“It was a different time,” says Janet Blakeman (Law ‘57), a New York native who attended the Law School in the ‘50s. When she lived in a house on Rutledge Avenue that she shared with two other female students, the dean of women was concerned that her housemate with a private entrance might appear to be doing something unto-ward. “I remember being called into the dean’s office and asked if men were visiting the house late at night!”
Blakeman, who went to Wellesley College, came to UVA having never been to Virginia. “I was looking for law schools that had some female students,” she said. “Virginia sounded like a nice place. I took the train. I thought it was beautiful.”
It was just after the Korean War, and Blakeman found herself attending the school with a number of veterans. Her class of about 150 students included only one other woman. In a field still dominated by men, they experienced their share of discrimination.
“I remember a male classmate who said to me, ‘You’re taking the place of a man who has to support his family,’” says Blakeman.
“Most of my classmates were pretty nice to me,” she explains. “But there were some who didn’t seem to like the idea of having a woman in the class.”
However, Blakeman found a lot of happiness in her studies. “I have to say, I enjoyed being called upon, having to recite and studying in the carrels in the library.
“And we had fun,” she says. “Everyone went to the Corner, Carroll’s Tea Room and Fry’s Spring Beach Club. Married students would have parties; there were football games.”
Blakeman worked in trusts and estates law in New York for four decades. And what of that former classmate who accused her of taking another man’s job? “I saw him later,” Blakeman says. “He asked me what I was doing. I said, ‘I’m supporting my family!’”