Gillian Thomas - "Because of Sex" - If/When/How: Lawyering for Reproductive Justice

Wednesday, January 25, 2017 - 6:00pm - 7:30pm

“Meticulously researched and rewarding to read. ... Thomas is a gifted storyteller.” —The New York Times

Gillian Thomas discusses Because of Sex: One Law, Ten Cases, and Fifty Years That Changed American Women's Lives at Work.

Presented in partnership with If/When/How: Lawyering for Reproductive Justice

At 57th Street Books


About the book: The 1964 Civil Rights Act is best known as a monumental achievement of the civil rights movement, but few realize that  it  also  revolutionized  the  lives  of  America’s  working  women.  Title  VII  of  the  law  made  it  illegal  to  discriminate  “because  of  sex.”  That  simple  phrase  didn’t  mean  much,  though,  until  ordinary  women  began  using  the  law  to  get  justice on the job—and some of them took their fights all the way to the Supreme Court. In Because of Sex: One Law, Ten Cases, and Fifty Years That Changed American Women's Lives at Work, Gillian Thomas,  a lawyer with the ACLU Women’s Rights Project, uses first person accounts and vivid narrative to tell the story of how one law, our highest court, and a few unsung heroines changed our country’s workplace forever.

Because of Sex takes readers through ten landmark sex  discrimination  cases  that  helped  dismantle  a  “Mad  Men”  world where women could only hope to play supporting roles, where bosses’ leers and propositions were as much a part  of  the  air  women  breathed  as cigarette  smoke,  and  where  pregnancy  meant  getting  a  pink  slip.  Readers  will meet Ida Phillips, denied an assembly line job because she had a preschool-age child; Kim Rawlinson, who fought to become  a  prison  guard—a  “man’s  job”;  Mechelle  Vinson,  who  endured  sexual  abuse  by  her  boss  before  “sexual  harassment”  even  had  a  name;  Ann  Hopkins,  denied  partnership  at  a  Big  Eight  accounting  firm  because  the  men  in  2 charge thought she needed "a course at charm school”; and most recently, Peggy Young, forced off her UPS delivery route while pregnant because she asked for a temporary reprieve from heavy lifting.

Today, women make up close to half of all American workers, and the majority of them have children. Women are visible  at  the  top  ranks  of  business,  science,  and  journalism,  to  name  just a  few.  A third  of  the  justices  on  the  Supreme Court now are women, and a woman president is inevitable—possibly imminent.  

We  never  would  have  gotten  here  without  Title  VII.  The  law’s  enactment  in  1964  was  just  the  beginning. What  happened next is where Because of Sex begins.

About the author: Gillian Thomas is  a  Senior  Staff  Attorney  with  the  American  Civil Liberties  Union  Women’s  Rights  Project.  She previously  litigated  sex  discrimination  cases  at  the  U.S.  Equal  Employment  Opportunity  Commission  and  Legal  Momentum (formerly NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund). Her work has appeared in publications including The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Atlantic, and Slate,  and she has been interviewed by NPR and The Wall Street Journal, among others.  She lives in Brooklyn.

About the co-sponsor: Law Students for Reproductive Justice trains and mobilizes law students and new lawyers across the country to foster legal expertise and support for the realization of reproductive justice.

Event Location: 
57th Street Books
1301 E. 57th Street
Chicago, IL 60637