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The Rhetoric of Supreme Court Women

From Obstacles to Options

Nichola D. Gutgold

The Supreme Court is one of the most traditional institutions in America that has been an exclusively male domain for almost two hundred years. From 1981 to 2010, four women were appointed to the Supreme Court for the first time in U.S. history. The Rhetoric of Supreme Court Women: From Obstacles to Options, by Nichola D. Gutgold, analyzes the rhetoric of the first four women elected to the Supreme Court: Sandra Day O’Connor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan. Gutgold’s thorough exploration of these pioneering women’s rhetorical strategies includes confirmation hearings, primary scripts of their written opinions, invited public lectures, speeches, and personal interviews with Justices O’Connor, Ginsburg, and Sotomayor. These illuminating documents and interviews form rhetorical biographies of the first four women of the Supreme Court, shedding new light on the rise of political women in the American judiciary and the efficacy of their rhetoric in a historically male-dominated political system. Gutgold’s The Rhetoric of Supreme Court Women provides valuable insight into political communication and the changing gender zeitgeist in American politics. « less more »
Lexington Books
Pages: 158Size: 6 1/4 x 9 3/8
978-0-7391-7250-6 • Hardback • May 2012 • $79.00 • (£52.95)
978-0-7391-7252-0 • Paperback • May 2012 • $34.99 • (£23.95)
978-0-7391-7251-3 • eBook • May 2012 • $34.99 • (£23.95)
Nichola D. Gutgold is associate professor of communication arts and sciences at Penn State Lehigh Valley. She is the author of Almost Madam President:Why Hillary Clinton ‘Won’ in 2008, Seen and Heard: The Women of Television News, and co-author of Gender and the American Presidency: Nine Presidential Women and the Barriers They Faced.
Foreword, by Larry Catá Backer
Chapter One. Up From Obscurity:Women and the United States Supreme Court
Chapter Two. Sandra Day O’Connor: Pioneering and Pragmatic in Words and Deeds
Chapter Three. Ruth Bader Ginsburg: The Legal Architect of the Women’s Movement
Chapter Four. Sonia Sotomayor: Intense Intellectualism and Cultural Pride
Chapter Five. Elena Kagan: Fierce Intellect and Interpersonal Finesse
Chapter Six. Women and the Supreme Court: Moving Beyond Gender

Gutgold (communication arts and sciences, Penn State Lehigh Valley) shows how the rhetoric of the four women who have served on the US Supreme Court parallels the history and treatment of women in the US generally and in law schools and the legal profession more specifically. Just as women politicians and women in general no longer have to address the novelty of their gender, the women of the Supreme Court have gradually come to that same place. The pioneers, Sandra Day O'Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, both experienced serious discrimination, which their rhetoric mirrors by frequently weaving stories of discrimination and progress into their speeches and opinions. The most recent two women justices, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, came of age at a more enlightened, though certainly not perfect, time when women were common in law schools as students, professors, and deans, and were treated more equally in the profession. Their rhetoric mirrors that experience in the same way that O'Connor's and Ginsburg's mirror theirs. Brief biographical sketches of each of the justices work to solidify the book's interest and usefulness. Summing Up: Highly recommended.

Dr. Gutgold tells the engaging stories of the four women who have served on and reshaped the institution once dubbed 'nine old men.' Personal interviews with three of the Justices complement her impeccable scholarship to create a must read for legal and rhetorical scholars of the Supreme Court.
Steven R. Brydon, California State University, Chico

The stories told in this book have been waiting a long time to be told; four women, prominent in their field, influencing the legal justice system in ways that are provocative and far-reaching. Professor Gutgold eloquently tells their stories, grounding her work in rhetoric, feminism and historical/social perspectives. Anyone interested in the workings of the Supreme Court, and the women who have served there, will find great riches and many lessons in these pages.
Janette Kenner Muir, George Mason University

This book is an important addition to feminist scholarship in that it gives voice to four women who served on the Supreme Court, especially Justices O’Connor and Ginsburg, who blazed the trail for future female justices. We are reminded that the Supreme Court’s women have distinct ways of viewing and rhetorically arguing in the legal system. This highly readable and significant book reminds us of the difficulties women, even Supreme Court justices, face as they seek equality within the U.S. legal system. I commend the author for illuminating the four women’s judicial lives and, accordingly, our appreciation of the challenges today’s woman faces.
Women's Studies In Communication