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Gonzales and Justice Sandra Day O’Connor at the National Women’s History Month Celebration
Washington, DC March 8, 2006
MS. KAREN P. TANDY: Good morning. I am the administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration and it is my honor thank you for being here today and to ask you to please join me in welcoming the Attorney General and Justice O'Connor for today's event. I would like to point out to some special people with us this morning, first, Mr. John O'Connor, the husband of Justice O'Connor, and Mrs. Rebecca Gonzales, the wife of the Attorney General. I ask you now to please rise for the presentation of the Flag by Girl Scout Brownie Troop Number 470 and for the singing of the National Anthem by Ms. Anamer Castrello. You may be seated. Please join me in thanking these very special young Trail Blazers for the future of women, the Brownie Girl Scouts. And, Ms. Castrello, thank you. Thank you for that stirring rendition of the National Anthem. Welcome to all of you today. When I think about our theme, "Women: The Builders of Communities and Dreams," I cannot help but think about some of those little known women from the American Revolutionary period who made it possible for us to have our communities today because of what they did back then in building our great nation. The demure hoop-skirted women of the 1700s were the same women who tricked the enemy. The Red Coats met their match when they invaded the home of Mrs. Murray, a woman known only to us as Mrs. Murray, for Mrs. Murray plied the British generals with enough liquor that the small band of American soldiers were able to sneak past the thousands of British Red Coats.
And these are the same women who served as spies and these are the women who served as spies during that fight for our independence and it was 16-year-old Sybil Ludington who rode on horseback for some 40 miles just to alert the local militia to an imminent attack and by do so she saved our soldiers from certain death. Only one American Revolutionary War veteran is actually buried at West Point and you know, of course, it is a woman, Margaret Corbin. When Margaret Corbin's husband was killed at the battle of Fort Washington, New York, it was Margaret who stepped into his battle station and continued the fight sustaining three gunshot wounds. And, if you searched the Army pension records -- I'll save you from that -if you did search the Army pension records, you would find that the Army awarded Margaret only half the pay and rations of an American soldier because she had been disabled by her wounds. Ah, but it was Margaret who took on the Army before the Continental Congress. And Margaret got not only full pay of a soldier but also a full soldier's ration including the whiskey. The spirit of these early American pioneers clearly was alive centuries later when women would revolutionize our country's way of thinking and create dreams that would become a reality in our time. Women like, of course, Rosa Parks. Rosa Parks who sat down and sparked the bus boycotts that awakened an entire American conscience. And women like Candy Lightner who stood up as the founder of the Mothers Against Drunk Driving and gathered an army of angry mothers to deglamorize drinking and change our entire country's attitudes and laws about alcohol from Hollywood to Congress to our highways. And today, it is the legions of mothers and sisters like Ginger Katz, Kate Patton, and Elmida Perez who have been robbed of their loved ones by drugs. These women are now bringing together grassroots community coalitions across this country and they are bringing hundreds if not thousands of women and other people who have suffered as a result of the loss of people from drugs together on June 8th of this year. They will convene in Washington for a candlelight vigil, a national candlelight vigil, to expose another threat to our national security, the tragic waste of the talent and promise of tens of thousands of young people who die from drugs every single year. And today our women in law enforcement now receive the highest awards for heroism going where others would flee in order to protect and make safe the American community. Women like DEA Special Agent Towanda Thorne who less than five years on the job engaged in a running gun battle with a drug dealer in order to safely secure the release of his hostage.
