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tv   Elie Mystal Allow Me to Retort - A Black Guys Guide to the Constitution  CSPAN  September 6, 2022 6:25am-7:31am EDT

6:25 am >> an honor and pleasure to introduce the speaker tonight. john steele gordon was educated at vanderbilt university. his articles have appeared in numerous publications including forbes, "national review," commentary, the new york times, the wall street journal. he's a contributing editor at american heritage and he wrote the business of america column for many years and rights that longview column for barons. he's the author of several books including hamilton's blessing, the extra ordinary life and times of our national debt, the emergence of wall street as a world power, the business of america hails from the market place, american enterprise from the selling of doing when to the breakup of at&t and an empire of wealth, the epic history of american
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economic power. please join me in welcoming mister gordon to the podium. [applause] >> good evening. i'm happy and honored to be at hillsdale college once again. i'm here to talk about socialism and american history which is to say the history of socialism on very stony ground. socialism is by definition an economic system where in the means of production are held in common, that is by the government. socialism necessarily concentrates power while the people might in syria on the means of production, only individuals can actually act so
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socialism in all its many forms from the democratic socialism of post-world war ii britain to the unspeakable horrors of paul pot's cambodia to that weird combination in north korea means economic power to the people but fiduciaries for the people, the same people who exercise political power. and absolute power corrupts absolutely. in capitalist countries the they become rich. that is not easy to accomplish. in the living universe, a force as all persuasive as gravity is in the physical one. by having means of production in the hands of individuals and corporations capitalism disperses power and takes
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advantage of self-interest. in other words capitalism swims downstream. socialism to work, negotiate self-interest, has to swim upstream. to use the analogy of gravity again, we can negate gravity. that is how we got to the moon 50 years ago and how i got to hillsdale college this morning. it takes energy to do so. this is why socialist economies on very small scale work for any length of time by the use of coercion. that is why the phrase democratic socialism, a phrase much in vogue these days is largely an oxymoron. we usually think of the united states as the most capitalist of all major countries and it is. and and alexander hamilton who
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deserves the title founding father, and when socialism was rapidly evolving into a coherent philosophy, in after napoleon seized power, they do not make history as they please. they do not make it under circumstances chosen by themselves but under circumstances directly encountered and transmitted from the past. this country like the european countries marks was familiar with. and precious little past to be transmitted in 1776. we are not a fully formed society with deeply entrenched economic interests and
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well-developed class system. we were something like a national tabula rasa in the 1780s and more than any other country in history the united states could make itself as it pleased, into the american character. all but one of the ten amendments to the constitution known as the bill of rights protect individuals from excessive government power. this passion to do as we please under the rule of law that made this country such stony ground for socialism. the american colonies benefited greatly from the mother country's benign neglect. unlike france and spain england did not care who went to its colonies, it is a dumping ground for convicted felons.
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after the american revolution, led directly to the settlement of australia in 1788. we should celebrate july 4th two. the population of early america was largely made up of people who marched to the beat of a distant drummer. unlike their contemporaries in the poor economy of seventeenth century britain they chose to take an enormous chance. it was called the howling wilderness in hopes of making a more prosperous life for themselves and their posterity. as to the chance they were taking consider this. in early virginia the death rate for immigrants in the first year was 25%, it was said to be seasoned and the life expectancy increased considerably. these risk-taking immigrants have been coming ever since.
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the propensity for taking risk was bred into the very dna of this country, the twin engines of capitalist success or willingness to take risk, neither of which are found in socialist economies which is why they are not innovative and poor. transport he's total 100,000 in the colonial era, and assertions required to the american genetic mix. that's not to say there's been no experience with socialism, the english settlement in this country were socialist enterprises even though the word socialism wouldn't be coined until 1833. the colony of virginia was not established by the english, for profit-seeking corporation shouted by king james the first in 1606.
