The faculty of Washington College of Law founded the Women and the Law Program in 1984 to both honor WCL’s feminist past and build our feminist future. The program began during an era when women’s rights and feminist theory were not yet part of mainstream legal education. Professor Ann Shalleck worked with both WCL faculty members and feminist legal scholars from around the nation to build networks that to this day support and nurture serious feminist inquiry into the complex interplay between social structures, such as race, class and gender, and law. Early projects included the development of teaching and training materials, the founding of influential feminist journals, and pioneering work in clinical legal education.
Over the past twenty five years, the Women and the Law Program has turned WCL into a major center for feminist teaching, scholarship and research. The school now boasts roughly twenty courses per year in gender and law-related fields, the only two LLM programs with specializations in Gender and Law in the United States, and a long list of outstanding feminist faculty.
During the 1990s, the program began to take on grant-funded projects with the goal of transforming legal education around the world. During this period, the program created the Integrating Gender into Legal Education and Doctrine in Latin America project. Participants drafted Genero y Derecho, the first gender and law textbook specifically designed for Latin America. The program also began its still-flourishing collaboration with the Pan American Health Organization, hosting one of the first international conferences on women’s reproductive health in Latin America. The program also received a significant grant for the Gender and Legal Education in India project, which resulted in the creation of a network of feminist legal scholars working to protect women’s rights in the world’s largest democracy.
The program currently has several major initiatives underway, in addition to the project on Gender and International Criminal Law. The Project on Gender, Health and Justice houses the collaboration with the Pan American Health Organization, through which the program has recently co-published reports on the health of LGBTI youth, maternal mortality and emergency contraception, and will host a major international conference on the use of human rights law to aid in the prevention of maternal mortality in 2013. It also houses the Law Students For Reproductive Justice Fellowship Program, through which WCL provides an academic home for post-graduate fellows working with NGOs dedicated to reproductive justice. The Interdisciplinary Roundtable on Human Trafficking is a faculty collaboration with the Harvard Law School Program on Law and Social Thought, which encourages and disseminates evidence-based research on issues of labor, migration and human trafficking. The project on Comparative Family Law explores the role of the family in processes of globalization, de-colonization and modernization, while IP/Gender: Mapping the Connections project shines a feminist lens on intellectual property law. The program has several new initiatives planned, and is expanding its work in the areas of paid and unpaid care work, violence against women and student loans and education justice.