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Featured books

The Widows’ Might: Widowhood and Gender in Early British America by Vivian Bruce Conger. Published by New York University Press in 2009.

Find at HQ1058.5 .U5 C657 2009


Working at a law school, it’s hard for me to imagine a time when a widow was not supposed to hire a lawyer to represent her in proving her husband’s will and otherwise settling the estate. According to Conger, “hiring an attorney indicated that a widow was determined to win her case on the basis of the merits of the case rather than by relying on the goodness and sympathy of the court.” The colonial period was not an enjoyable time to be a widow—or to be a women for that matter, since they were looked upon as childlike and in need of male constraint. A woman alone was considered “ungoverned,” and a young widow who did not remarry was seen a threat to a well-ordered society.


The author describes many cases of widows in the colonial period, carefully reconstructing the economic and social challenges they faced in colonial society.



The Crimes of Womanhood: Defining Femininity in a Court of Law / A. Cheree Carlson. Published by the University of Illinois Press in 2009. Find at KF4758 .C368 2009



Feminist themes also permeate this discussion of the courtroom arguments used to defend or condemn women on trial in 19th to early 20th century America. Professor Carlson analyzes several well known trials to reveal how women’s violating social norms could lead to severe penalties. She examines the transcripts, newspaper articles, and other popular accounts and argues that the men in charge of these communication avenues were able to transform their own values and morals into believable narratives to persuade the court and the public of a woman’s guilt or innocence.


One example was Mary Todd Lincoln, who was judged at trial to be insane and sent to a mental institution at the behest of her son. Wanting her freedom, she was able to find help from one of the first women lawyers, Myra Bradwell. Although Bradwell was unable to practice law because of her gender, she was able to get a second hearing for Lincoln, who was eventually declared sane. Other trials include those of Lizzie Borden and the infamous Madame Restell. Attitudes towards abortion and its legality are also discussed.



Featured books

Once in a while a couple books with similar themes arrive at the same time. These two titles are concerned with discrimination and civil rights, but their focus is very different.

More than Just Race: Being Black and Poor in the Inner City by William Julius Wilson. Published by Norton in 2009. On the shelf at: HM821 .W55 2009more-than-just-race0067051


Professor Wilson focuses on the big picture,  addressing the three most pressing racially charged problems currently facing America: the persistence of the inner-city ghetto, the plight of low-skilled black males, and the fragmentation of the African American family.  How do cultural and institutional factors shape inner city poverty? And is there a way to address these seemingly intractable problems?  This analysis of race in America integrates the structural and cultural approaches to explain the way race operates in America.

Levittown : Two Families, One Tycoon, and the Fight for Civil Rights in America‘s Legendary Suburb by David Kushner. Published by Walker & Company in 2009. On the shelf at: F159.L6 K87 2009


Out in the suburbs, discrimination against African Americans was taken for granted until the summer of 1957 when the white Jewish Communist Wechslers secretly enabled a black family called Myers to buy a house in Levittown. Kushner used interviews with the Wechslers and Daisy Myers, their previously unpublished memoirs, and boxes full of newspaper clippings to produce this well documented but also very readable story of the summer that the first African American family moved into Levittown, Pennsylvania.

Breaking News – Student Journals May Borrow From Lane Medical!

Thanks to Shannon Carreras, the new head of circulation at the Lane Medical Library, borrowing from Lane Medical has now been opened to all student journals!   Be sure to set up borrowing for your journal through the *law* library for that privilege.  Stop by the library or email reference@law if you have questions.