Skip to main content

New Website Showcases Rich History of Women Trailblazers in the Law

November 27, 2018, Press releases

CHICAGO, Nov. 27, 2018 — The American Bar Foundation (ABF) has partnered with the American Bar Association (ABA) and Stanford Law School’s Robert Crown Law Library to launch a new website for the oral history project “Women Trailblazers in the Law” (WTP). The website offers open access to the oral histories of more than 100 senior women who have made important contributions to the law and have opened opportunities for other women in the profession.

In the last half-century or more, women in law have made huge strides, many of them making history by attending law school, sometimes as the only female in their class, and succeeding in the profession against the odds. Former ABF board member Brooksley Born (Arnold & Porter) and Linda Ferren, WTP Project Director and Executive Director of the Historical Society of the District of Columbia Circuit, set out to capture the stories of these remarkable women through the WTP, a collaborative research project of the ABA and the ABF.

“By opening opportunities for women in the legal profession and in many cases using their skills to further women’s legal rights, these women made significant contributions to the equality of all women that must not be forgotten,” said Born, chair of the ABA Senior Lawyers Division WTP Committee, whose own story is included in the collection. Born was the first woman president of the Stanford Law Review and went on to have a successful legal career including serving as chairperson of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission from 1996 to 1999.

According to Linda Ferren, “Our goal from the start was to turn a spotlight on women who, because of their gender, had to struggle to secure a foothold in the legal community just a few decades ago.”

“The ABF is honored to collaborate with the ABA and the Stanford Law Library in helping to disseminate the profoundly important research conducted by Brooksley Born and Linda Ferren,” said ABF Executive Director Ajay K. Mehrotra.  “It’s a true honor to bring these oral histories to the attention of researchers and scholars throughout the world.”

WTP captures the full-life oral histories of women pioneers in the legal profession nationwide, memorializing their stories in their own voices and preserving their experiences and observations for future generations. These women were chosen for their accomplishments and contributions across all areas of the legal profession: the judiciary, academia, law firms, government, corporations, and public interest organizations.

A book based on the collection, Stories from Trailblazing Women Lawyers: Lives in the Law, by Jill Norgren, was published last May by New York University Press.

The WTP collection is now housed at the Robert Crown Law Library at Stanford; two other WTP repositories are the Library of Congress and the Schlesinger Library at Harvard. The new WTP website allows easy online access to the collection and resources and will focus on long-term preservation of print and media WTP content and digitized audiocassettes. In addition, the oral histories have been added to the Stanford Digital Repository.

“The goal of the Stanford Law Library with this project has been to enhance public access to and discoverability of these important oral histories, not just for the benefit of law students and legal scholars, but also for anyone interested in the rich history of these trailblazing women,” said Beth Williams, senior director of the Robert Crown Law Library.

Visit the WTP website

About the American Bar Foundation

The American Bar Foundation (ABF) is among the world’s leading research institutes for the empirical and interdisciplinary study of law. The ABF seeks to expand knowledge and advance justice through innovative, interdisciplinary, and rigorous empirical research on law, legal processes, and legal institutions.  To further this mission the ABF will produce timely, cutting-edge research of the highest quality to inform and guide the legal profession, the academy, and society in the United States and internationally. The ABF’s primary funding is provided by the American Bar Endowment and the Fellows of The American Bar Foundation.

PDF version of this press release

Posted by Whitney Peterson 

« Return to Press releases

Site design by Webitects

© 2023 American Bar Foundation (
750 North Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, IL 60611-4403
(312) 988-6500
Contact Us
Contact the Fellows
Media Contacts
Privacy policy
Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in ABF publications are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the American Bar Foundation or the American Bar Association. The AMERICAN BAR FOUNDATION, ABF and related seal trademarks as used by the American Bar Foundation are owned by the American Bar Association and used under license.