Dawn Clark Netsch

Trade Cloth – $27.95

ISBN 978-0-8101-2411-0
Publication Date
January 2010
Page Count
360 pages
Trim Size
6 x 9

Dawn Clark Netsch

A Political Life
Cynthia Grant Bowman

Illinois Democratic politics has recently produced the most skilled and inspirational politician in memory . . . and has also reminded us of the need for further reform. It is fitting, then, that the latest installment of the Chicago Lives series turns to Dawn Clark Netsch, a leading reformer of Illinois politics since the 1950s and the first woman major party nominee for governor of Illinois.

Netsch was a pioneer, or the first of her gender, in almost every endeavor she undertook. From the very beginning of her career, when she led the move to desegregate Northwestern University's undergraduate dorms, her passion for social justice extended beyond the rights of women to rights for racial minorities and those of all sexual orientations. Bowman charts Dawn Clark Netsch's remarkable political career, from her work behind the scenes as assistant to Governor Otto Kerner and as a participant in the 1970 Constitutional Convention to her later service in elected office, first as Illinois state senator for eighteen years and later as Illinois comptroller, and culminating in her historic run for governor in 1994. Throughout, Netsch lost neither her genteel yet unpretentious demeanor, nor her passion for progressive politics as exemplified by her early mentor, Governor Adlai E. Stevenson.

About the Author

 Cynthia Grant Bowman is the Dorothea S. Clarke Professor of Law at Cornell University. She was previously professor of law at Northwestern University School of Law. Bowman has written and lectured extensively on women in the legal profession as well as on domestic violence and sexual harassment. Her current research focuses on feminist legal theory, women and the legal profession, and family law.

"Cynthia Bowman's biography records in colorful and fulsome detail the trailblazing life of Dawn Netsch—lawyer, professor, political activist, and public servant in government and numerous good causes, including Stevenson campaigns! Dawn has been a lifelong champion of civil liberties, social justice, and accountability in government and though not exactly one of the boys, she could shoot a game of pool, too. This faithful biography does more than recall the life of this remarkable woman. It recalls another time and politics now distant." —Adlai Stevenson III

"Like Dawn Clark Netsch herself, this book is lively, honest, intelligent and compassionate. Netsch is a woman who has always been ahead of her time, yet she never really viewed herself as a feminist—rather a passionate and persistent fighter for progressive causes (including women's issues) and participatory democracy. She simply broke her way into one 'boys' club' after another through her intelligence, her powerful and engaging personality, and her ability to negotiate across the lines that usually separate and divide us. Bowman captures beautifully her subject's extraordinary half-century of serving the public, her tireless and tenacious efforts to make government better, and her continuing struggle for social justice." —Len Rubinowitz, Northwestern University School of Law 

"Dawn is the straightest shooter in Illinois political history—a dead-eye with a pool cue in that seminal TV ad, and an expert marksman who's been aiming unerringly at every worthwhile progressive political target for more than half a century. Her intellect and practicality were nurtured in her hometown of Cincinnati, and honed to a fine-edged steel in the campaigns of Adlai Stevenson and her rapprochement with the Daley machine. But for the quirks of fate she would have been Illinois' first female governor. Still, she is a political giant. Kudos to scholar Cynthia Bowman for capturing all of that and more in this eminently readable and meticulously researched biography." —Andy Shaw, former political editor, ABC-7 Chicago