Remembering Janet Reno, a Champion for Women’s Rights

March 11, 1993 marked a historical milestone when Janet Reno became the first woman to be sworn in as United States Attorney General.

Today, we remember Janet Reno and celebrate her achievements as well as her groundbreaking career. Reno was 78 and died after a 20 year long battle with Parkinson’s disease.

“Throughout her career she fought violence against women, especially domestic violence. A feminist, Reno met frequently with women’s rights leaders,” commented Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation

“Shortly after the killing of Dr. David Gunn in Pensacola, Florida on March 10, 1993, Janet Reno, who had just been sworn in as Attorney General on March 11, met with women’s rights leaders who were concerned about saving doctor’s lives and keeping clinics open for women. Her door was always open to women’s leaders and she took women’s issues very seriously,” continued Smeal.

Reno took the unprecedented action of sending federal marshals out to protect 12 doctors who were under threat after the 1994 shooting deaths of Doctor John Bayard Britton and his escort, James Barrett, in Pensacola, Florida.

Janet Reno was a strong woman and forever put to rest whether a woman in such an important position could act decisively. During her 8 years serving as Attorney General for President Bill Clinton, she handled national outrages ranging from the FBI’s deadly raid of the cult compound in Waco, Texas to the Oklahoma City Federal Building bombing. Reno, no matter the controversy, met with reporters literally weekly and answered their questions, setting a standard for transparency.

Reno stood strong and served as attorney general for both of Clinton’s terms, achieving the second-longest tenure status as Attorney General in our country’s history.

Attorney General Loretta Lynch, the second woman to hold the position and first African-American woman to be appointed Attorney General, reflected on the accomplishments of Janet Reno as well as her impact on Lynch’s own career. Attorney General Lynch remembers Reno as “an inspiration and a trailblazer for so many women serving in law enforcement and government, including me,” and was one of the many who commemorated Reno as “one of the most effective, decisive and well-respected leaders in Justice Department history.”

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