Ada Summers

Published 10th July 2014
Although not a qualified lawyer, Ada Summers made legal history by becoming the first woman to serve on an English bench, and the first female Justice of the Peace. Ada’s background was primarily political, this in itself an impressive feat for the time. In fact, she joined the council as a Liberal representative for Stalybridge in 1912, years before women were even enfranchised.

Ada was elected major in 1919, and a month later – thanks to the Sex Disqualification Removal Act – was sworn in as a magistrate, becoming the first woman ever to serve on an English bench. She stated her intent to sit on the bench often, because “there were so many women and children coming before the courts who could be more easily understood by women than by men”.

In 1920, when an Act of parliament was passed allowing women to actually perform the duties of a magistrate, Ada was appointed as Justice of the Peace. That her appointments to such prominent positions were so immediate is testament to the high esteem in which she was held, transcending the gender binary to take up positions of power previously made utterly alien to the female sex.

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