us of the world before the Internet and social media, it took some time for Linda to become aware of the women's movement that was burgeoning during her law school and early practice days. Nevertheless, she discovered Toronto's Women's Place, a consciousness-raising group, during her last year of law school, and she attended and spoke at the very first Conference of Women and the Law in 1974. The National Association of Women and the Law was born at the end of that conference. During the 1970s, the first all-women law firms were started. Linda practised alone, sharing space with two male lawyers. As a single mother, she relied on the help...