Howard Gutman, a first-year Harvard law student and self-proclaimed male chauvinist pig, mounted the auction block and spirited bidding began. The winner: classmate Mary Bilek, who with pals anted up $50 to cream Gutman with a pie. “I feel it’s appropriate for a woman to throw,” cracked Gutman. “After all, women are the bakers.” Boos, hisses.
Actually it was the student and faculty males who retreated to the kitchen while 300 women—attorneys, judges and fledgling law students—celebrated the first 25 years of women at Harvard Law School. “Nothing like this could have happened when I was here,” marveled Brenda Feigen Fasteau, co-founder of the Women’s Action Alliance and a graduate of the class of ’69.
“Although women have been tolerated at the law school for a quarter-century, it was time that our presence was celebrated,” summed up 37-year-old Sheila Kuehl, once the wisecracking girlfriend of TV’s Dobie Gillis and now in her third year at Harvard Law. Kuehl organized the shindig. “I thought it would be fun to have a party and call attention to the 1,007 women who’ve gone here.” Among those on hand for the seven-day gathering were such legal heavyweights as Massachusetts supreme court judge Ruth Abrams, ACLU general counsel Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Wisconsin supreme judicial court justice Shirley Abrahamson and New York City Council president Carol Bellamy.
While the women romped and held seminars in the halls of jurists Holmes and Frankfurter, the all-male John Stuart Mill Society (so named because philosopher Mill was the first member of Parliament to propose women’s suffrage) dished up a cake-and-cookies bake sale to raise funds for the troubled Equal Rights Amendment. Law School vice dean William Bruce’s oatmeal cookies collected a scant $1.40, and law prof James Vorenberg did only slightly better. “What!” shouted the auctioneer. “Only $3.75 for a poppy seed cake baked by the man who helped draft the model penal code?”
Perhaps mindful of coming exams, however, one student forked over $7.50 for the cookies contributed by Dean Albert Sacks. And there were plenty of takers when T-shirt-clad torts expert Abram Chayes bought—what else?—a strawberry torte for $10 and passed it out to his students. Why didn’t Chayes, Frankfurter Professor of Law, whip up something himself? Because, he said, his oven is in Washington. So is Chayes’ wife Antonia, an assistant secretary of the Air Force in the Carter Administration.
More than just a bake sale, the event marked the publication of the first edition of the Harvard Women’s Law Journal—and the realization that females now make up 23 percent of the law school student body. “In the past a woman here could feel isolated and lose heart,” observed Kuehl, the ex-sitcom star. “But now we’re getting together, to form our answer to the Old Boy system: the New Girl network.”