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Nifty 50, continued

Stephanie SeymourWhen she was an HLS student, Stephanie Seymour '65 was the first woman to be on the winning team in the Ames Moot Court Competition. She would later judge the competition twice. But that was hardly all the judging she would do.

For nearly a quarter century, Seymour has served on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit. Nominated by President Carter in 1979, she was the first woman on the 10th Circuit court and, from 1994 to 2000, the first woman to serve as chief judge. She also was the first woman to preside over the Judicial Conference of the United States, the chief administrative policy-making body of the federal courts.

Seymour, who was mentioned as a possible Supreme Court nominee during the Clinton administration, is known as a supporter of women's and civil rights. And she made her feelings known even as a student. Before she won Ames, the names of the winners were listed with only their first initials. She told Dean Griswold that full names should be listed to show that women can compete too. The dean agreed.

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Alice DesjardinsBefore Alice Desjardins LL.M. '67 came to Harvard Law, she worked as a professor. That's not so unusual for LL.M. candidates, who often have distinguished legal careers all over the world before furthering their education at HLS. But Desjardins in particular made a splash in her classroom. In 1961, she became the first woman to teach full time in a Canadian law school when she taught constitutional law at the University of Montreal.

It wouldn't be her last breakthrough. After serving as the director of advisory and administrative law in Canada's Justice Department and as a justice on the Quebec Superior Court, in 1987 Desjardins was appointed to the Federal Court of Canada, Appeal Division, the first woman on the country's second-highest court (she also became judge of the Court Martial Appeal Court of Canada soon after). In a prior interview with the Bulletin, she spoke of "the new energy released as more women attain positions of great responsibility." And at Celebration 45, she introduced Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg '56-'58, praising her efforts to counter gender stereotypes. The same praise could be given for Desjardins.

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Mary RobinsonOf the more than 36,500 HLS alumni alive today, only one of them has served as president of a country. That's Mary Robinson LL.M. '68, who was president of Ireland for seven years. But it's a testament to her achievements on the international stage that today she is just as well-known for her more recent job, as U.N. high commissioner for human rights. In that role, in which she served from 1997 to 2002, she traveled to many of the world's trouble spots, including Rwanda, South Africa, Colombia and Cambodia, and in 1998, she became the first high commissioner to visit China. The U.N. office now has staff monitoring human rights in more than 20 countries. Her emphasis on human rights has been long-standing, dating from her successful fight for Irish women to obtain contraceptives in the '70s. As president, she was an internationalist as well, the first head of state to visit Somalia during the 1992 famine and Rwanda after the 1994 genocide. She will continue to concentrate on global issues as director of the Ethical Globalization Initiative, working to make human rights standards the norm instead of merely a goal.

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Brenda FeigenIn a way, Harvard Law School was responsible for the creation of Ms. magazine. Brenda Feigen '69, the magazine's co-founder along with Gloria Steinem, says HLS turned her into a radical feminist, citing the treatment of women when she was a student at the school.

Motivated by her HLS experience, Feigen went on to become a stalwart of the women's movement in the '70s as a co-founder of the National Women's Political Caucus and the Women's Action Alliance. She also directed with Ruth Bader Ginsburg '56-'58 the Women's Rights Project of the ACLU and served as legislative vice president of the National Organization for Women. Currently an entertainment and literary lawyer, Feigen has represented producers, writers and actors, and herself produced the action movie "Navy Seals." She chronicled her experiences in advocacy and entertainment in the memoir "Not One of the Boys: Living Life as a Feminist."

It all started at HLS, where she learned her lessons well. Early in her career, she sued the Harvard Club of New York City in order to gain women graduates the right to become full members. She won.

