Martha Fineman

Martha Fineman
Martha Albertson Fineman
Full name Martha Albertson Fineman
Born 1943 (age 67–68)
Era 20th-century philosophy
Region Western Philosophy
School Critical legal theory, feminist legal theory
Main interests Jurisprudence, political philosophy, family law
Notable ideas Vulnerability theory
Institutions Emory Law (2004–)
Cornell Law School (1999–2004)
Columbia Law School (1990–1999)
University of Wisconsin Law School (1976–1990)

Martha Albertson Fineman (born 1943) is an internationally renowned law and society scholar and a leading authority in feminist legal theory and family law. She is currently Robert W. Woodruff Professor of Law at Emory University, which is that institution’s highest honor bestowed on a faculty member.[1] Fineman also directs the Feminism and Legal Theory Project, which she founded in 1984. The Feminism and Legal Theory Project nurtures scholars from around the world, bringing them together to study and debate a wide range of topics related to feminist theory and law.[2] Fineman is an affiliated scholar of the Center for American Progress.[3]

Before coming to Emory in 2004, Fineman was the first Dorothea S. Clarke Professor of Feminist Jurisprudence at Cornell Law School. The Clarke professorship is the first endowed chair in feminist jurisprudence at a law school in the United States. From 1990 to 1999, Fineman was on faculty at Columbia Law School, where she held the Maurice T. Moore chair, and from 1976 to 1990, she was on faculty at University of Wisconsin Law School. Fineman has a B.A. from Temple University (1971) and a J.D. from the University of Chicago (1975). She clerked for the Hon. Luther Merritt Swygert of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.[4]

Her 2008 article "The Vulnerable Subject" in the Yale Journal of Law and Feminism develops a theory of vulnerability in order to argue for a more responsive state and a more egalitarian society. The article forms the basis for her 2011 book.


Fineman has published widely, and, according to one study, is the eighth most cited scholar of critical legal theory.[5] Her books are

  • The Vulnerable Subject: Anchoring Equality in the Human Condition (Princeton University Press, 2011)
  • The Autonomy Myth: A Theory of Dependency (The New Press, 2004)
  • The Neutered Mother, the Sexual Family, and Other Twentieth Century Tragedies (Routledge, 1995)
  • The Illusion of Equality: The Rhetoric and Reality of Divorce Reform (University of Chicago Press, 1991).

Fineman has also edited or co-edited the following critical legal theory volumes:

  • Transcending the Boundaries of Law: Generations of Feminism and Legal Theory (Routledge, 2010)
  • What Is Right for Children? The Competing Paradigms of Religion and Human Rights (Ashgate, 2009; co-editor Karen Worthington)
  • Feminist and Queer Legal Theory: Intimate Encounters, Uncomfortable Conversations (Ashgate, 2009, co-editors Jack E. Jackson and Adam P. Romero)
  • Feminism Confronts Homo Economicus: Gender, Law, and Society (Cornell University Press, 2005; co-editor Terrance Doherty)
  • Feminism, Media, and the Law (Oxford University Press, 1997; co-editor Martha T. McCluskey)
  • Mothers in Law: Feminism and the Legal Regulation of Motherhood (Columbia University Press, 1995; co-editor Isabel Karpin)
  • The Public Nature of Private Violence: Women and the Discovery of Abuse (Routledge, 1994, co-editor Roxanne Mykitiuk)
  • At the Boundaries of Law: Feminism and Legal Theory (Routledge, 1990, co-editor Nancy Sweet Thomadsen).

At the Boundaries of Law is the first volume of feminist legal theory.

Her most widely cited articles include


Fineman is the recipient of numerous scholarly awards, including most recently the 2008 Cook Award from the School of Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell University,[6] and the 2006–2007 Leverhulme Visiting Professorship, one of the United Kingdom's top academic honors.[7] She is also the recipient of the prestigious Harry Kalven Prize,[8] awarded by the Law and Society Association to a scholar whose body of “empirical scholarship has contributed most effectively to the advancement of research in law and society.”[9]


  1. ^ Emory Law School: Martha Albertson Fineman
  2. ^ Emory Law School: Feminism & Legal Theory
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ Brian Leiter Most Cited Law Professors by Specialty, 2000-2007
  6. ^ State, Work, and Family: Constructing Equality
  7. ^ Professor Fineman Awarded Prestigious Leverhulme Visiting Professorship
  8. ^ Kalven Prize Winners
  9. ^ Association Prizes
Academic offices
Preceded by
Maurice T. Moore Professor of Law at Columbia Law School
1990 – 1999
Succeeded by
Preceded by
First holder of chair
Dorothea S. Clarke Professor of Feminist Jurisprudence at Cornell Law School
1999 – 2004
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Robert W. Woodruff Professor of Law at Emory Law
2004 –
Succeeded by

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