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london merchants, these were savvy businessmen but the company they founded was in a wholly new business, american plantations. the steep learning curve to profitability that any new type of business necessarily entails would not be successfully done in this case. the virginia company invested all told 50,000 pounds sterling in the enterprise, colossal some in the early seventeenth century. it amounted to only 75,000. regardless the company had collapsed by 1624 and virginia became the grand colony. the virginia company made every mistake it could have made. jamestown was cited badly surrounded by mosquito breeding swamps and where the water was often brackish, led to salt poisoning near the hot humid virginia summers but the
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virginia's biggest mistake was to keep title to the land, the means of production. to work it as peasants for the company's profit. any goal they found was theirs to keep or sell, the settlers the company recruited all men in the first year or so were mostly sturdy beggars, a healthy man who had no employment, the burgeoning sons of london and gentry families. the latter was disinclined to do hard work. pursuing self-interest as people always do they preferred to search for gold from which they could profit directly but there is no goals to be found in the plains of tidewater, virginia. they found plenty reform that looked like gold, they shifted to england where it was found
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to be worthless. the result was starvation. the 104 settlers, only 38, nine months later. the colony has 229 settlers. by 1610, only 60 were still alive. one man had killed and eaten his wife. he was burned at the stake. the glass factory, the abundance and and would but profitably exported to england, two develop and save the company, saved the colony. one was discovery of the cash crop, tobacco. after the indians told the colonists the exacting part of growing and curing it, tobacco
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became very profitable indeed. the second was the abandonment of the company's policy of holding title to the land and expect in columnists to work and share profits. the company began to use early america's greatest resource, infinity of land, to entice settlers. 50 acres of land along with each relative, to the colony. that much good agricultural land and land for england would have given the family gentry status. it was a powerful and thoroughly capitalist incentive. those who come as indentured servants were given land once they served their indentures. food production rose sharply and tobacco production soared from 20,000 pounds in 1618 to 1.5 million pounds only 11
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years later. the american experiment was often running in virginia's early socialist economy forgotten. early new england which was settled by profit-seeking joint stock company sold a land held in common as well as poor results. in the plymouth colony despite the story of the first thanksgiving, the harvest of 1621 has been formed. in early 1622, governor william bradford gave each family a plot of land but required the, quote, all profits and benefits that are not done by trade, working, fishing or any other means placed in a common storehouse so that, quote, all such persons of this colony have their meat, drink and all provisions out of the common stock. the settlers were expected to work the fields, go fishing and hunting but the results were doled out to each family according to size, not
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according to contribution of labor. the result was a very poor harvest in 1622 and severe hunger in winter of 1622-23 but bradford happily was no ideologue. he could learn from experience. he wrote in his book of plymouth plantation, quote, the failure of the experiment of communal service, the taking away of private property and the possession of it in community by a commonwealth was found with much confusion and discontent and retard much employment which would have been to the general benefit but young men are able and fit for service objected to being forced to spend their time and strength in working for other men's wives and children without recompense. the strongman or the resourceful man had no more share of food, clothes etc. than the week man who was not able to do a quarter of what the other could. this with thought in justice.
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the asian engraver man in labor, food, clothing etc. with the younger ones thought with some indignity and disrespect of them. bradford decided each family could growing keep the food they raised, the change in attitude among the settlers was stunning. the women in 1622 state how many children in 1623 as bradford explained, the women now went willingly into the field and took their little ones with them to set corn. food production rose dramatically. in a couple years the colony was able to export a load of green to england. as the historian nathaniel explains, the pilgrims had stumbled on the power of capitalism although the fortunes of the colony still teetered precariously in the years ahead, the inhabitants never again start. new england turned to trading
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and shipbuilding given lack of cash crop, those early merchants knew about capitalism even though the word wouldn't be invented for a couple of hundred years many of them road at the tops of their ledgers in the name of god and profit. for these merchants saw personal economic success as a sign of god's grace. nice of elizabeth warren had the same attitude. now among the early settlers of colonial america were many groups seeking religious freedom, the united states remain the most religious of western nations. this year earning for moral and spiritual perfection so much a
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part of the american character has led to a plethora of new american-born religious sects like the church of jesus christ of latter-day's, seventh-day adventist, shakers, jehovah's witnesses and christian science to name a few of the more successful and long-lived. it also led to many social experiments in a search for a new way of living where property was to be held in common. the most famous of these was new harmony, indiana. it was founded in 1825 by a wealthy british industrialist by robert owen, one of the founders of the movement that came to be called utopian socialism. it got that name because the founders of the movement believed socialism could be achieved without class struggle but rather by example. that society could work in a different and better way and as with ralph waldo emerson's better mousetrap the world would be the path to your dorm. marks and angles dismissed this is utopian and the term stuck. marks and angles for once were right.
