Book Reviews: Legal History and the Politics of Inclusion
Journal of Women's History, Vol. 26, No. 4, 2014
9 Pages Posted: 13 May 2015
Date Written: 2014
It was long acceptable to write legal history, even excellent legal history, without including women or gender. Legal historians rationalized that because women did not participate in the ostensibly most significant events of legal history — the drafting of the Constitution, canonical Supreme Court decisions, the passage of the Reconstruction Amendments, and the jurisprudence that created modern legal thought — they were irrelevant when writing “serious” legal history. While women might play a role in a social history of the law or in discussions of domestic relations law, on the whole, women and gender stood at the periphery of legal history. There is a temporal lag, moreover, between the fields of women’s history and legal history. What appears new in legal history, for example examining the intertwined nature of race, class, and gender, is already well accepted in gender and women’s history. Much of this is changing, however, as legal historians make conscious efforts to rethink what constitutes legal history and its actors. This review considers four very different books that explore how gender and race have structured law and the legal profession. Each interrogates the legitimacy of law by demonstrating how it has produced multiple injustices, thereby challenging the myth that law is about equity or fairness, and that the Constitution and the Bill of Rights produced a set of inalienable rights and liberties that applied to all.
Keywords: women, gender, legal history, women's history, inclusion
JEL Classification: K10, K19, K30, K39
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation