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Fight Back and Win: Gloria Bloom Allred

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I'll stop cracking my knuckles, gentle reader, to tell you how powerful I feel after reading the inspirational page-turner Fight Back and Win by Gloria Allred, the famous world-changing women's rights lawyer from California.

Okay, I'm no slouch, I've corrected history about the notorious and violent Kathy Boudin. I also nudged social history for six years writing and editing Ms. Magazine.

But I don't hold a candle to Allred. Reading her excellent memoir made me hear the approaching drumbeat of legal matriarchy. I can't think of another lawyer or judge who's made a bigger contribution to women's rights.

Gloria Bloom Allred was a classmate at the Philadelphia High School for Girls who I didn't really know very well. I remember she was adorable with a pixie haircut and seemed to attract crowds of boys. I liked her husky voice.

I did notice about ten years ago that she was making a big splash in Los Angeles. She recently attended my high school reunion, I didn't. But I heard she was really entertaining and at one point asked people to tell something they'd done in high school that they'd kept secret.

I wrote to her about a sexual harassment situation that will appear in my memoir but is beyond the statute of limitations. She responded by suggesting we get together, so I read her book to prepare myself.

It's quite a book.

There are those who erroneously blame Allred for taking headline cases. But as a media pro I know that headlines fuel cultural change. Allred's most recent case is the defense of Debrahlee Lorenzana who alleges she was fired from her bank job for being too attractive.

Gloria Allred's a hero who's fought twenty-three years to force the system to acknowledge wrong doing to one woman. Gloria won the plaintiff millions of dollars in damages. I'll never forget reading Gloria's chapter in Fight Back and Win about this client, a devout sixteen year old Hispanic teenager Rita Miller who wanted to become a nun. Back in the early 1970's, she wrongly believed her priest knew the difference between good and evil and allowed him to rape her. This was before we had a clue about such atrocities. But he wasn't content to exercise his cruel power alone--he recruited six other priests who raped her, sometimes together. When she got pregnant they gave her $350 dollars and shipped her to the Philippines for an abortion. She refused the abortion and almost died of malnutrition.

Rita Miller came to Allred to force the priests to take DNA tests because she wanted to know who her daughter's father was. Allred believed Rita's fantastical story and sued the Archdiocese of Los Angeles who repeatedly denounced Allred and her client. One LA Bishop charged on TV that Rita was 'a bad girl with a bad reputation." In fact she had never had a date or kissed a boy.

Gloria Allred finally won her case for Rita Miller in 2002 after lobbying the state to extend the statute of limitations for childhood abuse by priests.

Then there was Megan Wright, the tragic student at Dominican College near Manhattan, who alleged she was gang-raped on campus. Her mother says the college failed to do what the law required, unwilling to jeopardize its reputation with applicants. Megan felt unsafe returning to college and committed suicide. Allred is suing the college.

On another note Gloria Allred was pissed because she wasn't allowed to join the all-male celebrity Friar's Club. She litigated and won. When the Beverly Hills club refused to let her use the steam room, she suggested separate days for men and women. They again refused. Allred became the first to file a claim with the California State Board of Equalization under a new statute that denied tax deductions to members of clubs of over 400 members practicing sexual discrimination.

Finally Gloria was admitted to the steam room. She wore an 1890's bathing suit.. The men quickly covered their private parts when Gloria took out a tape recorder and sang, "Is That All There is?"

The first person in Manhattan to file a complaint of sex discrimination against a private club, she pushed Henny Youngman away when he tried to block her entry to our Friar's Club.

Read the book. Crack your knuckles. Of course you won't get the nostalgic feeling I have or the pride in my classmate who's changing the world. But you'll be inspired.