William & Mary awards Honorary Doctor of Laws degree to
Sybil Shainwald, Class of 1948, during 2019 commencement exercises.
A Lifetime of Championing Women's Reproductive Rights
“Sybil Shainwald’s compassion and professional skills have ennobled the practice of law.” These words by U.S. District Court Judge Jack B. Weinstein, before whom Ms. Shainwald appeared hundreds of times, encapsulate her life and career.
Ms. Shainwald has been at the forefront of the women’s health movement since its inception. The primary thrust of her law practice has been, and continues to be, women’s health law. Sybil Shainwald pioneered Diethylstilbestrol (DES) litigation around the globe. She has been active for many years in litigation pending in various forums, including the consolidated DES actions in the New York State Courts, and the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York. She was instrumental in expanding the statute of limitations for latent injuries in New York and throughout the U.S., Canada and overseas. Ms. Shainwald was counsel in the nation's first "DES daughter" case, Bichler v. Lilly. Since that time, she has represented thousands of women and men in the U.S. and globally, who were exposed in utero to DES.
Throughout her years of practice, Ms. Shainwald has litigated cases involving drugs and medical devices that have inflicted harm on women and their children, in addition to other personal injury litigation. She has represented women injured by the Dalkon Shield Intrauterine Device, another mass tort case. She also served as co-counsel in cases involving L-Tryptophan, asbestos, Parlodel and other complex product liability.
Ms. Shainwald was a member of the national Plaintiffs Negotiating Committee for the Court-appointed Plaintiffs' Steering Committee in the silicone breast implant litigation before Hon. Sam C. Pointer, Jr. in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama (MDL-926). Ms. Shainwald was also named as the Chair of the Foreign Plaintiffs' Subcommittee, representing the interests of all foreign women. Ms. Shainwald was a member of the Tort Claimants Committee in the Dow Corning bankruptcy and has represented the interests of domestic and foreign breast implant claimants.
In addition to her courtroom advocacy, Ms. Shainwald was also a Professor of Law at the City University of New York. Through her writing, testimony before the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Congress, and her leadership of advocacy groups, Ms. Shainwald has raised national awareness of crucial women’s health issues. She is former Chair of the National Women's Health Network, Co-Founder of Health Action International and Trial Lawyers for Public Justice. She was a member of the FDA Consumer Consortium and a member of the Coordinating Committee on Toxics and Drugs. She is on the Board of the Hysterectomy Educational Resources & Services Foundation ("HERS") and other non-profit organizations. Ms. Shainwald recently helped establish an Immigration Clinic at the College of William & Mary Law School.
Ms. Shainwald has appeared on every major TV network, has been quoted in international print media for years. She has written, testified and lectured extensively on obstetrical malpractice, IUDs, unnecessary hysterectomies, hormone therapy, and products liability litigation.
Ms. Shainwald has received numerous awards for her advocacy, including the President’s Medal from New York Law School, the Dean’s Award from Columbia University, the Susan B. Anthony Award from the National Organization for Women, New York County Lawyer’s Association’s Edith I. Spivak Award and both New York Law School and William & Mary bestowed Honorary Doctor of Laws Degree to her. A member of New York Law School’s Board of Trustees, she endowed the Sidney Shainwald Public Interest Lecture Series in tribute to her late husband. Speakers at the lecture have included Supreme Court Justices Sandra Day O’Connor, Stephen Breyer, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The most recent lecture featured constitutional scholar, Professor Laurence Tribe.
Born and raised in New York City, Ms. Shainwald earned her B.A. from the College of William & Mary, where she was a Phi Beta Kappa student and President Bryan Scholar. She received her M.A. from Columbia University in history, with a concentration on the consumer movement. At Columbia, she was awarded a National Endowment for the Humanities grant to establish the Center for the Study of the Consumer Movement at Consumers Union, which she directed for six years. She later received her Juris Doctor degree from New York Law School.