when pigs fly … expect the unbelievable

Archive for January 2012

Last week, the Washington & Lee Law School appointed the first woman dean in its 145 year history.  Her name is Nora V. Demleitner and she is the law school’s 17th dean.  Those of you who know me realize that W & L is my husband’s alma mater and an incredibly historic school.  It was founded in 1749 as Liberty Hall Academy, and it took the name Washington University in honor of the endowment of $20,000 by George Washington in 1796.  The institution’s name was later amended to Washington and Lee, in honor of Robert E. Lee, one of its greatest and most effective presidents.  It’s current president, Ken Ruscio, was a social brother of Sigma Chi, my husband’s house when he was a student.  Ruscio is the 26th president of W & L.

Dean Demleitner is currently Dean and Professor of Law at the Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University.  She is a native of the Federal Republic of Germany.  She holds a bachelor’s degree from Bates College, a law degree from Yale, and a Master’s Degree in International and Comparative law from the Georgetown University Law Center.  She clerked for US Supreme Court Justice Samuel A. Alito when he served as a member of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals.

Demleitner has special expertise in sentencing and collateral sentencing consequences. She is the lead author of Sentencing Law and Policy, a major casebook on sentencing law. She also is an editor of the Federal Sentencing Reporter, and serves on the executive editorial board of the American Journal of Comparative Law.

She has also had extensive international experience, having lectured and served as visiting professor at the University of Freiburg, Germany, and the Sant’ Anna Institute of Advanced Research in Pisa, Italy.  She has been a research fellow at the Max-Planck-Institute for Foreign and International Criminal Law in Germany.  She has also been a visiting professor at the University of Michigan Law School and St. Thomas University School of Law in Miami.

Demleitner is an elected member of the American Law Institute and a Fellow of the American Bar Foundation.

Washington and Lee, a private liberal arts school in Lexington, Virginia, blessed with a strong endowment. was  all male until 1972, when women were admitted to the the law school; the first female undergraduates enrolled in 1985.  It is famous for it’s student honor code, a legacy of President Lee.

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As late as 1971, the Memphis Public Library refused to issue library cards to married women in their own names. For example, Mrs. John Smith, nee Rebecca Doe Smith, could only be issued a library card in the name of Mrs. John Smith — no matter how she wanted the card issued.  Carol Lynn Yellin, mother of Emily Yellin, author of Our Mothers’ War, fought a battle in the early ’70s to have a library card issued in the name Carol Lynn Yellin.  Speaking about this later, she said:  “Throughout history, women have yielded and diffused their own personal identities….Would it be so terrible if we had a new structure of society that allowed all of us to remain individuals and didn’t require as a matter of course for one half of the human beings to yield to the other half?…Couldn’t there be some awfully good things about it?”

I don’t know if Carol Lynn Yellin ever got a library card issued in her own name.  I doubt it and her daughter does not reveal this in her book.

But obtaining a library card in the name she sought it issued in, though an honorable fight, does not measure the legacy she left the women’s movement by inspiring her daughter to write her wonderful book.

If you are a fan of women’s history, consider reading this terrific book:  Our Mothers’ War:  American Women at Home and at the Front During World War II by Emily Yellin.


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