A warm welcoming of new members highlighted the recent annual meeting of the American Society of International Law.
Those welcomed included two luminaries – a Nobel Peace Prizewinner and a U.S. Presidential candidate – plus untold others, as reflected in this resolution, adopted by ASIL’s General Assembly:
That the American Society of International Law, wishing to provide recognition and posthumous redress to women who were excluded from membership in the Society during its early years, hereby confers membership on JANE ADDAMS, BELVA ANN LOCKWOOD, and any other women whose applications for membership were denied from 1906-1921.
That the Society should undertake additional research to determine which members of other groups also were excluded from membership over the course of the Society’s history, and merit similar redress.
ASIL President Lucinda A. Low (left) introduced the resolutions, one of her last acts before handing the presidency to Professor Sean D. Murphy. Low, a partner at Steptoe & Johnson LLP, acted in response to a member inquiry – an inquiry prompted, as Low told ASIL members, by “International Law and the Future of Peace,” the speech I gave upon receiving the 2013 Prominent Woman in International Law award of ASIL’s Women in International Law Interest Group. As I indicated in that speech, original credit is owed to yet another ASIL President: Professor Alona Evans (below left), the 1st woman elected to lead the Society, in 1980, her tenure cut short by her death at age 63 that same year.
Six years earlier, Evans and Carol Per Lee Plumb had published “Women and the American Society of International Law” in the American Journal of International Law. They reported that ASIL, founded in 1906, had refused women’s applications for membership until 1921, the year after the U.S. Constitution was amended to give women the right to vote. Applicants before that time included:
► Lockwood (1830-1917) (top, middle), an attorney-activist who gained admittance to the District of Columbia bar in 1873 thanks to the intervention of U.S. President Ulysses Grant. Thereafter, she became the 1st woman to appear on an official ballot as a candidate for U.S. President, and also the 1st to argue a case before the U.S. Supreme Court.
► Addams (1860-1935) (top, right), the Chicago settlement house leader whose achievements including chairing the 1915 International Congress of Women at The Hague and serving and the 1st President of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. She would earn the Peace Prize in 1931.
According to Evans’ co-authored article, when Addams sought ASIL membership, she was sent a letter in which she was “invited, instead, to subscribe to the Journal ‘for the same amount as the annual dues ….’” That letter constitutes one of the few remaining records of such applications; it is for this reason that the 2018 Resolution refers to all women, known and unknown, who were denied membership.
Similarly lacking is evidence of how members of other groups fared in ASIL. (The sole African-American person elected ASIL President, C. Clyde Ferguson Jr., served just before Evans.) The Society has further resolved to seek this information and grant redress.
As for Evans, President Low indicated that the Society is considering how best to honor her legacy. These resolutions surely constitute a superb 1st step.