Gloria Allred was born on July 3rd, 1941, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She grew up as an only child in a sheltered middle-class household with Jewish parents. Her father, Morris, was a salesman and her mother, Stella, was a housewife. Not much is known about her early life, but Allred would attend Sunday school and go to the synagogue by herself due to her parents’ chaotic schedules; her dad worked door-to-door six days a week, while her mom would attend church and ethical culture meetings. Despite their hectic lives, Gloria’s parents did not abandon their parental responsibilities and would spend all their extra time with their daughter, whether it was spending their little money on a movie ticket, or watching musicals together in their free time.
Once she was fourteen, Gloria was selected to attend Philadelphia High School for Girls, a highly competitive and prestigious all-girls public school. Being surrounded by many ambitious female role models at high school was an important part of Allred’s development. Fern Brown, one of Allred’s best friends from high school, described Allred to be “the most popular girl at every synagogue dance….She was a cheerleader, class treasurer.” On the other hand, Allred’s memory was a little different, “All I did was study,” which earned her the class award for being the most persistent. To Allred, her high school years were filled with endless studying while others saw her to be well-rounded, demonstrating her determination in school.
In 1959, Allred first attended the University of Pennsylvania. There, she met Peyton Bray, her first husband, at a mixer. During her sophomore year of college, they married and she gave birth to her daughter Lisa Bloom. Allred wrote that Bray, a senior at the time, left her during labor to get a beer. Allred took on the responsibilities of being a mother while working to obtain her bachelor’s, recalling, “When I wasn’t caring for Lisa, I was cleaning, studying, or sleeping, in that order.” In addition, Bray was often abusive and suffered from bipolar disorder. As a result of his behavior, the couple constantly fought and eventually divorced a year after getting married, leaving Allred as a single mom during her senior year of college. As Allred describes it to be one of the hardest times in her life, “When I graduated from the University of Pennsylvania I had a baby in one arm, a diploma in the other and I didn't know where I was going in life.” Despite all these obstacles, Allred graduated in 1963 and received a bachelor’s degree in English.
After college, Allred moved back with her parents, who fortunately had no judgment about her being a single parent. While many other occupations were available, Allred decided to pursue a career in teaching. Soon, she began teaching English at Benjamin Franklin High School, an underprivileged school in Philadelphia, all while commuting to New York University to study for her master’s degree. At New York University, she discovered her interest and passion for the civil rights movement. After earning her master’s degree in 1966, Allred continued her work as an educator and moved to Los Angeles, California. She and Lisa stayed in East Hollywood, while Allred taught at Jordan High School.
Allred’s interest in advocating for equity was rooted in her personal experiences. After her first year of living in Los Angeles, Allred went on vacation to Acapulco, Mexico, where she was raped at gunpoint. Once back home, she discovered she was pregnant and underwent an unsafe abortion, which was illegal at the time. Consequently, she developed a deadly infection and nearly died. Gloria was not able to receive treatment, since the involved operation could not legally be performed by a medical professional. Eventually, after being hospitalized, she recovered but decided not to report the rape due to her belief that no one would believe her. After many years it took her to build up the courage to publicly speak about her abortion, she shared that, “The only time a hospital would admit a woman like me was if she was bleeding to death from an abortion. “The nurse said to me, ‘This should teach you a lesson.’ The lesson I did learn is that abortion should be safe, legal, affordable, and available,” (Allred). Through this experience, her passion to advocate for women’s reproductive rights was fueled.
In 1968, Allred remarried William Allred, after moving to Los Angeles, California. However, the couple divorced after eighteen years of marriage in 1987, after William Allred was charged with federal fraud. In 1975, Gloria graduated from Loyola Law School in California, earning her JD, and was admitted to the State Bar of California. One year after graduating from law school, Gloria started the Allred, Maroko, and Golberg firm with her classmates Nathan Goldberg and Michael Maroko. The firm has become one of the most successful in the country and has taken on numerous cases banding social justice issues. They changed history forever, after becoming the first firm to file a case advocating for same-sex marriage in California, which started a movement for gay marriage rights across the country. Allred was proud to represent Robin Tyler and Diane Olson, a same-sex couple, and shared, “We are proud to represent these courageous couples who are simply seeking the equal right to marry the person that they love,” (Allred). Additionally, her firm has handled the most women’s rights cases compared to any other private firm across the nation, as well as fundraising millions of dollars for victims.