And today it is said that the combat role of women in the military has been changed forever by the young uniformed women serving in Iraq and Afghanistan who are fighting and making the ultimate sacrifice for our American Communities. For more than 200 years, the common theme of all of these extraordinary women ironically has been how ordinary each of them were. Everyday women who didn't set out to change the course of history but who saw a cause, a need or an injustice and through extraordinary courage and determination they built a stronger America. And now it is my honor to introduce to you the son of one such woman, our Attorney General, Alberto Gonzales. Attorney General Gonzales rose from ordinary beginnings, the son of migrant workers growing up in a two-room house with seven siblings all to lead our country during a time of unprecedented challenges to our legal system. Attorney General Gonzales has built an extraordinary record of relying upon the expertise and judgment of women as he leads the Department of Justice in this country. He has placed them in positions of leadership in this department. Right now five of the Department's eleven Assistant Attorneys General are women as are the leaders of the Office of Public Affairs, the Office of Intergovernmental and Public Liaison, the Office of the Federal Detention Trustee, the Community Relations Service and, of course, the Drug Enforcement Administration. It is an honor for me to lead the DEA and I pleased to be joined in that leadership by the Deputy Administrator Special Agent Michelle Lindhart. Together with 11,000 women and men in DEA we work very hard every day to secure a safe and drug free community for all communities across this country. We have the Attorney General to thank for his strong leadership and support as we do that every day. So, please, ladies and gentlemen, join me in welcoming the 80th Attorney General of the United States, Judge Alberto Gonzales. ATTORNEY GENERAL ALBERTO R. GONZALES: Thank you. Thank you, Karen. I am really delighted to see such a tremendous turnout. I am pleased to be here today with Karen, the first woman to head up the Drug Enforcement Administration and so many other women in leadership at the Department of Justice as we celebrate the achievements of women. It is my privilege to introduce one of the great Americans of our time, Sandra Day O'Connor, a woman of unusual courage and character. And I would dare say there is nothing ordinary about this person. Born a Texan, a Texan forever. Madame Justice, I remain grateful for your taking the time just over a year ago to swear me in as Attorney General. I reflected then on how American greatness arises from its heritage of liberty and justice for all. You are one of the great examples of that heritage and we are honored by your presence today.
There is simply no more outstanding American than Justice O'Connor to speak at our annual recognition of National Women's History Month. This year's them, "Women: Builders of our Communities and Dreams," is particularly appropriate given our recent loss of two great women builders of community and dreams, Coretta Scott King and Rosa Parks. As a westerner and a rancher, Justice O'Connor's pioneering spirit has characterized her ground-breaking career. She met employer hostility as an Honors law graduate from Stanford but didn't give up. The pioneer in her spurred her to prove herself. In Arizona, she practiced law and served as a State Assistant Attorney General. She won elected office in the Arizona State Senate and was the first woman majority leader of any state legislature. She served as both an elected and appointed state judge and through all of these public achievements with her husband, John, she raised three sons. We are delighted to acknowledge his presence here today. These contributions to the law and public life would crown any one person's career; but, as we all know, President Reagan asked her to be a pioneer once more, appointing Judge O'Connor a Justice of the Supreme Court in 1981. During her nearly quarter century of service to the court and to the nation, Justice O'Connor helped build a community of women attracted to the law and to public service. It is, of course, impossible to calculate the actual number of lives touched by this remarkable woman and the number of lives that will be influenced by her example. JUSTICE SANDRA DAY O'CONNOR: Thank you. Oh, my. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you so much. Thank you so much, Attorney General Gonzales, for very kind words; and a pleasure to be here and hear Karen Tandy's remarks as well, and to celebrate Women's History Month. And you might know what I'm going to talk about. I hope you do. A little bit about women's history, and particularly women in the law, if that's okay, since that's what most of the women here, anyway, are involved in. And it seems to me the experience of women lawyers finds its parallels in other fields, and the history is illustrative of the broader experiences of women generally. Now, of course, the early women legal pioneers faced a profession and a society that espoused what they called the cult of domesticity, a view that women were by nature different from men. Well, yes. But it went on. Women were said to be fitted for motherhood and home life, compassionate, selfless, gentle, moral, and pure. Their minds were attuned to art and religion, not logic.
