Stories in Biography

16th July 2018

Dorothy Mary Donaldson was the first female Lord Mayor of London. Dorothy Mary Donaldson, The Lady Donaldson of Lymington, previously known as Dame Mary Donaldson, was born in Wickham, Hampshire, and trained in Oxford as a nurse during the war, qualifying in 1946. Her patients included soldiers returning from Dunkirk and victims of the Blitz. […]

13th July 2018

Elsie Bowerman was called to the Bar in 1924, two years after Ivy Williams became the first woman called. She was also a suffragette, a Titanic survivor, and barrister. Born in 1889, Elsie was the daughter of a prosperous businessman who died when she was five years old. When she started at Wycombe Abbey, aged […]

12th July 2018

Jessie Chrystal Macmillan was a Scottish feminist, barrister and politician. She was the first female science graduate from the University of Edinburgh, the first woman to plead a case before the House of Lords and a founder of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. Born in 1872, Chrystal grew up in Edinburgh alongside […]

12th July 2018

Dame Catherine Fiona Woolf, a corporate lawyer, was the second female Lord Mayor of London (between 2013-2014), after Mary Donaldson in 1983, and was the second female President of the Law Society in 2006. Fiona Woolf (née Swain), DBE, DStJ DL, was born on the 11th May 1948 in Edinburgh, and was educated there before […]

11th July 2018

In 1987, Anne Willmott, a trained counsellor, was recruited by a forward-thinking Chief Fire Officer to set up a professional Counselling and Advice service for the London Fire Brigade. In a conversation with First 100 Years, she discusses the obstacles she came up against, working in a male-dominated environment, and what needs to change in […]

15th June 2018

Dorothy Knight Dix was the first woman to sit as recorder for a jury trial and was only the second woman to be appointed to the County Court bench, following Elizabeth Lane DBE. Dorothy Knight Dix, later Dorothy Waddy, was born on 8th September 1909 and attended school in Hampstead before studying at University of […]

15th June 2018

Averil Katherine Statter Deverell was one of the first women, along with Frances Kyle, to be admitted to the bar in Ireland on November 1st 1921. They were among the first women to be called to the bar anywhere in the world. It was almost a year later before Ivy Williams became the first woman […]

13th June 2018

Mary Dorothea Heron, Helena Mary Early and Dorothea Mary Browne were the first three women to be admitted to the Roll of Solicitors in Ireland. The first three women admitted to the Roll of Solicitors in Ireland were Mary Dorothea Heron from Downpatrick Co. Down, Helena Mary Early from Dublin city and Dorothea Mary Browne […]

13th June 2018

Elizabeth Lane DBE was an English barrister and judge. She was the first woman appointed as a judge in the County Court, and the first female High Court judge in England. She is most extraordinary since she had no formal university education gaining a career in law by her own means. Born Elizabeth Kathleen Coulborn […]

12th June 2018

Professor Frances Elizabeth Moran was the first female law lecturer in Ireland, the first female Regius Professor at Trinity College, Dublin and the first woman to take silk in Ireland, years before any woman in Britain. Born on the 6th December 1893, the second daughter of Senator James Moran, Frances Moran was educated at Dominican […]

8th June 2018

Frances Kyle was one of the first women, along with Averil Deverell, to be admitted to the bar in Ireland on November 1st, 1921. They were the first women to be called to the bar anywhere in the world. It was almost a year later before Ivy Williams became the first woman to be called […]

6th June 2018

Georgina “Georgie” Frost was the first woman to hold public office in the UK and Ireland. Born on the 29th December 1879 in Sixmilebridge, County Clare, Georgie was one of five children. Her father was the petty sessions clerk of Sixmilebridge and Newmarket-on-Fergus. Before that, Georgie’s grandfather John Kett had also acted as petty sessions […]

1st June 2018

Margaret Owen OBE is a human rights barrister specialising in women’s rights. In an interview with First 100 Years, she discusses her varied career, founding the charity Widows for Peace Through Democracy, and her advice for young female lawyers today. Margaret was born in 1932, the daughter of a solicitor and a doctor. She remembers […]

31st May 2018

The ‘rebel Countess’ Constance Markievicz née Gore-Booth was an Irish revolutionary, founding member of the Irish Citizen Army, suffragette and the first woman elected to the British House of Commons on the 28th December 1918, although she did not take her seat. She was also one of the first women in the world to hold […]

29th May 2018

Deirdre Trapp is an award-winning antitrust practitioner and partner at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer. In an exclusive interview with First 100 Years, she discusses her route to success, improving the work/life balance, and the advice she gives to young female lawyers. The daughter of Irish immigrants, Deirdre’s mother was a nurse and her father was in […]

24th May 2018

Margaret Kidd was the first female member of the Faculty of Advocates and remained the only female advocate in Scotland for over 25 years. She was also the first female advocate to appear before the House of Lords and before a parliamentary select committee, and the first woman appointed King’s Counsel in the UK. Born […]

