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Mary M. Schroeder

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Mary M. Schroeder August 30, 2006; September 16, 2006; October 13, 2006; January 3, 2007 Recommended Citation Transcript of Interview with Mary M. Schroeder (Aug. 30, 2006; Sept. 16, 2006; Oct. 13, 2006; Jan. 3, 2007), https://abawtp.law.stanford.edu/exhibits/show/mary-m-schroeder. Attribution The American Bar Association is the copyright owner or licensee for this collection. Citations, quotations, and use of materials in this collection made under fair use must acknowledge their source as the American Bar Association. Terms of Use This oral history is part of the American Bar Association Women Trailblazers in the Law Project, a project initiated by the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession and sponsored by the ABA Senior Lawyers Division. This is a collaborative research project between the American Bar Association and the American Bar Foundation. Reprinted with permission from the American Bar Association. All rights reserved. Contact Information Please contact the Robert Crown Law Library at [email protected] with questions about the ABA Women Trailblazers Project. Questions regarding copyright use and permissions should be directed to the American Bar Association Office of General Counsel, 321 N Clark St., Chicago, IL 60654-7598; 312-988-5214.
Mary M. Schroeder
August 30, 2006; September 16, 2006; October 13, 2006; January 3, 2007
Recommended Citation
Transcript of Interview with Mary M. Schroeder (Aug. 30, 2006; Sept. 16, 2006; Oct. 13, 2006; Jan. 3, 2007), https://abawtp.law.stanford.edu/exhibits/show/mary-m-schroeder.
Attribution The American Bar Association is the copyright owner or licensee for this collection. Citations, quotations, and use of materials in this collection made under fair use must acknowledge their source as the American Bar Association.
Terms of Use This oral history is part of the American Bar Association Women Trailblazers in the Law Project, a project initiated by the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession and sponsored by the ABA Senior Lawyers Division. This is a collaborative research project between the American Bar Association and the American Bar Foundation. Reprinted with permission from the American Bar Association. All rights reserved.
Contact Information
Please contact the Robert Crown Law Library at [email protected] with questions about the ABA Women Trailblazers Project. Questions regarding copyright use and permissions should be directed to the American Bar Association Office of General Counsel, 321 N Clark St., Chicago, IL 60654-7598; 312-988-5214.
Women Trailblazers in the Law
August30,2006 September 16, 2006 October 13, 2006 January 3, 2007
Today is August 30th, 2006. My name is Trish Refo and I'm
sitting with Chief Judge Mary Schroeder and this is the first session
of the oral history for the Trailblazer's project, and thank you very
much for taking the time to do this with us. Let's begin at the
beginning. Tell me when and where you were born.
I was born in Boulder, Colorado, in 1940, which seems a very
long time ago. When I was born, there was a little story in the
Boulder camera, the daily newspaper, saying that my father, Richard
Murphy was sitting in the waiting room of the maternity ward of
community Hospital reading a book entitled "Reveries of a Bachelor."
I never knew whether that was true or not.
<Laughter> That's a great story. And your mother was Theresa
Theresa Kahn. She was a remarkable woman and she came
from one of the great Jewish families of Pittsburgh. MY father was
the son of a Wild Irishman who had studied for the priesthood.
Luckily for me, he decided against it. My parents were unable to
marry during the 30's. Nepotism laws prohibited the wife from
working for the same employer as the husband. Both needed the
jobs at the University of Pittsburgh to support their families. When
my father took a job in Colorado they decided they'd better get
married so that they could be together. They met at the university
of Pittsburgh. In the 20's she was the coach of the women's debate
team and he was the coach of the men's debate team.
Well, her father's name was Charles Kahn. He was a merchant.
Her mother's name was Genevieve Guggenheim Kahn. Two cousins
named Guggenheim came to the United states several generations
before her. one of them has a very large museum named after him
in New York on 5th Avenue, and the other was my great-great
Yes, she had several brothers and sisters. one of her sisters
was very talented musically. She was one of the first people to ever
sing on the radio at KDKA, one of the country's earliest radio stations
and located in Pittsburgh. Two of her brothers were haberdashers.
And your mom obviously was, was a working mom, when you
were growing up, or some part of that time?
Well, they were in Colorado, when WWII broke out. Because
the draft took away many of the teachers the University permitted
her to teach along with my father, who was too old for military
duty. She always believed that women should do what they wanted
to do and that there was no reason why women couldn't do the
same things that men do. She was a feminist. She was born on
August 26th, which is women's suffrage day, 17 years, to the day,
before women got the right to vote.
She later taught in the public schools in Champaign-Urbana,
Illinois, off and on, which is where I eventually grew up, and she was
always very active in community work.
She went to the University of Pittsburgh, as did my father.
They were both from western Pennsylvania and Pitt, <it has always
been called Pitt> was the great working class university of the area
and it provided an awful lot of opportunities, particularly in the
Great Depression, after both my parents' families lost everything.
I know sometimes it's hard to talk about the influences our
parents have on us but can you talk a little bit about the influence
your mom had on you?
Well, my mother had incredible judgment. we moved to
Illinois when I was about five, after my father accepted a position
teaching at the university of Illinois. It was just after the war and my
mother was not able to work because they reinstituted nepotism
rules for whatever reason. we lived in a house that was very close to
downtown Urbana, Illinois, and everybody who came to shop would
stop in at our house to have a cup of coffee and talk to my mother.
I really got an education about life at my mother's kitchen table,
because everyone with any kind of problem came in to talk about it
with my mother. There were battered women, for example, whose
husbands were beating them and didn't want to leave the children.
There was one woman who thought there would be an election
scandal in a town about a hundred miles away, where some of the
ballot boxes were still locked up under an official's bed. There was
much worry about childrens' illnesses, delinquency and pregnancy.
Just about everything that you could imagine came through my
mother's kitchen, and I absorbed all of it.
His father was Irish but he married a woman who was of
German and Pennsylvania Dutch stock and who was a staunch
Methodist. It was a rather unusual union I think. He had three older
sisters and he was the caboose.
His sisters were pillars of the wcru and when mv father's
father died, my father was basically raised by his sisters because his
mother wasn't able to care for him. His sisters were much older
than he.
No I didn't. Dennis Jerome Murphy was his name. My
brother, Richard Dennis, is named after him and mv father. I was
named after mv father's mother whose name was Marv weber, w-e­
b-e-r, Murphy. She died when I was about three, so I never really
knew either of my paternal grandparents. My maternal
grandfather, Charlie Kahn died long before I was born, but I knew
my grandmother, Grandma Kahn. She was "formidable." She would
arrive on the train for a three week visit with her fox stole and an
intimidating aura. She wore the fox stole and beautiful rhinestone
clips. I still have one of them. She had incredible posture and she
seemed to me about six feet tall I don't think she really was.
Not really, because she was rather scary and she didn't spend
that much time with us, but I liked her. She was Austrian and she
made wonderful cookies. She used some Yiddish words and used to '
call my brother a "fresser," which I think meant that he ate a lot.
was there anybody in your childhood, the generation ahead of
your parents, either family or not family, who was particularly
important to you growing up?
You know, I think ironically the family that I spent more time
with than any other was when I was in high school was the family of
one of the law professors at the law school, Ed Cleary. He taught
evidence and later was the Reporter for the Rules of Evidence. His
daughter Ann, a few years older than I, was very musically talented
and gave me flute lessons. Their second daughter Marty Cleary, who
is now Marty Cleary strong, was one of my best friends, I loved the
Cleary house, a big house on Pennsylvania street in Urbana, and I
loved Ed Cleary. He later came to Arizona to teach at Arizona state
and he was one of the big reasons I was willing to move there. I
didn't know anything about Phoenix, had never seen Arizona, and
the law school at Arizona state University was brand new, but I
thought, "if it's good enough for Ed Cleary it's good enough for us."
