Document Type


Publication Date

January 1999


INTRODUCTION The overarching question motivating this Review Essay is whether- and, if so, in what ways-we should understand lawyering roles to be gendered. I examine this question by reviewing Kathryn Kish Sklar's recent biography of Florence Kelley, an early "public interest" lawyer and social activist whom Felix Frankfurter described as the woman who had "the largest single share in shaping the social history of the United States during the first thirty years of this century." Sklar's meticulous research provides us with new information about a dimension of Kelley's life that is overshadowed by Kelley's public persona as a social reformer who claimed special "feminine" moral insights: behind the scenes, Kelley operated as a shrewd and enormously proficient trained and licensed lawyer. This Essay examines how Sklar's study of Kelley's life shows the interplay of gender and claims to lawyering authority. I suggest that cer- tain of the methodologies Sklar uses in analyzing the effect of gender on Kelley's life should be imported by feminists in the legal academy to redirect their inquiry into the operation of gender in the legal profession. Questions concerning gender and lawyering roles have proved hugely controversial. Gender infuses so much of social organization that it is implausible to maintain that gender has no influence on the way lawyers perform their roles; however, attempts to develop theories about how lawyering is gendered have met with immense opposition. Similar doubts have been raised about attempts to investigate the gendered underpinnings of the professional socialization of lawyers in law schools and beyond.'