9th May 2018

Asma Jilani Jahangir was an eminent lawyer and activist, who fought for the rights of women, children and religious minorities in Pakistan and co-founded the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. Asma was born in Lahore, Pakistan, on 27th January 1952. Her father, Malik Ghulam Jilani was a civil servant and politician who spent many years […]

27th April 2018

R v Ahluwalia; a case which sparked changes in the law of murder and voluntary manslaughter, and raised awareness of domestic violence in non-English speaking families. But who were the campaigners that made the change possible? Kiranjit Ahluwalia was found guilty of murder in 1989, after setting alight her abusive husband’s bed whilst he slept. […]

20th April 2018

Denisa Gannon is the first Roma person to qualify as a solicitor in England and Wales. In an exclusive interview with First 100 Years, she describes why she studied law and how she’s got to where she is today, as well as her advice to aspiring lawyers. Denisa grew up in the Czech Republic, but […]

17th April 2018

In an interview with First 100 Years, Eileen Pembridge has spoken of her experiences of setting up Fisher Meredith, lobbying for changes in domestic violence law, and being the first woman to stand for the Law Society presidency in 1995. Eileen has had a very varied career. After starting off as a scientist, she switched […]

13th April 2018

Madge Easton Anderson was the first woman to be admitted to practise as a professional lawyer in the UK, when she qualified as a solicitor in Scotland in 1920. Born on the 24th April 1896 in Glasgow, her father, Robert Easton, made surgical instruments. She attended Hutcheson’s Girls’ School, and later the University of Glasgow […]

11th April 2018

In an interview with First 100 Years, Helena Kennedy, Baroness Kennedy of the Shaws, has spoken of the changes that she has witnessed for women during her career at the Bar. Born to a working-class family in Glasgow, when Helena was called to the Bar in 1972, she describes the stereotypes that she faced: I […]

10th April 2018

Sybil Campbell was the first woman to be appointed to the professional judiciary full-time in Britain, when she became a stipendiary magistrate at Tower Bridge Magistrates’ Court in 1945. She remained the only full-time female professional magistrate or judge in England until she retired in 1961. The eldest of three daughters, Sybil was born in […]

9th April 2018

Theodora Llewelyn Davies was the first female applicant to be admitted to the Inner Temple in 1920, and one of the earliest women to be called to the Bar on 17th November 1922. Theodora Llewelyn Davies, usually known as Theo, was born on 18 April 1898 in Birkenhead, the daughter of Maurice Llewelyn Davies and […]

5th April 2018

Dorothy Livingston, first female partner of Herbert Smith Freehills has spoken to First 100 Years about her advice to young female lawyers, and what she hopes will change for the future. She says: I’d like to see a future in which the legal profession is well balanced between men and women. I think to do […]

5th April 2018

Nancy Astor was the first woman to take her seat in the House of Commons, after she was elected MP for Plymouth Sutton in November 1919. Early life An American citizen born in Virginia, Nancy was the eighth of eleven children. Her mother, Nancy Witcher Keene, had married when she was sixteen, and her father, […]

29th March 2018

Mella Carroll was the first female judge of the High Court in the Republic of Ireland. Born in 1934 in Dublin, her father Patrick Carroll was a founder member and Commissioner of the Garda Siochana, the police force of Ireland from 1922, and he later qualified as a barrister. Mella read French and German at […]

28th March 2018

In conversation with First 100 Years Cherie Booth QC has urged for greater social mobility at the Bar saying she believes that there are even fewer state educated people being called now than there were in the past, attributing this partly to a lack of legal aid work. Describing her experiences at the Bar, Cherie […]

26th March 2018

In conversation with First 100 Years, Madeleine Heggs, who set up her own legal practice over 60 years ago, has discussed how she juggled the work/life balance, and why she thinks it’s harder than ever for young lawyers today. Brought up by a single mother during the war after her father was killed, Madeleine went […]

20th March 2018

Marjorie Powell is a forgotten name, buried in the history books, but she was, and remains, a very important woman. She was the first female student to join Lincoln’s Inn, paving the way for others to follow her. Marjorie Powell was born on 5th October 1893, in Market Drayton, Shropshire, to a working-class family. She […]

13th March 2018

Richard Pankhurst was born in the May of 1836, in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire to Henry Francis Pankhurst and Margaret Marsden. He was educated at the Manchester Grammar School and following that, Owens College, Manchester. In 1959, Richard graduated from the University of London with an LLB (with honours) and then an LLD. He had always been […]

12th March 2018

Written by Mark Pallis In 1873, Charlotte Ray became the first African American woman lawyer in America. She set up her own firm and began what a contemporary called “active practice”. Then, just four years later, “on account of prejudice, was not able to obtain sufficient legal business” and shut up shop. And that’s almost […]

8th March 2018

Today, International Women’s Day (IWD) will be celebrated around the world, a day to recognise women’s rights movements and women’s achievements. However, the meaning of IWD has changed over the years, and continues to differ between cultures. From a radical political demonstration, a celebration of traditional gender roles, a communist state holiday, to a day […]

