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NEWS & IDEAS

MAKING HISTORY: Catharine MacKinnon Works to Legally Define Sexual Harassment

In honor of Women's History Month, we are celebrating with 31 days of women's history! Every day in March, we will highlight an historic moment, as told through the personal stories of our MAKERS.

Today we look back to Catharine MacKinnon's revolutionary legal argument that would successfully define "sexual harassment." Nearly a decade after publishing her argument in 1979, the Supreme Court adopted it into law without pause.

As a student at Yale, MacKinnon first learned about systematic sexual abuse in a consciousness raising group. Upon hearing the stories of secretaries and wives of graduate students in the group, MacKinnon recalls that "No one really knew what was going on with women" and the sexual abuse happening beneath the surface. She made it her life's work to fight for women's legal rights.

It's hard to imagine what the workplace for women used to be like before sexual harassment was written into law as a form of discrimination. As MacKinnon says: "It wasn't an issue. It was just life."

Today, thanks to MacKinnon, it's not only wrong, it's illegal.