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owen put his money where his mouth was, he bought an entire town, 20,000 acres in the southwest corner of indiana plus the buildings and infrastructure through a german religious sect to the decided to relocate, he paid 150,$000, a substantial fortune in the 1820s. people were expected to provide household goods, invest capital enterprises that would promote community independence and social equality. they would work for the community and be paid in credits at the town store or they could buy credits there, there were troubles from the beginning. a shortage of skilled craftsmen and the community could not produce enough goods to pay its way. robert dale owens, son of the founder described the people who settled in new harmony, quote, as a heterogeneous collection of radicals, enthusiastic divorces to principle, honest -- lazy theorists with a sprinkling of
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unprecedented sharpers thrown in. after the town's prospects hero, quote, a plan which remunerate solid like will in the present condition of society ultimately eliminating from a cooperative association the skill, efficient and industrious members leaving an ineffective and sluggish residue in whose hands the experiment will fail socially and self-interest doomed such and or prizes. and individual pursuit came to the town. there was one in virginia, the tobacco farm was in operation. after the civil war as the country industrialized at a furious pace the wealth
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inequality, enormous fortunes the penalized by the families invited to mrs. astor's annual ball were piled up while industrial workers did not get anything like a fair share of the profits they helped create. tweet industrial cooperation spoke with one voice when there are tens of thousands of workers each spoke for himself. industrial capitalism was something new under the sun, it would only be developed from experience. the stock market reforms of the civil war era, invention of independent accountants and generally accepted accounting principles in the 1890s, the antitrust legislation in 1914, the creation of the interstate commerce commission in 1887 and
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the wagner act of 1839 were what resulted. it was a process that would take 50 years and the reforms need their own reforms, the intrastate commerce provision was meant as a check on the unbridled economic powered of girls but evolve into a cartel protecting the railroads profits and inhibiting innovation in that industry. when the ratesetting powers were abolished in the 1970s the railroads and trucking firms could compete by means of price the transportation sector dropped 15%, transportation was what economists call the transaction costs, a necessary cost but does not increase the value of the product, it dropped as prosecution forced manufacturers to share the lower cost, it should be noted,
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what rules were needed to properly regulate the new digital economy we live in that has caused another surge in income inequality. there were calls for socialism in american politics as a way to abate the increasing inequality just as there are today. among the leaders of this movement was eugene debs born in 1855 in terre haute, indiana, came from a middle-class family, his father is text file business and went to work for a local railroad, identified with the working class and economic problems in the new industrial age. debs was a founder of and early labor union, industrial workers of the world as well as the american railway union. the pullman strike of -- initial legislation was a series of often violent strikes
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at this time, with 13 deaths. charged with contempt of court with federal injunction against the strike served 6 months in jail. during that time debs read widely about international socialism and emerged from jail a firm believer. originally democrat he said two terms in the indiana house of representatives, debs was a founding member of several socialist political parties, socialism was never able to form a single coherent political party in this country, socialist leaders almost entirely intellectual endlessly split over ideological minutia. there were social democrats and many others. debs joined the socialist party in 1901, a party formed with the merger of the social democratic party and socialist
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labor party. iran for president on this ticket 5 times, in 1912 received 900,000 votes, fully 6% of the total vote. in 1920 won 3.4% of the vote though he was in jail for sedition at the time. the socialist party was adamantly opposed to american participation and debs spoke out in favor of resisting the draft. sentenced to 10 years president lauren harding commuted the sentence to time served after debs served nearly 3 years in jail. after the collapse of bizarre regime in russia and subsequent takeover by the bolsheviks along with this country's entry into world war i the united states experienced the first of two twentieth century red scares. there are reasons for these scares, there were numerous attempts to bomb people and property, the washington house
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of woodrow wilson's -- was badly damaged by a bomb in june although palmer himself was not seriously hurt. in september of 1920 always a load of dynamite blue up in front of the morgan bank on wall street killing 38 and injuring 143, windows were blown out, but the morgan bank was scarred, they decided not to repair the damage. leaving it as a sort of stigmata of capitalism. the fear generated by the red scare was more than the threat. hundreds of aliens were deported including emma goldman and alexander berkman who tried to assassinate the industrialists henry clay frick, though by wonderful coincidence the day he was
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deported was the day henry clay frick died of national rural as natural causes and he left the country before i did. the socialist party never came close to winning the presidential race but had alleged oral success at local and conventional levels, 5 socialists into new york state assembly, they were suspended and expelled and rented special elections and were reelected but denied their seats. the communist party of the united states was founded in 1919 after the russian revolution as socialist party of america. unlike debs's socialists it supported dictatorship of the proletariat which is to say dictatorship of self-appointed fiduciaries for the proletariat. it was deeply involved in the american labor movement and a variety of front organizations influenced many prominent people.
