Friday Hoyden: Dr Ivy Williams, first woman called to the English Bar

This is a Friday Hoyden by way of a quickhit!

Lady Justice Hallett DBE, who is on the Court of Appeal of England and Wales, has written a piece for The Guardian about Dr Ivy Williams, the first woman called to the English Bar.

An extract:

Born in 1877, she was the first woman to be called to the bar of England and Wales. She had taken and sailed through all her law exams by 1903, but university regulations at the time prevented her receiving her BA, MA or BCL. However, in 1920 the regulations on female students were changed and she received the credit she deserved, as did many other women.

She now set her heart on being called to the bar (not, it seems, for her own sake but to offer free legal advice to the poor). She expressed her determination, in an article for Woman’s World magazine in 1921, that if her application to join the bar was unsuccessful, she would petition parliament.

I highly recommend reading the whole thing!

If you’re wondering, the first woman called to the Bar in NSW was Ada Evans. That happened in 1921. The first woman to enter the legal profession in Australia (in Victoria) was Flos Greig. That happened in 1905. However, she practised as a solicitor, not a barrister.

These women (as well as women like Lady Justice Hallett) are among my legal heroes.

* Thumbnail pic: “Scales of Justice” at Citizensheep’s flickr stream.



Categories: education, gender & feminism

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1 reply

  1. I really like the final paragraph of Hallett’s article:

    If the legal profession, and the judiciary drawn from it, are to continue to command the confidence of the public, they must properly reflect the society they serve, preferably at every level. It takes pioneers such as Williams to make this happen. I hope there will be a growing and continuing stream of others like her ready to fight the good fight.

    That’s a beautiful summation of the importance of diversity balance, right there, and it’s one that applies more broadly than only those standing before and sitting behind the bench.

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