Columbia Law Womens Association Honors Columbia University General Counsel Jane Booth '76
New York, April 29, 2015—Columbia University General Counsel Jane Booth ’76 was a manager at New York Telephone when she declined to join a Title VII gender-discrimination lawsuit against the company in 1971.
|Columbia University General Counsel Jane Booth '76, honoree of this year's Columbia Law Women's Association's (CLWA) Myra Bradwell award dinner.|
“I felt that I had accepted the position at a certain salary and title and that managers, even low-level managers, do not sue their employers,” Booth recalled at the Columbia Law Women’s Association annual Myra Bradwell dinner, where she was the honoree.
She changed her mind a few weeks later at a company assessment program.
“At the exit interview the center director told me I had received the highest score ever given to a participant,” she said. “After praising my performance he added that it was a shame I wasn’t a male because with those scores, a male could go to the top.”
Booth joined the lawsuit the next day.
|Myra Bradwell fought to be admitted|
to the Illinois state bar.
Booth’s choice to become a plaintiff in the case came almost a century after another pioneering woman made a similar decision. Myra Bradwell was the first woman lawyer in Illinois. After being denied admission to the Illinois bar because she was a married woman, she appealed her case to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1873. While the high court upheld the ruling, Bradwell was eventually admitted to the bar. For 35 years, the Columbia Law Women’s Association has been granting an annual award in her honor.
“Myra Bradwell would be very glad to know that Jane Booth is being honored in her name,” said Susan Rieger ’76, a former Columbia University associate provost and Booth’s longtime friend, in her introduction at the April 16 dinner.
It was Booth’s experience in the gender discrimination suit that prompted her decision to go to law school. She was especially inspired by Harriet Rabb ’66, who represented the New York Telephone plaintiffs through a Columbia Law School clinic. Rabb became the Law School’s first woman dean in 1972 when she was appointed assistant dean for urban affairs. Booth studied with Rabb, as well as with Ruth Bader Ginsburg ’59, now a U.S. Supreme Court justice, in whose class Booth first encountered the story of Myra Bradwell.
|Booth's longtime friend Susan Reiger '76, a former Columbia University associate provost,|
introduces Booth, left; and guests dine in the university's elegant Low Library.
“The casebook…wisely cautioned that a century after Bradwell, equality and opportunity for women in the legal profession remain unfinished business,” said Booth. “That caution has been repeated in every edition of the casebook, including the recent 7th edition.”
Continued battles against gender discrimination are foremost in the mind of Kelly Finn ’16, who, along with Grace Davis ’16, chaired the Myra Bradwell dinner.
|CLWA Co-Presidents MK Han '16 and Allison Heimann '16, left, and Myra Bradwell Dinner|
organizers Kelly Finn '16 and Grace Davis '16 address guests.
“Large law firms still have disproportionately low rates for women becoming partners and staying in a firm for the duration of their careers,” Finn said after the dinner. “It was very fulfilling to devote so much time and energy to an event that recognizes the progress that has been made since Myra Bradwell became the first female admitted to the bar, but also recognizes that we have not yet achieved gender equality in the legal profession.”
Booth said she is grateful to have attended Columbia Law School and for the network of friends she made there that has lasted throughout her career. She joined Columbia University as associate general counsel in 2002 and became general counsel in 2009. Prior to that, she served as chief of the civil division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Southern District of New York, and headed the civil appellate unit of the Legal Aid Society.
|Columbia Journal of Gender and Law Editor-in-Chief Shannon Cleary '15 addresses the audience, left, and Madeline Gomez '15 enjoys being the Myra Bradwell Note Winner for her writing in the Journal.|
Also at the dinner, Madeline Gomez ’15 was named the Myra Bradwell Note Winner for her piece in the Columbia Journal of Gender and Law, “Intersections at the Border, Immigration Enforcement, Reproductive Oppression and the Policing of Immigrant Women’s Bodies in the Rio Grande Valley.” Association presidents MK Han ’16 and Allison Heimann ’16 also bid farewell to the graduating board members in attendance: Helen (Nell) Ethridge ’15, June M. Hu ’15, Allegra A. Noonan ’15, Katherine Onyshko ’15, and Kathryn M. Roulett ’15.
The dinner was sponsored by Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison; Cravath, Swaine & Moore; O’Melveny & Myers; Simpson Thacher & Bartlett; and Sullivan & Cromwell.
|Han and Heimann, right, bid farewell to departing CLWA board members (from left) Allegra A. Noonan '15, June M. Hu '15, Helen (Nell) Ethridge '15, Katherine Onyshko '15, and Kathryn M. Roulett '15.|