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Jane HarmanJane Harman '69 worried about domestic terrorism long before most people let it concern them. The ranking Democrat of the House Subcommittee on Terrorism and Homeland Security, she has focused on national security concerns during much of her tenure in Congress, including as a member of the National Commission on Terrorism. That body issued a report in 2000 warning of the dangers of terrorism strikes in the United States, and Harman spoke before Sept. 11, 2001, of the need to increase readiness against attacks. She is speaking even more now, having introduced legislation to strengthen the White House Office of Homeland Security and to improve the bioterrorism research facilities of the Centers for Disease Control. The winner of the Concord Coalition's "Deficit Hawk" award, she also focuses on the fiscal security of the nation. The current House minority leader, Nancy Pelosi, told the Congressional Quarterly that Harman is "a leader not only in the House, but in the nation, on homeland security issues." And now, when Jane Harman speaks, people listen.

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Janet BenshoofJanet Benshoof ' 72 graduated from HLS shortly before the Supreme Court handed down the Roe v. Wade decision. Since then, she has devoted her career to protecting a woman's right to have access to contraception and abortion, serving as director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Reproductive Freedom Project and in 1992 founding the Center for Reproductive Law and Policy (now called the Center for Reproductive Rights). Currently president emerita after resigning last year, Benshoof led the organization to Supreme Court victories in cases involving nonconsensual drug testing of pregnant women and a state ban of late-term abortion. She has been called "one of the nation's foremost experts on reproductive rights and privacy law" by the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals, which gave her its annual award in 2000. Her reach has extended internationally as well, with the center working on reproductive health issues with more than 50 organizations in 44 countries. She litigated against the Global Gag Rule requiring organizations that receive U.S. aid not to speak about abortion. Being silent about, as she puts it, "women's right to equality and women's rights to control their reproductive destinies" goes against everything she has fought for.

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Diana DanielsThe newspaper that broke the Watergate scandal has a reputation to uphold. And that means not being afraid to report on issues that may cause the newspaper to be sued. As vice president, secretary and general counsel of the Washington Post Co., Diana Daniels ' 74 tries to prevent lawsuits against her company but also works to ensure that reporters can do their jobs in the way Post readers expect. She learned when she started as assistant counsel with the company in 1978 that her role was "to work out the language in a way that would allow [reporters] to run the story," she said in a recent National Law Journal profile.

Daniels has worked for media companies most of her career, jumping from the Post to its subsidiary Newsweek in 1979 before returning to become the Post's general counsel in 1988. Today, she supervises 17 attorneys who handle in-house duties such as acquisitions, SEC compliance and employment issues, and oversees outside counsel on litigation matters. She also files amicus briefs in support of other parties in First Amendment cases, advocating that all presses--not just her company's--remain free.

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Alice YoungNo matter what you accomplish in life, sometimes people remember you for something comparatively trivial. That may be the case with Alice Young ' 74, a corporate and international business attorney who speaks five languages, has done business deals and advised companies throughout the globe, served as an adviser to the U.S. Department of Commerce, represents clients in a wide range of disciplines, has been featured in The New York Times, Fortune, Forbes, Business Week and Newsweek, has appeared on CNN, "The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer," "The Charlie Rose Show," "Nightline" and the China Television Network, has been named one of the top 100 minority executives and one of the five most influential Asian-American corporate lawyers in the country, lectures on law, business and foreign policy issues and was highlighted in the book "Working Women for the 21st Century." All that, and the Dewar's profile still stands out, in which the partner at Kaye Scholer in New York City called herself a "gentle dragon lady." But she summed herself up in a more serious way in the profile, as an "attorney, wife, mother, daughter, Asian and dreamer, not necessarily in that order." Cheers to that.

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Jamie GorelickJanet Reno '63 got much of the attention for being the first female attorney general of the United States. But another woman--and another Harvard Law alumna--served alongside her. Jamie Gorelick ' 75 was Reno's deputy from 1994 to 1997, the chief operating officer and second-ranking official in the Justice Department, which during her tenure had an operating budget of $18 billion and employed more than 100,000 people. In that role, she concentrated on helping the department prepare for the threat of terrorism, experience she draws on now as a member of the national commission investigating the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. She has long served the public, including as general counsel of the Department of Defense. Currently vice chairwoman of Fannie Mae, the nation's largest source of financing for home mortgages, Gorelick has helped expand community development efforts and minority lending, and was among Fortune magazine's most recent "Fifty Most Powerful Women in American Business." She will leave the job in July to devote more time to the commission, having helped countless people, said Fannie Mae Chairman Franklin Raines '76, achieve the "American Dream."