He was raised in Jacksonville, Illinois <the same town my husband
came from> and Ed's parents were both deaf. They taught at the
state school for the deaf in Jacksonville and must have been quite
Talk a little bit about the influences that your father had on
I adored my father. He loved his family, he loved words, and
he loved books. He had mountains of books, and every one of his
books had written in it where he purchased it and how much he
paid for it. He had a number of collections on argumentation,
debate, public speaking and elocution. He was an expert in
parliamentary procedure and so was my mother. They both
believed in parliamentary procedure, running orderly meetings, I
think that is why I am able sometimes to preside well over difficult
meetings, I think there's a certain "procedure" gene that people
have. so I've always loved civil procedure. Though I've never really
studied parlia_mentary procedure, I got a lot of it through osmosis
from my parents. My father would teach outside the university for
extra money, conducting seminars for union leaders on how to
conduct a good union meeting. over there is a print of one of
Norman Rockwell's famous "Four Freedoms" series for the Saturday
Evening Post. This one is "Freedom of speech" and depicts a man
speaking up at a union meeting. My father always had a print of that
in his office. He really believed in free speech. He was a member of
the AAUP, American Association of university Professors committee
on Academic Freedom. It tried to make sure that no professors
were fired for exercising their right to free speech. That was just a
core value for him so I think that must have had an influence on me
as well.
You mentioned your brother Dennis. Is he older or younger?
He's three years younger. He's an economist with the Federal
Trade commission.
Did you guys have a sibling rivalry relationship growing up?
No, we were actually pretty close growing up. well, to a
certain extent we had a rivalry, because he's very musical. When 1
started taking piano lessons, I would pick the pieces out slowly,
painfully reading the notes on the page. When I finished my half an
hour mandatory practice, he would crawl up on the piano bench
and just play it all by ear. It was very discouraging.
so he was born when you all were still in Boulder?
He was born in Boulder but you know I have a theory that
people's brains get imprinted with the geography of where they
spend their first five years. I spent my first five years in Colorado,
and I love the mountains and the grandeur of Colorado. we left
before .he got that same imprint, so he was imprinted with the
prairie. And so I wound up in Arizona. I went to college in the east
near Philadelphia in a very beautiful suburb, but I tried to get back
west as soon as I could. My brother went to college at a wonderful
school named Grinnell, in Iowa. I remember driving him to college
for his freshman year and I had to get out of there after ten
minutes. I could not exist in that little town, in the middle of Iowa,
with one gas station, but he absolutely thrived in it.
Refo: \
was that a big deal? was that disruptive for you?
It was disruptive because Colorado was so beautiful and it was
right after the war. we had this old car that kept breaking down. It
was a 1940 Hudson. There was no housing at the University of Illinois
because all of the veterans were coming back on the GI bill. we had
to buy an old house that was falling apart and redo it. It belonged
to an old lady that lived in it for eighty years. When the ceilings fell
in on one room she would just close off the room. It was pretty
traumatic for the family. I don't know how my parents did it with
these two little kids and the car that was always breaking down and
no decent housing. we had to live in a tourist cabin. There weren't
motels in those days. There were little tourist cabins, and we lived in
one for three weeks. The post war changes that occurred right
after world war II had an impact on me and, 1 think, on many
members of my generation. 1 think we got imbued with a kind of
spirit of change and of moving forward.
I went to an elementary school called Leal School in Urbana,
It was a public school. It was the best public school in Urbana.
Urbana had a pretty good public school system, because all
university towns generally have good public school systems. In fact,
and it's ironic, one of the reasons that I thought that it would be
good to move to Arizona was that I thought that we were moving to
a university town, Tempe, Arizona. It turns out that Tempe is really a
bedroom community for Phoenix, and we never lived in Tempe
anyway. we decided to live in Scottsdale. The "college town" in
Arizona was a great delusion on my part but it all worked out.
Any special teachers that you remember in your grade school?
People who were of particular importance to you?
Did you? Well I think it is quite unusual and I thought it was
very good for me to have a male teacher after all those women
teachers in elementary school. He was very supportive of the girls in .
class and encouraged them to speak out. That did make an
impression on me. \
And middle school? Where did you go to middle school?
I went to University High School which had a special program
called the "sub-freshman" program. I was one of those people who
was caught in an arbitrary cutoff date for starting first grade. If you
were born before December 1st then you started first grade at one
year and if you're born after December 1st you start it the next year.
I was born December 4th, so I was almost a year older than some of
my contemporaries in elementary school. Then I found out about
this program at university High School in Urbana, a laboratory school
operated by the University of Illinois. It had a program, that one had
to pass a test for admission, that combined seventh and eighth
grade. It was called a sub-freshman program. 1 did that program
and I was able to make up the year. I think that put me on track.
The upperclassmen used to call the sub-freshmen the "subbies" and
we were really pretty-much at the bottom of the ladder, but it was a
good program for me. The rest of the high school was open to
anyone, but dominated by faculty children. I got a pretty good
education for what amounted to a midwestern public school
outside the great schools of the north shore suburbs of Chicago.
our athletic teams were terrible and the kids at the Champion and
Urbana High Schools referred to us as "Puny uni."
Yes, was run by the university as a laboratory school and was
supposed to be experimental. I think I got the short end of some of
the experiments.
Well, the "New Math" started at Uni High. The genius of New
Math was a man named Max Beberman. He was a genius; he
admitted it and everyone knew it. But we were the very first kids,
to be experimented with and as a result I never learned any math. I
spent years trying to catch up a little bit to understand how calculus
works. 1 don't think that I ever did. Fortunately, my brother is fairly
mathematical, and as an economist, he's much better than I am. My
children are very good. 1 don't think that I'm an idiot
mathematically, but I just never "got it" and that was poor.
on the other hand there were two other geniuses who taught
at the High School: one was in art and one was in music. The art
teacher's name was Mr. Laska and he took the little sub-freshmen
and gave them a survey art course, beginning with Egypt and going
all the way through Picasso, that changed my life. It just opened up
a whole world for me. The music teacher's name was warren
Schuetz. He was a genius too. I think both Laska and Schuetz never
finished getting their doctoral degrees because they began teaching
at University High School, and they just stayed there because they
loved the kids. Schuetz' genius was in getting all of the students to
participate in music programs, particularly choral music programs.
They would produce a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta every year and it
was the status symbol of the school to have a lead in the Gilbert &
Sullivan. n didn't but my brother did.> The school had a "grand
reunion" decades later. somebody asked, just for the heck of it, how
many people are still involved in music, and of the people who were
there who had been students in the era of warren Schuetz, an
unbelievable number raised their hands. I would say almost half or
at least a third of the people there had gone on to sing in choirs or
whatever, for life. He opened the world of music to all of us.
Schuetz did a survey course of music for the little sub-freshmen that
was remarkable. It took us from medieval music and Gregorian
chants up through Aaron Copeland.
wow. Am I right that you still have a love of Gilbert & Sullivan?
That's where it started. Of course you remember everything
that you learn when you're in high school, so I can still sing almost all
the words of a number of Gilbert & Sullivan operettas. Gilbert wrote
remarkable poetry about the law. He was so good at mocking the
law that a lot of lawyers and judges love Gilbert & Sullivan. Both
Justice Rehnquist and Justice Ginsburg loved Gilbert & Sullivan. They
sang and played some at the Chief's funeral, and Justice Ginsberg
appeared once or twice with Justice Rehnquist in Gilbert & Sullivan
What did you like the most? What classes besides the music
and the art?
No, not math. It's hard to say, 1 guess maybe I enjoyed social
studies the most, but I wasn't really much interested in classes. 1 still
have a recurrent dream that I'm in French class and that I haven't
studied all year and an exam is coming up. It was a small school and
there were lots of activities, so I was on the student council and the
chorus and all of that. 1 had a lot of friends. one of my classmates
was George Will, the columnist.
Yes. I think he was the treasurer of the student council while 1
was the chairman of the Finance committee. we had to decide how
much money various activities should get and I think mv prophecy in
our class yearbook was that I was still in a Finance committee
meeting arguing with George Will. The great issue when we were on
the student council was whether or not sub-freshman should have
representation on the student council. George and I had a debate.
supported having the sub-freshman represented on the student
council and he was opposed to it on the theory that the upper
classes could take care of the interests of the lower classes. I think
that that pretty much encapsulates our later philosophies as well.
