Legal Momentum

Legal Momentum is the nation's oldest legal defense and education fund dedicated to advancing the rights of all women and girls. For more than 40 years, Legal Momentum has made historic contributions through litigation and public policy advocacy to advance economic and personal security for women. Our current programmatic work is focused on five strategic goals: increasing pathways into quality employment opportunities, protecting workplace rights of vulnerable populations, strengthening the safety net, expanding rights, justice, and services for victims of violence, and promoting gender equity and challenging gender bias.


395 Hudson Street
New York, NY 10014
Ph. 212-925-6635
Fx. 212-226-1066


Principal Staff

Elizabeth Grayer, President

Sandra Brown Basso, Coordinator, Executive Department

Featured Events


Projects & Campaigns


Women and Poverty: The poverty rate for adult women has been substantially higher than for adult men in every year since official poverty measurement began. Legal Momentum is proposing policy solutions that will alleviate women and children’s poverty.


Women face violence at home, on the street, and in the workplace. Notwithstanding one of Legal Momentum’s signature achievements – passage of the Violence Against Women Act—supportive services, rights and protective measures for victims remain inadequate.

Workplace Rights

Nearly 50 years after sex discrimination in employment was prohibited, women continue to be paid less, face sexual harassment, and confront barriers to hiring and promotion. These challenges are severe for women in “non-traditional” jobs. Legal Momentum works to protect the workplace rights of women, especially vulnerable populations.

Courts, the Justice System, and Women

Legal Momentum has expertise and resources across a wide range of areas related to discrimination, gender equity, and gender bias. Ranging from sexual and reproductive rights and teen dating violence to gender bias in the courts, Legal Momentum continues to champion the rights of women and girls and to work to eradicate harmful stereotypes and policies shaped by bias while promoting policies and practices that reflect the realities of women’s lives, and advancing their rights under the law. 

Education and Training Equity

Women continue to hold jobs with lower salaries and fewer benefits. They face barriers to employment in job sectors from which they have long been excluded. Job training programs for both adults and students too often reinforce these trends, failing to provide women and girls with competitive skills and a path into non-traditional, well-compensated jobs.


Reports & Resources

Click here for all publications.


Center News

Legal Momentum Challenges Food Assistance Termination for Legal Immigrants
Thursday, June 16, 2011 - 3:32pm

Legal Momentum, represented by Kaye Scholer LLP, has filed an amicus curiae brief in the state of Washington, in support of a plaintiff with legal immigrant status who was battered by her spouse and struggled to find independence due to the termination of government funded food assistance for immigrants. Battered women, like the plaintiff, are be forced to stay in or return to abusive relationships due to lack of financial support. Learn more about the Immigrant Women Program.

New Report: U.S. has Highest Rate of Single Mother Poverty
Thursday, June 16, 2011 - 3:28pm

Findings from a Legal Momentum study prove that the rates of impoverished single mothers in the United States is exceptionally higher than the rate of single mothers in the 15 other high income countries with similar economic standards. The U.S. ranked at 49%, Denmark (8%), Sweden (10%), and Finland (11%). Read the full report here.

Arizona Law Compounds Immigrant Women's Vulnerability
Tuesday, June 8, 2010 - 11:18am

"The "immigration enforcement above all else" model has a particularly brutal impact on immigrant women.

Read Irasema Garza's Huffington Post Commentary

Legal Momentum Applauds Critical First Step for Immigration Reform
Monday, February 8, 2010 - 12:53pm

Legislation must address plight of Immigrant Women and Families

New York (December 15, 2009) - Legal Momentum applauds the introduction of the Comprehensive Immigration Reform for America’s Security and Prosperity Act of 2009 (CIR ASAP) by Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D.-Ill.), chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus task force on immigration.

Irasema Garza, president of Legal Momentum, the women’s legal defense and education fund, says, “CIR ASAP represents a vital first step to improving the safety and health of America’s immigrant women and families.”
In order to fully address the unique needs of immigrant women, Legal Momentum believes that a path to legalization must recognize the non-traditional work which overwhelmingly employs immigrant women, promote family reunification in such a way that women are not dependent on spouses for years without access to lawful status and work authorization, and reform the enforcement and detention system particularly for vulnerable populations.   
Garza continues, “For too long, women immigrants have been invisible. Meanwhile, they contend with the highest levels of workplace exploitation and domestic violence in the nation. Comprehensive Immigration Reform offers a vital opportunity to fix a broke immigration system that disproportionately hurts women.”
It is critical that immigration reform legislation take into account immigrant women’s experiences and promote solutions to overcome the obstacles to economic access and justice confronting immigrant women and families. Legal Momentum looks forward to working with Rep. Gutierrez and other members of Congress who support this aim.
Read The Invisible Face of Immigration, by Irasema Garza.
Read Legal Momentum Immigrant Women Program’s Agenda for Change: Women in a Broken Immigration System.
Founded in 1970, Legal Momentum, the Women’s Legal Defense and Education Fund, is dedicated to advancing the rights and personal and economic security of all women and girls.

