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Women and Justice for the Poor
A History of Legal Aid, 1863–1945


Part of Studies in Legal History

  • Date Published: April 2015
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781107446410

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About the Authors
  • This book re-examines fundamental assumptions about the American legal profession and the boundaries between 'professional' lawyers, 'lay' lawyers, and social workers. Putting legal history and women's history in dialogue, it demonstrates that nineteenth-century women's organizations first offered legal aid to the poor and that middle-class women functioning as lay lawyers, provided such assistance. Felice Batlan illustrates that by the early twentieth century, male lawyers founded their own legal aid societies. These new legal aid lawyers created an imagined history of legal aid and a blueprint for its future in which women played no role and their accomplishments were intentionally omitted. In response, women social workers offered harsh criticisms of legal aid leaders and developed a more robust social work model of legal aid. These different models produced conflicting understandings of expertise, professionalism, the rule of law, and ultimately, the meaning of justice for the poor.

    • A truly interdisciplinary text, using methodology and topics from history, women's history, and social work as points of analysis
    • The first contemporary book on the early history of free legal aid in the United States
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'Women and Justice for the Poor is an exciting and timely intervention into work on lawyering in the United States. Batlan establishes the deep relevance of ideas about gender and race to the history of law and legal practice through ambitious research, provocative analysis, and engaging narrative.' Martha S. Jones, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor, University of Michigan

    'By tracking legal aid through the winding corridors of urban social institutions, Batlan gives us evocative insights into gender, reform, capitalism, and lawyering in a cogent and fascinating historical account. Her erosion of lay and professional boundaries, demonstrated by women's contribution to legal aid and the pragmatic relief they provided to underprivileged clients, illuminates the value of using gender to frame the story.' Norma Basch, Professor Emeritus, Rutgers University

    'In a remarkably original social/legal history, Batlan is asking readers to rethink what lawyering has meant and could mean. And when you ask 'outside the box' questions, you come up with surprising answers. This book can help us understand why law today can be far from justice.' Linda Gordon, Florence Kelley Professor of History, New York University

    'Women and Justice for the Poor presents research that is definitely worth reading. Batlan succeeds in exploiting science history to show convincingly how women played a significant role in legal aid history.' Marianne Vasara-Aaltonen, Kirjallisuutta

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    Product details

    • Date Published: April 2015
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781107446410
    • length: 238 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 152 x 14 mm
    • weight: 0.38kg
    • contains: 7 b/w illus.
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Part I. A Female Dominion of Legal Aid, 1863–1910:
    1. The origins of legal aid
    2. The Chicago experience: the maturation of women's legal aid
    Part II. The Professionalization of Legal Aid, 1890–1921:
    3. Of immigrants, sailors, and servants: the Legal Aid Society of New York
    4. Reinventing legal aid
    Part III. Dialogues: Lawyers and Social Workers, 1921–45:
    5. Constellations of justice
    6. Compromises

  • Author

    Felice Batlan, Illinois Institute of Technology
    Felice Batlan is Professor of Law and Associate Dean at the Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago-Kent College of Law. Her groundbreaking work, which explores interactions between law, gender, history, and the legal profession, has appeared in numerous law reviews, history journals, and anthologies. She is a book review editor for Law and History Review and was an associate editor of the Encyclopedia of the Supreme Court and Continuity and Change. She has served as an New York University Golieb Fellow, a Hurst Fellow, a Freehling Fellow, and received the CCWH/Berkshire Women's History Dissertation Award.

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