There were four of us who used to hang out together. one was
Marty Cleary strong, who eventually married John strong, the son of
the Dean of the law school at Ohio state, and a very close friend of
Marty's father, Ed Cleary. I'm still very close to the Strongs. They
lived in Tucson for many years and he taught at the university of
Arizona Law school. 1 think their son is doing a residency in Tucson.
John and Marty now live in Oregon. I haven't seen them for a while
but we've staved in touch over the years. There was Stewart Cohn,
.. i
the son of another law professor, Ruben Cohn. stew became a law
professor as well and he teaches, I think at the University of Florida, 1
haven't been in touch with him in years, however.
How would you describe yourself when you were in high
Well, I could never get my hair to do what I wanted it to do.
really enjoyed goi.ng out with groups of people. 1 dated a lot of
different folks. The class above me was unusual because it had 21
boys and 7 girls, or something like that, and so the odds were pretty
good and I enjoyed the university. 1 enjoyed growing up in a
university town and I liked to go to the library and order books at
the great University of Illinois library, and I loved sports. 1 avidly
followed the university of Illinois teams.
No. That's one of my generational problems. Schools didn't
encourage girls to do sports. The boys would somehow come out
every Spring and they could run two miles, high jump and show off
other track skills. I was just amazed. once a year they would have
the girls go a quarter of a mile around the track and we'd just barely
make it. All of these boys seemed to know how to do this from the
get go.
we were talking about sports when I was in high school. In
later years I was rather bitter because I really would have liked to
learn some sports. I spent thirty years trying to learn how to play
tennis and finally gave up because it was too hard for me. I swim and
I've become a devotee of exercise, 1 do it religiously, every day, and 1
think it's too bad that girls didn't have that opportunity to
participate in athletics at a high level when I was growing up in the
so·s and the 60's. so I've been a great supporter of Title IX and 1
think it's done a lot of good. women are so much healthier today
and look so much better because we've become aware that you
have to be active physically. That simply was not understood when I
was growing up. Boys were active physically. Girls weren't. They
stayed home and learned to cook.
Right. You were obviously a leader already in high school and
that's not something that's stopped. Any thoughts on where those
leadership skills and qualities came from that early?
Well I never really thought of myself as a leader. 1 always
thought of myself as kind of a participant, but an active one. My
mother was very active politically. She was a pillar of the Democratic
Party in down state Illinois, Champaign county, Cunningham
Township. And the local Democratic Party used to meet in our
living room from time to time, and so I would listen to all those
discussions. I learned about all of the issues of the day such as
fluoridating the water, the quality of the schools that were not
legally segregated but may as well have been, because people did
not live in integrated neighborhoods.
The great issue that I learned about in my mother's kitchen
and that scared the daylights out of me was religious education in
the schools. When I was getting ready to go to first grade in
Champaign Urbana, there was religious education in the schools and
students had to choose which religion to be instructed in. 1 did not
have one. My parents had decided they were not going to bring me
up in any formal religion because they were from mixed
backgrounds. 1 didn't have one to choose and so I was very
frightened about going to school. However the constitution came
to my rescue. A remarkable woman named Vashti Mccollum, in 1947
when I was 6, when I was just about to go into first grade,
challenged the religious instruction in Urbana and took it to the
supreme court in the case of Mccollum v. Illinois. The court in 1948
held that the religious instruction violated the First Amendment as
an establishment of religion. I learned about all this through my
mother's following it so closely. It gave me a real sense of how the
law affects people because it affected my life at a very early age, in a
very particular case, that came out of my neighborhood. That, 1
think, made an indelible impression that has never left me. By the
time I was ready to start the grade where religious education had
existed, it had been ruled unconstitutional.
I read somewhere that vou went to Quaker Sunday School for a
while, is that true?
1 did for a while, ves. one of mv mother's friends decided to
start a First Dav School, a Quaker Sunday school, and she collected all
the children of her friends who didn't have anv other place to go. It
was intended to be a study of the Bible and what the Bible savs, but
not for any particular interpretations or lessons from it. It was more
in terms of literature and culture. The Quaker "Friends" were ·
wonderful people. Because this was a University town there were
quite amazing young people among the lost souls who wound up
going to the First Dav school with me and mv brother. one was Igor
Stravinsky's grandson whose father, soulima Stravinsky, as on the
music faculty at the university of Illinois; Johnny Stravinsky. People
were always asking him what he was going to be when he grew up,
and he would sav "A cowboy!" 1 learned a little bit about the Bible
and about the prophets, but I learned a good deal about the other
people who went to First Dav School with me and that was worth
the whole thing in and of itself.
of your life?
No, not with a mother who was Jewish and a father who grew
up resisting the Methodism of his sisters. I went to Swarthmore. It
was founded by the Quakers, along with Bryn Mawr and Haverford.
think I got a leg up in getting in because I said on the application
that if I had to have a religious preference it would be Quaker. The
culture of the Friends includes the idea of "meetings" where people
get together and with no formal votes, act through consensus, I
always liked that tradition. It made an impression on me that the
people were not divisive but would try to come to reasoned
conclusions. 1 remember sitting in on some of the meetings of the
society of Friends in Champaign-Urbana and seeing how they would
try to resolve problems and I thought that was very, very
constructive. It did not make me religious however. MY mother was
very conscious of being Jewish, of her Jewish heritage, which was
very important to her. She suffered a great deal of discrimination as
a result of it and always told me that I should be prepared to suffer
discrimination as well. Of course, I was never identified as being
Jewish because my name was Murphy, although within the Jewish
religion I am considered Jewish because it is inherited through the
mother. When I was at Swarthmore, we had a little club we called
"hemi-semites" or maybe we called it the "semi-hemites", but there
were a lot of us who were half Jewish. It was very interesting,
though, that the people whose fathers were Jewish identified
themselves as being Jewish because of their name, and those whose
mothers were Jewish, although they technically were actually
Jewish, were not identified as Jewish, because of their names. It has
always been an interesting phenomenon to me that people are so
stereotyped by the nature of their last names.
them, none of them in your family?
Oh, we celebrated Christmas in a very non-religious way. My
father was very traditional. He loved to collect things. He was a
book collector, but also collected ornaments for the tree that were
very odd. He had an amazing sense of humor and his favorite sign,
that he collected during the depression, was from one of my
mother's family haberdashery stores. The sign said "Tiger pants half
off." MY father just thought that was the funniest sign he ever saw,
so he brought that out every year and hung it on our Christmas tree.
That's great. so when you were in high school at some point
you obviously started thinking about where to go next. was there
ever a question in your mind about going to college?
Oh no, no, there never was a question about going to college
and there was never a question in my mind that I should leave
Champaign-Urbana. It was not that I wanted to leave home. 1
thought it was very important that I get out of Champaign-Urbana.
I learned a great deal from growing up in a university town. It was a
great influence. I thought I was going back to it when I moved to
Arizona and then found out too late that I was actually moving to a
big city. I wanted to go east because that's where it seemed the
good colleges were. Also I wanted to go to a co-educational school;
that was very important to me. Although I applied to Wellesley
because the seven Sisters, as the leading women's colleges were
then known, were well organized in Champaign-Urbana. The alumna
would put on teas for the girls who were thinking of going to
college in the east and then they would have graduates of each of
the seven Sisters of Bryn Mawr and Barnard, Radcliffe, Pembroke,
etc. talk about their schools. I applied to Wellesley because the
woman who promoted it at the tea emphasized it was close to a lot
of mens· schools. That had a certain advantage to me in my
impressionable youth, but I wound up going to Swarthmore because
it was coed, and small and I wanted to be near a city with a great
symphony orchestra. That was very important to me because had
learned in high school that I really loved music. I wanted to be near
a great city, but I didn't want to live in a city. I wasn't prepared for
that. Swarthmore was near Philadelphia with a great orchestra,
some great museums and so Swarthmore seemed to be a good fit
for me.
