Brenda Feigen: A Legend of Female Activism

Margo Williams Brenda Feigen returned to Chicago this past Wednesday to speak at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, discussing her representation of three women in North Carolina who were victims of forced sterilization. She also spoke about her appearance in the documentary The State of Eugenics. Ms. Feigen graduated from Latin in 1962, and during early and late lunch blocks this past Wednesday, she conversed with students in room 411 about her profession, activism, and the future of the Women’s Rights Movement. An honors graduate from Vassar College, she majored in Mathematics and minored in Economics and Russian. She also graduated from Harvard Law School in 1969, and in 1978 was an Honorary President’s Fellow at Columbia University where she studied international politics. Ms. Feigen explained that her interest in women’s advocacy stemmed from her experiences in school, particularly at Harvard, where, as a minority, she was ridiculed for her different interpretation of gender-focused case studies. But her advocacy was recognized, and she was elected National Vice President for Legislation of the National Organization for Women (N.O.W.). Soon after, she started the “Women’s Action Alliance,” a newsletter that was transformed into what is now “Ms. Magazine” in 1971. Also in 1971, Ms. Feigen co-founded the National Women’s Political Caucus (NWPC), which is a “national multi-partisan organization in the United States dedicated to recruiting, training, and supporting women who seek elected and appointed offices.” She has written articles for the Harvard Women’s Law Journal, Radical Lawyer, Ms. Magazine, and Vogue Magazine, addressing topics like the treatment of women in the legal profession and the rights of actresses to not perform in the nude. In 1972, Ms. Feigan co-founded the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project with current Supreme Court Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg. This project was later expanded to encompass the Reproductive Freedom Rights Project, where Ms. Feigan focused on the rights of women to be free of unwanted sterilization, a concern which is clearly still an important cause to her, given her current representation of the three women in North Carolina who were victims of forced sterilization. In addition to being an activist, Ms. Feigen is also an experienced entertainment and anti-discrimination attorney. She works for companies seeking services in mergers and acquisitions, individuals seeking to have contracts negotiated for film, TV, music, and book deals, those seeking funding for films, and those who have experienced discrimination, harassment, or wrongful termination. Her individual clients are often authors, producers, rights owners, directors, actors, composers, and singers; the work that she is currently doing for the women from North Carolina, however, is pro bono. It was a joy and inspiration to hear Ms. Feigen, a Latin graduate, speak of the work that she’s done to better the world we live in, and she is an excellent reminder that our actions speak louder than our words.]]>