Robert Crown Law Library preserves stories of women legal pioneers

Barbara Babcock
Barbara Babcock

In the last half-century, women in law have made huge strides. But women who came before them faced huge hurdles—and many of them overcame those hurdles, making history by attending law school and succeeding in the profession against the odds.

BROOKSLEY BORN, JD ’64, BA ’61, and Linda Ferren, executive director of the Historical Society of the District of Columbia Circuit, set out to capture their stories when they initiated the Women Trailblazers in the Law Project (WTP), a collaborative research project of the ABA and the American Bar Foundation.

Born’s own story is included in the collection. Born was the first woman president of the Stanford Law Review and went on to serve as chairperson of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission from 1996 to 1999.

At Born’s suggestion, the full WTP collection is now housed at the Robert Crown Law Library at Stanford. The Library of Congress and the Schlesinger Library at Harvard have selected oral histories from WTP.

“Our goal at Stanford Law has been to enhance public access to and discoverability of these oral histories for the benefit of law students, legal scholars, and anyone interested in the rich and inspiring stories of these pioneering women. It is our honor to preserve this priceless collection,” said BETH WILLIAMS, director of the Robert Crown Law Library and a senior lecturer in law.

Among those included in the collection is BARBARA BABCOCK, the Judge John Crown Professor of Law, Emerita, who recalled in her oral history her first semester contracts class at Yale Law, when a well-known professor called on her. Babcock also interviewed her former student, LADORIS CORDELL, JD ’74, the first female African American judge in Northern California, for the series.

Staff at Crown Library launched the new WTP website in November, allowing easy online access to the collection and resources.

Read more about the Women Trailblazers in Law Oral History.