Louise Lamphere v. Brown University

Brown University Anthropology Department, 1970-71.Brown University Anthropology Department, 1970-71.

To mark Brown's 250th anniversary, the Pembroke Center re-examined Louise Lamphere v. Brown University, the landmark class action case that in 1975 charged Brown with sex discrimination and set in motion a chain of events that changed Brown. Programs included:

Significance of the Case

An assistant professor of Anthropology and the only woman in her department when she was hired in 1968, Louise Lamphere was denied tenure in 1974. The Anthropology Department claimed that her scholarship was theoretically weak. Lamphere claimed she was the victim of sex discrimination and argued that the small number of women on the Brown faculty was evidence of a larger pattern of discrimination. After unsuccessfully pursuing an internal appeals process, on May 10, 1975 Lamphere brought suit in U.S. District Court.

Under the leadership of a new President, Howard Swearer, the University settled the case before trial, entering in September 1977 into an historic consent decree designed "to achieve on behalf of women full representativeness with respect to faculty employment at Brown." Brown agreed to set up an Affirmative Action Monitoring Committee charged with overseeing the processes departments used to hire, tenure, and promote faculty to be sure they were fair; evaluating searches to make sure they were inclusive; and monitoring progress toward full representation of women on the faculty. The Affirmative Action Monitoring Committee was in existence from 1978 to 1992 when by mutual consent the consent decree was vacated. During this period the proportion of women on the Brown faculty shot up. 

Timeline of the case


Support for exhibit and events provided by: Pembroke Center for Teaching and Research on Women, Pembroke Center Associates, Brown University's 250th Anniversary, Office of the President, Creative Arts Council, Brown University Library, John Nicholas Brown Center for Public Humanities and Cultural Heritage.