On March 18th, we had the privilege of facilitating one of the Intergenerational Dialogues on Women and Human Rights organized by Professor Shauna Van Praagh and the Centre for Human Rights and Legal Pluralism. These dialogues were part of the 2021-2022 Annie MacDonald Langstaff seminars planned under the theme “Mothers-in-law”. Annie MacDonald Langstaff was a legal activist, a supporter of women’s suffrage, and the first woman in Quebec to earn a law degree. By recognizing her legacy, we can promote feminist voices and identify what we can do to accelerate progress towards gender equity.
As women and doctoral candidates, we were honoured to participate in the last seminar featuring Professor Emerita Jane Glenn, a mentor, a trailblazer, and an inspirational woman on many levels. As we met in preparation for March 18th, we came to know a funny, brilliant and caring person whom the title ‘Mother-in-law’ suits astonishingly. The dialogue only reinforced these perceptions, as Professor Jane Glenn answered our questions with an equal touch of humour and humility.
Surrounded by many former colleagues, McGill Law professors, and staff members, Professor Jane Glenn kindly agreed to walk down memory lane with us. She shared recollections, from her time as the only female student in her class at Queen’s Law, to McGill where she was first full-time woman law professor. Between anecdotes on her Spanish-speaking dog and a jolly-jumper in the Faculty to keep her children busy while she taught, Professor Glenn conveyed a piece of powerful advice to future generations of women in law and legal academia: “Never be afraid to be feisty! Feisty women can make anything happen.”
Professor Glenn did not need to convince anyone of the wisdom of her statement. Her career speaks for itself: in 1972, she was jointly appointed to the School of Urban Planning at McGill; in 1995, she was elected as Associate Member of the International Academy of Comparative Law; in 2001, she joined the McGill School of Environment as an Associate Member; from 2003 to 2008, she taught McGill’s Barbados Fall Field Semester. She also served as Vice-President for North America, Central America and the Caribbean of the Union mondiale des agraristes universitaires, and was a visiting scholar at many universities throughout her long career.
During the question period, Faculty members and former colleagues took turns sharing lessons they had learned from Professor Glenn, and how her leadership had impacted them over the years. This comment would not be complete without reporting on the Jane Glenn rules for teaching law, which we were able to reconstitute from these exchanges between colleagues and old friends:
The Jane Glenn Rules
- Don’t worry, it’s an easy job. Publish one paper per year, no matter how small, and you will be fine.
- You are allowed to admit to your class that you are not ready to teach, but you can only do so once!
- There are crispy rules and there are mushy rules; know the difference.
- You can eat in class, but not if your food is crunchy and makes noise!
- Be feisty, always be feisty – and make sure to do so with a smile!