I had a little scholarship that was just enough so that my
parents could make it and save to educate my younger brother.
were they supportive of your decision to go to Swarthmore?
Oh absolutely, absolutely. They thought it was very important
that I get out of Champaign, Urbana and that I go to an eastern
school with a great academic reputation and opportunities, and so
there was never any question.
Do you remember how big the school was and what the split
was between men and women?
It was just about even, the split between men and women I
think when I was there, it's a little larger now, there were about 900
students, with between 200-300 students per class.
Pretty much, pretty much, and it was a very strict
environment. I was quite amazed. MY parents had raised me
without any curfews, except when I asked for one. If I was a little
dubious about where I was going I'd make sure that they told me to
be back by 11. But it was a very strict environment for the girls in
college then. You were only permitted one weekend away from
campus per month, as I recall, and you had to be in on weeknights at
a certain time. They would lock the doors on you after midnight on
weekends, and I was kind of surprised by that.
No boys allowed upstairs except on Sunday afternoon and
then you had to have the door open wide enough so that a foot
could go through it. <laughter>
Swarthmore that you got to know?
Yes, there were women on the faculty at Swarthmore but as I
recall the person who. I think was nicest to me was the Dean of
women, Susan Cobbs. 1·11 never forget her wonderful voice. She was
from the south. MY junior year she came up to me, and she said
"Mayree" and I said, "Yes, Dean Cobbs?" "What do you plan to do after
you leave Swarthmore, Mayree?" and I said, "Well, Dean Cobbs I'm not
sure. 1 think 1·11 probably go to graduate school." And she looked at
me and she said, "To what end Mayree?" <laughter> and I responded,
"To what end? Well I don't know, I'm not sure; there are a lot of
opportunities out there." "Do you think you might want to teach,
Mayree?" And I said, "Oh yes I might want to teach." "Well that's
good because we have a scholarship for someone who would be a
good teacher and we thought we'd make your scholarship that
scholarship, as long as you haven't ruled out teaching." It didn't give
me any more money; it just gave my scholarship a name. But I never
forgot the line, "To what end, Mayree?"
Right. Great! Did you view Swarthmore as a good school for
women? Is that one of the reasons you chose it over other places?
I chose it in part because women could go to college on a day
to-day-basis with men. That's the way that I had enjoyed high school
and that's the way that I wanted to go to college. Swarthmore was
a great shock to me intellectually, however. I had not ever been up
against people with superb prep school educations and so I faced
what I think most people experience when they go east to school
from a public school. My children went through it: the shock of
being with many students who had had superb prep school
educations or come from New York, or Chicago's north shore and
those super high schools that they have there. It is so competitive
for those eastern students because there's so many of them that
they're just infinitely better prepared. I went to my first English
class and they were discussing symbolism and I didn't know what
they were talking about. 1 read a lot of F. Scott Fitzgerald. His novels
and his short stories resonated with me because many were about
mid-westerners who were in a wholly different eastern
environment. I still read them because he's such a great writer, but 1
read them then because he was talking about the kind of experience
that struck a chord with me. I felt I was in a somewhat alien
intellectual and competitive environment. There was a program at
Swarthmore called the Honors' Program, where the smartest of the
smart students attended seminars on very broad topics and write
two or three papers every week.
Well I was and I wasn't. 1 was encouraged to go into honors by
one of my professors, who was my great mentor at Swarthmore,
Professor Pennock, in political science. I was admitted to honors on
a probationary basis. After a while, 1 decided that maybe this wasn't
the thing for me, and that was agreeable to the professors too. we
worked out an agreement that now I think was a very forward
looking. I would be permitted a certain number of seminars, but 1
would also be able to take regular courses. I wouldn't graduate with
a degree with honors, but I would be able to have the best of both
worlds. I took economics and history and political science seminars
and courses in Shakespeare and Renaissance Painting. That became
quite standard sometime after that, taking both seminars and
courses. 1 got through the first couple years at Swarthmore and the
shock of getting C's and not really knowing what I was doing. But,
once I got to the place where I was writing papers and was actually
taking courses that I wanted to, it was a great experience for me. I
enjoyed the last two years very much. The trauma made some very
good friends and with at least two or three of them I've remained in
touch through the years. It was a big deal for me when I received _an
honorary degree from Swarthmore this year.
I could ask why it took them so long (laughing>
Let's stay on that for just a moment. Telling me about going
to get that honorary degree.
well I had had some calls from the Development Director at
Swarthmore looking for money, and I told him I had never been
invited back to talk to the students and I would really love to do
that. It seems they don't pay much attention to alums west of the
Mississippi. When the Development Director did come and visit my
office about five years ago. 1 was Chief Judge of the Ninth Circuit.
When I told him Swarthmore had not invited me back to talk to the
students, he said, "you know there's something wrong here." 1 have
a very good friend who went to Swarthmore and the university of
Chicago Law School a couple years ahead of me who practices law in
San Francisco. David Bancroft and his wife Cheryl are lovely people,
we have often shared the observation that Swarthmore never seems
to pay any attention to us. After the chat with the Development
Director I did get an invitation to give a major lecture, but they sent
me the invitation in August for a lecture in October, so I said I was
booked, but let's talk about this for some other year, and I didn't
hear anything further. I must have complained so loudly to so many
people close to the school, including a member of the Board of
Trustees that one day I got a call from one of my classmates, now
one of the deans, who told me that the Board had voted to give me
an honorary degree! 1 was absolutely dumbfounded at the
ceremony. I didn't think I even belonged on the stage because the
other recipients included a physicist who makes electronic cellos for
Yo Yo Ma on the side, and a philosopher from Cambridge who has
done path breaking work. When I got up, I thought, "What am 1
doing here?" But the President had researched my background, and
talked about my life and the cases that I decided. It turned out the
students just loved it because I had done things that they could
identify with and understand - when I walked back up the steps after
the ceremony and my little five minute talk, people shook my hand
and said "You are an inspiration," I was dumbfounded, because the
last time I walked up those steps, in 1962, I had my B.A. with no
"honors". This was a great day for me.
I bet it was. 1 bet it was. Well let's go back to Swarthmore
outside of classes. What kinds of things were you involved with at
the school?
Oh I did some music and I used to go into Philadelphia often to
the Philadelphia orchestra. 1 was in the chorus. That was the
greatest musical experience of my life. 1 had almost no talent, but
they had a choral director who let everybody into the big chorus
that sang once a year with the choruses of Bryn Mawr and
Haverford. we sang the Bach Magnificat with the Philadelphia
orchestra and so there I was, in the second to last row of the second
sopranos, with my little high heels, unsteadily perched on the riser,
but I was there--with Eugene ormandy and the Philadelphia
orchestra. It was such a thrill.
I bet it was. was any of your family there in the audience?
Oh no, no, no. There were hundreds of singers. Of course,
some of the others were very talented had been doing this kind of
thing all their lives, and they had already sung the Magnificat many
times and knew it all by heart. I think the next year we did it with
the Messiah and everybody knew the Messiah, of course, except me.
I know it now though.
Now am· I right that you were a bit of an activist in college?
Well I wasn't really an activist but, you see, those years were
significant because that was the beginning of the civil rights
movement and those were the years when the Freedom Riders were
riding in the south. I wanted to do something to help, so I went in
to Chester, Pennsylvania which was near Swarthmore, and a very
segregated town. we did a sit-in at a lunch counter. My job was to
stay outside to count how many white people went in despite our
protest. It wasn't much, but I was really quite moved by the student
leaders of the civil rights movement who came through the colleges
to raise money. one of my friends went down to join the freedom
riders and it was quite a heady time. Brown v. the Board had come
down and it was my generation that was actually changing things,
and I thought that was just wonderful.
have any impact on your decision to go into law?
