A modest stone sign in front of the Idaho Angler shop, 1682 S. Vista Ave., marks the spot where Sally Reed's home once stood. Her Supreme Court victory in 1971 blazed a trail for American women's rights.
The case Reed v. Reed marked the first time in history that the court applied the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to strike down a state law that discriminated against women.
After Sally Reed and her husband, Cecil, divorced in 1958, she supported herself and her teenage son, Skip, by baking, baby-sitting, taking in ironing, and caring for disabled veterans in her home.
Skip was found dead in his father's basement in 1967, shot with his father's gun. The death was ruled a suicide.
Both Reed and her ex-husband filed petitions to administer Skip's estate, which consisted of his clothing, a clarinet, a collection of phonograph records and a college savings account of $495.
Idaho law stated at the time that "the male must be preferred over the female" in such cases where both parties are equally qualified. The local judge, following the word of the law, automatically approved Cecil Reed's application. Sally Reed decided to appeal.
After 16 lawyers turned her down, Boise lawyer Allen Derr agreed to take her case. It went all the way to the Supreme Court. Future Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, then a Rutgers law professor, wrote the brief for Reed's case. Derr argued the case before the court.
On Nov. 22, 1971, Chief Justice Warren Burger wrote the opinion for the court, which was unanimous in Reed's favor. The ruling helped overturn similar laws across the country, including an Idaho law that declared the husband the head of the family.
Sally Reed lived in the house on Vista Avenue until it was torn down in 1999. She died in Boise 2002 at the age of 93. She is buried at Cloverdale Memorial Park next to her son.
Anna Webb: 377-6431