Women in international law interest group luncheon: where I sit and where I stand.

Author:Shelton, Dinah
Position:International Law in a Time of Change - Proceedings of the 104th Annual Meeting of the American Society of International Law

When Naomi Cahn first mentioned this honor, I was immensely pleased, and at the same time somewhat embarrassed, given the lengthy list of extraordinarily talented women in WILIG. That initial reaction was followed by fear a couple of weeks later when Naomi again stopped by to say she needed the title of my talk. I immediately recalled my youthful years celebrating our national holiday in southern California--I mean, of course, the Academy Awards. So my first thought was to call this "my Oscar speech." You know the type, those unavoidable speeches where the recipient seems to thank everyone in the Los Angeles telephone directory.

I always had a preference for those who thanked their lawyers. So I will begin with the Oscar part of my speech, to thank a lot of lawyers. Indeed, I have to take a couple of minutes to remember various friends, mentors, and colleagues who cannot be here. My guiding professors and mentors Iain MacGibbon, Stefan Riesenfeld, Frank Newman, and Richard Lillich are no longer with us, but their legacy is lasting in international law, ASIL, and my life. Tom Buergenthal is very much with us, but on duty in the Hague. I took my first human rights course from him in 1968. The result was not a full Vulcan mind meld, but it did bear a strong resemblance to the imprinting that occurs with a newly hatched gosling. And thus I've spent the years since trying to follow in Tom's footsteps.

I particularly miss my dear friend Virginia Leary, with whom I initially chaired WILIG. We were part of a small group, along with Kit Bigelow, Edith Brown Weiss, Cynthia Lichtenstein, and Amy Young, who started this wonderful association some 30 years ago. At that point, women were being admitted to law school in growing numbers, and this brought more into the Society, which was not so quick to recognize this new reality. The 75th anniversary meeting was the catalyst: not a single (or married, for that matter) female international lawyer from the United States appeared on the program. We decided that was the last time such a result would occur.

Among the alive and well, I want to express my great appreciation to my colleagues from the law school: Naomi Cahn, Susan Karamanian, Ralph Steinhart, Karen Brown, Theresa Gabaldon, and Steve Chamovitz; not only for their presence here today but also for their presence every day; it is a constant delight that I was invited to join the GWU faculty five years ago.

Finally, all the members of WILIG, old...

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