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Pat Schroeder Strikes Back at Harvard and Congress

- February 22, 2008


Here’s a great anecdote about discrimination on the basis of gender, followed by an even better punchline about Congress, from a brief “First Person Singular” interview with former Congresswoman Patricia Schroeder in last Sunday’s Washington Post Magazine. Reminiscing about her first few days as a student in the Harvard Law School in the the early 1960s, Schroeder says:

bq. I think it was not until I got to Harvard Law School where it suddenly hit me that not everybody was quite as open and supportive of women as my father. …[T]here were only 15 women in the class.

bq. …All of a sudden, you had people saying things like ‘Do you realize you have taken this position from a man?’ And even the dean of Harvard Law School said the same thing, and he was then [a member of] the U.S. Civil Rights Commission. He had all the women over to his house the first week, and he put us in a circle and said, ‘I want to know why you came here.’ His spin was: We let you in equally, but I don’t think any of you are going to use this [law degree]. So, we count how many of you there are, and we let in that many more men.

bq. I don’t know what they thought — that we were going to hang the degree over the changing table or something? … Here was this very bright man who understood racism, but did not understand at all that he was being very sexist saying such a thing. Well, he went around and asked each of us why we came [to Harvard]. Of course, everyone is shaking in their chair because this is the dean — except for this wonderful young woman from California. She looks him straight in the eye and says, ‘Well, I am only here because I could not get in at Yale.’ He went ballistic.

bq. Harvard really prepared me for Congress.