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Frances Giden Berko

In Custodia Legis - Tue, 10/27/2015 - 4:33pm

I recently re-read one of my favorite childhood books, Karen by Marie Killilea.  The book recounts the struggles of the author’s daughter who was born with cerebral palsy and her challenges to lead a normal life.  The author also mentions Frances Giden Berko who had cerebral palsy as well and this caught my attention because she had graduated from Fordham Law School in the 1940s.  In honor of National Disability Employment Awareness Month, which commemorates the accomplishments in the workplace of those with disabilities, I thought it would be interesting to highlight Frances Giden Berko’s life as a pioneer in the disability employment awareness movement.

Interestingly enough, Frances Giden Berko does not have a Wikipedia or Encyclopedia Britannica entry.  I could only find a short obituary notice.  However, between the information in Killilea’s book and a speech given by Attorney General Janet Reno at Fordham School of Law titled “Address Delivered at the Celebration of the Seventy-Fifth Anniversary of Women at the Fordham Law School,” I was able to sketch out a brief biography for Frances.

Frances had ataxic cerebral palsy which meant she had poor balance and manual coordination, and involuntary motion, as well as, difficulties in speaking.  Despite these disabilities, she went to Hunter College and then onto Fordham Law School.  While at Fordham she served as the associate editor for the Fordham Law Review and graduated in 1944 with honors.  When we consider this achievement, it is important to remember that it had only been 74 years since the first woman had graduated from a law school in the United States.  She also graduated a year before Congress passed Joint Resolution 23, which first established a week in October as “National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week.”

According to Killilea, Frances passed her bar exams and Reno relates that she helped found United Cerebral Palsy in 1948.  During the same time period, Congress was also providing funds for the President’s Committee on National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week,” and in 1954 Congress passed Amendments to the Vocational Rehabilitation Act (ch. 655, 68 Stat. 652) which appropriated money for state grants to be used to rehabilitate the physically handicapped persons to “prepare for and engage in remunerative employment.”  Frances went on to draft legislation in New York state to help the disabled while in the 1960s, under President Kennedy, the Committee began to develop employment opportunities for both the physically and mentally disabled.  In 1980, Frances became the ‘New York State Advocate for the Disabled’ as presidents continued to work to expand employment opportunities for the disabled while Congress passed the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (Pub. L. 94-142, 89 Stat. 773) in 1975 and the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990, (Pub.L. 101-336, 104 Stat. 327).

Children in class at Rise School, Tuscaloosa, Alabama / Photograph by Carol M. Highsmith / Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division,

Reno calls Frances Berko an idealist which is supported by Killilea who quotes Frances as saying: “You speak of your ultimate aim as the training and education of all C.P.’s (cerebral palsy). That’s where you are wrong.  The final goal must be that the trained and educated C.P. may take his rightful place in society and industry.”  This indeed is the goal of National Disability Employment Awareness Month, that all may take their place in society and industry.

Categories: Research & Litigation

A Visit to the Peace Palace Library

In Custodia Legis - Mon, 10/26/2015 - 10:12am

The following is a guest post by Andrew Winston, a legal reference librarian with the Public Services Division of the Law Library of Congress.  Andrew has previously posted The Revised Statutes of the United States: Predecessor to the U.S. Code and An Interview with Gail Warren, Virginia State Law Librarian.

While on holiday in the Netherlands recently, I had the opportunity to visit the Peace Palace Library in The Hague. I arrived at the Peace Palace on a beautiful September morning via the preferred mode of travel in the Netherlands: the bicycle. Reference Librarian Sophie Brinkel met me at the library’s entrance and provided a fascinating and informative tour of the library and its services.

