<B>A landmark for women's rights</B> For Lois Jenson, the outcome of the 24-year legal battle recounted in <B>Class Action</B> was bittersweet. On one hand, the struggle sapped her physical and mental strength and rendered her unable to work. On the other hand, her efforts spawned a major judicial decision that has become a cornerstone of sexual harassment law: a woman no longer has to act alone in paying a lawyer and suing an employer; she can now band with others for support.
Jenson was lured in 1975 to perform the strenuous, grimy work of an iron-ore miner on Minnesota's Mesabi Range because, as a single parent, she had a child to rear and the $5.80 hourly wage was nearly triple that of other available jobs. She encountered a workplace littered with pornographic material that depicted women as sexual objects. In addition, she and others were targets of an incessant barrage of crude remarks and actions, including one instance in which a man clutched her genitals while his co-workers guffawed. Another woman returned to her locker three times to find that someone had ejaculated on her clothes. These and other affronts and threats caused the women to live in fear. Officials and other male employees of the Minnesota company, Eveleth Taconite, stubbornly denied hosting a hostile sexual environment. One supervisor later admitted that management's perspective was, "You don't air your dirty laundry. You bury it."As co-authors Clara Bingham and Laura Leedy Gansler chart Jenson's harrowing legal and emotional journey, the reader's anger likely will turn to outrage over the company's courtroom tactics in an apparent effort to persecute the women to the point that they might abandon the case. Bingham, a former White House correspondent for <I>Newsweek</I> and author of <I>Women on the Hill: Challenging the Culture of Congress</I>, and Gansler, a lawyer, have crafted an enlightening, fast-moving narrative that details the development of an important legal protection from the masculine imperative of "put out or get out." <I>Alan Prince, a retired newsman, lectures at the University of Miami</I>.