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membership grew to 55 thousands according to seek the usa but it was from the first largely funded by and took orders from the soviet union. after world war ii broke out in september of 1939 the communist party newspaper the daily worker began a long and frequent series of editorials demanding this country stay out of the war. on june 20 third 1941, the paper without noting its about-face demanded the immediate entrance of the united states into the war. what caused it to change its editorial mind, nazi germany invaded the soviet union in 1941, this convinced many that the communist party was not a genuine american political party but a foreign agent. non-communist socialism as political party mary wayne to the 1920s while increasing in
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europe, both britain and france elected socialist governments in 1924 but norman thomas received 2% of the vote in the election of 1932 despite the country being in the depths of the great depression while there was widespread fear that capitalism and even democracy would not survive. new deal programs and especially the g.i. bill of rights proved the deathknell of socialism in america. but subsidizing college education and homeownership the g.i. bill lifted millions into the middle class with financial assets like real estate, in other words the proletariat became capitalist. at the same time a new red scare thanks to the onset of the cold war, people like senator joseph mccarthy and the house un-american activities committee, before television cameras, found relatively few
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actual communists while ruining many lives and careers. in 1954 senator mccarthy overplayed his hand, censored by the senate and the second red scare began to fade away. socialism disappeared as a political force after world war ii, his lastgasp was the presidential campaign of henry wallace, conservatives wondered at what point the social safety net ends and latter-day socialism begins. the democratic party has moved markedly leftward in the last few years and once again we are hearing calls from the far left for socialist policies such as medicare for all and ego material policies like punitive wealth tax on those who have been successful. britain tried this tactic in the labor government after world war ii, the top income tax rate was 104%.
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in other words you were fined for creating too much wealth. that goes a long way to exciting why britain's economic recovery after the war was so sluggish. senator bernie sanders, himself a millionaire who owns 3 houses says no one should be worth $1 billion and would impose an 8% tax on the very very rich most of whom made their own fortunes, 70% of the forbes 400 are self-made men and women. no one is any poorer because of mega fortunes. enriching the rich by ms. a rating of the poor was public policy. ask louis the sixteenth, by giving everybody a better and cheaper way to shop made all of us richer. bernie sanders had his honeymoon in the soviet union, i have been to moscow, it is
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very gay, anyway on the first of may. these ideologues are insensibly ignorant of the most basic economics. not only with a wealth tax be hard and expensive to administer, it would have devastating effects on the entire american economy and population. jeff bezos had to pay 8% of his networking taxes every year he would have to sell 8% of his vast holdings of amazon stock, that would cause the price of amazon stock to drastically decline, the anticipation of the sale would cause it to decline, with 8% of net worth. but directly and indirectly, millions of middle-class americans in the 401(k) amounts, pension funds and
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annuity accounts but 2 thirds of corporate stock today is held not by plutocrats but ordinary americans. multiply jeff bezos's woes under a wealth tax with 620 billionaires in the country today and you have a stock market crash that would be worse than 1929. wealth tax, would stick it to this room. not to mention hillsdale college endowment fund. i expect these policies will get nowhere, the wealth tax is certainly unconstitutional as well is a direct tax that cannot be apportioned from the state according to population and ability and are, supplied with a list of 600 billionaires in the country. the majority of americans celebrate capitalist success,
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not decry it like bernie sanders and elizabeth warren, and more golden eggs by so many people. they understand instinctively that those risk-taking entrepreneurial genes they inherited that socialism to borrow a phrase from george orwell is an idea so stupid that only an intellectual could be leave it. the united states is still stoning around for socialism. thank you very much.
