UC Press is honored to publish Justice, Justice Thou Shalt Pursue, Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s final book written with co-author Amanda Tyler, and Paving the Way, authored by Herma Hill Kay and edited by Patricia A. Cain. Executive Editor Naomi Schneider discusses the story behind these two pathbreaking books and the new Law in the Public Square series.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Professor Amanda Tyler in conversation during the inaugural Herma Hill Kay Memorial Lecture at the University of California, Berkeley, October 21, 2019. Courtesy of the University of California, Berkeley School of Law.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg came to Berkeley in 2019 as the first speaker in the newly-launched annual Herma Hill Kay lectureship at the University of California, Berkeley’s School of Law. RBG wanted to honor her bonds of affection and admiration for the late Herma Hill Kay whom she considered ‘her best and dearest working colleague.’ Together, these two women trailblazers had authored the first published set of course materials on sex discrimination and the law and pushed for no-fault divorce as well as safer marriages for women.

It was thrilling for UC Press Editorial Director Kim Robinson and I to receive a ‘hot’ ticket to this lecture at Zellerbach Hall where all 1500 seats were occupied well before the start of the event. On this rare occasion, students at the law school were given preferable access to tickets instead of administrators and department heads. Kim and I secured seats close to the stage and sat with great anticipation for RBG’s arrival. There was excitement and buzz in the air.

When RBG appeared, a diminutive woman accompanied by two beefy bodyguards, there was almost a palpable gasp. The great RBG was in the room! She went to the lectern to deliver her opening remarks about Herma Hill Kay. In her speech, she lauded Kay as a pioneer who, among many achievements, spent 25 years working to bring to life the lives and careers of the first 14 women appointed at AALS-accredited law faculties.  RBG underlined the importance of publishing this book, entitled Paving the Way: The First American Women Law Professors, which we are now putting out in the world.

After her talk, RBG sat down for an interview with one of her former clerks, Amanda Tyler, who is senior faculty at Berkeley Law. Both RBG’s lecture and this interview are included in her book, Justice, Justice Thou Shalt Pursue. 

The fact that RBG made the arduous trip to Berkeley even while ill and chose to give this lecture indicates how important it was to her that Herma Hill Kay’s life’s work be properly recognized. The publication of Paving the Way will go a long way toward doing so and we think that RBG would be very excited at the appearance of this title. She herself had planned to promote her own new work, Justice, Justice Thou Shalt Pursue, in concert with Kay’s book.  

Herma Hill Kay was the first female Dean of Berkeley Law and a towering figure not only at Berkeley but also in the world of law itself. In this book, Kay uncovers the lives of the first 14 women law professors in the US (Kay was the 15th), highlighting their perseverance, leadership and courage in an era that did everything possible to discourage women professionals. These portraits are vivid and rich and serve to reveal a hidden slice of American women’s history. In chronicling the lives of these legal scholars, Herma highlights the key traits—intellect, a support system, a sense of confidence—that helped motivate these women to enter a male world often inhospitable to their presence. Together these portraits provide a new appreciation of our legal female foremothers.

In the afterword, legal scholar Melissa Murray, who considers Herma Hill Kay a mentor, ruminates on the trailblazing women of color teaching at non-AALS-affiliated schools who were left out of this analysis but who were equally stellar: women like Lutie Lytle, Ellen Spencer Mussey and Emma Gillett who navigated a racist academy throughout their legal careers and who were unable to get jobs at white institutions.   

Paving the Way is the first book in our new Law in the Public Square series, edited by Berkeley Law Dean, Erwin Chemerinsky. Justice, Justice, Thou Shalt Pursue is the second book in the series. Law in the Public Square evolved out of conversations that Kim Robinson and I conducted with Chemerinsky after he arrived as Dean in 2017. For some time I had been attracted to his progressive and prolific work as a public intellectual and I hoped we might collaborate on some book projects. Chemerinsky was willing to undertake a series project with UC Press and we developed a paradigm over the course of several months—law in the public square—that would define the focus of the series. Further, the law school was beginning the Herma Hill Kay lectureship that would draw high-profile speakers. So the convergence of our paradigm and the speaker series enabled us to develop a model for the book series: the speakers would work to transform their talks into short books for UC Press.  Amazingly, Erwin had tapped RBG as the first speaker to appear in the Herma Hill Kay lecture series.  The coup de grace was that RBG was amenable to working with her former clerk Amanda Tyler to develop her lecture and on-stage interview into a book.  

Looking to the future, Erwin and I are already in conversation about who might be the next Herma Hill Kay lecturer at Berkeley Law in 2022.  We’re very excited about the possibilities!

Learn more about the Law in the Public Square series