Philippa Strum talks about her Brandeis biography

18Sep08

Written in 1984, Philippa Strum’s Louis D. Brandeis: Justice For the People still stands as the definitive Brandeis biography. When Laura Rothstein was Dean at the Law School here at the University of Louisville, she was so taken with the book, she used to give copies of it away to visitors. The latest issue of the ABA newsletter Focus on Law Studies has a round table discussion with a number of Supreme Court biographers, including Strum, Juan Williams, Joan Biskupic, Linda Greenhouse and others. Strum gives a number of anecdotes about writing the biography, including an archivist who refused to let her view some Brandeis papers and an interview with the one of Brandeis’ former clerks who didn’t like him. She also talks about Brandeis’ relationship with Woodrow Wilson, Brandeis’ discomfort with Homes’ views on free speech and the evolution of his views on women’s suffrage. What I found most interesting was her explanation as to why she started researching Brandeis in the first place. She wondered how such a secular Jew could become such an avid Zionist. Her story of how she tracked down her answer is a great description of the type of detective work historians have to perform.

The coversation between the authors take up the entire issue which can be found online:

http://www.abanet.org/publiced/focus/spring08.pdf

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