Women in the Shadows of the Supreme Court
by Hannah Brenner Johnson, Renee Knake Jefferson
Pub Date 12 May 2020
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The inspiring and previously untold history of the women considered—but not selected—for the US Supreme Court
In 1981, after almost two centuries of exclusively male appointments, Sandra Day O’Connor became the first female Supreme Court Justice of the United States, a significant historical moment and a symbolic triumph for supporters of women’s rights. Most do not know, however, about the remarkable women shortlisted for the Supreme Court in the decades before O’Connor’s success.
Shortlisted gives nine women formally considered but ultimately passed over for a seat on the Supreme Court going back to the 1930s the recognition they deserve. Award-winning scholars Renee Knake Jefferson and Hannah Brenner Johnson rely on previously unpublished materials to illustrate the professional and personal lives of these accomplished women. From Florence Allen, the first woman judge in Ohio, and the first to appear on a president’s list for the Court, to Cornelia Kennedy, the first woman to serve as chief judge of a US district court, shortlisted by Ford, Nixon, and Reagan, Shortlisted shares the often overlooked stories of those who paved the way for women’s representation throughout the legal profession and beyond.
In addition to filling a notable historical gap, the book exposes the harms of shortlisting—it reveals how adding qualified female candidates to a list but passing over them ultimately creates the appearance of diversity while preserving the status quo. This phenomenon often occurs with any pursuit of professional advancement, whether the judge in the courtroom, the CEO in the corner office, or the coach on the playing field. Women, and especially female minorities, while as qualified as others on the shortlist (if not more so), find themselves far less likely to be chosen. With the stories of these nine exemplary women as a framework, Shortlisted offers all women a valuable set of strategies for upending the injustices that still endure. It is a must-read for those vying for positions of power as well as for those who select them.