The long-awaited biography of the first woman to serve as United States attorney general, written with exclusive access to the personal archives of Reno and her family and based on over 40 interviews with Reno’s friends and colleagues
“The warm biography of a consequential attorney general—a trailblazer whose singular experiences helped her to navigate some of the country’s thorniest legal challenges.”—Foreword Reviews
“Shows why Reno was such an important figure to feminist and federal history. . . . Readers will come away with a more holistic understanding of Janet Reno, one of the most notable female cabinet members of the late twentieth century.” —H-Net
“It is hard to believe we had to wait this long for the definitive biography of Janet Reno, who served as the attorney general of the United States and exemplified legal probity, diligence, and adherence to the rule of law. Her life has been an example to so many. Stiehm has done us all a great service with this book in helping to anchor Reno’s place in history.”—Caroline Fredrickson, author of Under the Bus: How Working Women Are Being Run Over
“Stiehm has brought us the compelling story of how a young girl growing up ‘off the grid’ in rural Miami would become the top law enforcement officer in the country and inspire a generation of women in politics and law. The mantra of Janet Reno’s youth, ‘be kind and tell the truth,’ is woven throughout this well-researched account of her extraordinary life and contribution to public service.”—Betsy Fischer Martin, executive director, Women & Politics Institute at American University
“Janet Reno was sui generis (one of a kind); a complex, interesting, effective leader. Judith Stiehm has written a definitive biography of one of the most fascinating leaders of our time.”—Donna E. Shalala, former secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services
In this first full biography of former United States attorney general Janet Reno (1938–2016), Judith Hicks Stiehm describes the independent and unconventional life of a woman who grew up on a rural South Florida homestead and rose to occupy one of the top positions in the United States government, whose ethics and example served as inspiration for women in law and politics across the nation.
In telling Janet Reno’s story, Stiehm incorporates personal details from her full and exclusive access to family papers and photos, as well as inside information from Reno’s own materials and interviews with over 40 of Reno’s personal and professional acquaintances. Stiehm begins by tracing Reno’s free-range childhood, her college years at Cornell and experience at Harvard Law School as one of 16 women in a class of over 500, the challenges she faced as a woman lawyer launching her career in 1960s Miami, and her 15 years as Miami-Dade state attorney.
In 1993, Reno was appointed to serve in Washington as United States attorney general in the Clinton administration, the first woman to occupy the position in the history of the nation. Stiehm tells how Reno engaged with the East Coast elite as an outsider, seen by many as outspoken and eccentric—yet scrupulous, uncompromising, and immune to influence. Stiehm explores the reasons behind Reno’s decisions in cases she handled during her tenure, including the siege of the Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas; Kenneth Starr’s Whitewater investigation; the Oklahoma City bombing; and the Elián González controversy.
Janet Reno’s life was an illustration to many that it is possible to hold high office while consistently speaking and acting on principle. This biography examines the guiding forces that shaped Reno’s character, the trails blazed by Reno in her professional roles, and the lasting influence of Reno on American politics and society to this day.
Judith Hicks Stiehm is professor emerita of political science and former provost and academic vice president at Florida International University. Her many books include Champions for Peace: Women Winners of the Nobel Peace Prize. Stiehm is the recipient of the Frank J. Goodnow Award from the American Political Science Association for distinguished service to the profession.
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