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The issue of women's rights was kind of lost in the woodwork.

As a young attorney, Harman did pro bono work for the Women's Legal Defense Fund (WLDF). By writing this brief in 1971, Harman helped the WLDF overturn a decision that a woman (Elizabeth F. Farmer) was an "unfit mother" because she worked full time and therefore should be denied custody of her young children in a divorce proceeding. This case held special resonance for Harman who works full time - as many mothers must - and strongly believes that women (as well as men) should be given the same opportunities to fulfill their potential. While Harman's mother never pursued a career (a decision she always regretted), Mrs. Lakes was careful to encourage her daughter's ambitions.

Jane Lakes Frank. Memorandum for the Women's Legal Defense Fnd as amicus curiae in Elizabeth F. Farmer v. Thomas L. Farmer, No. 5976 (D.C. Cir. 1971).

Jane Lakes Frank, 1977.

John V. Tunney and Jane Lakes Frank. "Federal Roles in Lawyer Reform." Reprinted from the Stanford Law Review 27:2 (January 1975): 333-47.

In the early 1970s, Harman worked in the United States Senate for Senator John Tunney (D-California), overseeing the legal activities on three of his committees (Commerce, Judiciary, and the District of Columbia). Her first published paper addressed the role that the federal government should take in improving legal services to poor and middle-income Americans. She also helped draft Tunney's statement supporting the Equal Rights Amendment, noting that "the issue of women's rights was kind of lost in the woodwork" before she arrived. In 1975, she became director of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Constitutional Rights, the first woman to hold such a post. She supervised a staff of twenty-one.

During this time she and Richard Frank also had two children - Brian, born in 1973, and Hilary, born in 1975.

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