Oh yes. When I was at Swarthmore, I got a little Ford
Foundation grant to go to Washington o.c. and study some
legislation. My mother had been active in politics downstate, in
Illinois, and my father had had a student who had been the
President of the Oxford union Debating society. MY father's
student, Howard Shuman, had come back to the united states and
gone to work for senator Paul Douglas of Illinois, so I contacted
Howard. senator Paul Douglas was one of the great figures in my
life. He's now under appreciated, but the university of Illinois has
an award called the Paul Douglas Ethics in Government Award. Paul
Douglas was an economist who took no gifts. He founded the
environmental movement, really, by saving the Indiana Dunes. He
was a great senator, elected in 1948 with Harry Truman and Gov.
Adlai Stevenson. My father's student had come back from Oxford to
become his legislative assistant, so I cooked up this scheme to get
the little grant to live in Washington for the summer. Through
senator Douglas· office's help I was able to study the passage· of the
Truth in Lending Act. That was his baby, and I became fascinated
with the whole process of legislation. I talked to the banking
lobbyists; I talked to the consumer lobbyists. It was just so
interesting. I wrote a little paper that wasn't really very good but I
got an education. 1 went back to D.C. the next summer and worked
for senator Douglas as an intern for almost nothing, but it was a
good opportunity. 1 learned from the time I spent on the hill. Most
important, 1 learned that while the women were expected to type,
the men would go to the floor with the senators, I needed a law
degree, if I wanted to affect policy.
All right, here we are, September 16, 2006 session 2 with Judge
Schroeder and we stopped last time talking about your time in
Washington, and after that came law school. How did you get to the
university of Chicago?
Schroeder: Well, it was my last year at Swarthmore and I decided to
go to law school after working in Washington. I knew that as a
woman, I could go nowhere in government without a law degree
from a good school. The question was which law school could I go
to? I took the LSATs and did very well in the LSATs, but I didn't have
the greatest grade average in the world. 1 also knew that my
parents couldn't afford to pay tuition for me in law school and for
my brother, who was about to start college. so I decided I needed
to get a very hefty scholarship for law school. 1 had read something
by Karl Llewellyn that I thought was absolutely wonderful, so I
looked to the university of Chicago because that's where Llewellyn
taught, and because it actually had a scholarship for a Swarthmore
student. This was a kind of affirmative action, as the law school
wanted to have students from eastern colleges, so they established
scholarships for students from eastern colleges. Since I had gone to
Swarthmore on a scholarship because I was from the Midwest, 1
thought this all would work out fine. But the problem was I wasn't
the best qualified person for that scholarship, so I had to figure out
a way that I would become the best person for that scholarship, and
that was clearly by convincing all of my friends who thought they
might want to go the University of Chicago that they should go
someplace else. lLaughterl so I embarked on a campaign, with the
full support, and co-conspiratorial knowledge of the great
constitutional law professor at Swarthmore, J. Roland Pennock, so
that all the other better qualified people decided on other law
schools. My friend Marsha Swiss went to Harvard and another friend
went to Yale; someone else went to Columbia, someone went to
Penn and someone went to Michigan. In fact, years later when I was
introduced as a speaker to the sun City Rotary Club by the father of
one of those friends, he introduced me very proudly as the person,
"who convinced my son he should go to law school at the university
of Michigan." so I think it all worked out extremely well, and off I
went to the university of Chicago. The sad thing about it was the
month after I had committed to go to the university of Chicago Law
School, Karl Llewellyn died, and our class at Chicago was known for
many years as the "lost class," because there were so many of us who
had signed on to study jurisprudence under Karl Llewellyn and
couldn't. The university of Chicago Law School turned out to be a
pretty grim experience for me during the first year.
Because I was really rather surprised to find that there was no
housing for women law students anywhere near the law school; all
of the graduate women who needed university housing, including
law students, were housed in a rather ramshackle tenement building
at the corner of 55th street and Ellis, in a very bad neighborhood.
And to get to the law school I and the three other women in the law
school who lived in that building had to walk about a mile and a half
and to cross the midway. This was before g~obal warming so it was
very cold. we wore two to three pairs of leggings so that we could
take one off, because they were so muddy by the time we got to
the law school, and stow them in a bag in our locker. Then after we
went home, and at the end of the day, we'd take off the second pair
and wear the third because the heating wasn't very good in the
apartment. There was no place where we could eat a hot meal at
lunch because the only dorm facility for law students was called
Burton Judson Dormitory. It was next to the law school and it was
reserved for men. They wouldn't even let women students in to the
dining room to eat. so there was no place where we could get a hot
meal. we could go home and cook a hot lunch, but then we
couldn't get back to the law school without walking another frigid
mile and a half. we generally ate a cold lunch and went home while
it was still a little bit light to have a hot dinner at home. so that
experience was really quite dismal. I was assigned to live in the two- ,)
room apartment with a little kitchen in the middle and a back porch
that had steps going down to the ground, but I was fortunate to
have been assigned to live with a woman from Australia by the name
of Marv Hiscock. She had had her law degree from the University of
Melbourne and I think was actually about to start teaching at
Melbourne. Chicago had a program called the "Commonwealth
Fellows." You couldn't do it now because it would probably be
regarded as discriminatory, but it was for students who had been to
law school in common law countries. They were given fellowships to
come to the university of Chicago for a year and they would receive
a JD degree at the end of the year. It was a very good deal for them
and there were at least two wonderful people in that program with
whom I have kept in touch with over the years: my roommate, Marv
Hiscock and a fellow by the name of Francis Neat who is the current
president of the International Law society, <which may not be its
precise name>, but is a very well known international law
organization. He is a solicitor in London. so a bright spot was that
Marv was my roommate and we managed to survive by going to the
little market and getting our food and bringing it back to cook. She
had a rather different notion of what people eat than I did and I
recall her making things like a "meringue" that I had never heard of.
we entertained with roast beef and kidney pudding which was all
kind of new to me. But it was a very good experience for both of us.
Yes, it was very cold and I developed some kind of an infection
the night before mv first exam. 1 had a high fever and I collapsed in
the apartment. Marv and Francis Neat and his wife, Trish, took me to
Billings Hospital to the emergency room where I spent a really
dreadful night watching people being brought in as the victims of
knife attacks. I believe there were also two women who came in
after trying to do their own abortions, one with a coat hanger. It
was a formative experience in many ways for me. The next day they
put me in the hospital and the doctor decided I had appendicitis
with the appendix on the wrong side. They were used to treating
rather strange diseases. Billings was a teaching hospital, a very
renowned place - but you didn't get in unless you had something
very strange and they rarely saw just an ordinary student with an
ordinary kidney infection. Finally someone gave me a bunch of sulfa
and I got miraculously better.
The problem was I had missed my first exam and Marv Hiscock
went to bat for me. She managed to convince the school that I
could take the rest of the exams in the hospital, which I did. Philip
Kurland, who was the professor of constitutional law, whose exam 1
had missed, didn't want to let me make it up, but relented when
Marv Hiscock convinced the school that it would be outrageous to
make me quit and have to start all over again. I didn't know all of
this until years later, but it had been an all-out battle for her to save
my law school career. I later found out it was, at least in part,
because they would rather not have had women in the school.
so they knew it was an inhospitable place for women.
They made it that wav. They promoted that kind of -an
atmosphere. 1 think we started out with perhaps 7 women in the
class; one wound up in the field of social work; one quit after the
first year and went to graduate school at Harvard and got a PhD in
English; so I think there were about five of us who eventually
graduated. we were all very strong women.
were there other luminaries in your law school class besides
we had an interesting class. What happened to that class, the
class of '65, the Lost Class - was interesting. All of the women did
well in their careers. Gail Pollack Fells did spend some time in private
practice by herself, but she was, for many years, with the district
attorney's office in Dade county, which is Miami, and at one point
her beat-her jurisdiction-was the Miami Airport. She took me into
the airport restaurant to have lunch at her special table. She was the
kingpin of the whole Miami Airport because she represented law
enforcement. It was quite an experience to be with Gail there.
Another of our class of women has been the dean of several law
schools, and I think she's now the dean of Georgia Tech Law School.
