Sunday, September 12, 2010

From Linda K. Kerber, USA

Professor in the Liberal Arts and Professor of History, Lecturer in Law; University of Iowa.

I think I must have been introduced to Rhonda by Liz Schneider, whom I had interviewed when I was writing No Constitutional Right to Be Ladies: Women and the Obligations of Citizenship, back in the early 1990s. Liz and Rhonda had worked together on an amicus brief filed by the CCR in Healy v. Edwards (1975) and argued by Ruth Bader Ginsburg; in it they went straight to the heart of the claim that women’s easy exemptions from jury service were violations of equal protection and due process of law. Rhonda had done creative research on this issue, establishing, for example, that nearly half the Florida women who claimed exemptions from the obligation of jury service for child care actually were holding full time jobs.

Rhonda insisted that the most convenient time and place for us to conduct an oral history was that this utter stranger spend a couple of days at her summer cottage on Long Island. (The house was still under construction). It did not bother her that I knew little law; it did not bother her that I hadn’t heard of her great argument in the Supreme Court in Harris v. MacRae. (I shudder now at how little I knew.) Those days glow in my memory. Rhonda was enthusiastic, she was kindly, and she conducted an intense two day tutorial as we walked the beaches.

I count myself lucky in our friendship, lucky to have experienced, even only occasionally, the warmth and energy with which Rhonda set an example of a life of generosity, ethical commitment and friendship. Her memory is indeed a blessing.