Betsy Snider

“...go with what you have and be grateful for everything you learn on the way.”

Life often presents itself as more of a winding rather than a straight path, and Elizabeth “Betsy” Snider, J.D. represents the perfect example of this. Between moving from Connecticut to Michigan, attending school for English and then getting a law degree, and finding her identity first in being a nun and then as a lesbian, Snider is well aware of how life changes fast, and how necessary it is to just, “go with what you have and be grateful for everything you learn on the way.”

Snider came to the University of Michigan for her undergraduate degree after spending several years in a convent. When most of her theology credits didn’t transfer, she decided to major in English. Once graduating from the English department, Snider took a few years off to work and then decided to attend law school, also at the University of Michigan. After completing her J.D., Snider moved back to Connecticut and worked at a corporation for several years before finally retiring and moving to New Hampshire. She has since spent her time residing on a small, serene lake, writing, volunteering with Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) for abused or neglected children, swimming and hiking, and striving to learn new things.

In 1975, Snider received a scholarship from CEW+ that she used to aid her in paying for her tuition costs. This financial assistance brought her the opportunity to intern in Washington DC at the Center for Law and Social Policy for a semester. Here, it became clear how much this one opportunity changed her life. Snider made many connections and worked on women’s health issues that still interest her today. “That’s one of the things having that scholarship specifically gave me, that sort of freedom of knowing that, ‘yeah I could go ahead and do this,’ and it would be okay.”

Outside of law firm connections, Snider found herself in many ways during her years at Michigan Law School. After leaving the convent and meeting supportive women in law school and at CEW+, she was able to grow in her identity as a lesbian. Of course, this isn’t a usual pairing between being an ex-nun and lesbian, and she had an understanding that “I’m never going to fit.” The women she met in law school all embraced each other and relied on one another, especially those at CEW+ that don’t have a lot of other resources. “Relying upon yourself and relying upon other women, you can make it, you don’t need to have all that other stuff.” She spent this time not only attending law school, but other women’s marches and movements to help support women in becoming better and more comfortable in who they are.

Years ago, striving to reach her goal of learning new things, Snider attended a local workshop on poetry and found herself loving writing poetry. She was published in 2015 for her book Hope is a Muscle and now again, “unexpectedly” for her 2020 book View from the Other Side. In this poetry, she reflects on her identities and is inspired by the nature in which she lives. View from the Other Side’s cover shows the serene lake on which Snider lives from the perspective of the view she sees every morning before her swim. Once again relating nature to her life, Snider says she is “a fish out of water,” but she has a “connection with women that are in the same boat… there are a lot of women here that really want to see me succeed… My poetry reflects all of that, who I am, and what I believe.” Snider shared that the best way to move forward is through education, and she is happy to have had CEW+ and a continued education along her winding path. 

For more information about Snider’s publications and biography, please visit Amazon or read CEW+’s book review of View from the Other Side.