Another, Judy Lonnquist, I've kept up with the best because she
practices civil rights law in Seattle. She is quite well known there
and is very active politically as well. so, we were an unusual group of
women. we couldn't get jobs in law firms because we were
blackballed by the law firms pretty much. 1 think that one woman
had been hired from the class two years ahead of mine and was a
first year in one of the major firms. But when I visited that firm, 1
was told that while she wanted to do labor law, she'd never be able
to, rather, she'd have to do tax law instead because, "It wouldn't be
right for her to hear the language that was spoken in the course of
labor negotiations."
You were obviously a strong women before you went into this
environment. Did it change you? Did it make vou more
Oh, of course. Of course. I think you become hardened and
much more determined when vou have experiences like that. There
was one woman on the faculty, Soia Mentschikoff, who had been
married to Karl Llewellyn. They had both come to Chicago because it
was the onlv)school that would give both of them a job teaching.
Most didn't want to hire women. She was supportive to some
degree of women. I went to her and asked how to approach
interviews and what I should do. And she was very helpful. 1 was not
getting any decent interviews for summer jobs, and I went to her
and asked what to do. I said, "When I go in, they look at mv resume
and they see mv name is Marv Murphy, and they assume I am a good
catholic and that I will get married and have lots of children, so they
stereotype me from day one. Triple stereotype me, and I can't even
talk to them. What should I do?" And Soia said, "First of all vou go in
and if you are asked a question you sav, 'I do not plan to get married
in the near future' and if they ask you if you want to get married,
vou sav, 'I would like to marry eventually but I do not plan to marry
and when I do marry I do not plan to have children right away.' You
should keep emphasizing the word 'plan· and they will get the hint."
It worked like a charm. I never got a job in a firm but I did get
decent interviews, so it helped me and it sharpened mv
determination that sooner or later I was going to become a partner
in a private firm. I didn't know when or how, but sooner or later
that was going to happen.
And when that finally happened some years later that you
could first look back with some humor on this experience, I mean
you laugh when you're telling me about it, it wasn't funny at the
No, but I laughed when I got a good job. What happened
when I was in law school was of course that the Civil Rights Act of
1964 was passed. I say often that when I went to law school in 1962,
few women or minorities were stupid enough to go to law school.
There were very few of us because in part we couldn't get a job. 1
was too dumb to know that, but there was no point in going to law
school if you were a woman or a minority because the jobs were
frozen closed to you. What happened in 1964 was the Civil Rights
Act was passed and they added women, it is said, as a joke to try to
defeat it. Then President Johnson decided to take it seriously and
issued Executive orders to the government that commanded them
to hire women and minorities, give them employment
opportunities now. so all of the agencies then came running to the
major law schools to find women and minorities, and there weren't
any; so I had my pick of all the best government jobs in the federal
government and I took the best job that I could find, that would
permit me to do litigation work. 1 did that because Saia
Mentschikoff had said if you·re a woman you should do litigation
because when you get before the court for your first argument and
you don't cry, the judges will be so surprised that you will win. That
was the way she put it. Really, she may have been right.
so, you also had met a guy while you were in law school.
Yes, 1 did. 1 enjoyed law school once I got through the first year
because there were so few women·and there were all these guys
and they were all very smart. It was the middle of the period of the
draft for Vietnam and so most of the men in our class managed to
avoid the draft by deferments. our class managed to escape the
draft - and so the mens' careers sort of shot up. They got very good . . \
clerkships and for a time not too many years ago, our classmates all
seemed to be running the major firms in Chicago, and a few in New
York and Los Angeles as well. Milt Schroeder was elected the editor
in chief of the Law Review at the end of our second year. I had sat
next to him in one class or another and tried to get his attention and
had totally failed. so I had given up because there were a lot of
other guys around, but he was working for the summer in one of
the Chicago firms and I was working on campus and so we were
both living on the south side and ran into each other. I thought,
maybe I should take him out for coffee, and so we started to have
coffee and we began to date in our third year. 1 knew I was going to
go to Washington and I encouraged him, I guess in my own
inimitable way of guiding other people's careers, I encouraged him
to take a clerkship with earl McGowan on the D.C. circuit. He didn't
need any encouraging because earl McGowan had been one of the
great figures of the Chicago legal world. Milt was a democrat, as was
1, and earl had run Adlai Stevenson's campaign for governor. 1 guess
he was also involved heavily in Stevenson's presidential campaigns
and as a result of the Stevenson connection, he had been appointed
to the D.C. circuit. He had also been one of the founding partners in
one of the great Chicago firms. He had taught at Northwestern and
so his clerkship was a prize. so we both went off to Washington.
And that's when we decided that maybe we ought to get married.
He was the best thing that happened to me at Chicago.
I went to the Department of Justice. I chose the court of
Claims section in the Civil Division. 1 chose that section. At the time,
the head of the civil division was the son of senator Douglas of
Illinois, John Douglas, who had been a partner in covington and later
went back to covington. I talked to John Douglas and asked where
in the Civil Division would there be the best chance to get day-in,
day-out litigation experience. He counseled that I go with the court
of Claims section because he said, in the Appellate section, which
was sort of the prestige section, I'd spend a lot of time arguing
social security appeals in the circuits, and that didn't appeal to me.
The court of Claims was in Washington and there were about 40-50
lawyers in that section handling the cases from the day the Petition
was filed in the court of Claims, through trial, to the time that it was
orally argued on appeal. And that seemed like a good thing to do.
so I did that and it was an absolutely wonderful experience. It was
about the best experience a young lawyer could ever have because
it was during the escalation of the Vietnam war. The cases that 1
liked best were the military contract cases. When I first started they
said, nobody with under two years· experience could handle cases
worth more than s100,ooo, and by the time that I had been there
two years they had to increase that to about $5 million, because the
degree of litigation and the cost of it had escalated so much. The
cases were just about money, and people were more concerned
about civil rights and in those days, anti-trust, and criminal
prosecutions. They were the more politically sensitive areas at the
Justice Departments so the line trial attorneys in the court of Claims
section did very, very responsible, quality work and we had the best
supervision possible, without political interference. The head of
that section was a man named Irving Jaffe who was just a model
government lawyer and model public servant. There were a number
of supervisors who were very good and who later became judges in
the Claims court. I think some of them recently retired but were
there for many, many years. so it was fine experience for a young
There were, 1 would say, there were about five women in this
section. one was an older woman who kind of took me under her
wing and introduced me to Julia Child and Mastering the Art of
French cooking. so that is another phase of my life that I owe to
being in the Justice Department, because that's how I learned to
we were married in the fall of 1965.· we had a very small
wedding. we flew in his grandfather from Minnesota to do the
wedding. His father passed away when he was a teenager and left
his mother with three children; the oldest, Milt, was 15. Both his
father and his grandfather were American Baptist ministers. His
grandfather was 82, I think, at the time, and his grandmother ~as 83
and we flew them to Washington for the wedding. They had never
been in an airplane before. we had to go through all kinds of red
tape to make it legal for him to officiate at a wedding in the District
of Columbia, but we did it and he was just delighted. He got such a
kick out of it that he got up at the reception and said, "Now my
authorization for performing weddings in the District of Columbia
expires in six hours and if anyone wants to get married they'd better
come forward right now." lLaughterJ It was very cute. And my
father was teaching that year at Cornell, so my parents came down
from Ithaca. My mother got airsick on the plane and never quite
recovered until after the wedding. There were these little planes
that flew around upstate New York in those days. She was in kind of
a state of shock through the whole thing, not only that I was actually
getting married, but to the son of a minister, which was quite a
shock to my family. But we assured them that Milt was not going to
insist upon any issue of our marriage being raised in a particular
faith, and so that seemed to reassure them. My father disappeared
the morning of the wedding to go off to see Jack Kennedy's grave.
Of course the Kennedy assassination was the great historic event
during my law school career that rocked everyone. 1 think my
father, being Irish, never really got over Kennedy's assassination.