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the head of the confederate bureau of thought the, thought a literal shooting of prisoners would be good, thought a literal shooting of prisoners would be good, prevent suffering and save life. prevent >> to watch the full program, search lori and foot, rights of
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>> the supreme court historical society, it is my honor and pleasure to welcome you to this lecture delivered by marlene trestman, of our most scholarly friends and supporters. marlene trestman is a lawyer, ardent author of a book entitled fair labor lawyer, the remarkable life new deal attorney and supreme court advocate bessie margolin. marlene trestman is working on a second book entitled the history of new orleans jewish orphans home, 1855 through 1946. for the last decade of her 30 year career in the maryland attorney general office from
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which she retired in 2013 marlene trestman served as a special assistant to the attorney general and was responsible for enforcing suit consumer protection laws, government, the market of tobacco and alcohol and internet safety. in recognition of her considerable contributions, has twice received the attorney general's exceptional service award. phi beta kappa graduate and member of the board of trustees in maryland marlene trestman earned her law degree from george washington university and her mba from loyola university of maryland's salinger school where she has also taught law. marlene trestman has received
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recognition in fellowships from the national endowment for the humanities, the brandeis institute and american jewish archives. a busy lady to be sure. she has been a recipient of our society's gossip literary award for earlier article about, you guessed it, bessie margolin. today we continue that conversation. i'm delighted to welcome marlene trestman to the society's virtual platform and delighted to welcome our audience for what i promise will an interesting and informative afternoon. thanks. >> guest: thank you for that wonderful introduction.
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while i share my screen as i thought i might even though i practiced this, i want to take a moment to thank the historical society for making this book possible and indeed making it possible for to write the article about bessie margolin. i received enormous assistance from claire cushman who is now i believe the resident historian of society and she was instrumental in allowing me to have this program go forward. and again, thank you to the historical society. i know a good 11 would be pleased for you to get introduced to her today. through a life that spanned the 20th century, 1909-1996, bessie margolin made her mark on the
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biggest issues suffering and earned twentieth for the nazi war crimes of her day, she defended the constitutionality of the new deal, she drafted rules for the nazi war crimes trials and for more than three decades trials and for more she championed the fair labor standards act which ultimately included the equal pay act which led her to become a founder of now. she presented 24 arguments at the supreme court, one of only three women to do so in the 20th century and she prevailed cases associated with 21 of those arguments. by my count, and i spent some time doing this, bessie margolin is one of 7 women to argue at the supreme court 24 or more times. she began her legal career in 1930, when only 2% of america's lawyers where women. she served in the federal government under six presidents from fdr to nixon from fdr, and
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9 labor secretary's beginning with frances perkins. she received every award the later department offered and by 1963 was promoted to the department's top nonpolitical legal position, she was a striking woman of cultivated southern charm who turned heads when she entered a courtroom. in short, before there was notorious rbd there was the audacious bessie margolin. but after she retired in 1972 she seemed to fade from the public record so it's not hard to understand why she deserves to be rescued from obscurity but i want to start by telling you how i came to the task guidance counselor had written bessie margolin,. in the fall of 1974, i was a freshman in baltimore, far from my home in new orleans, my high school guidance counselor had written bessie margolin, distant wished alumna from the a distant wished isidore newman
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class of 1925, the letter of introduction shown here through college, law school and in my legal career i got to know bessie margolin, she was the first female lawyer i ever met and we were connected by common childhood experiences. we were both wards of the same southern jewish children's welfare agency which educated both of us at newman avenue school a half-century apart. bessie margolin personified excellence in the law and public service at a time when women attorneys are discouraged if not outright prevented from pursuing opportunities available men while protecting the rights of millions of workers she also advanced the careers of countless lawyers and other employees, many of whom sought out her prestigious and demanding tutelage. i will share her journey from
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beneficiary of social justice to its powerful advocate. bessie margolin was born in 1909 in brooklyn, new york, the first american born child of russian jewish immigrants, from there, to escape new york's tough and crowded conditions bessie margolin's family made its way to memphis. about a year after giving birth to 1/3 child bessie margolin's mother died leaving bessie margolin's father alone to care for his 3 young children. they attracted the attention of a rabbi who petitioned the jewish orphans home in new orleans to accept the children so in 1913 the orphanage admitted bessie margolin at age 4 and her siblings. the home as it was known sat prominently st. charles avenue near the stately mansions of new orleans prosperous citizens. in the home, bessie margolin grew up with 150 other orphans
