This book recounts the story of a remarkable twentieth-century woman who defied gender stereotypes throughout her personal and professional life. In 1976, Richey was appointed to the federal judiciary by President Gerald Ford—the position she retained until her death in 1983. In A Courtroom of Her Own, Atwood provides a vivid portrait of Richey's unconventional life, from her tomboy girlhood in Indiana to her final days on the federal bench.
Atwood challenges the theories of cultural feminists that women judges will bring inherently "female" values or predictably "feminine" perspectives to the law. Through her exploration of the life and work of Richey, the author shows the complexity and uniqueness of Richey's gender identity, as well as her judicial identity. The milestones of her judicial career ranged from ground-breaking civil liberties decisions to some tough "law and order" rulings in criminal cases that were reversed in the appellate courts.