Mary Jo White – S.E.C. CHAIR

MARY JO WHITE          Another of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world in 2014 was Mary Jo White, head of the Securities and Exchange Commission. She is on the First Woman To.  . . list because she was the first woman to serve as a U.S. Attorney in Manhattan. In fact, she is the only woman in 200 years who has ever served in that position.

She has decades of experience as a federal prosecutor and securities lawyer, specializing in complex securities and financial institution fraud as well as cases of international terrorism. Prior to her confirmation at SEC the Huffington Post called her “a well-respected attorney who won high-profile cases against mobsters, terrorists, and financial fraudsters over the course of nearly a decade as the U. S. Attorney for Manhattan.” Under her auspices, convictions against the 1993 bombers of the World Trade Center and the bombers of the American embassies in Africa were prosecuted successfully, as was John Gotti.

Because she wants to change disclosure requirements and perhaps streamline them for corporations, some say she is too ready to support corporations. They point to her private practice where she supported corporations in litigation. Others, however, cite this experience as a balance that makes her able to see both sides of the issues.

One of the things she would like to change is the “no admit, no deny” statements from offenders. She believes that those who violate the law, even corporations, should have to apologize as part of their plea deals.

In his book Above the Law, Elie Mystal says that she is “the kind of partner that makes other partners stammer, shuffle papers, and try to look really busy and intelligent when she’s in the room. She’s not a screamer, she’s not mean or dismissive. She’s just deadly serious and committed to getting things done.”


Her official SEC bio:

Her efforts to implement changes at SEC:

For more on the Time 100:

Fall 2013’s First Women To. . .

THE MUSESI received the lovely grace of being able to spend the fall in Southern Europe. I enjoyed the quality of life and the freedom from the usual daily responsibilities, but I missed out on being in touch with the news from the United States. When I returned to a pile of magazines and newspapers that I had not read, I began to plow through them and discovered that there had been several firsts for women of which I had been unaware:

**In September, Nancy Gibbs, a best-selling author and essayist who comments on politics and values in the United States, became the first woman to hold the position of Managing Editor at Time magazine.

** Mylène Paquette of Montreal was the first women to row a one-person boat across the North Atlantic. Literally, this one doesn’t fit my listing of first women from the United States, but Time magazine said she was the “first North American woman to” and that certainly makes her American:

**Janet Napolitano has already appeared in the daily Women of Note twice: on November 6th, as the first woman governor to succeed another woman governor and on November 29th, her birthday, as the first Secretary of Homeland Security. Now she has another distinction: the first woman to head the University of California’s 10-campus system.

**Susan Westerberg Prager is the first dean and chief executive of Southwestern Law School in Los Angeles. Earlier in her career she was the first woman to hold the position of dean of the University of California at Los Angeles School of Law.

**Three women share the “First Woman To. . .” honors for being the first to pass the Marine Corps’ combat training course: Pfcs Julia Carroll, Christina Fuentes Montenegro and Katie Gorz.

***And now, Mary Barra has been named the first female CEO of General Motors. She is the first CEO of any major auto company and General Motors is now the biggest company in America headed by a woman.

***Janet Yellen still waits in the wings for Senate confirmation of her appointment to chief of the Federal Reserve. The word is her appointment will be approved before the end of the year. At that time she joins Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, as one of the two most powerful economic leaders in the free world.

If you know of any more firsts from the fall of 2013, please add them here, by clicking on the comments section.

Sandra Day O’Connor – Justice of the Supreme Court

                        Sandra Day O’Connor said, “It’s great to be the first, but you don’t want to be the last.”

SANDRA DAY O'CONNOR  We are all formed by our families, but that formation is rarely as publicly evident as with Sandra Day O’Connor. She learned independence from her rancher father. By the age of seven, she could drive and by eight she could competently fire a rifle and ride a horse. Her mother, a perfect lady, taught her graciousness; and her grandmother, with whom she lived while attending school, had a fierce confidence in Sandra’s abilities, encouraging her never to accept defeat.

