Prof Barbara Babcock

Remembering Legal Pioneer Barbara Babcock

Noreen Farrell, ERA Executive Director

It was Professor Babcock‘s wish that donations be made to Equal Rights Advocates in lieu of flowers. We have created the Barbara Babcock Next Gen Fund for that purpose.


Equal Rights Advocates mourns the loss of one its treasured founding mothers, legal trailblazer and Stanford Law Professor Emerita, Barbara Allen Babcock.

Professor Babcock became Stanford Law’s first female faculty member in 1972. Her tenure followed a brilliant early career as a litigator at Washington, DC’s Williams & Connolly law firm. She was the first Director of the D.C. Public Defender Service, one of the premier criminal trial offices in the nation. Soon after arriving at Stanford, Professor Babcock connected with three rabble-rousing Berkeley Law graduates – Nancy Davis, Mary Dunlop, and Wendy Williams. Encouraged and mentored by legal trailblazer Boalt Hall Professor Herma Hill Kay (who later became Dean), they launched Equal Rights Advocates. The nation’s first teaching law firm dedicated to ending sex discrimination and to the clinical training of law students, ERA was joined by Joan Graff. Professor Babcock and the students of her Stanford Law clinic joined with ERA to mentor the next generation of feminist legal advocates.

Professor Babcock’s support of ERA was critical to our growth. Instrumental in the initial funding of Equal Rights Advocates by Carnegie Corporation (Eli Evans, Program Director), Professor Babcock also served on Equal Rights Advocates first Board of Directors, together with Professor Kay. Thus was ERA blessed by the inestimable support of the country’s two most prominent and distinguished academic feminist pioneers.

As Professor Babcock broke barriers for women in the legal profession, she was also profoundly committed to advocacy for the most underserved and exploited women, including incarcerated and lowest paid women. She was a fierce supporter of Equal Rights Advocates’ impact litigation efforts. Professor Babcock delighted in our groundbreaking victories on behalf of women workers in whom she found kindred spirits — fighters for gender equality in all workplaces.

Professor Babcock remained a close friend of Equal Rights Advocates and its leaders over the decades until her passing on April 18th.

Professor Babcock mentored thousands across her phenomenal career, and I am so grateful to be counted among these. She believed in me, as she believed in the capacity of all women to lead big ideas. She continually encouraged ERA to be bold, leading through her life example of how to flip the script of inequity. "No guts, no glory," she would say with her characteristic wit that took the edge off the hardest of days. Professor Babcock's gutsy lessons and wise counsel will remain close to me, and Equal Rights Advocates, in the gender justice fights ahead. — Noreen Farrell, ERA Executive Director

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