She is survived by her husband and sister, Christine Rhode.
Ms Rhode attended New Trier East High School, where she was a champion of the debate, often confronting fellow future law star Merrick Garland, the federal judge appointed attorney general of the Biden administration, who attended Niles West High School nearby.
Arriving at Yale in 1970 as part of what was only the school’s second coeducational class, Ms. Rhode found herself with almost no professors or organizations dedicated to women’s issues. Undergraduates, she later wrote, were meant to be seen and not heard.
But Ms. Rhode made sure to be heard. She was the first woman elected President of the Yale Debate Association, following in the footsteps of John Kerry and William F. Buckley Jr. and defeating her future husband, Mr. Cavanagh, by a resounding 23-3 vote.
“I followed her with keen interest afterwards,” Cavanagh said in an interview.
Despite her academic success, Ms. Rhode continued to face barriers due to her gender. Although Yale is a student, the Yale Club in New York City was not. When she insisted on entering anyway, she was escorted. She also struggled to get internships; many judges have more or less refused to hire women.
Two who were not were Judge Murray I. Surfein, of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, for whom she worked after graduating, and Judge Thurgood Marshall of the Supreme Court, where Ms Rhode took a desk down the hall from his old debate. adversary, Mr. Garland, clerk of Judge William Brennan.
Justice Marshall encouraged her interest in becoming a law professor, though he teased her about teaching about sex discrimination. “In most countries,” he joked, “it seems to come naturally.”