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at half orphans from the deep south. the trustees were not content to provide mere subsistence. instead the home groomed bessie as an all-american girl, reflected the values and culture of her prosperous benefactors. addition to reform jewish education the home provided bessie margolin with a robust secular education at the isidore newman school where the cutting-edge curriculum emphasized home economics and woodworking as well as rigorous academics. the home built its unique school to educate but was open regardless of religion to other children, only white children, whose parents paid tuition. it remains one of the south's
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finest schools, bessie margolin excelled in every subject, graduated from newman in 1925 as a 16-year-old leader who was comfortable in a coed setting competing, succeeding and winning respect, besides leaving debate club and student council, she was valid territory and and won a coveted scholarship to newcomb college which was then a coordinate college for women. he spent two years newcomb ranking among the top 10 in her class but the audacious bessie wanted more. she decided to attend law school, something no other girl from the orphanage had done. as to lane loss collapse only woman at the time, she felt isolated and self-conscious. when the professor lectured about a case involving an accident in a men's bathroom no one in the class wanted to discuss the facts of the case, they were embarrassed to use
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the word toilet in mixed company. when one poor fellow blurted out washroom they all side with relief. in june 1930 at age 21 bessie completed her liberal arts and law studies with honors in only 5 years, she graduated second in her law school class and was an editor of the long review. at the height of the depression, jobs were scarce especially for a jewish woman lawyer, but to lane loss collapse dean urged yale law school's dean to hire bessie as a research assistant. in new haven bessie impressed her boss as well as the wildly popular young yale professor, william o douglas, the future supreme court justice. having earned their respect bessie became the first woman awarded yale's prestigious sterling fellowship for graduate studies.
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with her yale doctorate bessie moved to washington dc for new opportunity. she applied for a job at the tennessee valley authority which congress had just created to realize fdr's news your vision of supplying electricity to the valley's impoverished residents. her yale boss wrote what they needed to hear to hire a woman lawyer, that bessie was intent on a legal career, quote, as a primary objective from which she would not be deflected by consideration of marriage. bessie thus began her government career with the pledge that she would be married to her job instead of a man. private utility companies hurled charges of socialism that quickly turned into losses to direct the legal defense of this new deal cornerstone tva hired james warren, a harvard law graduate and experienced trial lawyer from the justice
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department who wisely made bessie a key member his brilliant legal team and it's only woman. she researched, prepared witnesses and materially shaped the brief in two landmark supreme court cases that upheld its programs, tennessee electric power company, and her other work, she negotiated contracts and got courtroom experience all despite fierce resistance to a woman lawyer from local attorneys, judges, and even witnesses. how did she feel about her profession? in 1938 she shared her thoughts and her sorority's magazine, the law is greatly restrictive for women with considerable prejudice against them she wrote and offered her sorority sisters this non-nonsense advice. woman attorney must manage to
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be accepted and treated as another man and must be willing to take responsibility, criticism and hard work in the same spirit as do the men attorneys. she must aim to become one of the men without becoming masculine overly aggressive in her approach. it was 1938. bessie practiced what she preached throughout her career. in march 1939 bessie joined the labor department where another new deal program awaited enforcement, the fair labor standards act of 1938 prohibited child labor and guaranteed minimum wage and overtime and it does to this day. bessie was there in every aspect of the new law was tested during her first few months on the job her work brought her back home a distant wished her work brought her. the new orleans press loved her local girl makes good story, one full-length photo shown here in the middle captured
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bessie and oppose more cheesecake and lawyerly. why wasn't she married, the press demanded? one reporter recounted her coy response this way. i haven't had time for love but i am -- i am uncontaminated. bessie's remarks bear several notes. first, it was witty like a line from a katherine hepburn movie, her passion for wordsmith 3. second, she seems neither defensive nor self-conscious about being single, and third, it just wasn't true. given today's time constraints, to find out about bessie's pension for passion that prompted several federal investigations and farther derailed her chances for federal judgeship, you have to read the book. the drama of bessie margolin's personal life never impeded her work. in her early years at the labor