O’Connor majored in economics at Stanford University so that she could manage her father’s ranch. She received her degree magna cum laude, but by then the family ranch was engaged in a legal dispute that peaked her interest in law. At Stanford Law School, although she was one of only five women in her class, she served on the Stanford Law Review, was accepted into the legal honor society, and completed her studies in two years instead of three. In spite of her acumen, she could not find a position as a lawyer. The only law firm to consider her offered her a secretarial position. Not accepting defeat, she went to the public sector in California and became deputy county attorney for San Mateo County.

Although she had dated William Rehnquist (later to serve on the Supreme Court), she married another classmate and followed him to Germany. At this point her early married life followed the pattern of many women. She followed her husband, worked where she could find employment, took time out to raise her children, and was active in charitable work. Even when her children were older, she set up a private law firm so that she could set her schedule and devote time to her family.

When she could work longer hours, she returned to public service in Arizona, serving as an assistant state attorney general. The governor appointed her to the state senate when another senator vacated his seat, and she ran successfully for two more terms. She became majority leader, the first woman in the United States to serve in this position.

She then ran for a judgeship on the Maricopa County Superior Court. Republicans urged her to run for governor several years later, but she did not. The Democratic winner nominated O’Connor to the Arizona Court of Appeals and two years later, President Reagan, in order to fulfill a campaign promise, nominated her to the Supreme Court.

Initially both liberals and conservatives objected to her nomination. Liberals knew she had worked to reinstate the death penalty in Arizona and conservatives knew that, in spite of her own views, she supported a woman’s right to choose. In the end the Senate approved her unanimously.  Her record on the court is conservative, but she also protected affirmative action and refused to overturn Roe v. Wade.

The woman who had a bobcat as a pet when she was a girl, charmed Washington. When she retired to care for her husband, President Bush supposedly said, “For an old ranching girl, you turned out pretty good.”


Two Biographies: and

From the National Archives:

The Washington Post on O’Connor’s resignation:

A Wonderful Perspective on O’Connor’s influence:


Sandra Day O’Connor’s grandmother had extraordinary faith in her. Was there anyone in your family who supported you completely?  

Janet Reno – Attorney General

          Janet Reno never abandoned her principles, in spite of criticism. “I am not fancy. I am what I appear to be,” she said. She inspires us to remain true to ourselves, to speak for ourselves and to protect those who need our strength.

JANET RENO FOR DRAFT BLOG 2          When Janet Reno attended Harvard Law School in the 1960’s women were not called on in class because their voices were not deemed strong enough to be heard, but by 1978 Janet Reno was finding her voice. Appointed state’s attorney for Dade County in Florida, the first woman in that position, she worked to protect children, contain drug dealers and rid government of corrupt judges and police officers. She was re-elected to office four times.

In 1993 President Clinton appointed her Attorney General of the United States. She was the first woman to hold that position and served longer than any other attorney general in the twentieth century. Her tenure was not free from controversy, but she stood strong. She won praise for convicting those responsible for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, initiating a lawsuit against tobacco companies, taking Microsoft to court for antitrust violations, and capturing and convicting the Unabomber. She was criticized and sometimes reviled for the force used in the Ruby Ridge incident, the storming of the Branch Davidian compound, and the return of Elian Gonzales to his father in Cuba.

In spite of her tough demeanor, Janet Reno has a sense of humor. She appeared with Will Ferrell on Saturday Night Live in a sketch called “Janet Reno’s Dance Party” and voiced herself for an episode of The Simpsons. She speaks often, working to convince others of the connection between the quality of education and crime rates, and of the benefit of an improved juvenile court system that reaches troubled children before they become adults.


For online biographies of Janet Reno, see:


Janet Reno: Doing the Right Thing by Paul Anderson


When Janet Reno was at Harvard Law School, one of the professors did set aside a “Ladies’ Day” so that the 16 women in the class of 500 could ask questions. Were you ever in a situation where you felt you could not speak because you were a woman?