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Jane Crow and the Law: Sex Discrimination and Title VII
Episode 3025th May 2021 • Breaking Down Patriarchy • Amy McPhie Allebest
00:00:00 01:15:27

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Amy: Welcome to Breaking Down Patriarchy! I’m Amy McPhie Allebest. Today we will be discussing an article called “Jane Crow and the Law: Sex Discrimination and Title VII,” by Pauli Murray and Mary Eastwood. This article was published by the George Washington University Law Review in 1965, in response to the Civil Rights Act, which had been passed the year before, in 1964, and it asks “the extent to which the Constitution may protect women against discrimination, and the interpretation of the sex discrimination provisions of the equal employment opportunity title of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.” This article was read, and the argument later used, by a rising star at the A.C.L.U.— Ruth Bader Ginsburg - to convince the Supreme Court that the Equal Protection Clause does indeed apply to women. 

This is an exciting moment for this history project as the podcast enters the Civil Rights era and we start to hear from authors who have new and more expansive, inclusive conceptions of women’s experiences within patriarchal systems. This is a landmark article, written by brilliant and groundbreaking lawyers. And I am so lucky to have a brilliant lawyer as my reading partner to discuss this work with me today, Rochelle Briscoe. Hi, Rochelle!

Rochelle: Hi, Amy!

Amy:[How we know each other]

So could we start by having you introduce yourself to listeners? Tell a bit about where you’re from and what perspective you bring to the text today.

Rochelle: I'm the youngest child, born into a  family of 8 born into a Southern Baptist family-- both of my parents were part of the Great migration.  Im ‘ ados & neither parent had even high schools educ..  In fact my Mothers mom-- my MaSue (who I named my daughter after-- was my idol… ) parent raised us in Small rural town in the agricultural part of So cal -- somehow I  developed an interest in law & politics at a disturbingly young age. Reading about JFK & MLK in the 2nd grade set me on a path that no 7-year-old should ever determine. I volunteered for neighborhood and local government initiatives, served as student body president (middle and high school), as a Congressional Page in DC AND FELL deeply IN LOVE WITH THE LAW AND POLITICS there, and then decided to apply only to colleges in Washington DC -- (much to parent chagrin, etc… ) attend Georgetown's School of Foreign Service,  ... 

After studying abroad in Japan, Kenya and Nicaragua, andreturn to the US &  enrolled in law school at U.C. Davis (where she was elected president of the Law Student Association-). After law school, I had Federal Clerkship in Sacramento - then moved into an  International BigLaw firm. (Add … context role of glass ceiling and Inclusion work on Hiring Councils…) CAL..  NY back to DC 

Role of 2008/9 recession... new mom ... I then  began using my legal background to conduct targeted searches for Fortune 50 companies and leading law firms, and later joined President Obama's White House Office of Presidential Personnel.

 I initially led the recruitment and retention of senior presidential appointments, in GC offices, DOJ and fed Inspec gen’l and when the president of the United States calls you his "People Person", you just roll with it.

Moved into Tech with USDS --- Obama plan for partnership with SV to bring fed gov’t into the 21st century with technology (stories re HHS/VA.. Fires etc…) 


then Google,  Created YouTube team for  Candidate Development Programs now in multiple roles YT including RJ work across our platform and as the People Officer with coaching & developing tech execs…

The hardest role I continue in is that of wife & mother -- strong willed teen son, 

Compassionate and wildly confident Lia is 13… two dogs (met daren - very similar backgrounds, lucky to find partner who wants to break the mold with you) … . living the struggle with grace and fun and lots of guidance from the ancestors

Amy: Great. And then the second thing I like to ask readers is what interested them in the Breaking Down Patriarchy podcast. 

Rochelle: Interest in podcast based on my passion for any space that give voice to women’s issues, causes that impact us, our daughter, our colleagues and have been woefully overlooked. 