And I think for my generation, it was the formative event since it
was the end of the period in which we felt that in America, nothing
bad could happen to us, America was the strongest nation in the
world when all of a sudden the symbol of our generation - our hero
- had been killed and was no more. so the morning of the wedding
my father disappeared to go see Kennedy's grave and we didn't
think he'd ever come back. 1 went to get my hair done with Jackie
Kennedy's hairdresser, M. Guilbeau. <He passed away not long ago
and the obituary in the New York Times said that he had put every
woman in Washington in terrible hairdos with the little pillbox hats
just like Jackie Kennedy. 1 thought, "That's what I wore at my
wedding."> 1 had my hair done with my pill box hat on to look like
Jackie Kennedy. My father finally did return from the grave to the
wedding, and we managed to have it go forward. I asked that there
be no mention of Jesus Christ because of my mother's sensitivities as
having been raised in the Jewish faith, and that there be something
from the Old Testament. so the wedding ceremony dragged on
quite a bit as Milt's grandfather seemed to read endlessly from the
Old Testament about the subordinate role of women, which didn't
make mv mother particularly pleased. But weddings are weddings
and it all worked out for the best. we went off for a two day
honeymoon to Williamsburg where I managed to get sick, and that
was the beginning of another long tradition of mine: getting sick on
our vacation time and never on work time.
those days?
No. I recall that later a few of mv friends, law school friends
and friends from college, married, and they continued practicing.
But not manv. In Washington I recall the first dinner party that we
were invited to at the McGowan's home which was a lovely home in
Northwest Washington. Mrs. McGowan, Jodie, was a great lady.
Dinner was elegant but after dinner the women went in one room
and the men in another. I recall being absolutely appalled to realize
that there were all of his former law clerks, wonderful lawyers in
Washington, all in a room listening, learning and talking about law
and politics and what was going on in Washington, and I was in this
other room with the wives and where the only subjects of
conversation were recipes and child birth. I recall being utterly
frustrated and saving to myself that that would never happen in my
/ !
home, ever. Fortunately, that was a custom that died out very
rapidly after that.
Yes. Not entirely that rapidly because it was still happening
after we moved to Arizona. It was amazing what women would
tolerate in the fifties and sixti€s.
Well you were really finding - - you were blazing a trail in every
sense of the word.
Well I was on a cusp of progress. I was really very lucky. 1
wasn't consciously blazing a trail I think. The women's movement
didn't start until sometime after that, but Ruth Ginsberg was writing
good things in the sixties. I looked up to her as the "pen" of the
women's movement in the seventies, but I think there was some
inklings of awareness among women while I was still in Washington.
1 wanted to go into private practice. MY aim had been to go into
private practice in Washington with my expertise from government
contract work. And I had had a feeler or two but not anything very
definite while I was in Washington. Abe Fortas· wife was a partner in
Arnold & Porter. But she was about the only one and it was still very
unusual for women to become partners in any major firm anywhere.
Well after Milt did his clerkship with earl, he went with Sidley &
Austin, at earl's recommendation. earl McGowan was Milt's mentor
and a great guiding force in our careers. Sidley & Austin had an
absolutely marvelous lawyer in Chicago by the name of Howard
Trienens, one of the greatest lawyers, perhaps the greatest lawyer
I've ever seen in action. Though I never actually worked with him,
but I heard him argue and I heard descriptions of how he operated.
Sidley had a very small office in Washington, I think they had about
three partners, and Milt and perhaps two other associates. But
Howard worked with that office closely, so earl McGowan
recommended it. Milt worked closely with Howard and became kind
of the fair-haired boy. They really liked him, because he is very
smart. He worked with Howard on the railroad merger cases when
Penn central and New York central merged. Howard was later the
architect of the mega-firm, developing Sidley into the giant firm it is
today. It was the prototype of the global firms practicing today. He
was way ahead of his time. And Milt enjoyed it. It was a great
experience, but he had always had a feeling that he wanted to
teach. we looked at what we were making and looked at what the
future had in store and decided if he didn't try teaching then, he
would never do it because we would simply not be able to afford to
take the cut in salary that we would have to take. I was looking at
the prospects of staying in Washington and raising a family while
maintaining my career and I didn't see how I was going to do it. we
had no independent wealth; I would be on a government salary or
starting with a firm and working very hard, and I didn't think we
could afford to educate our children in the private schools in D.C. In
order to have a decent public school system we'd have to live very
far out and that would make commuting very difficult. I just didn't
see how this was going to work. so when Milt said that he thought
he'd like to try teaching, 1 said well why don't you go see earl
McGowan and see what he recommends as places you might look,
because I think this might be a good time for us to get out of here.
<Richard Nixon had been elected President and the Justice
Department was changing.> earl was a very smart man and when we
first married he had called us in to his office and said, "Don't stay in
Washington. You're going to like it in Washington, but get out, and
if vou ever come back to Washington, you will come back at a level
higher than vou could ever obtain if vou stay here." This was
absolutely good advice, because everybody in Washington was
either a lawyer or an economist who worked for the government or
for a law firm; it was not a cosmopolitan city in any sense of the
word. It was a very southern city and very stratified. I thought it
was a good idea to get out of Washington.
so Milt went to earl McGowan and asked what schools looked
good. earl actually recommended ASU. He said, "Well, there's a
person from Northwestern, Willard Pedrick who is setting up a brand
new school." 1 had actually met Pedrick. He'd been a friend of Marv
Hiscock's, and we had entertained him during mv first year of law
school. It became known as a famous Sunday dinner when Marv
turned the oven the wrong wav, all the way up instead of off. The
oven caught fire and we had all the firemen in Chicago converge on
us because they discovered that we were living in a graduate
women's dormitory and it was Sunday afternoon, when all the
women in the dorm were in their robes and slippers. The firemen of
Chicago were there for six hours checking out smoke damage in
every apartment in the building. so I had met Willard Pedrick that
day and I thought he was quite marvelous in the way he reacted to a
ridiculous situation, so I said to Milt, "you know that sounds
I'd never been to Arizona, had never thought of going to
Arizona, but I knew that Ed Cleary who was the father of my best
friend back in Urbana, had left the university of Illinois to go to
Arizona state. Pedrick had brought him in as one of the founding
faculty members. 1 said, you know, if Ed Cleary is there it can't be all
that bad, and I called my parents in Urbana and I said I think Milt's
going to go out to Arizona state to interview. They said, "Arizona . .
state! Who ever heard of Arizona state!" They were absolutely
appalled. But I said, "You know who's teaching there? Ed Cleary."
And they responded, "If Ed Cleary is teaching there, then well,
maybe it is not that bad." At that point my back had gone out, and
the school didn't have money to send me out to Arizona state
anvway, so I recall lying flat on my back <which was what they did for
bad backs in those days> in January while Milt went out to Arizona
state to interview. It was the weekend of the Phoenix Open and
there were these magnificent shots of camelback Mountain on
television. It was snowing, sleeting, and awful in Washington.
Richard Nixon had just been elected President and had just been
inaugurated and I said, "I think that we should get out of here
definitely." The Justice Department was beginning to completely
change. They took down all the signs in the Civil Rights Division that
said "Louisiana section," "Mississippi section," etc. and they put up
signs that said this is the "Chicago section," this is the "Pennsylvania
section." It seemed they were trying to undo all of the great work
that had been done in the south during the civil rights era. Milt said
he liked Arizona when he came back from this interview. He had all
these brochures of homes that we could afford, with patios and
swimming pools. I have always loved to swim and hated it in
Washington where I couldn't. 1 thought Arizona looked like heaven.
so without bothering to inquire about what opportunities there
might be for me, but having decided that if it was a capital of a state
and a growing city, and there was a university; there had to be some
opportunities for me.
Yes. we were a little bit ahead of the times too, in deciding to
come to Phoenix. so that's how we got to Phoenix - as a result of
Arizona state university Law School and Willard Pedrick.
so you moved to Phoenix having never been even to the state
Right, I'd never been to Arizona. I was born in Colorado and
had been back to Colorado several times. 1 love Colorado. we had
spent the summer of 1968 traveling in the west and had gone to
visit Colorado and San Francisco. It was quite an experience, going
to the Haight and seeing the "scene" in San Francisco. 1 fell in love
with San Francisco and I had decided that some day we're going to
have to live in the west. so the whole move was great for me. And I
thought with my experience in the Justice Department, which was
considered extremely valuable in Washington, that I ought to be
able to get a job in a private firm in Arizona. so off we went with
our high hopes and with all of our possessions and our
temperamental Welsh Terrier in our little car, and we drove across
the country to Arizona.
