Anne R. Davidow made history in 1948 when she appeared before the U.S. Supreme Court to argue the case of Goesaert v. Cleary. She became the first to make the argument that sex discrimination violated women’s constitutional rights by denying them equal protection and treatment under the law as promised in the 14th Amendment. Davidow contested a Michigan statute that prohibited women to work as bartenders or “barmaids” unless their fathers or husbands owned the bar. Under this law, women were still allowed to work as waitresses serving drinks out among the customers, but were “protected” from the dangers of immorality supposedly inherent to the safer and better-paying job of serving drinks from behind the bar. Davidow lost the case before the Court, but convinced the Michigan Legislature to repeal the discriminatory law.
Anne R. Davidow was a self-proclaimed life-long feminist. As a teenage suffragist, she spoke from soap boxes at factory gates demanding that women be given the rights to vote. In 1920, when the 19th Amendment was enacted guaranteeing women this right as citizens, Davidow graduated from the University of Detroit with a law degree. That same year, she married Victor Harrison Seeger. However, true to her independent spirit and unconventional nature, Davidow did not take her husband’s name and refused to ever wear a wedding ring as she did not wish to be labeled. She set up practice with her older brother in Detroit, under the firm name of Davidow & Davidow. Here they served as Counsel to the Reuther brothers and the newly formed United Auto Workers (UAW). Davidow remained in practice for more than 60 years as a prominent Detroit attorney.
“She set examples rather than followed,” Dorothy Comstock Riley fondly recalled of Anne Davidow and her pioneering legal approach to sex discrimination and her personal demonstrations of women’s equality.1 When reflecting on her own life, Davidow confessed, “I was quite radical in the sense that I couldn’t see any reason a woman couldn’t do anything a man could do.”2 This belief was evident in both her personal and professional life.
1 Anne R. Davidow, Biography File. Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame.
2 Anne R. Davidow, Biography File. Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame.