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The Four Ms. Bradwells ~ Meg Waite Clayton

March 29, 2011

Genre: Adult fiction
Publisher: Ballantine Books
336 pages
ISBN: 9780345517081
Source: Publisher via TLC Book Tours

‘The natural and proper timidity and delicacy which belongs to the female sex evidently unfits it for many of the occupations of civil life. [The] paramount destiny and mission of woman are to fulfill the noble and benign offices of wife and mother. This is the law of the creator’
– U. S. Supreme Court Justice Joseph P. Bradley, from his 1873 opinion in Bradwell v. Illinois, denying Mrs. Myra Bradwell the right to practice law.

~ p .1


In 1979, four young women sat in their law school class at Ann Arbor, poised to take over the world. Though separate entities upon walking into the class, they left as one; Mia, Laney, Betts, and Ginger, becoming, over the course of that first, fateful class, “the Ms. Bradwells”. Only three women had ever served full Senate terms. Not a single one had landed a Court appointment.  Of course, history was hardly a deterrent and the four quickly bonded over their hopes and dreams of taking on Senate, Court appointment and beyond.

Flash forward to the future, when all four women have gathered in the nation’s capital to cheer Betts on through her Supreme Court appointment hearings. Witty, intelligent and down to earth, Betts is a shoe in. At least, she is until one pesky question arises about the events of one deep, dark night, not far from the hearing, itself, back in the women’s law school days.

The past comes tumbling forward on the women as they gather together to comfort one another in a time of need. A well-kept past seems to threaten a long hoped for future, in political standing as well as in the personal ties the quad has held so dear, through the years.

Through thick and thin, the ladies have stuck by each other, creating a bond that few outsiders have been able to penetrate. As a reader, though, I felt as if, I was, if not the fifth Ms. Bradwell, at least an appreciated younger sister. The women are so fantastically drawn, in the their perfections, yes, but more so in their flaws. The story vacillates from one narrator to the next in a flow that moves the present and the past forward in superb web weaving style, never breaking in time or thought as the voice switches between the strikingly different friends.

This is a book to tuck in with, not something to be taken lightly. Hard and fast images of feminist and humanist conflicts that have plagued society since the advent of women and men are the focus of the book as much as the ties which keep us together. This, for me, is a book that had me in fits of giggles and the waves of chills and tears. For the most part, it made me want to rush down, seven hours, to visit my mom to see if she experienced any of the same events or emotions, described in the writing, as she navigated her way through the womanless world of Cornell’s engineering program and the road that continued after that.

An incredibly powerful book in so many ways, I would recommend this to women, far and wide. It’s not chick-lit but perhaps the opposite. It’s the story of women over the last fifty years and, though I’m new on the scene, it made me feel like a little part of a great big tapestry of determination, brilliance and hope.


About Meg Waite Clayton

Meg Waite Clayton is the author of The Wednesday Sisters and The Language of Light, a finalist for the Bellwether Prize. A graduate of the University of Michigan Law School, she lives in Palo Alto, California, with her husband and their two sons.

Don’t just take my word for it! Visit Meg’s other stops in the tour:

Tuesday, March 22nd: Booking Mama

Wednesday, March 23rd: A Cozy Reader’s Corner Reviews

Thursday, March 24th: Luxury Reading

Monday, March 28th: Take Me Away

Tuesday, March 29th: Iwriteinbooks’s blog

Wednesday, March 30th: Bookstack

Tuesday, April 5th: Stiletto Storytime

Wednesday, April 6th: Books Like Breathing

Thursday, April 7th: Book Addiction

Monday, April 11th: Debbie’s World of Books

Tuesday, April 12th: The Lost Entwife

Thursday, April 14th: Colloquium

Thursday, April 14th: Book Chatter

Tuesday, April 19th: My Reading Room

Wednesday, April 20th: Book Club Classics!

Thursday, April 21st: Proud Book Nerd

Friday, April 22nd: Peeking Between the Pages

4 Comments leave one →
  1. March 29, 2011 11:53 am

    I have been reading a lot about this book lately, and it seems that everyone who reviews it thinks it’s very engrossing. That, coupled with the fact that it’s not exactly chick-lit has me really excited about reading this one. Your review was wonderful, and I look forward to checking this one out! Thanks!

  2. March 29, 2011 12:59 pm

    This sounds wonderful, even though the cover certainly would make it seem like it’s chick lit. I remember reading about this one a while ago and I thought the premise sounded really interesting; I love fiction that features strong, intelligent women. I have nothing against a love story, but it’s nice for writers to remember that women have other concerns above and beyond nabbing a husband.

  3. March 29, 2011 2:55 pm

    “that had me in fits of giggles and the waves of chills and tears” – it’s truly amazing to me when a book can affect me like that. I missed the chance to see the author at a local bookstore last night … sounds like I missed out on something really good.

  4. March 30, 2011 12:40 am

    Great review!!! You can definitely feel your excitement and passion about it. I agree this is not chick-lit at all. I was pleasantly surprised at the depth.
    On a side note, I wish the pearls on the cover were black/gray!! Wouldn’t that make more sense?

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