And when you arrived in Arizona what did you find in terms of
your job prospects?
Not much. 1 had the name of a fellow by the name of Sy sacks
who was a founding partner in what became a well known firm in
Phoenix. He had been in the court of Claims section and had left to
go to Arizona. And so I had his name and I went to talk to him when
I got to Arizona. He said, "well with a degree from the university of
Chicago and Justice Department experience, you ought to at least be
able to get in the door of the law firms if I give you a list of people
in the law firms to call. And he got out the county Bar Directory,
and gave me a copy of the Phoenix firm list and wrote the name of a
lawyer to call beside each firm. He said I could use his name to see if
they might be interested in talking to me. That's what I did. 1 went
down to the old Adams Hotel and made that my headquarters, and I
just put dimes in the phone and called all these firms. They said,
"well, we'd like to talk to you, why don't you come in." And so I had
interviews in all these firms, but nobody was interested in hiring me.
The name I had at Lewis & Roca was Jim Moeller. He later left
and started his own firm. 1 had his name at Lewis & Roca and I had
been told that Lewis & Roca once had a woman associate, so I was
optimistic. It turned out it was Maryanna Roca, the founding
partner's, Paul Roca, daughter. She had only worked there for part
of a summer. But I didn't know that, so I thought maybe that firm
was a good possibility. But nothing concrete happened, and I just
kept making these phone calls and talking to people in firms. I recall
going to Fennemore Craig where I had Phil Von Ammon·s name
because he had been in Sidley & Austin before coming out to
Arizona. Phil introduced me to a fellow by the name of John
O'Connor whose wife was a lawyer. He said maybe I would enjoy
talking to John O'Connor, "Because at least his wife is a lawyer. But
we aren't going to hire any women lawyers here. We'll never hire a
woman lawyer." This is what they all said to me - "We'll never hire a
woman, but it's nice to talk to you." 1 did talk to John O'Connor. He
had a picture of Sandra on his desk and I think she was wearing a
tennis outfit. we talked a little bit about what she was doing. She
was then working in the Attorney General's office. That was my
introduction to the O'Connor family.
so I was having lots of interesting conversations but nothing
seemed to be going anywhere until finally Milt called me at home.
It's the only time in my life I was close to being depressed and I was
taking naps in the afternoon which I've seldom done in my life,
before or since. And Milt called and said_ he'd just had a call from
someone at Lewis & Roca who said that they might be interested in
talking to me. And it turned out that the word had gotten to
Monroe McKay and to John Frank that I had been in and they had
some interest in hiring a woman. I went in to see Monroe McKay for
an interview that was more serious. Monroe said that something
"might be able to be worked out." I didn't know what he meant, but
a few days later he called and said that Justice Jesse Udall on the
Arizona supreme court had just lost a law clerk and that he had a
position open as a law clerk and that he would like to talk to me
about that position. I thought this was great, because at that time
you had to run a six-month residency before you could take the bar,
so I couldn't take the bar until February. A job as a law clerk opening
up the first of the year seemed like a great thing.
so I went out to see Jesse Udall. He was a very lovely man and
very kind and he actually had had a woman law clerk once before.
He gave me the job as his law clerk. Unbeknownst to me at the time,
Lewis & Roca had had a huge explosion the summer before. They
had had a woman come in as a summer associate; most of the
partners had wanted to offer her a job, but she had been
blackballed by a few of the partners. Any partner could then
blackball a hire. so, again unbeknownst to me, that had made
Monroe McKay and John Frank extremely angry, and they decided to
change the system. 1 had read John's book The Marble Palace before
1 had come to Arizona and just thought it was one of the most
wonderful books I had ever read.· 1 thought that Arizona had to be a
·, ..•.
civilized place if John Frank was there. John Frank and Monroe
McKay had become so incensed at the blackball system that had
permitted their firm to freeze out women, they had changed the
hiring system and established a hiring committee, of which John
and Monroe were members, along with an associate. so they had
worked a kind of in-house revolution in order to bring in a woman.
And here I walked in the door with the credentials of a university of
Chicago degree and Justice Department litigation experience. While
I didn't know any of this, they had decided if I didn't have two
heads, I should be the person to come in as the first woman. But
they would "park" me for a year, while I ran my residence and while
they decided whether I had two heads, with Justice Udall for whom
Monroe had clerked. so I clerked for Justice Udall, which was very
Alright. This is our third session. Today is Friday, October 13,
2006, with Judge Schroeder and when last we left you, you were
sharing a story of having just been hired at Lewis & Roca and the
process by which you got there. so you started after your clerkship
on the Arizona supreme court at Lewis & Roca in 1970?
Yes. we moved here in '69, in July. 1 took the bar in February. 1
was then clerking for Justice Udall and I started with Lewis & Roca
the beginning of '71.
How many lawyers were at Lewis & Roca at the time?
well, I have a picture of us on my office wall. 1 would say there
were about, maybe 40 to 45, and I would have been the first woman.
The story of my hiring is interesting. While clerking for Jessie Udall,
I got a call from Monroe McKay that he'd like me to come down and
interview at Lewis & Roca, and I did. He was nice enough to give me
a copy of the letterhead so I could see how far down, and how far
up all the people were that I was interviewing. Justice Udall had
encouraged me to interview. "You should be working down there
with the big boys" is the way he put it. I was very nervous about
trying to find a job and the interview, I did an all day interview. A
few days later. I thought there was something wrong with me
because I started not being able to eat and couldn't keep any food
down. I thought that I was having a nervous breakdown about the
job and that it was all just too stressful. I told my husband that I just
didn't think I could do this and that if they were to offer me a job, 1
just didn't think I could handle it. I said, "I think maybe I ought to see
a psychiatrist," and he said, "I think you should go and see an
obstetrician first." Well I got the offer, accepted it and then I went
to the obstetrician, who said that I was something like 10 weeks
so I called Monroe McKay and I had lunch with him and I will
never forget the moment after I told him that I was pregnant.
There was absolute silence and then he said, "How wonderful for
you." I knew then it was going to be a big mess for the firm. so Milt
and I went to John Frank's big house on Arcadia Lane which was not
far from us. we sat in his huge living room. He had not been there
when I did the interview. He was off on one of his opera trips to
New York. He told us that the only thing to do was to just try to keep
the pregnancy a secret, as long as we could, because there had been
a big blow-up when it had been discovered that they had given me
the offer. one of the partners opposed to hiring a woman had
chased Monroe McKay, around the pool table with a pool cue, hitting
him. so I said, "Well, I'll see how long I can stay a little bit pregnant." 1
did manage to stay a "little bit pregnant" for about 4 more months
and then, finally, I had to show up in a maternity dress, and that did
not go over very well. I could see that there was a great deal of
buzzing, and talk, and lawyers were kind of closeted together and
saying, "We told you so."
so, the managing partner, who at that time was a wonderful
man named Lyman Manser, came in to see me and I could tell that
he was very agitated. He said, "Well, just what plans do you have for
having this baby - what are you going to do?" I looked at him and 1
had what must have been a stroke of genius u don't have very many,
but that was one.> This was during Vietnam, it was 1971, so I said, "I
thought that I .would take no more time off than the associates and
the younger partners who are doing ROTC or National Guard reserve
training every summer," which was almost a month. He looked at
me and he said, "Well that seems fair." 1 could see the sigh of relief.
This was the way we were going to deal with this problem - the men
go off for military training and the woman has a baby and it's all
going to be fair. That worked out extremely well and everyone
eventually did accept it.
so, 1 worked right up to about the time the baby was born and
came back to work sooner than expected because the baby and I
were both very healthy. I did breast feed because I was told it
would be good even if I could only do it for a month. 1 recall my first
night out, my soroptimist Club ca women's service club> had a night
with the women legislator