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The Working Woman's Revolution of 1964

In honor of Women's History Month, here is a special excerpt from Gillian Thomas' Because of Sex: One Law, Ten Cases, and Fifty Years That Changed American Women's Lives at Work. 

By
Gillian Thomas
because of sex module

Only some of these problems can be attributed to discrimination “because of sex.” Others will have to be addressed by passing new laws, or amending old ones. Some will demand voluntary changes in employer policies, and still others will have to be left to the glacial process of cultural change. But even though it’s easy to get discouraged about the glaring inequalities we see everywhere around us, there is some benefit to being reminded that it used to be so much worse.

The women who had brought cases that wound up before the Supreme Court had faced an additional challenge: They were breaking new legal ground entirely.

One prominent feminist lawyer wrote about her experience representing women in employment discrimination cases, “Because this road is so tough, I often hear clients say, ‘Why me? Why did this have to happen to me? Why has my life been turned upside down by this creep who had no right to do this to me?’ And it is unfair. But the law has been transformed by the many women who have bravely stepped up and paved the way for the rest of us.”

This book aims to pay tribute to some of those women. They achieved landmark legal victories that benefited millions, despite usually having very little to show for it themselves in the end. Many of the rights established by the cases in this book have become so assimilated into our reality that we don’t even realize there was a time not very long ago when they didn’t exist.

I was inspired to write this book by my own experiences representing women very much like those featured in its pages. Reflecting on the tenacity shown by my own clients in trying to right the wrongs done to them, often at considerable personal cost, I realized that the women who had brought cases that wound up before the Supreme Court had faced an additional challenge: They were breaking new legal ground entirely. While I had the benefit of citing to the precedent they had helped to create, when they went to court, their predicaments presented questions that the law had barely begun to address.

Forging ahead with a sex discrimination lawsuit where the odds of a favorable outcome were so uncertain, and where the culture was still so skeptical of working women, took a special brand of moxie. I wanted to try to know these women, and to tell their stories.

Excerpt from Macmillian Publishing: Gillian Thomas' Because of Sex (2016). 

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