-- family facts the southern Black baptist church was very traditional-- even growing up in California during the 1980’s and 90s-- women wore only dresses/skirts/ held no titles in Church leadership- and were denied positions behind the pulpit that didn’t include gospel singing or church announcements… I was actually a college student in Washington DC in the mid 1990s before I ever saw a Black women minister preaching!! 

Also fascinating to  learn that there still had not been a PhD Program that covers Women’s Studies at either Bay Area top institutions, where we were living in 2020! 


So let’s begin by talking a bit about the authors of this document, Pauli Murray and Mary Eastwood, and what was going on in the country at the time that led them to write this document. And I also want to mention to our listeners that we will be quoting documents from the early and mid 20th Century, so the language will sound outdated in places. For example, the word “Negro” was the word most often used to describe people of African descent, and was considered respectful at the time. It sounds offensive to our ears now, but it was not offensive then, so when we’re quoting those texts, listeners, you can join us in our approach as historians who are faithful to quoting the language as it was written at the time.

I’ll take Mary Eastwood’s bio.

Mary Eastwood:

Mary O. Eastwood was born on June 1, 1930. She was a white woman, a lawyer and civil rights advocate.

In 1955, Eastwood graduated from the University of Wisconsin Law School and then moved to Washington, D.C.

In 1960 she joined the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, serving as an attorney advisor and later (1969-1979) as an equal opportunity advisor. In 1961, Eastwood became the associate special counsel for investigation in the special counsel's office of the Merit System Protection Board.

In 1965 Eastwood and Pauli Murray published the landmark article, "Jane Crow and the Law: Sex Discrimination and Title VII", in the George Washington Law Review. The article discussed Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as it applied to women, and drew comparisons between discriminatory laws against women of all races, and Jim Crow discriminatory laws against African Americans. In subsequent years, Ruth Bader Ginsburg successfully argued this point in the case Reed v. Reed in front of the Supreme Court.

It’s also interesting to note that in 1966, after the article was published, Eastwood was one of the 28 women who founded the National Organization for Women. These women were inspired to start “NOW” because although Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 had been passed, no one was enforcing it!! This is relevant to our discussion today, obviously, because Eastwood had just published this paper on the importance of Title VII, and it also highlights how often countries or the United Nations make laws or declarations that people just don’t follow. Anyway… at the Third National Conference of State Commissions on the Status of Women they wanted to issue a demand that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission carry out its legal mandate to end sex discrimination in employment. But they were prohibited from doing that, and so they gathered in Betty Friedan’s hotel room to form a new organization. On a paper napkin Friedan scribbled the acronym "NOW" - the National Organization for Women. Eastwood was part of NOW's first Legal Committee, and she helped to organize a picket of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in protest of their sex-segregated Help Wanted ads. In fact, the picket was planned in Mary Eastwood’s apartment, and a photo of her picketing was in the Washington Post the next day.

And now we’ll talk about Pauli Murray - and we’re going to spend more time on her because she was such a fascinating, trailblazing woman. In fact in 2017 the New Yorker published an article about her by Kathryn Schulz titled “The Many Lives of Pauli Murray,” with the tag line:

“She was an architect of the civil-rights struggle—and the women’s movement. Why haven’t you heard of her?” And some of this bio is taken from that article.


Rochelle: I’m thrilled cover this bio of a woman who may be an unsung hero-- but was a career and cultural role model -- her writings, legacy & life, inspired me in countless ways -- talk about #hashtagGOALS, PM is a political & legal superstar of epic proportion!! 

Pauli Murray was born in Baltimore  on November 20, 1910. Both sides of her family were of mixed racial origins, with ancestors including Black enslaved people, White enslavers, Native Americans, Irish, and free Black people. Murray's parents,identified as Black. Her father William Murray was  school teacher and  her mother Agnes was a nurse. In 1914, Agnes died of a cerebral hemorrhage when Pauli was only three. After Murray's father began to have emotional problems as a result of typhoid fever, relatives took custody of her siblings, and Pauli was sent to Durham, North Carolina to be raised by her aunts. Eventually William was committed to a psychiatric institution, and all throughout Pauli’s childhood she had the dream of going to the institution to rescue her father and bring him home. Tragically, her father received no meaningful treatment in the institution and was eventually beaten to death by a white guard. Pauli was only 13 when he died.


