Senator Wynona Lipman Chair in Women’s Political Leadership 2002-03

Patricia J. Williams posing with arms crossed in front of light blue background wearing light purple collared shirt

Patricia J. Williams
Senator Wynona Lipman Chairholder, 2002-2003
Professor, Columbia University School of Law

Patricia J. Williams is a graduate of Wellesley College (73) and Harvard Law School (75). She began her career practicing law as a consumer advocate for the Western Center on Law and Poverty, and as a Deputy City Attorney for the City of Los Angeles. Upon leaving practice, she served on faculties of the University of Wisconsin School of Law, Harvard University Women's Studies Program, and Queen's College. Since 1991, she has been a professor of Law at Columbia University School of Law.

As a parallel career, Professor Williams has pursued journalism. Her column, "Diary of a Mad Law Professor," appears bimonthly in The Nation Magazine. She has authored more than a hundred articles for scholarly journals, popular magazines and newspapers including The New York Times, The New York Times Book Review, USA Today, Harvard Law Review, Tikkun, Ms. Magazine, Civilization Magazine, Harpers Bazaar, The New Yorker, The Boston Globe, The Village Voice, The London Observer, and The Women’s Review of Books.

She is the recipient of honorary doctorates from Northeastern University and John Jay College of the City University of New York. She has received awards from the National Organization for Women, the American Educational Studies Association and from her alma maters — an Outstanding Alumna Award from Latin School in Boston, an Alumni Achievement Award from Wellesley College, and a Graduate Society Medal from Harvard.

Her book, The Alchemy of Race and Rights was named one of the twenty-five best books of 1991 by the Voice Literary Supplement; one of the "feminist classics of the last twenty years" that "literally changed women's lives" by Ms. Magazine; and one of the ten best non-fiction books of the decade by Other books include The Rooster's Egg (Harvard Press, 1995) and Seeing a Color-Blind Future: The Paradox of Race (Farrar, Strauss & Giroux, 1998).

She has been a keynote speaker at conferences hosted by such diverse entities as the Berkshire Women's History Conference, the South African Human Rights Commission, the International Council on Human Rights, the International Law and Society Association, and the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Professor Williams has appeared on a variety of radio and television shows, including Charlie Rose (PBS), MacNeil-Lehrer (PBS), All Things Considered (NPR), Fresh Air with Terry Gross (NPR), Talk of the Nation (NPR), Crier and Company (CNN), Today (NBC), This Week (ABC) and the Pozner-Donahue Show (NBC). She has served as a guest news commentator for Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, and for Pacifica Radio. In 1997 she delivered the annual Reith Lectures for the BBC, Radio Four. She has appeared in a number of documentary films, including That Rush! which she wrote and narrated. Directed by British film maker Isaac Julien, this short study of American talk show hosts was featured as part of an installation at the Institute of Contemporary Art in London. She is the author of Skin, a performance piece presented in collaboration with Oliver Lake, the jazz saxophonist.

She has held fellowships at the School of Criticism and Theory at Dartmouth College, the Humanities Research Institute of the University of California at Irvine, the Institute for Arts and Civic Dialogue at Harvard, and the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University. She is a member of PEN, the international writer's association, a fellow of the New York Institute for the Humanities and was named a MacArthur fellow.