The turbulent Life and Changing Career of Gloria Allred Attorney fighting for reproductive freedome

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As a single mother, Allred was unable to collect child support from her ex-husband and consequently had to move back in with her parents. While working to support herself and her daughter, her awareness of gender inequality in the workplace grew after noticing the disparity in her salary versus those of her male counterparts. It was also during this time that she became a victim of rape that resulted in a pregnancy. Since abortion was not yet legalized, Allred had to undergo an illegal abortion, which almost killed her. It was this experience that precipitated her lifelong commitment to the fight for reproductive freedom.

Allred moved to Los Angeles and married her second husband, Raymond Allred, in 1968. They were divorced in 1987. She taught in the turbulent Watts section of Los Angeles and became the first full-time female staff member in United Teachers of Los Angeles, the union representing Los Angeles's teachers. The experience stirred her interest in civil rights and collective bargaining prompted her to embark on a career in law, and in 1974, Allred graduated with honors from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles with a law degree. Soon after, she entered a law firm partnership with her classmates Nathan Goldberg and Michael Maroko. Allred, Maroko, Goldberg and Ribakoff grew during the 1970s and 1980s into a thirteen-lawyer firm with annual revenues exceeding $2.5 million.

Allred is perhaps the most flamboyant and well-known member of her firm. She has achieved notoriety and name recognition through staged press conferences and demonstrations publicizing and dramatizing the cause she is championing at the time. She also accepts controversial cases that naturally attract media attention. During her years in practice, she has successfully sued Los Angeles County to stop the practice of shackling and chaining pregnant inmates during labor and delivery; put a halt on the city of El Segundo from quizzing job applicants about their sexual histories, represented a client who was turned down for a job as a police officer after a six-hour lie detector exam that included questions about her sex life, and sued a dry cleaning establishment for discrimination because it charged more to launder women's shirts than men's.

Allred relishes confrontation, and her showy tactics have earned her both praise and criticism. Defending what many have called self-promoting publicity stunts, Allred says she is aware of the impression she makes, and contends that it is exactly the effect she wants. She tries to use the few moments she is in the spotlight to make her point as forcefully as possible. Her detractors say that she wastes her time and energy on trivial issues that do not advance any worthwhile cause and deflect attention away from serious issues. Yet, she points out that she is often stopped on the street by people who recognize her and want to thank her for taking on the small fights that no one else wants. Allred contends that what she is really doing is tackling issues that are symbolic of the day-to-day struggles people face. It is her way of educating the public and the legal establishment to move beyond stereotypes.

Asked whether she is an activist or a lawyer, Allred replied that she is an "activist lawyer." She added that she believes in seeking change and winning rights through the legal process, but that she does not shrink from utilizing the political process when legal remedies prove inadequate.

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Gloria Allred      United Teachers Of Los Angeles     

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