BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The University at Buffalo Law School's 2012
James McCormick Mitchell Lecture will explore the legal and social
challenges of providing personal and medical care for the elderly
and the disabled -- a topic of current relevance for health care,
social security, welfare, and employment law reform.
The Oct. 19 event, titled "When Caring Is Work: Home, Health,
and the Invisible Workforce," features three distinguished scholars
who will address social, historical and legal aspects of family
caretaking and the home health care industry.
"Though the ideal of individual autonomy remains central to our
legal and political system, in reality most adults will at some
point depend on extensive personal caretaking help for their daily
survival, and many others will orient their daily lives to the
demands of responding to this dependency," say UB Law School
Professors Dianne Avery and Martha T. McCluskey, co-chairs of the
event. "This intimate fact of life raises fundamental questions
about law and its relationship to the broader social institutions
of family, market and the state."
The Mitchell Lecture begins at 2 p.m. on Oct. 19 in Room 106 of
John Lord O'Brian Hall on UB's North Campus. It is open to the
university community and the public, and admission is free.
The 2012 Mitchell Lecturers are:
--Hendrik Hartog, Class of 1921 Bicentennial Professor in the
History of American Law and Liberty and director of American
Studies at Princeton University. Hartog, a socio-legal historian,
is the author of "Someday All This Will Be Yours: A History of
Inheritance and Old Age" (Harvard University Press, 2012). The book
examines lawsuits from the mid-19th to mid-20th century brought by
family members who had assumed a caretaking role for their elderly
parents in the expectation of a later inheritance.
--Jennifer Klein, a professor in the history department at Yale
University who has written extensively about the intersection
between labor politics and the welfare state. With co-author Eileen
Boris, she has just published "Caring for America: Home Health
Workers in the Shadow of the Welfare State" (Oxford University
Press, 2012), a labor history of home health care workers from the
1930s to the present.
--Peggie R. Smith, Charles F. Nagel Professor of Employment and
Labor Law at Washington University Law School, St. Louis, a leading
scholar in the regulation of care work that occurs both inside and
outside the home, including child care, home care and elder
"With these presenters," McCluskey says, "we have a story
through time about the different ways home care gets arranged for
people who are elderly or disabled. Hendrik Hartog's historical
study of inheritance and property distribution raises many hard
questions that we still struggle with, such as what exactly is the
responsibility of family members toward those who need extensive
personal care, and what is the responsibility of society? Is
caretaking work for relatives deserving of compensation? If so, who
"Jennifer Klein looks at paid caretakers with similar questions,
starting around the New Deal era and ending with contemporary
times. This is a time period when home care becomes more
professionalized, a private paid service outside the family, more
of a government and medicalized service. It also becomes associated
with women of color, immigrant women and others who are outsiders
in some way, and begins to be treated as a kind of welfare
Avery adds that Smith's work explores the labor issues
underlying "the move from institutionalized care to home care.
People generally want to stay in their homes, but many can't afford
to hire caretakers to come in. The question becomes not only what
legal arrangements for caregiving are more efficient and least
expensive, but what's better for the person needing the care? And,
how should the law protect workers in the home care industry from
abusive employment practices? "
This year's event continues a distinguished tradition of
Mitchell Lectures, established in 1950 with a gift from Lavinia A.
Mitchell in memory of her husband, James McCormick Mitchell, who
graduated from the Buffalo Law School in 1897. Previous Mitchell
Lecturers have included Justice Robert H. Jackson, Richard Posner,
Derrick Bell, Catharine MacKinnon, Clyde Summers and Stuart
Macaulay. The Mitchell Lecture will be presented this year during
the Law School's 125th anniversary celebration.