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HEATHER SIGWORTH

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Date submitted: October 24, 2006
Gift: Brick Paver - small
Location on plaza map: B4
Areas of Achievement: Activism, Adventure, Home Making, Law, Literature
 
Heather Sigworth was born in Nelson, British Columbia in 1931. When she was eight, her parents moved to Vancouver and it was there that she began to skip grades, leading her to attend college at the age of 16. While attending the University of British Columbia, Sigworth received her Bachelor of Science in Chemistry and English at the age of 19. This same year, she married her first husband. Since the law in B.C. at that time, stated that a person had to be 21 in order to marry without parental consent, the young couple eloped to Washington State. For the next ten years the couple traveled, taught, and Sigworth continued her studies, eventually receiving a Master of Arts in English from the University of British Columbia. In 1961 Sigworth gave birth to her daughter Rosalind. It was also during this year that her first husband tragically died while kayaking over a waterfall, leaving a young widow and a newborn daughter.

Shortly after the passing of her first husband, Sigworth received a scholarship to study at the British Museum to research her doctoral thesis on Samuel Johnson. It was in 1962 that she met her future husband Oliver Sigworth : “It was all very romantic. We met over a copy of Boswell.” On April 26, 1963 the two were married in London, combining Oliver's motherless son with Sigworth's fatherless daughter into a family. Since Oliver Sigworth was a tenured English Professor at the University of Arizona, the new family returned to Tucson. Due to anti-nepotism laws at the UA, Sigworth could not obtain a faculty position in any department. She considered teaching in public schools, but couldn’t since she was Canadian – it would take three years for her to attain citizenship. The lack of career opportunities prompted her to attend UA law school in 1966.

Sigworth graduated as one of the top of her class in 1969. Despite excelling in law school, she did not receive any job offers from any law office in the state. The only offer she received was to teach a legal writing course at the UA. The UA president at the time denied her the position, saying that even though she was qualified, the anti-nepotism law kept her from the position. This was the same regulation that Sigworth faced before. Instead of taking the situation for what it was, Sigworth filed a law suit against the UA, which was later joined by others. This resulted in a settlement that abolished the regulation. Since Sigworth was married to Oliver, it did not make him very popular amongst some faculty members: “It is interesting thinking about what happens to the men who love ambitious women; it is very seldom talk of.”

Even after the nepotism law had been overturned, Sigworth did not teach at the UA. Instead, she taught at the University of Illinois, the University of Indianapolis, and Purdue University from 1971-73. It was during the time that she got involved with the “political arm” and joined the Women's Equity Action League (WEAL). This organization helped women to get elected to national and local offices.

When Sigworth came back to Tucson, she took a position as the Coordinator for the Arizona Supreme Committee on Uniform Jury Instructions. The committee was able to establish a set of jury instructions for judges, most of which are still used today, in the course of one year – Arizona was the only state that was able to accomplish this within one year. By the end of the year, 1974, Sigworth began working on Corne v. Bausch and Lomb, a lawsuit that involved two women suing their supervisor for sexual harassment after he had made sexual demands. This was the first case reported that addressed sexual harassment in the United States. After the lawsuit, she was appointed Assistant Attorney General. After one year, she switched from the criminal division to civil rights and anti-discrimination cases.

Sigworth is one of the founders of the Tucson chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW), which still exists today. In the 1970s, NOW focused on the advancement of women and during this time many men were involved with the organization. Despite Sigworth’s own advocacy for women’s rights, she considers a lawsuit filed by the Women's Law Fund against the Cleveland Board of Education as the most important ruling for women's rights. Sigworth was not one of the lawyers for the case, but she was in contact with the legal team. This lawsuit led to the Supreme Court ruling that it was against due process for women to be fired from governmental workplaces for being pregnant.

Despite her busy professional career and advocacy for women's rights, Sigworth still managed to raise her two children and have a close knit family. Through her triumphs both professionally and personally, Sigworth proves that a woman “can still be a feminist and still have a family that stays together.” Sigworth no longer practices law. She now spends much of her time enjoying life: traveling, going to book clubs, salsa, belly dancing and attending aerobics class.

Information Sources:
April 22, 2008.
April 22, 2008.
Telephone interview April 23, 2008.