Hannah Brenner Johnson and Renee Knake Jefferson’s Shortlisted: Women in the Shadows of the Supreme Court

It’s the middle of the week, which means it’s time for Can’t-Wait Wednesday. Every week I spotlight amazing future releases that—well, that I just can’t wait for. This is a feature hosted by Tressa over at Wishful Endings, so be sure to check out her weekly post to find other participants. Fair warning: don’t be surprised if you come away with an expanded TBR pile.

Today I’m waiting for…

I’m fascinated by the Supreme Court of the United States, often viewed as the less flashy of the three branches of the U.S. federal government—if there is such a thing. I’ll pick up most any book about the high court, but I’m especially interested in those that approach little-discussed subjects. That’s why I’ve been thrilled to discover Shortlisted, which promises to shed light on the women who have been considered for a seat but never nominated.

I can’t wait.

From the publisher:

In 1981, after almost two centuries of exclusively male appointments, Sandra Day O’Connor became the first female Supreme Court Justice of the United States, a significant historical moment and a symbolic triumph for supporters of women’s rights. Most do not know, however, about the remarkable women shortlisted for the Supreme Court in the decades before O’Connor’s success.

Shortlisted gives nine women formally considered but ultimately passed over for a seat on the Supreme Court going back to the 1930s the recognition they deserve. Award-winning scholars Renee Knake Jefferson and Hannah Brenner Johnson rely on previously unpublished materials to illustrate the professional and personal lives of these accomplished women. From Florence Allen, the first woman judge in Ohio, and the first to appear on a president’s list for the Court, to Cornelia Kennedy, the first woman to serve as chief judge of a US district court, shortlisted by Ford, Nixon, and Reagan, Shortlisted shares the often overlooked stories of those who paved the way for women’s representation throughout the legal profession and beyond.

In addition to filling a notable historical gap, the book exposes the harms of shortlisting—it reveals how adding qualified female candidates to a list but passing over them ultimately creates the appearance of diversity while preserving the status quo. This phenomenon often occurs with any pursuit of professional advancement, whether the judge in the courtroom, the CEO in the corner office, or the coach on the playing field. Women, and especially female minorities, while as qualified as others on the shortlist (if not more so), find themselves far less likely to be chosen. With the stories of these nine exemplary women as a framework, Shortlisted offers all women a valuable set of strategies for upending the injustices that still endure. It is a must-read for those vying for positions of power as well as for those who select them.

Title: Shortlisted: Women in the Shadows of the Supreme Court
Authors: Hannah Brenner Johnson and Renee Knake Jefferson
Publisher: NYU Press
Expected Publication: May 12, 2020
Classification: Nonfiction, Politics

Authors’ Website | Goodreads

What are you waiting for this week?


  1. Truly an interesting topic, especially in this day and age when full success is lauded and anything else is swept under the rug and generally forgotten. To have even been considered is actually quite an achievement.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Such a good point! It’s pretty astounding to even be considered for a nod. Though I’m also curious about the cases where individuals are suggested who have zero chance of being nominated—for flattery purposes or to give the appearance of diverse choices while always intending to ‘pull from the same well’. It’s as though a nomination can be a great honor or a weapon.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I tend to be an optimist which has its advantages and disadvantages. You are so right about the appearance of diversity. There are probably a lot of political and financial motivations also that I would naively not have considered. I truly resent meetings and processes where the decision has really already been made; what a waste of time!

        Liked by 1 person

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