Marlene TrestmanJun 26, 2016
Fair Labor Lawyer
The Remarkable Life of New Deal Attorney and Supreme Court Advocate Bessie Margolin
Louisiana State University Press 2016
As a trailblazing attorney, Bessie Margolin lived a life of exceptional achievement. At a time when the legal profession consisted almost entirely of men, she earned the esteem of her colleagues and rose to become one of the most successful Supreme Court advocates of her era. Doing so, as Marlene Trestman demonstrates in Fair Labor Lawyer: The Remarkable Life of New Deal Attorney and Supreme Court Advocate Bessie Margolin (Louisiana State University Press, 2016), required overcoming not just the ingrained assumptions that men had towards professional women during that time but also the poverty of her early childhood and the loss of her mother when Margolin was only three years old. As Trestman reveals, Margolin exploited to the full the opportunities she was given as a ward of the Jewish Orphans Home in New Orleans, which provided her with a comfortable upbringing and a good education. From Newcomb College and Tulane University, Margolin went on to a fellowship at Yale University and a career in the federal government, which she began by participating in the defense of some of the most important laws to come out of President Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal program and concluded by championing measures mandating equal pay and opposing age discrimination. And yet Trestman shows that for all of the sacrifices she made to establish a career for herself, Margolin did so on her own terms and in a way that many Americans can relate to today.