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department she paid her views reviewing timesheets in damp warehouses and traveling back roads and her husband's coop to interview vegetable stickers and lawn predators. she began arguing and winning appeals and started working with the solicitor general's office. her high-quality work earned her recognition, delighted with a supreme court brief she previously wrote, solicitor general charles fahey thomas, she could argue the next fair labor standards act to go to the course. in march 1945, before sandra day and ruth bader reached high school, bessie margolin became the 25th woman to argue at the supreme court. after what must have been a lively argument, justice robert jackson marked the location with a thoughtful note, the first of several he wrote to bessie margolin over the years. i hope a distant wished her
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work brought her hope you were satisfied with the way the court argued your first case which i'm sure there would be no dissent from opinion that you should argue here often. bessie won the case establishing the long-standing precedent until recently that exceptions to the fair labor standards act must be narrowly construed. before the year ended bessie argued four more times at the supreme court and prevailed in three of those cases, the use and the rest of her many cases that followed followed, all advanced the humanitarian purposes by protecting wage earners to the full extent congress intended. but when bessie margolin presented her fourth and fifth arguments to the supreme court, justice jackson was not on the bench. he was in nuremberg, germany. after world war ii, as the us chief prosecutor for nazi war crimes. this new and exciting legal pursuit attracted bessie margolin who in may 1946 went
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to nuremberg to help organize what became the american military tribunal. for her 6-month tour of duty the army's commanding officer acknowledged her primary role in drafting the rules that governed the war crimes trials of some 200, second-tier nazis, the judges, the doctors and the industrialists. in december 1946 bessie margolin returned to the labor department, postwar ideal of a glamorous career girl succeeding in a man's world of law, she was featured in january 1948 issue of glamour, then known the magazine, quote, for the girl with the job. times of changed. but glamour did not interfere with grit. by the time she retired in 1972 she had directed the preparation and review of approximately 750 supreme court and other appellate briefs,
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most impressively, personally argued 174 cases in the supreme court and other courts combined, winning an astounding 8 of every 10 cases she argued. bessie margolin often edited herself as she spoke, making it difficult to read her transcripts, but listening to her is another matter. she engaged the justices who respected her meticulous preparation and encyclopedic knowledge of the law and she was able to employ humor, something not often done with success at the supreme court which in this 1955 audio clip, you will hear bessie margolin's bar with justice felix
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frankfurter where she successfully argued battery plant workers whose jobs involve contact with toxic chemicals had a right to wages for the time they spent changing their clothes and showering. although you may not be able to hear everything he is saying you will hear justice frankfurter's annoyance with congress for imposing on the court what he considered undue burdens of interpreting the act and annoyance he frequently redirected at bessie margolin. >> i grant you that that is not something that may be a simple decision to make but it is no different than many questions of statutory interpretation to the legal criterion of the statute. >> what about the statute? >> >> what you said -- >> that the court should be the question for congress, not the
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court but after all congress has 4 or 500 people they have to get into agreement on language. and this does not. >> what about the next thing? >> i don't mean to tell you, language is not something you need to make clear. >> and next next 1960 clip you will hear how comfortable she was with the justices, probing her positions and dissecting her arguments. she is just plain having fun with weight justice charles whitaker worded one of his questions. >> to straighten out, i would like to go on to show the other clear basement areas. >> let me ask justice question. do you stand this -- >> what do you mean do i stand
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-- >> >> i stand -- i don't fall on either. >> bessie margolin won that case was justice whitaker providing the loan dissent. esther justice frankfurter, despite the banter you heard in the prior clip, bessie and he enjoyed cordial relationship outside the courtroom. she certainly got his attention as evidenced by his private note to his law firm. in one, frankfurter referred to bessie margolin's best use of her feminine charm and another to her exploitation of her female talents. was she playing the woman card? if i were able to ask her i think she would have said she was playing the only card she was tells. in the early 1960s bessie margolin decided to pursue a federal judgeship.
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she wanted a seat on only one of two federal courts the sea, a particularly audacious goal given there were only two women federal judges in the entire country. with enthusiastic backers from congress and supreme court labor department bessie margolin's name was considered by lbj himself. it is not clear what if any role in the decision, was played by her affair that you read about in the book but she faced other hurdles, one male white house staffer criticized the fashion forward appearances as flamboyant and another opined her age, 58, would tend to preclude her from consideration. by 1968 bessie margolin had been passed over for several judicial vacancies on those two courts alone all filled by men, five older than she was.
