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Ruth Pulda

Prominent Lawyer, Women's Rights Activist
1955 – 2008
by Howard Rifkin

I remember the blue and white dress with the puffy sleeves and the blue skirt with the embroidered white blouse. I noticed the energy right away, too! "Hey!" I thought, "she is pretty cute. Who is she?" That's Ruth Pulda, clerk of the Government Administration and Elections Committee.

I was a lawyer at the CT General Assembly and she noticed me, too. Actually, she thought I was a reporter because when the House of Representatives was in session, I could be seen hanging out in front of Rep. Eleanor Willbur's seat with a pencil behind my ear and in Ruth's words, not mine, "doing nothing." And so it began...

At first we were just friends. We lived near each other in West Hartford. Sometimes I would give her a ride home after a long day at the Capitol - she often rode her bike there, but didn't want to ride home. We talked, found we had a lot in common, but alas, she was involved with someone else and so was I. But we were buds.

Then one night, after Ruth had broken up with this other guy, she called me up about 11 PM asking me if I could give her a ride home. You see, she had been on a date with someone who worked at the Capitol and it didn't go so well. He had dropped her off at a parking lot afterwards and driven off. Her car didn't start. Howard to the rescue. I picked her up and took her home. We talked some more, but there was more there. And so it began...

Now our relationship bloomed in just the way some might imagine... And this is true: We went to see the movie "Norma Rae" about a woman mill worker who organizes a union and has to face down the wrath of management and sexism of some of her fellow employees. Of course, I maintain it was the glass of wine by the fireplace afterward, but this is just me.

Many of you will think of Ruth, with her activism and passion for people and issues, as a decisive person. All of that is true, but when it came to me, there was a gap. We started "dating" in 1980, but didn't marry until 1987. The gap was defined by law school, the uncertainty about the efficacy of monogamous relationships in the modern feminist era, and other practical and theoretical considerations.

But in 1986, after my asking many times before, Ruth said, "let's get married. I'm ready." I said, "I'll marry you if you agree to call three people and tell them: no backsies!" After considering this for a while, Ruth called her sister Liz, her friend Betty and her law school roommate Janet. I must say for the record, that Betty was less then enthused - subscribing to the "modern feminist era" philosophy previously described. All, however, was soon forgiven for there was wedding to plan!

Other than the non-traditional aspects-Betty and Ruth did the first dance because I couldn't be found, Margo carried Ruth over the threshold of our apartment in Hartford because she needed a ride to the airport, and Janet and Jim joined us on our honeymoon backpacking, camping and hiking in the West-it was your run-of-the-mill start of a new era; an era of Ruth as a lawyer, a teacher, a mentor, an activist. But it also marked a time during which Ruth's desire to have a family became uppermost. To really know Ruth is to know that her mantra is: Family First! That applies to her immediate family and her many extended families. But motherhood snuck up on her. Her boys: David and Caleb. When we spoke to Rabbi Rosen last week, he asked Ruth what her greatest accomplishment was? Without hesitation she said, "David and Caleb."

A story: May,1997. Ruth and David are reading The Little Prince. As they talked about what they were reading, they got to the place in the book where the Little Prince is trying to teach a man about how a single, simple flower can make someone happy and feel fulfilled. And then Ruth asked David, "Can you think of something, pretty simple, just one thing, that makes you feel lucky?" He pointed to Ruth. She said, "I love you, David" and David said, "I love you more." "Do you love me even when you are mad?" Ruth replied, "David, you are the sun, the stars and the moon. I love you to pieces."

Another story: Ruth and Caleb were riding to Hebrew School listening to a book program on NPR. "He and I listened (Caleb will just do that)." Then Ruth asked if he remembered reading, Jim the Boy in a Montessori book group? And they talked in detail about the book they both so loved. That is the way of Caleb that Ruth so loved. His ability to analyze and describe things, like the time he told his Mom some stuff about baseball that she didn't know. Ruth once said about Caleb, "He has always been so good at taking things in and processing them. He is wise beyond his years. Caleb is a noticer, David my rememberer."

On one occasion Ruth's passion for her boys and her commitment to women's rights and social justice overlapped. To wit: Her email to Caleb's fifth grade teacher. "Hi Steve, Caleb told me about the pizza lunch for Thursday, which is great. Here's the weird thing. He told me it will be Domino's Pizza. Our family boycotts Domino's Pizza because of its politics. Caleb actually supports this (my budding politico). Can I unobtrusively bring him a small pizza from some other source? (I know, I know, Steve). I don't want to impose our politics on anyone so I would do it as unobtrusively as I can. Ruth."

There is so much more to share! Ruth, Mom, Daughter, Sister, Friend, Colleague. First one on the dance floor, the last to leave - even when she didn't feel so good. Singing out of key, but loving every minute of this. Her boys know. Her boys know.

Ruth will forever be our Sun, Stars and Moon.

Biography

Ruth L. Pulda of West Hartford, CT., died on June 9, 2008 at the age of 53. Recognized by the Connecticut Bar as one of the top lawyers in Connecticut, she received the 2003 Elizabeth Blackwell Award from Connecticut N.O.W. for her commitment to health care for women and the 2006 One Woman Making a Difference award from the Connecticut Women’s Education and Legal Fund. She served as counsel to the Fund, as well as chair of the state’s Permanent Commission on the Status of Women. Ruth Pulda co-founded and taught the Women’s Rights Clinic at the University of Connecticut School of Law.

More on: Women's Rights, Law
Ruth Pulda photo [media]
Full image
Ruth Pulda.
Photo: Liz Tapper.

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Ruth Pulda, 1955 - 2008." (Viewed on December 24, 2014) <http://jwa.org/weremember/pulda-ruth>.

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