Hollins Mourns Loss of Alumna Who Persevered Against Gender Bias

Ann Hopkins '65

Ann Branigar Hopkins ’65, whose landmark 1980s legal case paved the way for expanding protections to prevent workplace discrimination, passed away June 23.

Despite a stellar record of job performance, Hopkins’s employer, Price Waterhouse, denied partnership to her in 1982 because, as Forbes magazine reports, she refused “to behave in a more stereotypically-feminine manner.” She sued for discrimination, and the subsequent seven-year litigation battle went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, where Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins was decided in her favor by a 6 – 3 vote.

“With its ruling in her case,” The New York Times notes, “the Supreme Court established that discrimination based on gender stereotyping was indeed barred by Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. In his lead opinion, Justice William Brennan wrote, ‘An employer who objects to aggressiveness in women but whose positions require this trait places women in an intolerable and impermissible Catch-22: out of a job if they behave aggressively and out of a job if they don’t’.” The Washington Post adds, “It was the first time the court ruled that gender stereotyping was a form of discrimination.”

Forbes concludes that “glass ceiling discrimination remains a stubborn obstacle across corporate America. But progress continues to be made in diversifying executive positions and Ann Hopkins deserves our profound appreciation for her role in making this happen.”

The Hollins Digital Commons contains a gallery for finding guides to a collection of papers related to the Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins Supreme Court case. It includes numerous newspaper and periodical articles that document Hopkins’ journey from beginning to end; court transcripts; personal and professional correspondence; materials related to her 1996 memoir, So Ordered: Making Partner the Hard Way; a scrapbook album; and other papers. For more information, contact Beth Harris at bharris@hollins.edu.