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FAIRLY EQUAL: Lawyering the Feminist Revolution: LINDA SILVER DRANOFF.


Lawyering the Feminist Revolution


Second Story Press

Linda Silver Dranoff's calling helped to change family law in Canada.

Dranoff became a lawyer at about the same time that family law became a specialty, following the passage of Canada's first federal Divorce Act. Her memoir, Fairly Equal: Lawyering the Feminist Revolution, chronicles her role in shaping Canadian family law.

One of 14 women in her law class of 300, Dranoff was a divorced single mother. The Royal Commission on the Status of Women released its final report in 1970, during Dranoff's second year of undergraduate studies. She studied the recommendations and, when a women's centre opened nearby, offered to teach a free course on the history of women's legal issues. In law school, she conducted a survey of women lawyers for a course. She found that women's histories shouted discrimination but the women themselves denied it. A classmate's separate survey of law firms found that 40 percent of the firms freely admitted to discriminating against women candidates.

Dranoff's own challenges to find a place to article convinced her she was better off being her own boss. As a one-person law firm, she practised every kind of law except criminal law. As a feminist, she also participated in the founding of the National Association of Women and the Law, a network of women lawyers and law students. In 1974, the Ontario Law Reform Commission proposed the principle that marriage be regarded as an economic partnership, and that property acquired during a marriage should be divided equally upon divorce. As revolutionary as this principle seemed, decades of discovery and fine tuning would still lie ahead.

Dranoff spent her career working for fair support for women and children when marriages ended. She wrote op-eds, gave broadcast interviews, worked out positions and lobbied and presented briefs to legal and legislative bodies. When at last the Ontario government adopted its Family Law Act and a Custody Orders Enforcement Act in 1986, Dranoff received due recognition for her indefatigable efforts. In 2004 she received a Governor General's Award in Commemoration of the Persons Case, and in 2012 she was admitted to the Order of Canada.

Fairly Equal is enjoyable to read: polished, concise and written in a conversational style with meticulous attention to detail. The author shares some details of her personal life, including how her parents and extended family helped to raise her daughter Beth while she attended law school. One of the book's most moving moments depicts Dranoff's graduation from law school, when tiny Beth raced down the long aisle to embrace her mother, to the crowd's applause.

Today, Dranoff's blow-by-blow descriptions could serve as a manual for how to lobby for social change. Let's never forget that our current state of legal, financial and career independence has been hard-won--and within living memory--by feminist champions like Dranoff.

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Author:Kome, Penney
Article Type:Book review
Date:Mar 22, 2018
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