Informed in 1944 that she was “not of the sex” entitled to be admitted to Harvard Law School, African American activist Pauli Murray confronted the injustice she called “Jane Crow.” In the 1960s and 1970s, the analogies between sex and race discrimination pioneered by Murray became potent weapons in the battle for women’s rights, as feminists borrowed rhetoric and legal arguments from the civil rights movement. Serena Mayeri’s Reasoning from Race is the first book to explore the development and consequences of this key feminist strategy.
Mayeri uncovers the history of an often misunderstood connection at the heart of American antidiscrimination law. Her study details how a tumultuous political and legal climate transformed the links between race and sex equality, civil rights and feminism. Battles over employment discrimination, school segregation, reproductive freedom, affirmative action, and constitutional change reveal the promise and peril of reasoning from race—and offer a vivid picture of Pauli Murray, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and others who defined feminists’ agenda.
Looking beneath the surface of Supreme Court opinions to the deliberations of feminist advocates, their opponents, and the legal decision makers who heard—or chose not to hear—their claims, Reasoning from Race showcases previously hidden struggles that continue to shape the scope and meaning of equality under the law.