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EXIT of the DAY: EXIT 48 I-95 To I-91n to Hartford CT, Springfield Mass in New Haven
If you bear right here up the onramp of Interstate 91 it’s a long road up to Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. But that road is nothing compared to the road of so many of the women that went there before 1919. The long road is a breeze when compared to the struggle of women to claim the honest rights that all Americans should share. It took almost 130 years for women to get the right to vote in 1919.
Dorothy Kenyon liked losers. And good thing for them. Dorothy was a feminist lawyer and an inspiration for Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Growing up in the late 1800’s her parents had a country home near Lakeville, Connecticut. It was in Connecticut, on the frozen ponds, that she learned to stand up and give as good as she takes. She loved to play Hockey with the boys. But it was back in New York City where she scored her most points.
“Years ago,” she recalled, “my lawyer father said the words I should like to hear everybody use today. Holding tight to his hand and skipping to keep up with his long stride, the little girl that was me suddenly popped this question out of nowhere to him: ‘Can girls be lawyers, father?’
“And he answered, smiling, ‘Why not, my dear?’”
A grad of Horace Mann School and later of Smith College, Dorothy received her law degree from NYU. A snap researcher, she worked on the Versailles Accords to settle World War One and then made her bones in the 1930's advocating against Injustice.
For most of her career, Kenyon advocated for causes such as the New Deal, the Labor Movement and most of all, for Women’s Rights. During the Depression she was appointed to municipal relief agencies in the city and notably agitated for birth control, the rights of prostitutes and the equal treatment before the law of the men who paid for their services.
In the Communist baiting McCarthy era, Kenyon was accused of being a communist. This prompted many plain old feminists to support her. Foremost of her supporters was none other than Former First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt. Eleanor drew on Dorothy's words to craft the United Nations Declaration of Universal Rights. These rights protect women and even men all over the globe.
Thereafter, she prepared briefs for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and worked for the American Civil Liberties Union.
Dorothy would join African American female lawyer, Dr Pauli Murray to advocate for women having the right to serve on Juries. Can you imagine that? People wanted to serve on juries!
Wonder if that is something most men or women would willingly roll back now? But in the 1950’s it was quite revolutionary... So much so that then lawyer and future Supreme Court Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg cited Dorothy’s work as an inspiration — an Honorary co-author even -- in her successful court fight to allow women equal rights to work under the law.
While Dorothy had several long relationships with men, she did not marry. Perhaps this was out of deference to her crusading ways. “I always pick the losing cause,” she said in an interview in 1936. “1 guess I'm’ crazy about the underdog. But I think I'm helping women by my kind of life.”
A champion of women, people of color, and anyone who seemed to face a losing cause, Dorothy worked up to the day she died in 1972 at age 84.
Dorothy Kenyon... A winner to the end.
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