Judges, Lawyers & Women’s Suffrage: Recognizing the Men Who Stood With Women on the Front Lines

March 25, 2019

Another great day in Albany County.

Judges, Lawyers and Women’s Suffrage: Recognizing the Men Who Stood with Women on the Front Lines

This two-credit (pending) CLE will identify many of the men – including prominent judges and attorney – who advocated and even marched in support of women’s rights. It will also explore a judicial ethics question: Could a sitting judge engage in public advocacy for a controversial political/social issue? Have judges forfeited the right to engage in public debate?


To set the scene, here’s a partial view from the defendant’s table as attendees gathered in the Alexander Moot Courtroom of Albany Law School. The moderator and organizer with John Caher, the NY State Courts adviser on strategic communications, was the Hon. Rachel Kretzer (ret.), who chairs the 3d Judicial District’s Gender Fairness Committee, Acting Supreme Court Justice Richard Dollinger of Rochester was the other presenter. We sat facing the audience not the bench.




and, best of all, from the first floor women’s bathroom:




And just to mark the occasion, here I am with District Administrative Judge Thomas A. Breslin; Acting Supreme Court Justice Richard Dollinger; Judge Rachel Kretzer, who chairs the 3d District’s Gender Fairness Committee; and Albany County Judge Andra Ackerman.


Judges Breslin, Dollinger, Kretzer, (me), and Ackerman


After introductions and remarks by Judge Kretzer,

Justice Dollinger provided an overview of legal discrimination against women in the laws of the 18th and 19th centuries, passing through primogenitur; coverture; Duke’s Law; Gouvernor’s Divorce; Thomas Hertell and his Rights of the Married Woman; Ernestine Rose; Daniel Cady, father of Elizabeth Cady Stanton; Elijah Harlbut; John Fine, the Married Ladies of Genessee and Wyoming Counties, Seneca Falls and beyond. Judge Dollinger is a particularly engaging speaker—stentorian in the sense of loud and powerful is the word that comes to mind.

And here is his Powerpoint:

I picked up where Judge Dollinger left off, first reviewing the legal backdrop for women in the second decade of the 20th century. Attorney Gilbert E. Roe’s, in a 1914 speech-turned-pamphlet, articulated the 15 ways New York law continued to discriminate against women, despite the many efforts to change at least marital property law that Judge Dollinger laid out. I then explained how the Men’s League came about before highlighting the League participation between 1909 and 1919 of attorneys and judges  engaged in the cause. The judges and attorneys involved in the Men’s League whom I highlighted: Louis Brandeis, David Brewer, William Jennings Bryan, Ben B. Lindsey, Byron S. Waite, William H. Wadhams, Charles L. Guy, Samuel Untermyer, Robert Elder, Herbert Warbasse, William DeFord, Frederick Howe, Swinburne Hale, Dudley Field Malone and George Gordon Battle. Video and slides from the PowerPoint are just below.

Gilbert E. Roe’s speech, turned into a pamphlet, explaining all the ways New York law discriminated against women in 1914.


Attorney Gilbert E. Roe















Since so many of these men (except Darrow, who objected to suffrage’s alignment with Prohibition, although he did not speak out as an anti) were also the key players in the famous Scopes Trial of 1925, the urge to connect those only tangentially related dots was irresistible and that’s how I closed.



Judge Dollinger followed up with a discussion of judicial ethics centered around the question of if and how judges today, given the guidelines on maintaining both actual and the appearance of impartiality, can take positions publicly on controversial questions. And then Judge Kretzer presented a gender fairness plaque to John Caher, who works closely with the committee and, she said, is a true exemplar of how it’s done.








National History Day contestants, please read this before you contact me.

The Suffragents won the Gold Medal in US History in the 2018 Independent Publisher Book Awards and was a finalist for the 2018 Sally and Morris Lasky Prize, presented by the Center for Political History.  See Summer Camp Newsletters” and Facebook posts from book-related appearances. Reviews, notices, and articles about my books are under their titles here. My articles are here.

Upcoming 2019: October 17: Suffragents Panel, National Archives, Washington DC.

Upcoming 2020: January 30: Learning in Retirement Program at Iona College. March 27 Ephemera Society of America, 40th annual conference, Old Greenwich CT. June 4-6Métiers et professions des médias (XVIIIe-XXIe siècles),”  Université de Lausanne (Switzerland).

Past 2019: September 23: January 29: Exhibition Opening Remarks: “Women Get the Vote: A Historic Look at the Nineteenth Amendment,“New York Society Library. February 23: Public Values in Conflict with Animal Agribusiness Practices,” UCLA Law School, Los Angeles.  March 13: The Suffragents,” Scarsdale Woman’s Club, Scarsdale NY. March 24: League of Women Voters, Albany County at the Bethlehem (NY) Public LibraryMarch 25:Judges, Lawyers, and Women’s Suffrage: Recognizing the Men Who Stood with Women on the Front Lines,” Gender Fairness Committee of the Third Judicial District, CLE, NY State Courts at SUNY Albany Law School, Albany NY. May 15: “The Republican Suffragents,” National Women’s Republican Club, New York City. August 7:  Panel, “From Emma Goldman to the Marketplace of Ideas: Marking the 100th Anniversary of Free Speech at the Supreme Court.” (page 40) AEJMC, Toronto. August 14: Webinar, National Park Service. September 23: Bentson Dean’s Lecture, College of Arts and Science, New York University.