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Nadine StrossenNadine Strossen ' 75 could have maintained a quiet academic life as a professor at New York Law School, where she teaches constitutional law and international human rights. But not while her name is attached to four little letters: ACLU. Strossen's life has been anything but quiet since she assumed the presidency of the American Civil Liberties Union in 1991, the first woman to serve as head of the nation's oldest--and most controversial--civil liberties organization. As ACLU president, she is a media fixture and makes more than 200 appearances a year, many at college campuses, speaking on many of the hot-button issues of the day and against what she sees as government intrusion in private lives. She has been busy lately, criticizing Bush administration efforts to fight terrorism, like the USA Patriot Act, which she says infringe on civil liberties. Her 1995 book, "Defending Pornography: Free Speech, Sex, and the Fight for Women's Rights," cemented her reputation as an absolute advocate for free expression. Some people may not agree with her, but she'd be happy--anytime, anyplace--to defend her beliefs.

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Jamienne StudleySkidmore College, a women's college until the early '70s, had only male presidents throughout its history. That changed in 1999, when the school hired Jamienne Studley ' 75. A champion for the liberal arts, she will step down as president at the end of the current academic year, having brought an infusion of students and money to the Saratoga Springs, N.Y., college. Skidmore enjoyed three record fund-raising years and a 25 percent increase in its endowment as well as a growth in admissions under Studley's leadership. She also developed a 10-year strategic plan for the school and emphasized improving student access to college and assessing educational quality and effectiveness.

Before assuming the Skidmore presidency, Studley served as deputy, then general counsel, of the U.S. Department of Education from 1993 to 1999 and previously was an associate dean and lecturer at Yale Law School. She has not announced her next career move but said she will pursue what she cares about most: "education, equity and opportunity, and civic and community engagement."

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Patricia WilliamsFor Patricia Williams ' 75, the personal is indeed the political. The professor at Columbia Law School has long incorporated her personal story into her academic and popular writing on race, class, gender and the law, well enough and bold enough to capture the attention of the MacArthur Foundation, which in 2000 awarded her a "genius grant" of $500,000. "Her voice," according to the foundation, "has created a new form of legal writing and scholarship that integrates personal narrative, critical and literary theory, traditional legal doctrine, and empirical and sociological research."

Often challenging prevailing theory, including what she terms "the normality that's made a cult of the standard of the reasonable man," Williams inspires critics and devotees. The great-great-granddaughter of a slave and a white Southern lawyer, she has examined the problem of race relations in America and other contentious topics, writing three books and many opinion pieces, including a regular column in The Nation. On her HLS experience, she wrote: "My abiding recollection of being a student at Harvard Law School is the sense of being invisible." Williams has ensured that she is invisible no more.

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Norma CantuNorma Cantu ' 77 taught high school English when she was barely older than a typical high schooler herself. And since graduating law school at age 22, she has focused on bringing to all Americans the same kinds of educational opportunities that she enjoyed.

As the assistant secretary of Education for Civil Rights for the eight years of the Clinton administration, Cantu served as the nation's chief civil rights enforcer in the educational arena, overseeing a staff of 850 and dramatically increasing the number of discrimination complaints resolved by the office. Considered an aggressive advocate for minority, disabled and female students, Cantu also championed enforcement of Title IX, ensuring that schools provide opportunities for males and females to participate in sports. Before her stint in the U.S. Department of Education, she served as regional counsel and education director of the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, litigating a variety of cases involving funding, educational access and racially hostile environments. Today, she teaches both education and law at the University of Texas, a combination that has always been a part of her career.

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