Men, on the other hand, were fitted by nature for competition and intellectual discovery in the world, battle-hardened, shrewd, authoritative, and tough-minded. Women were thought to be ill-qualified for adversarial litigation because it required sharp logic and shrewd negotiation, as well as exposure to the unjust and the immoral. In 1875, the Wisconsin Supreme Court told Lavinia Goodell that she could not be admitted to the state bar. The chief justice said the practice of law was unfit for the female character. To expose women to the brutal, repulsive, and obscene events of courtroom life ‑‑ would shock man's reference for womanhood and relax the public's sense of decency. Now, similarly, in a case you've all heard about, Myra Bradwell of Chicago applied to the Illinois bar for admission in 1869 and was refused. The Illinois Supreme Court said that, as a married women, her contracts were not binding, and contracts were the essence of the attorney-client relationship. The court also said that God designed the sexes to occupy different spheres of action, and it belonged to man to make, apply, and execute the laws. And the Supreme Court of the United States, I blush to admit, agreed. That famous concurring opinion said that, "Man is, or should be woman's protector and defender. The natural and proper timidity and delicacy which belongs to the female sex unfits it for many of the occupations of civil life." Now, even Clarence Darrow, who was a champion of unpopular causes, said this to a group of women lawyers: "You cannot be shining lights at the bar because you're too kind. You can never be corporation lawyers, because you're not cold-blooded. You have not a high grade of intellect. I doubt you can ever make a living," he said. Now, another male attorney of the same period said: "A woman can't keep a secret." "And for that reason, if no other, I doubt if anybody will ever consult a woman lawyer." Well, now, lucky ‑‑ luckily for us women lawyers today, our female predecessors had more spunk and spirit and wit than they were given credit for. Clara Shortridge Foltz was the first woman lawyer in California, and the first woman deputy district attorney in America, and she showed the mettle of those early women lawyers. When an opposing lawyer said in open court that she had better be at home raising her children, Foltz replied, "A woman had better be in almost any business than raising such men as you."
A New York woman lawyer, pioneer Belva Lockwood, became the first woman admitted to practice before the Supreme Court of the United States in 1879, but to get there, she had to try three times to get a special bill passed in the United States Senate, changing the admission requirements. She used to ride around Washington, D.C. on a three-wheeled tricycle sort of affair, and she would lobby Senators and tell the press she was going to get up a fight all down the line. And in 1994, Belva Lockwood even ran for President of the United States, reasoning that even though women couldn't vote, there was nothing to stop them from running for office, and even without women voters, she got 4,149 votes in that election. Now, we saw another historic first in 1993 with the confirmation of the first woman Attorney General of the United States, Janet Reno. No woman was appointed Assistant Attorney General of the United States until President Woodrow Wilson came along, and Annette Abbott Adams was named. The Justice Department had another woman assistant attorney general during President Warren Harding's administration in 1920. She was Mable Walker Willebrandt from Los Angeles. She was given a job no-one wanted, the job of chief prosecutor of the Prohibition laws. She was known as Prohibition Portia, and she served for nine punishing years at the Department of Justice, and finally returned to Los Angeles to practice law. The first three women to serve as FBI agents were appointed also in the early 1920s, but each of them was subsequently asked to and did resign when J. Edgar Hoover became the director. Well, in my own time and in my own life, rather a long one as of now, the legal ‑‑ there's ‑‑ I have seen a revolution in the legal profession that has resulted in women representing about 40 percent of practicing lawyers in the country today, and slightly over 50 percent of all law school graduates currently. And when I got out of law school, in the dark ages, in 1952, from Stanford Law School, I couldn't even get an interview for a job in a private firm to practice law, and yet I've had the privilege of serving since in a wide number of jobs, including one most recently for about 25 years. Now, women today are not only well-represented in law firms, but they're gradually attaining more positions of political and legal power as well, as you know, but until the percentages of women in Congress and on the bench and in other slots comes closer to 50 percent, I don't think we've totally succeeded, so there's a little more to
do, despite the fact that the progress has been astounding in my lifetime. And that progress has come about largely because of the explosion of that myth of the true woman, and that came about through the efforts of real women and the insights of real men. And released from those former prejudices, I think women have proven that they can do just about any job there is, and that has been reflected also in the jurisprudence of the Supreme Court. Now, the ratification of the Bill of Rights in 1791 didn't have much effect on the legal status of women. Its strictures were limited initially to the federal government, of course, and state legislation affecting women was drawn largely from Great Britain, which gave women few property or contractual rights, and only in the case of unmarried women did laws in this country become somewhat more generous than those in England, as far as property management was concerned. And it was not until after the Civil War and the adoption of the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments that there were national guarantees for certain individual liberties which states couldn't abridge, but even that didn't translate very easily into concepts that benefitted women as a group until the 20th century. And despite the efforts of women such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan Anthony and Sojourner Truth, society