Power, not pity
December 20, 2017 9:36 AM   Subscribe

Janet Benshoof, litigator, activist, and fierce proponent of women's rights, dies at 70 Janet Benshoof, a human rights lawyer who campaigned to expand access to contraceptives and abortion. As a litigator for the American Civil Liberties Union, she argued sex education and abortion cases before the Supreme Court. She founded the Center for Reproductive Rights and the Global Justice Center to defend clients that included abortion providers facing bomb threats as well as rape victims in war zones. She died at home on December 18 from cancer.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet (17 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
posted by praemunire at 10:19 AM on December 20, 2017

posted by smangosbubbles at 11:02 AM on December 20, 2017

I just went to post this, glad it's already been making the rounds. Absolute hero. Rest in Power, Janet.
posted by stillmoving at 12:31 PM on December 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

posted by Sublimity at 12:54 PM on December 20, 2017

posted by pjsky at 3:26 PM on December 20, 2017

posted by MexicanYenta at 4:38 PM on December 20, 2017

posted by Lesser Spotted Potoroo at 4:51 PM on December 20, 2017

posted by songs_about_rainbows at 5:12 PM on December 20, 2017

posted by 4ster at 6:26 PM on December 20, 2017

posted by WalkerWestridge at 8:59 PM on December 20, 2017

posted by camyram at 9:18 PM on December 20, 2017

posted by filtergik at 4:32 AM on December 21, 2017

posted by Wilder at 4:46 AM on December 21, 2017

posted by perrouno at 1:42 PM on December 21, 2017


and thank you
posted by Space Kitty at 5:40 PM on December 21, 2017

posted by bryon at 9:27 PM on December 21, 2017

Thanks for posting this -- what a force of nature.

(Btw the fact that she worked at an A&W Root Beer stand to help pay her tuition to Harvard Law School was an interesting side note to me, because I like root beer and was unfamiliar with A&W Root Beer stands.)

I found this article on Benshoof from October 2017: "Janet Benshoof, Legal Activist, Seeks Help for Burma Through the Global Court" (Barbara Crossette, PassBlue) -- it starts from the angle of Burma but covers more of her life, from early on with her family in Minnesota, with quotes from an earlier oral history interview she did for the American Bar Association.

For instance, the WaPo article above mentioned that "Her father was a county prosecutor, and her mother was a teacher-turned-homemaker." The PassBlue piece has some further insight:
Her mother, an avid reader who encouraged her two daughters to absorb a broad range of knowledge, had been a teacher but was forced to quit when she married, a situation that still rankles when Benshoof talks about her family.
“Because my grandfather owned the newspaper and my father was the district attorney, my family had a certain status; both had these intellectual interests and personal principles, which I admired from an early age,” she said in the American Bar Association oral history. “I remember my father telling me about how during World War II, the FBI came to investigate people in a town in Becker County called New York Mills, which was totally composed of Finns. I think the FBI was looking for Nazi spies as Finland had initially allied with Germany.

“My father refused to investigate Finns, saying, ‘I am not going to spy on those people, they are good citizens and I am not here to do that,’ ” she said. “And this impressed me.”
From the WaPo piece:
Ms. Benshoof said she encountered a female lawyer for the first time while at Harvard, where she developed a friendship with future Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg
The PassBlue piece has a little more on this too -- it wasn't just a chance meeting. Benshoof actually played a role in getting RBG (then a law professor at Rutgers) to Harvard:
[Benshoof] entered Harvard Law School in 1969 and was taken aback by the prevailing sexism around her. She and two other female law students formed a Women’s Law Association. One of their first accomplishments was to have Ruth Bader Ginsburg, then at Rutgers, invited to teach a course at Harvard.
That started their nearly 50-year friendship!

And from the end of the NYT obit (Richard Sandomir):
Five days before Ms. Benshoof died, Justice Ginsburg sent her a letter that read, in part: “Martin Luther King said the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice. To make that so it takes people of your commitment, will and grit.”
posted by rangefinder 1.4 at 10:01 PM on January 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

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