Last week I attended an event to celebrate Mom. The California Women Lawyers association was giving her an award. Named for trailblazer Rose Bird, who was not only the first female justice on the California Supreme Court, but the first female Chief Justice on the California Supreme Court. But beyond that, Bird was a woman of exceptional courage and principle. She opposed the death penalty, and overturned 56 death penalty sentences before she was voted out of office after a highly publicized campaign against her. And in a case we might be hearing more about as states continue their efforts to curtail the right to abortion, she ruled that poor women should be provided with free abortions.
Mom was thrilled to be receiving an award named for this woman.
It was a nice event, with a buffet dinner and a medium-sized room packed with about a hundred lawyers and Judges. My niece, who will be 14 in a month, was all dressed up and wanted to circulate in the crowd by herself. I loved watching this, and can’t help but think it had something to do with the fact that it was a very pro-female room.
Mom’s acceptance speech included profound thanks to her clerk and bailiff, and the social workers she deals with daily, but also a rousing cry of outrage at the decimation of the judicial system, the budget cuts that make it more difficult to dispense justice, and the new administration’s cutting of the a legal services corporation for the poor. And as she spoke, I watched the faces of the women lawyers, many of them about my age, mid-life and working hard to do their thing. And I saw how much Mom meant to them. How they had watched her for years, and been influenced by a woman doing her job with grace and authority.
Mom’s been a trailblazer in her own way, working hard to support drug recovery as an option to prison, and for the past ten years helping to establish a mental health court so that people receive treatment instead of jail. And I could tell it was meaningful to these women, what Mom had done.
Mom didn’t have examples like that. Mom went to Harvard Law School in the 50’s, applying to the Law School because her first choice, the Harvard Business School didn’t accept women. (But it does now! Here's a picture of my cousin Kathleen, Mom’s niece, graduating from Harvard Business School in 2014.)
Even having heard the story all these years, I still find it hard to imagine such a thing.
So here she is now in 2017, 82 years old, happily married to Dad for 58 years, three grown children, four grandchildren, still serving on the Alameda County Superior Court, working with young public defenders, prosecutors, and social workers, trying to be fair and just and reasonable and kind to the people who come before her, both the “clients” as they call them, and the attorneys. California’s newest Senator, Kamala Harris, (who’s rockin’ the resistance in the Senate by the way,) Kamala served as a District Attorney in Alameda County for eight years, and argued in front of Mom, as did so many women who’ve gone on to do great things. And I think it’s been good for the men, too, to see a woman Judge who’s fair, diligent, and capable. And Mom’s all of those things.
So Happy Woman’s Day. I’ll probably go down to a midday rally later, to enjoy the activism that is inspiring our nation right now. But the real celebration is going on in my heart, as I give thanks for the greatest blessing a woman can have, an inspiring mother.