J. Larson Tributes: Albiston, Balkin, Becker, Bernstein

From KT Albiston — University of California-Berkeley (JSP and Boalt)

I will always remember Jane as being especially welcoming to me when I arrived in Madison.  She reached out to me both professionally and personally, supporting my identity as a newly minted (and very nervous) assistant professor and as a feminist.  We worked together on a project, and she helped me connect to other like-minded scholars interested in gender.  I will always be grateful to her, and she will be sorely missed by so many of us.

 From Jack Balkin — Yale Law School

I remember when I first met Jane. It was 1990 or shortly thereafter. She had just started teaching, and she was speaking at an academic conference, I believe, about the historians’ brief in Webster, about how historians had to talk about history to judges, and the problems that this raised. She was poised, quiet, confident, charismatic, radiant. I asked Gerald Torres who that amazing person was up there. He said it was a former student, Jane Larson, and that I was quite right, she was indeed amazing. Jane and I became friends at that conference, and over the years, I learned about her erudition, her adventurous intellect, her humor, her graciousness. But now that she is gone, and all too soon, what I remember most is the picture of Jane standing there speaking at that conference, in gauzy brilliance, as if light were streaming from all sides of her. No doubt it still shines where she is now.


From Mary Becker — DePaul University College of Law

 I remember Jane Larson as a member of the Chicago feminist law group, an informal organization consisting primarily of women teaching in law schools or interested in doing so. Jane was an early member of our group. I remember her with fondness and admiration for her many gifts and her values. She was herself a gifted scholar and very supportive of the work of others, especially the women in the group interested in becoming law professors. Jane had a natural elegance as well as an openness to and appreciation for those without such elegance. Jane was charming, fun, a gift to us.


 From Anita Bernstein — Brooklyn Law School

Jane and I started our teaching careers a year apart, both of us newcomers to Chicago.  My immediate impression of Jane was she was so darned nice.  Where did she get the time, I’d wonder, to minister so patiently to anxious students, querulous colleagues, fretful acquaintances, the peeved and the perplexed.  All took comfort from Jane—and took their comfort for granted.  I know I did.

Amazing as Jane was on the niceness front, she soared even higher in her writing.  There are only a handful of great publications in feminist torts jurisprudence.  I benefited from them all, but “Women Understand So Little” is the work from which I learn the most with each reread.

Jane argued back in 1993 that lies told to obtain sex–just like lies told to obtain money–ought to be actionable in court.  A stark and novel idea, with supports (including legal history) beautifully mustered.  I’ve assigned Jane’s article in my seminars.  Usually I mention it in my torts class.  Students respond with a mix of resistance and respect; they leave remembering Jane’s thesis.

If you think Jane was wrong about a tort of seduction, you might be right, but I’d encourage you to ask yourself why.  You’ll be thinking along with Jane.  She understood your doubts.

We’ve lost a thinker with a big heart, a nurturer who shared her profound ideas, and a mother who died much too young.


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