as a whole, including the Supreme Court, generally accepted the separate and unequal status of women. And in the slaughterhouse cases, in 1973, the Supreme Court said that the Equal Protection Clause should be narrowly interpreted to apply only to laws that discriminated against blacks; and for the first half of the 20th century, the Court continued to defer to legislative judgments regarding distinctions based on gender. In fact, in 1948, not so long ago, the Supreme Court, in an opinion authored by Justice Frankfurter, said that despite the vast changes in the social and legal position of women, the state could unquestionably make distinctions based on gender, and even as late as 1961, 20 years before I joined the Supreme Court, the Supreme Court reaffirmed Florida's practice of restricting jury service to men unless women registered separately. I mean, that's not so long ago. And in doing that, the Supreme Court said: Despite the enlightened emancipation of women from the restrictions of bygone years, and their entry into many parts of community life formerly considered to be reserved to men, woman is still regarded as the center of the home and family life." And it was not until the 1970s that the Supreme Court finally started looking at gender-based legislation a little more closely, and the very first case in which the Supreme Court found a state law discriminating against women to be
unconstitutional was the case of Reed v. Reed. There, the Supreme Court, in an opinion authored by our former Chief Justice, Warren Burger, struck down an Idaho law giving men an automatic preference in appointments as administrators of estates; and Reed signalled a very dramatic change in the Court's approach to gender-based discrimination. In 1976, the Supreme Court made its more careful standard of review of genderbased legislation explicit. It held that sex-based classifications would be upheld only if they served important governmental objectives and were substantially related to the achievement of those objectives. And following that, for two decades, the Supreme Court invalidated on equal protection grounds a broad range of statutes that were gender-based, and the volume of cases in the Supreme Court dealing with statutes on the Equal Protection Clause declined somewhat in the 1980s after I joined the Court, and the cases then coming to the Court were more likely to have arisen under Title 7 rather than the Equal Protection Clause, because by that time, both Congress and many of the states had enacted legislation forbidding gender-based discrimination in employment actions. And in Hishon v. King & Spalding, for example, the Court held that once a law firm makes partnership consideration a privilege of employment, under Title 7, the firm may not discriminate on the basis of sex in its selection of partners. Now, in all of these cases, the Court looked finally with a somewhat jaundiced eye at loose-fitting generalizations and stereotypes that had been relied on in the past, and instead the Court began to ask employers to look to whether the particular person involved is capable of doing the job, and not whether women in general are more or less capable than men. Now, just when the Supreme Court and Congress had adopted these less sanguine views of gender-based classification, the new presence of women in the law prompted a number of feminist commentators to ask whether women have made a difference to the legal profession, whether they have different styles and aptitudes or liabilities. And ironically, the move to ask again these questions of whether women are different in how they practice law has resonances in the past, and more writers have suggested that women practice law differently than men. One surmised that my opinions on the Court differed in a peculiarly feminine way from those of my male colleagues, and the gender differences cited currently are somewhat similar to years past. Listen to some of them: Women attorneys are more likely to seek to mediate disputes than litigate them;
Women attorneys are more likely to focus on resolving a client's problem than vindicating a position; Women attorneys are more likely to sacrifice career advancement for family obligations; They are more concerned with public service or fostering community than within individual achievement; Women judges are more likely to emphasize context and de-emphasize general principles; Women judges are more compassionate ‑‑ and so on. Now, all of this academic writing of course is interesting, but it is a little troubling to go back to the Victorian myth of the true woman, and to compare these notions to Clarence Darrow's assertions in an earlier day. One difference, though, between men and women, not only in the legal profession but generally, still remains. Women professionals do have primary responsibility as a practical matter for having children and doing a lot of the housekeeping that it takes to provide a home, and they spend roughly twice as much time on these cares as do professional husbands. As a result, I think women lawyers do have some difficulties at times managing both a career and a household. I did myself, and stayed home altogether from paid employment for about five years, when my children were very small, and I worried that I would never get another job in the legal profession, that nobody would hire me again, and that turned out to be a myth, I'm glad to say. Well, today, while many women juggle both profession and home admiralty ‑‑ admirably ‑‑ it's still true that the time you spend at home is not likely to be billed to clients or spent in making contacts with professional work and organizations, and women who don't want to be left behind are sometimes faced with a hard choice. They aren't sure whether to marry early, whether to have children at a younger age when perhaps it's a little bit easier. These are hard choices, and I don't think there's a single answer to those. I chose to try to have and enjoy my family and to resume my career path a little bit later, and that was okay. We live a little longer than we used to, so it seems to work out. And the choices that women have to make in this regard are a little different than choices men must make, and it's in recognizing these differences and challenges that the Supreme Court has had its most difficult challenges.