Throughout Allred’s forty-two-year career, she has advocated for dozens of cases regarding sexism and sexual harassment and has represented victims who have faced discrimination for their sexual orientation and race. Some people she has represented in highly controversial trials include Amber Frey, the ex-girlfriend of Scott Peterson, a man who was convicted of killing his pregnant wife. Frey was unaware that Peterson was married but had suspicion. After seeing the news about Peterson’s missing wife, Frey worked with the police to uncover the truth. As a result, Peterson was convicted of the murder of Laci Peterson, his wife, and their unborn child. Some notable cases she won include that of Gwen Araujo, a transgender teen who was murdered at a party by four men in Newark, California when she was only seventeen. As a result, the four defendants were sentenced to prison and two of them were convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to 15 years of life. She made a profound impact on women’s rights by representing Jane Roe, who challenged the Texas abortion law, which led to the famous Roe v. Wade case, where the Supreme Court conferred the right to have an abortion in 1973. She also made an extreme impact on the thirty-plus women who were victims of Bill Cosby’s sexual assault and many other victims of sexual violence. Allred represented more than thirty women after they reached out to her and as a result, Cosby was convicted of sexual assault. However, he was suddenly released after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court overturned the ruling. Consequently, Allred commented, "We're looking forward to fighting the good fight against [Cosby] and what appears to us to be Mr. Cosby's efforts to delay justice for our client. We're going to push forward and push hard because we want to get this case tried and we want to fight for justice for our client." (Allred 2021) One of the most impactful cases she represented was actress Hunter Tylo’s case against film producer Aaron Spelling for wrongfully firing her due to her pregnancy. Because of Allred’s work on the case, the court ruled that pregnant actors have the right to continue working during their pregnancy. Allred’s work completely changed the credibility of mothers and pregnant women in the acting industry because of Allred’s perseverance. She also represented Essie Grundy, who filed a lawsuit against Walmart for racial discrimination after they locked up African American hair products. Even though Grundy dropped the case, Walmart has made radical changes to ensure these hair products are not behind locked cases anymore.
Allred founded the Women’s Equal Rights Legal Defense and Education Fund (WERDLEF), a non-profit that ensures that women are treated fairly under law. In addition, she co-hosted the KABC Talk radio show for fourteen years where she talked about important topics such as sexual harassment. Additionally, she led her TV show, We the People, with Gloria Allred, which was nominated for an Emmy award for a Daytime Emmy award for the outstanding legal/courtroom show. As an acknowledgment of all her accomplishments, Barack Obama has said she is “one of the best attorneys in the country.” She has been nominated for and received numerous awards, including three Emmy nominations, the President’s Award for Outstanding Volunteerism from Ronald Reagan, and is in the National Women’s Hall of Fame. Time magazine called her “one of the nation’s most effective advocates of family rights and feminist causes.” In 2018, Netflix released a documentary about Allred called, Seeing Allred, which showcased the highlights of her career. The documentary was created to showcase Allred’s career and activism as she takes on sexual assault cases from men who are considered influential. This includes Bill Cosby and Harvey Weinstein and hearing the testimonies from victims of their accused assault. Allred wanted the documentary to showcase and focus on her clients mostly, specifically “the women she believes have transformed from powerless victims to strong survivors,” (Vanity Fair).
Gloria Allred has given our country a new voice and has devoted her entire life to standing up for women’s rights and minorities. Throughout her career, she has helped pave the way toward justice by taking a bold stance against those who discriminate against victims of assault. She has dedicated her career to representing victims who have been discriminated against because of their sex, race, age, sexual orientation, and physical handicap. Allred has demonstrated her passion through her noble actions and she has motivated countless young girls and women to speak up against oppression.
After Roe v. Wade was overturned, I saw an interview with Gloria Allred. They described that she was a lawyer for Jane Roe and I quickly became interested. Jane Roe’s case matters to me because I believe abortion rights are human rights and women must fight for the right to control their bodies. After learning more about her contribution to women’s rights, I decided that I had to share her story. Her work has changed history and has inspired me to stand up for my rights. I hope her efforts will continue to be recognized as she and other women continue to stand up for justice. I tell her story to inspire others and reassure them that they are not alone in their fight for justice.
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Karimi , F. (2019, May 22). Gloria Allred says she had a back-alley abortion after she was raped at gunpoint. CNN. https://www.cnn.com/2019/05/22/us/gloria-allred-abortion-protests/index.html Retrieved January 16, 2023.
Roberto , M. (2021, August 14). Gloria Allred slams Bill Cosby's argument in Playboy mansion lawsuit as harmful: It’s a 'major issue'. Fox News. https://www.foxnews.com/entertainment/gloria-allred-slams-bill-cosby-arguments-playboy-mansion-lawsuit-harmful-frivolous Retrieved January 16, 2023.
Sperling , N. (2018, February 9). Netflix Doc Seeing Allred Gives Rare Look at Gloria Allred’s Personal Life. Vanity Fair. https://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2018/02/gloria-allred-interview-for-netflix-documentary-seeing-allred Retrieved January 24, 2023.
This article was published on 1/22/24