Professor Anita Hill named ‘Woman of the Year’ for 1991

March 6, 2020

TIME Magazine has named University Professor Anita Hill (AAAS/LGLS/HS/WGS) “Woman of the Year” for 1991, as part of a new series recognizing the contributions of influential women. The series, titled “100 Women of the Year,” is described by former TIME Editor-in-Chief Nancy Gibbs as “an exercise in looking at the ways in which women held power due to systemic inequality.” 

The article cited Hill’s speaking out as the reason that she earned the title and called her actions “courageous” and an early step towards women speaking out against powerful men.

In a foreword to the series, TIME says that its choice of “Person of the Year,” which until 1999 was called “Man of the Year,” has historically been biased towards men. TIME has been choosing a person of the year every year since 1927, when it picked Charles Lindburgh, and only 11 of those selections have been women. This new series picks a woman for each of the last 100 years, from “The Suffragists,” in 1920 to Greta Thunberg in 2019. The 1991 selection is Hill, with the subtitle “Courage to Speak.”

Hill currently teaches at Brandeis as a Professor of Social Policy, Law, and Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies, but she is best known for her involvement in the confirmation hearings of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, the event which the TIME article commemorates. When Thomas was nominated to the Supreme Court by President George H. W. Bush in 1991, Hill spoke out against him, accusing him of sexually harassing her. She provided detailed descriptions of Thomas’ behavior, but her accusations did not stop Thomas from passing out of committee and ultimately being confirmed with the narrowest margin of any Supreme Court justice that century.
The TIME article, written by Tessa Berenson, recounts this history, but goes on to talk about Hill’s life and impact after the hearings. It credits her testimony for “a law extending the rights of sexual harassment victims” and an increase in reporting of sexual harassment in the year following Hill speaking out. Berenson also writes about Hill’s post-hearing career as an author, pundit and academic, and about the renewed interest in her story brought about by the #MeToo movement and the confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh following similar accusations.

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