The dilemma is this: if society does not recognize the fact that only women can bear children, then equal treatment ends up being unequal; but if society recognizes pregnancy as requiring special solicitude, it's a bit of a slippery slope back to the protectionist legislation that barred women from the workplace. And the question of when a quality requires accommodating differences is a question that I suspect the Supreme Court and other courts will continue to struggle. I think the current generation is finding new ways to balance family and professional responsibilities between men and women, recognizing gender differences in a way that promotes equality and frees both women and men from traditional role limitations. And not only women, but men, too, have missed out through the division of work and home. As more women enjoy the challenges of a legal career or another career, more men are finding some blessings in taking extra time to nurture and care for the children. I know in my day, my beloved husband John, who is admirable in every respect, couldn't even find the you kitchen ‑‑ much less the washing machine. But times have changed, and that's a good thing. I think we're seeing a lot of change in that regard. So I'm often asked, as if Justice Ginsburg, do women judges decide cases differently by virtue of being women? And I think we both have answered that question in this way, that at the end of the day, a wise old woman and a wise old man are going to reach the same conclusion. So I think maybe that should be our aspiration, that whatever our gender or background, we all may become wise, wise through our different struggles and different victories, wise through work and play, through our profession, and through family. And thank you so much for inviting me here today to spend the hour with you, when we think about the changes that we've all experienced in the role and opportunities for women in my lifetime. Thank you. MS. TANDY: Thank you, Justice O'Connor, your great words of inspiration and the rich legacy you pointed out to us, when we might want to complain, we will remember all of the women who came before us. Justice O'Connor, could I have you stand forward, please? Our great Brownies have a special presentation that they would like to make to you. If you could stand right here, Justice.
JUSTICE O'CONNOR: It's great to have the Brownies here today. You know, when we were waiting for the Presentation of the Flag, we were looking out there and couldn't see anything. And you just haven't reached your full height yet, but we are awfully glad to see you and thank you. Thank you. That's absolutely great. Beautiful. Thank you, Brownies. MS. TANDY: It is now my pleasure to invite Anamer Castrello to perform a musical selection for us. But before that, let me tell you briefly about her background. It is an impressive one by all measure. She is a native of Puerto Rico, a graduate of the University of Puerto Rico. She holds a Master of Arts Degree in Music Education from New York University and a Master of Music and Opera Performance from the University of Maryland. She has won many awards for her performances and has appeared with the Baltimore Opera, the Shakespeare Theater and many other venues too numerous to name here. Please join me in welcoming again Anamer Castrello. That was extraordinary. Thank you so much for lifting our spirits and for sharing your great talent, both of you. Thank you again, Anamer Castrello as well as Daniel Sticko who accompanied Ms. Castrello. Thank you. At this time I would to thank our program participants today, our very special guest and honoree, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. Thank you so much for sharing your life experience and history with us. The Attorney General, Albert Gonzales, our Brownie Troop from Fairfax, Virginia, Anamer Castrello, Daniel Sticko as well as all of our co-sponsors. DEA was so proud to be a co-sponsor of today's program, but I want to point out to you that this program is the work of so many and I want to thank publicly all of our other co-sponsors of today, Dr. Paul Cortz and the Justice Management Division, Carl Truscott, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Federal Bureau of Prisons and Michael Battle and the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys as well as the Executive Office for Immigration Review. Those were our co-sponsors today and I want to finally thank as well our great musical talent again as well as the Federal Women's Planning Committee, the members of the Attorney General's staff, Marcus Williams, the Acting Director of the EEO Staff of the Justice Management Division and his staff and everyone else who was involved in the planning of today's celebration. This concludes our program. Thank you so much for being here. ###
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