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the silver lining for not getting a judgeship is she stayed at the labor department where she developed a national strategy and personally argued the first appeal under the equal pay act and somewhat ironically the age discrimination in employment act. by the time she retired in 1972 she had overseen the filing 300 equal pay lawsuits in 40 states, ultimately recovering millions of dollars for thousands of employees and earning the title of the nation's number one fighter for equal pay for women. she traveled the country delivering more than a dozen speeches to labor lawyers and corporate counsel, almost always men, many hostile to her because, she urged them to comply with the equal pay act and the discrimination in title vii and she wielded her authoritative voice as an experienced and successful veteran of courtroom battles.
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one such battle was scholz versus wheaton, perhaps her most significant appellate victory which was not heard by the supreme court, which one commentator likened to a second brown versus board of education, the new jersey trial court had ruled in the glass factory, male workers were entitled to 10% higher pay, largely because they possess greater flex ability to perform additional duties. a decision that was feared to be reversal proof despite its dubious merit because of the judge's extensive factual recitations informed by two judicial -- even one something. bessie margolin convince them to reverse the trial court decision and establish the job need only be substantially equal, not identical to require equal pay. the company petitioned the
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supreme court to take the case which is tertiary. at bessie margolin's retirement dinner, labor solicitor warren silverman, today a senior federal judge with the dc circuit described what happened next. >> i told you, the third circuit, in the decision which was sweeping in scope, i distinctly saw a footnote between the lines saying we will get anything you want, please don't send her down again. and counsel for the other side petitioned for certiorari. we discussed it. you can see the light bessie margolin's eyes, she had a sweeping decision in the third circuit. it was an opportunity for the equal pay case with the supreme court.
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bessie margolin suggested we should not oppose search. the supreme court sees this issue. i didn't think there was any way in the world we would get a decision better than the third third circuit decision and by no means sure the supreme court will be is terrorized as the third circuit. a distant wished her work brought her hope terrorized as although there are other speakers who could address that point. the way to deal with the problem, i just leaned back in my chair and said i'm here to argue the case with the supreme court, she said oppose search. [applause] >> that was one of the colorful stories judge silverman shared, a constellation of judges and government dignitary. supreme court chief justice
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earl warren then retired was guest speaker. here's an excerpt of chief justice warren's tribute. >> 33 errors litigation representing tennessee valley authority, labor department, implementing the fair labor standards act, she didn't always have a bed of roses but i'm sure hundreds of briefs, the scores of cases she argued some in every one of the 11th circuit, 27 in the supreme court, must've raised an of hackles in some quarters to have made her look forward to the serenity of retirement. the 27 cases alone she argued in supreme court was a prodigious undertaking. fair labor standards act was not always popular in all
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quarters, and the sinews developed around his bare-bones were great contribution to millions of american working people. many of these people do not know who bessie margolin or what great service she rendered to them but if they did know, they would praise her tonight. in their name i would like to thank her tonight because the bare-bones of that act would have been wholly inadequate without the implementation that she gave in the courtroom, she forged in the courtroom. [applause] tried to top the chief justice after mark so i will add only a few concluding comments. clearly the title refers to the new deal legislation she
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shepherded through the court but it also refers to the fairness of bessie margolin's own career, the obstacle she faced as a woman and as a jewish woman, the opportunities that influential supporters afforded her. her use of her feminine charms and her passionate personal life that you read about in the book. for me the title also represents the challenge i have imposed on myself in doing justice in telling bessie margolin's are markable story. i hope i have succeeded. i think bessie margolin would be particularly pleased to know the supreme court historical society, the court was a very special place for her, or she is pictured in 1991 with her niece, dressed up and on their way to the historical society's gala dinner that evening. as for the book i think she would be happy to know that her
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biography has received a fair share of positive published reviews. i'm sure none of them would please her as much as this unpublished and handwritten review which is also one of my favorites quote an excerpt. as daunting as the undertaking must have been, you have accomplished an important mission in bringing the working days of a working woman vividly to life. although bessie asked path in my never crossed i have heard much about her. thank you for enabling and legions of other lawyers to appreciate what a front-runner she is. it is signed ruth bader ginsburg. thank you for your attention. congratulating bessie on her supreme court argument and victory, frances perkins said that she was particularly pleato


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