Conversations With Our Past
Lara Saguisag writes to Elizabeth Blume-Silverstein

The first thing that struck me about you, Elizabeth, was that you were a lawyer. My dad was a lawyer, and he wanted me to be a lawyer. I just remember laughing: “Oh, great. I get to talk about a woman who fulfilled my father’s dreams!”

It’s not always a comfortable position, being a trailblazer. You have to be the one to test things out and make those mistakes.

I’m standing on your shoulders. Women like you had to do the real work. I’m benefiting from what you’ve done—the courage and the day-to-day struggles you must have gone through. I can’t imagine it.

Part of the work that we were doing in childhood studies was not just to take courses and write papers; it was also to build a program. There was something bigger than getting an “A” in the course or getting funding. It was about the bigger stakes. What could this mean for the field?

I immigrated here to study, and nothing was defined. I moved halfway around the world and had to support myself and live in another culture that wasn’t mine. It’s something I’ve just confronted recently, how difficult it was for me for the past decade. And I don’t think I realized it at the time.

A lot of people blaze trails in less obvious ways. Maybe it’s a trail thousands of people have gone on before them, but what they’re clearing is new for them.

I keep thinking about the kind of courage you needed to fight for somebody else’s rights. When I read about your devotion to civil rights and human rights, that’s something I would like to measure myself against.

I like taking risks, but I also support those risks with a lot of planning of the details.

Lara Saguisag

She is an assistant professor of English at the College of Staten Island, City University of New York; she was in the first cohort of Ph.D. students to graduate from the graduate program in childhood studies at Rutgers–Camden, the first of its kind in the nation.

Saguisag became a Rutgers Presidential Fellow in 2008 and a Swann Foundation Fellow at the Library of Congress in 2011.

New Plans
She considered studying under an esteemed professor in Texas—but chose Rutgers–Camden when that professor took a position in the Department of Childhood Studies

Home Front
Saguisag traveled from her home in Manila, Philippines, to attend the Rutgers doctoral program.

Elizabeth Blume-Silverstein

Madam Esquire
As one of the first graduates of the New Jersey Law School (now Rutgers Law School) in 1911, she clerked for two years until she was old enough to take the bar.

Early Riser
Blume-Silverstein was among the first women to pass the bar and practice law in New Jersey. An expert in criminal law, she handled 5,000 cases during her career.

Not Guilty
Without the benefit of cocounsel, she was the first woman in New Jersey to defend a murder suspect before a jury. He was acquitted. 

International Stand
Blume-Silverstein was a founder, along with her husband and global leaders, of the World Jewish Congress in 1936.

Life Force
A member of the Rutgers Hall of Distinguished Alumni, she practiced law into her 80s, dying in 1991 at the age of 98.