Pauli Murray stayed in Durham until the age of 16, at which point she moved to New York to finish high school and prepare for college. In November 1930 (so at the age of 20!!) she married William Roy Wynn, in secret. But she soon came to regret the decision. Pauli and William spent only a few months together, and quickly had their marriage annulled. 


Pauli had a favorite teacher in school who inspired her to attend Columbia University, but she was turned away because the university did not admit women. She had no funds to attend its partner women's school --Barnard College, so instead she attended Hunter College, a free city university, where she was one of very few students of color.  Pauli was encouraged in her writing by one of her English instructors, who gave her an "A" for an essay about her maternal grandfather. This became the basis of her later memoir Proud Shoes (1956), about her mother's family. She graduated in 1933 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English. 


Pauli Murray applied to the University of North Carolina in 1938, but was rejected because of her race. This was still the Jim Crow era, upheld by the Supreme Court case Plessy v. Ferguson, and all schools and other public facilities in the state were segregated by state law. Pauli contested her rejection, writing to officials ranging from the university leadership to President Roosevelt, releasing their responses to the media in an attempt to embarrass them into action. The NAACP initially was interested in the case, but later declined to represent her in court. NAACP leader Roy Wilkins opposed representing her because Pauli had already released her correspondence, which he considered "not diplomatic". Concerns about her sexuality also may have played a role in the decision - Pauli often wore pants rather than the customary skirts, and was open about her relationships with women.

After her rejection from UNC Pauli became more involved in challenging segregation: In Petersburg, Virginia, she and her roommate (and girlfriend) Adelene McBean moved out of broken seats in the back section of the bus, where state segregation laws mandated they sit, and into the White section. They had been studying Gandhian civil disobedience, and they refused to return to the rear even after the police were called. As a result, they were arrested and jailed. Murray and McBean initially were defended by the NAACP, but when the pair were convicted of disorderly conduct rather than violating segregation laws, the organization stopped representing them.

A few months after this incident the Workers’ Defense League hired Pauli for its administrative committee, and Murray became active in the case of Odell Waller, a black Virginia sharecropper sentenced to death for killing his white landlord, Oscar Davis, during an argument. The WDL argued that Davis had cheated Waller in a settlement and as their argument grew more heated, Waller had shot Davis in legitimate fear of his life. Murray toured the country raising funds for Waller's appeal and wrote to First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt on Waller's behalf. Through this correspondence, Murray and Eleanor Roosevelt began a friendship that would last until Roosevelt’s death two decades later. Still, despite the efforts of the Workers’ Defense League and the Roosevelts, Odell Waller was executed.

Pauli’s  trial on charges stemming from the bus incident and her experience with the Waller case inspired a career in civil rights law, and in 1941, she started at Howard University Law School. Murray was the only woman in her law school class, and in this environment she became aware of sexism at the school - on Murray's first day of class, one professor remarked that he did not know why women went to law school. She was infuriated, and developed a feminist critique which she labeled "Jane Crow"—alluding to Jim Crow, the system of racial discriminatory state laws oppressing African Americans.


In 1942, while still in law school, she joined the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). That year Pauli published an article, "Negro Youth's Dilemma", that challenged segregation in the US military, which continued during the Second World War. She also participated in sit-ins challenging several Washington, DC restaurants with discriminatory seating policies. These activities were ahead of the more widespread sit-ins during the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s.

Murray was elected chief justice of the Howard Court of Peers, the highest student position at Howard, and in 1944 she graduated first in her class. Traditionally, men who graduated first in the class were awarded Julius Rosenwald Fellowships for graduate work at Harvard University, but Harvard did not accept women at the time, so Murray was rejected from Harvard, even despite a letter of support from FDR!

In response to her rejection, she wrote to...