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Faculty Directory

Martha F. Davis

Professor of Law
Harvard University, AB 1979
Trinity College, Oxford University, MA 1981
University of Chicago, JD 1983
Office: 35 Cargill Hall
Mail: 400 Huntington Avenue
Boston, MA 02115
Tel: (617) 373-8921
Fax: (617) 373-5056

Professor Davis teaches Women’s Rights Lawyering, Constitutional Law and Professional Responsibility. She is also a faculty director for the law school’s Program on Human Rights and the Global Economy.

Professor Davis has written widely on women’s rights, poverty and human rights. In addition to her numerous articles, she recently co-edited Bringing Human Rights Home, a three-volume work chronicling the US human rights movement.  In 2008, Bringing Human Rights Home was named one of the “best books in the field of human rights” by the US Human Rights Network; an abridged version was published in 2009 by the University of Pennsylvania Press.

Professor Davis’s book, Brutal Need: Lawyers and the Welfare Rights Movement, received the Reginald Heber Smith Award for distinguished scholarship on the subject of equal access to justice, and was also honored by the American Bar Association in its annual Silver Gavel competition. Recently, she filed an amicus brief arguing for the relevance of international law in a domestic force feeding case.

Prior to joining the law faculty in 2002, Professor Davis was vice president and legal director for the NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund. As a women’s rights practitioner, she was counsel in a number of cases before the US Supreme Court, including Nguyen v. INS, a challenge to sex-based citizenship laws that Professor Davis argued before the court. Professor Davis has also served as a fellow at the Bunting Institute, as the first Kate Stoneman Visiting Professor of Law and Democracy at Albany Law School and as a Soros Reproductive Rights Fellow. During 2008-2009, Professor Davis was a visiting fellow at the Human Rights Program at Harvard Law School, and a non-resident fellow of the Women and Public Policy Program at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.

Professor Davis chairs the board of directors of the National Economic and Social Rights Initiative and serves on the editorial board of the Harvard School of Public Health’s publication Health and Human Rights. She is also an appointed member of the Massachusetts State Advisory Committee of the US Commission on Civil Rights.

Fields of Expertise

  • Civil Rights
  • Domestic Violence
  • Employment Law
  • Gender and the Law
  • Human Rights
  • International Law
  • Poverty Law
  • Sexuality and Gender Identity

Selected Works


  • Bringing Human Rights Home (Praeger, 2007) (co-editor and chapter author)

Selected Articles

Selected Chapters

  • “Restoring Government Leadership on Human Rights at Home,” Mandate for Change (Lexington Books, 2009) (Hartman, ed.)
  • “Progressive Lawyers and Human Rights: Using International and Comparative Law to Inform Domestic Decisions,” Progressive Lawyering, Globalization and Markets: Rethinking Ideology and Strategy (William S. Hein & Co., 2007) (Dalton, ed.)
  • “Sexual Harassment,” Social Issues in America: An Encyclopedia (M.E. Sharpe, 2006) (Ciment, ed.)
  • “Legislating Patriarchy,” From Poverty to Punishment: How Welfare Reform Punishes the Poor (Applied Research Center, 2002) (Delgado, ed.)
  • “The Ties that Bind: How Violence Perpetuates Women’s Poverty,” Family Violence and Welfare Reform: What are the Links? (Brandwein, 1999) (ed. Sage)
  • “NOW is the Time: Mainstream Feminism’s Statements on Welfare Rights,” For Crying Out Loud: Women’s Poverty in the United States (South End Press, 1996) (Dujon and Withhorn, eds.)

Selected Commentary