New Report Shows Safety Net Failing America’s Women, Workers and Families
Monday, February 8, 2010 - 12:49pm

Leading poverty experts propose bold plan to rescue families and repair nation’s emergency measures

Washington, DC (December 7, 2009) -Eleven of the nation’s leading experts on poverty have proposed a $400 billion emergency relief plan to create and save jobs for millions of Americans while also offering adequate resources to vital safety net programs. The national study, Battered by the Storm: How Safety Net is Failing Americans and How to Fix It, concludes that the economic crisis is still on the rise for millions of Americans, while at the same time the social safety net is failing to support many of them. It offers one of the boldest, most comprehensive plans to combat poverty and unemployment — beginning now.

“Our last lines of defense against family poverty are failing, completely. In order to guarantee a real economic recovery, Congress must act swiftly to invest in the most valuable resource we have in America — its families and its future,” said Irasema Garza, President of Legal Momentum, the Women’s Legal Defense and Education Fund.
The study’s authors include: Peter Edelman, Georgetown University law professor; Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Nickel and Dimed; John Cavanagh, author of 12 books on the economy; Deepak Bhargava, a leader on grassroots community organizing for social change; and Timothy Casey, senior staff attorney at Legal Momentum. Battered by the Storm was produced jointly by the Institute for Policy Studies, the Center for Community Change, Jobs with Justice, and Legal Momentum

"To end the joblessness epidemic in this country, we need a massive jolt of public jobs, of aid to states and cities, and of finance for vital safety net programs," says John Cavanagh, Director of the Washington-based
Institute for Policy Studies.
Among the study’s key findings:
  • Levels of long-term unemployment, underemployment and discouraged workers are reaching historic levels;
  • The percentage of poor children receiving temporary assistance under TANF (the main federal “welfare” program) has fallen from 62% in 1995 to 22% in 2008;
  • TANF benefits are far from sufficient to support the families that depend on them: 2008 assistance payments averaged only 29% of the money needed to bring families up to the official poverty line;
  • Even while labor force participation of mothers has increased, the supply of affordable child care has lagged behind, creating a significant barrier to employment for many, especially single mothers; and
  • Roughly 57% of unemployed people are receiving unemployment compensation; for those receiving benefits, amounts are less than half of wages, and many are losing work-related health benefits.
The social safety net has eroded over the past 30 years, failing millions of Americans. Short-term fixes such as the Recovery Act are rescuing only a small percentage of those who need help. "Our neighborhoods are being ravaged by collapsing incomes, the effects of which can be seen in the continuing loss of homes, rising hunger, and longer lines at food banks,” said Deepak Bhargava, executive director, the Center for Community Change. “A public jobs program can get people working while making us more competitive and build skills that will have a lasting impact in our communities.”
The study’s authors recommend an immediate, bold, comprehensive emergency relief package, including:
  • $40 billion public jobs program to create one million new jobs;
  • $270 billion to cover state and local deficits, which could sustain vital funding for critical safety net programs and could save the jobs of millions of workers;
  • Just over $100 billion for the expansion of programs that provide income or income equivalents to help people weather the storm: Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), unemployment insurance, and food stamps; and
  • New policies to address the housing foreclosure crisis.
The authors also recommend a longer-term strategy to end the scourge of poverty in our nation and to help all people achieve a living income, without regard to race, religion or gender.
Founded in 1970, Legal Momentum the Women’s Legal Defense and Education Fund, is dedicated to advancing the rights and personal and economic security of all women and girls.



For more than four decades, the Institute for Policy Studies has transformed ideas into action for peace, justice, and the environment. It is a progressive multi-issue think tank.


Opportunities, Grants & Fellowships

 Internship Program

Legal interns assist in developing litigation with legal research, prospective client interviews, drafting pleadings, and other aspects of litigation, and develop public education and policy advocacy materials on a range of women's rights legal issues. Positions are available in our New York City and Washington, D.C. offices.
Legal Momentum accepts applications from undergraduate (non-legal) students, in New York City and Washington D.C., for internship positions in public policy and advocacy, communications and marketing, accounting, development, and other non-profit management areas. Positions are generally unpaid and students are expected to have funding from their schools, or to be enrolled in a course which awards academic credit for the internship experience. Internship applications are accepted throughout the year for at least one-semester of service.