Anita Hill Speaks at the Massachusetts Conference for Women

The Brandeis University professor, famous for testifying about Clarence Thomas during his Supreme Court confirmation process, was a highlight of the conference.

Anita Hill

Attorney and professor Anita Hill speaks onstage during the Massachusetts Conference for Women. Photo by Marla Aufmuth/Getty Images for Massachusetts Conference for Women

Wild rounds of applause welcomed Anita Hill, the Brandeis University professor of social policy, law, and women’s studies and famed advocate for victims of sexual harassment, to the stage at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center for the annual Massachusetts Conference for Women, the largest conference of its nature.

“Anita Hill’s testimony has inspired countless women to run for office, shed new light on sexual harassment and empowered women to speak about their own experience of workplace harassment,” Maria Stephanos, anchor at WCVB Channel 5, said in her welcome address.

Hill’s courageous testimony about Clarence Thomas during his Supreme Court confirmation hearing inspired the HBO film Confirmation, starring Kerry Washington. The film has been nominated for numerous awards including two Emmys. Though that film portrays her 25 years ago and helps keep Hill’s legacy alive, she still continues to push for equality for women in the workplace.

“Women are entitled to work and be educated in places free of sexual harassment,” Hill said. “It’s that simple.”

Hill urged the thousands of women in attendance to think about what has happened over the last 25 years, including the laws to protect those sexually harassed and the many judges who have dismissed assaults as personal matters.

And despite the Title IX ruling in the 1980s against Yale University that mandated equal education and employment opportunties for women, “the Department of Education offered little guidance to colleges and universities about how to process campus sexual harassment,” Hill said.

“Workers and students were left on their own to navigate the abuses they experienced, and it’s no wonder most women didn’t complain,” Hill said. “Why would they bother considering that it was something you just had to put up with instead of seeing it as a civil rights violation?”

It was against this backdrop that Hill began her testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee years ago, and began seeing massive waves of support from women across the country. Hill received countless letters during that case, and still continues to receive them.

Now Hill is the driving force of “Restoring the Vision,” a project to revive awareness of Title IX. She says that harassment is violence and institutions need to step up to help with this problem.

“We have to stop thinking sexual harassment is an isolated thing,” Hill said. “25 years ago, I lost my voice and I won’t lose it again.”