They Don’t Want Her There

Fighting Sexual and Racial Harassment in the American University
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2022
250 pages, 5 b&w photos 13 b&w figures, 5 3⁄4 × 9 inches
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9781609388195
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9781609388201

They Don’t Want Her There is a powerful and infuriating story of sexual harassment in a prominent medical school leading to a series of riveting courtroom dramas. Chalmers leads us through the courtroom challenges of sexual harassment at a time when there was very little legal precedent to draw upon. Her own story, as a young, deeply committed feminist lawyer, broadens the human dimension of this storied and exhilarating work. Despite the ultimate triumph of these two feminist pioneers, however, their stories are sobering examples of norms and behaviors that continue to the present day. We need their inspiring model of resistance.”—Sara M. Evans, author, Tidal Wave: How Women Changed America at Century’s End

“A critically important window into law, lawyering, and rights consciousness in the early years of legal recognition of sexual harassment. The state of the law alone makes this an important account, but it is the setting: a professional, not industrial blue collar workplace; the intersectional character of the discrimination: sexual slander against an Asian American woman; and the relationship: two professional women—medical scientist and lawyer—collaborating in pursuit of justice that makes this account essential reading for all who care about justice today.”—Barbara Young Welke, author, Law and the Borders of Belonging in the Long Nineteenth Century United States   

“You don’t need to be an activist lawyer or familiar with maddening academic infighting to be captured by Carolyn Chalmers’s compelling narrative about Jean Jew’s righteous battle with her colleagues and university. This is a must-read to learn about a pivotal workplace sexual harassment case and a much-deserved victory.”—Jay Weiner, author, Professor Berman: The Last Lecture of Minnesota’s Greatest Public Historian

Decades before the #MeToo movement, Chinese American professor Jean Jew M.D. brought a lawsuit against the University of Iowa, alleging a sexually hostile work environment within the university’s College of Medicine.

As Jew gained accolades and advanced through the ranks at Iowa, she was met with increasingly vicious attacks on her character by her white male colleagues. After years of demoralizing sexual, racial, and ethnic discrimination, finding herself without any higher-up departmental support, and noting her professional progression beginning to suffer by the hands of hate, Jean Jew decided to fight back. Carolyn Chalmers was her lawyer.

This book tells the inside story of pioneering litigation unfolding during the eight years of a university investigation, a watershed federal trial, and a state court jury trial. They Don’t Want Her There is a brilliant, original work of legal history that is deeply personal and shows today’s professional women just how recently some of our rights have been won—and at what cost.

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