Betty Roberts

Teacher, Legislator, Lawyer, Judge, Mediator

(Born: February 5, 1923     Died:  June 25, 2011)

Betty Roberts was the first woman on the Oregon Supreme Court, and also the first woman on the Oregon Court of Appeals. She left a lasting legacy that continues to touch the lives of her family, friends and colleagues. Her memoir, With Grit and By Grace, chronicles her incredible lifetime of overcoming obstacles, opening doors, and leading the way.

With Grit and By Grace:  Breaking Trails in Politics and Law:  A Memoir

In the 1950s, Betty Roberts did what most of her contemporaries considered audacious and inappropriate when she returned to college as a 32-year-old wife and mother. This was only the start of Roberts’ lifetime commitment to overcoming obstacles to women’s equality.

With Grit and By Grace follows Betty Roberts’ rise from a Depression-era childhood on the Texas plains to become a teacher, lawyer, state legislator, candidate for governor, and eventually Oregon’s first woman Supreme Court Justice. In this memoir, Justice Roberts reflects on her role as a mother, wife, and political trailblazer. Her story is important to the history of women’s struggles to challenge prevailing stereotypes, but it is also a deeply personal story of a life sometimes stark, sometimes humorous, often exhausting, and always brightened with friendships and family.

Justice Roberts began her career during a politically complex time—the Civil Rights Movement was in full swing, sentiment against the Vietnam War was growing, and the nascent women’s movement would soon burst on the scene. During her 13 years as a legislator, she was instrumental in the passage of Oregon’s first legalized right to abortion and the state’s ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment, as well as pathbreaking environmental and land-use legislation.

Roberts tells her engrossing story with honesty and warmth. With Grit and By Grace is about life’s disappointments and promises, its rejections and rewards, and its demand for the determination and commitment that bring success. Politicians, civic leaders, feminists, and anyone interested in Oregon history will be fascinated by this recounting of events that influenced the political and social landscape of Oregon and beyond.