Document Type

Book Review

Publication Date


Publication Information

29 William Mitchell Law Review 1047 (2003)


This article critiques the feminist view Ute Gerhard offers in “Debating Women's Equality: Toward a Feminist Theory of Law from a European Perspective”. Throughout Debating Women's Equality, Gerhard appears to have three ambitious objectives in mind: (1) to decry the paucity of research into women's legal history while beginning to do the needed work, focusing primarily on Germany but also broadly exploring European trends, (2) to demonstrate that German/European women's legal history ultimately vindicates reliance on “equal rights” as a political strategy for women, and (3) to develop an understanding of legal equality that can serve as a meaningful tool in the struggle for women's self-determination. Gerhard succeeds admirably at the first objective. But in our view, she falls short on the second objective: we found ourselves depressed rather than encouraged by her recitation of German women's struggle for civil rights. As a work of history, however, her book will be valuable both to those in the know about women's legal history in the United States and are interested in comparing the German/European experience, and to those who have not yet studied any kind of women's legal history. But as a philosophical treatise or a blueprint for pragmatic action in the struggle for women's self-determination, the book can be overlooked in favor of other more extensive, future-looking and specific treatments.


This article is co-authored by G.W. Smith