The Peace Palace Library is one of the world’s oldest, largest, and most prestigious law libraries. Located in the Academy and Library Building adjoining the Peace Palace, the library’s primary mission is to serve the International Court of Justice, the Permanent Court of Arbitration, and the Hague Academy of International Law, all located at the Peace Palace. The library also serves other international courts and tribunals based in The Hague, including the International Criminal Court, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, and the Iran-United States Claims Tribunal, as well as faculty and students from law schools in the Netherlands, and other scholars and students of international law.

The origins of the Peace Palace—and its library—lie in the First Hague Peace Conference of 1899, a meeting of 26 national delegations that resulted in the Hague Convention of 1899, which, among other things, established the Permanent Court of Arbitration. A building to house the Permanent Court of Arbitration, and an international law library to serve the court, was built between 1907 and 1913, funded primarily by a $1.5 million grant from the Carnegie Foundation, established by industrialist Andrew Carnegie. The Peace Palace and the Peace Palace Library opened in 1913 and the library was renovated in 2007. The Peace Palace Library currently has a staff of 27 law librarians and other library professionals, and is led by Library Director Jeroen Vervliet.

My tour began in the reading room of the Peace Palace Library, built during the library’s 2007 renovation. The reading room is housed in a stainless steel-and-glass bridge connecting the original Peace Palace building with the Academy and Library Building. In the reading room, researchers can find reference works on international law, as well as international law reviews and journals. Researchers can relax in a well-appointed lounge just outside the reading room with a comfortable couch and armchairs, coffee table, and that day’s issues of the Le Monde, Die Zeit, and Guardian newspapers. Across the hall from the lounge is the historical reading room, which now holds the library’s collection of constitutions, codes, and regulations of most of the countries of the world, and is often used for lectures and other special events.

The Peace Palace Library’s collection includes over one million volumes on public and private international law, foreign law, international relations, and diplomacy. Like the Law Library of Congress, most of the collection is housed in closed stacks. If a patron wishes to read a book that is not in the reading room, the book is retrieved from the stacks. The library catalogs the materials in its collection using the Catalogue de la bibliothèque du Palais de la paix, developed in 1916 by Elsa Oppenheim, along with keywords from a more modern classification system.

The Peace Palace Library boasts a wonderful rare books collection. Ms. Brinkel and her colleague Rens Steenhard, collection coordinator, provided a first-hand look at some of the library’s rare book treasures. The library holds the largest collection of the works of Hugh de Groot, also known as Hugo Grotius, in the world. Grotius, a Dutch jurist and scholar, is considered the father of international law. Two highlights (among many others) of the Grotius collection are:

  • The first print of the first edition of De Iure Belli ac Pacis (On the Law of War and Peace), printed in Paris in 1625. In this work, Grotius developed the idea of the “just war,” in an effort to provide a legal framework that would regulate and limit the use of warfare.
  • An original of Mare Liberum (The Free Sea), published in 1609. This book developed the idea of the “free sea” as international territory available for use by all nations for trade.

Mare Liberum by Hugo Grotius (1633 edition) / photography by Andrew Winston

You can learn more about the Grotius collection at the Peace Palace Library by watching the video by Ingrid Kost, former conservator of the library.

The Peace Palace Library’s website offers a wealth of information about its collection, services, and programs, along with useful research tools for international law scholars and students. You can browse the website to learn about the library’s general collection, as well as the Grotius collection and other special collections. The website also includes numerous legal research guides on public and private international law topics, comparative law topics, and other subjects. By consulting the website, you can find out about the library’s lecture series, featuring presentations by experts on current international legal issues. You can monitor developments relevant to international law by consulting the “International law news” feed on any page on the website. You can also read posts by Peace Palace librarians about international law topics on the library’s blog.

If you are interested in conducting legal research at the Peace Palace Library, information about visiting the library is available here, as well as information about obtaining a library card.  To experience the library from where you are right now, you can take an online virtual tour with 360-degree navigable pictures of the reading room, the lounge, the historical reading room, and the exterior.

Peace Palace Library Closed Stacks / photograph by Andrew Winston

Categories: Research & Litigation


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