45 Pages Posted: 13 Oct 2016 Last revised: 18 Aug 2017
Date Written: April 1, 2017
Mildred Lillie fortunately had no children, as the New York Times noted in 1971, and even in her fifties, maintained “a bathing beauty figure.” Lillie was not, however, a swimsuit model. She was one of President Nixon’s possible nominees to the United States Supreme Court. Shortlisted tells the stories of nearly a dozen extraordinary women considered for the Court, but ultimately not nominated, before Justice Sandra Day O’Connor became the first in 1981. The public nature of the nomination process enables us to analyze the scrutiny of these women by the profession and media, and analogize to those similarly not selected, elected, or appointed to political office, corporate governance, the judiciary, law firm partnership, and other positions of power. We find that the stories of those women who did not attain these various power roles are as compelling as those who did. Our work builds upon and transcends previous scholarly work on the theory of the “leaking pipeline” — i.e. that women enter the profession in numbers equal to men but do not advance — and dispels the persistent myth that there is a dearth of sufficiently qualified women. The framework for this project, exploring decades of women shortlisted to the Court pre-O’Connor from Presidents Roosevelt to Reagan, allows gender bias to be viewed in a vibrant historical context and illuminates ideas for future advancement of women in law and beyond. Shortlisted explores the gendered experiences of this elite group of women — both professional and personal — and situates their stories within the context of gender, judging, and the legal profession. This project is one of first impression. We are the first scholars to identify and assess these women together in light of their shared experience of being shortlisted. Their individual and collective stories have largely gone untold. Until now.
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