Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The History of Women at Fordham Law

I was explaining yesterday that the reason we are causing all this trouble is that we love Fordham Law School and want it to be a great place for women in every way. This reminded me of Dean Martin's introductory speech at V-day last year. After he spoke I told him we should put it on the website. He handed me his notes. Now that we're bloggin', here's some history you should know:

Thank you for inviting me to speak before tonight's performance of The Vagina Monologues. This dramatic work is an important part of the larger V-Day movement, and we at Fordham Law are proud of the initiatives of the Fordham Law Women, Fordham OUTLaws, Law Students for Reproductive Justice, and other student groups that are helping stop violence against women and girls.

I wanted to say a few brief words about the history of women at Fordham Law and acknowledge some of the courageous, pathbreaking individuals who have helped create and nurture a tradition of inclusion and diversity here at the Law School.

On September 22, 1918, Fordham Law School placed an unprecedented advertisement in the New York Times. "Courses Open to Women," the ad stated. Three years later, three women graduated from Fordham Law. Their names were Patricia O'Connell, Mildred O'Connor, and Ella Ralston. Ralston graduated with the highest standing in her section and was the first Fordham Law woman to pass the New York State Bar.

In 1924, Ruth Whitehead Whaley became the first African-American woman to graduate from Fordham Law and the first African-American woman to be admitted to the New York bar.

Ten years later, Mildred Fischer served as editor-in-chief of the Fordham Law Review—the first woman to do so.

Lucille Buell, Class of 1947, graduated first in her class and became the first Fordham Law woman to break into the high-powered Wall Street ranks when she was hired by Hughes, Hubbard & Reed. Twenty-five years later, Buell would return to Fordham Law to become one of the first full-time women faculty members. Her colleague, Sheila Birnbaum, was the first woman to gain tenure at the Law School.

It is clear that the history of women at Fordham Law is a history of fortitude and excellence. And this success will endure, as future women graduates continue to look up to alumni like Geraldine Ferraro, the country's first female Vice Presidential candidate, and Judge Loretta Preska, Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York.

My thanks again to all the hardworking student groups that have contributed their time and talents to the V-Day movement. Their fundraising efforts for the V-Day 2011 campaign, as well as charities such as Safe Horizon, have been phenomenal.

I hope you all enjoy tonight's performance.

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