Presented by Harvard Book Store
Nancy Gertner discusses In Defense of Women: Memoirs of an Unrepentant Advocate
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Harvard Book Store and the American Civil Liberties Union are honored to host U.S. Federal District Judge NANCY GERTNER as she discusses her memoir, In Defense of Women: Memoirs of an Unrepentant Advocate.
Today Judge Gertner dons a long black robe while presiding over court cases for the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts. But in the 1970s, when she was one of few women in a stubbornly male profession, she sported bright red suits that reflected her fearless choice of cases and her daring litigation tactics. Defending clients in some of the most prominent criminal and civil rights cases of the time, Gertner drove home the point that women lawyers belonged in our courtrooms.
In 1975, Nancy Gertner launched her legal career by defending antiwar activist Susan Saxe, who was on trial for her role in a robbery that resulted in the murder of a police officer. It was a high-profile, complex, and highly charged case. What followed for Gertner was a career of other groundbreaking firsts, as she fought her way through the boys’ club climate of the time, throwing herself into criminal and civil cases focused on women’s rights and civil liberties.
Looking back on her career, Gertner writes about her struggle to succeed personally and professionally while working on benchmark cases. Among her clients were a woman suing the psychiatrist who had repeatedly molested her; another on trial for murdering her abusive husband; Teresa Contardo, suing Merrill Lynch for discrimination; and Clare Dalton, suing Harvard Law School for the same offense. In her signature red suit, Nancy Gertner was always the unrepentant advocate in defense of women. But over the years she also represented a student accused of rape; Ted Anzalone, on trial for extortion; and Matthew Stuart, implicated in his brother Charles’s infamous murder of his pregnant wife.
“Gertner adeptly describes insider courtroom strategy as well as both the blatant and insidious institutional sexism she faced. Her story is a well-told reflection of the growth and growing pains of the legal system regarding women as advocates, educators, plaintiffs, and defendants.” —Publishers Weekly