1st March 2018

Written by Laura Vignoles, Associate Barrister, originally as part of Kingsley Napley’s International Women’s Day blog series. In my opinion, it is sufficient to rest this case upon the inveterate practice of the centuries that, ever since attorneys as a profession have existed, women have never been admitted to the office, and, in my opinion, […]

23rd February 2018

Phar Hmee is remembered for being the first Burmese woman to become a barrister in 1925. Little is left in the records about Phar Hmee’s life. Born in 1902, she was the eldest daughter of a well respected civil servant in Rangoon. After studying at University College, Rangoon, Phar Hmee came to London, to study […]

20th February 2018

Joan Stanley Rubinstein, pioneer female solicitor, marriage guidance counsellor, psychotherapist and founder member of Resolution was born in Kensington on the 18th November 1921, into a long standing family of solicitors. After war service at Bletchley Park (breaking Japanese codes) she was articled to her Father and admitted as a solicitor in 1947. Although Rubinsteins […]

12th February 2018

Richard Barr, Law Society Council Member, remembers Mary Smith (1967 – 1979) a trailblazer in legal journalism. My late father David Barr and I (later) wrote for the Law Society Gazette. I think that in the late 60s/ early 70s the Gazette had an editorial committee and that my father was on it. That is […]

12th February 2018

Lord Robert Cecil (born Edgar Algernon Robert Gasgoyne-Cecil), first Viscount of Chelwood, was born in Cavendish Square, London, on 14 September 1864, to the third Marquess of Salisbury, Robert Arthur Talbot Gascoyne-Cecil, who would be the Conservative Prime Minister from 25 June 1895 to 11 July 1902. Cecil studied Law at University College, Oxford in […]

8th February 2018

Ann Felicity Goddard was born on 22nd January 1936, in the London Borough of Lambeth, the daughter of police officer Graham Goddard and wife Margaret. During her education, Ann studied at Grey Coat Hospital, Westminster, a Church of England school for girls. Ann was awarded a law degree from the University of Birmingham and then […]

8th February 2018

With every great development in history, there comes a pioneer who enabled such progress to be made. Statistics from the Solicitors Regulation Authority suggest that in the UK currently, 33% of partners in law firms are now female, which is a far cry from the social climate prior to the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919. […]

30th January 2018

Rosalind Wright CB QC, second woman director of the Serious Fraud Office 1997-2003, remembers Dame Juliet Wheldon (1950-2014) DCB QC, who was Treasury Solicitor and Head of the Government Legal Service 2000-6. I first met Juliet when, as a young legal assistant in her first post at the Treasury Solicitor’s Department in the 1970s, she […]

30th January 2018

In our search for stories of legal pioneers, we came across this interview with Carrie Morrison, the first woman to be admitted to the Solicitors Roll in 1922, published in the Dundee Evening Telegraph on Tuesday 31 October 1922. “Started by accident” “I dropped into the work by accident; she said. ‘I had tried teaching […]

19th July 2017

Jamila Hassan is a barrister at Goldsmith Chambers, specialising in immigration and human rights law. Born in Somalia and raised in Kenya and Sweden before completing her education in the UK, Jamila Hassan’s childhood was unlike that of most of her peers. Besides being multi-lingual and multi-cultural (she is fluent in Somali, Swahili, Swedish and […]

19th July 2017

Claudine Adeyemi has been busy not only with her career as a real estate litigation lawyer since qualifying three years ago. She has also been actively making a difference in her community by supporting young people from non-traditional backgrounds in their journeys to become working professionals. In 2014, she set up The Student Development Co, […]

19th July 2017

Charlotte Ray (1850 – 1911) was the first African American female lawyer in the United States. She became the first female admitted to the District of Columbia Bar, and the first woman admitted to practice before the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia. Ray deserves to be remembered because she fought to overcome the […]

15th June 2017

Three women changed the course of history in France at the end of the 19th century. Their names are not well-known even though they contributed to women’s access to the legal profession. Sarmiza Bilcescu was the first woman to obtain a licence to practice law. She also obtained a PhD in Law. A Romanian citizen, […]

23rd May 2017

One of the first 10 women solicitors in England and Wales, Edith Berthen was also the first woman to qualify in Liverpool and later formed the first all women partnership with Beatrice Honour Davy. She was born in 1877 in Rockferry, Cheshire, the daughter of corn merchant Thomas Jones Berthen and his wife Lucy Anne […]

3rd May 2017

Four women, Carrie Morrison, Maud Crofts, Mary Elaine Sykes and Mary Elizabeth Pickup, passed the Law Society’s finals examinations in December 1922. Later that month Carrie Morrison became the first woman to be admitted as a solicitor by the Law Society of England and Wales. The other three women, including Mary Elizabeth Pickup, were admitted […]

29th March 2017

This years’ winner of the Inspirational Women in Law Award, Keily Blair, discusses the First 100 Years project, being disruptive, and having a ‘jungle-gym’ approach to your career. In her words, “diverse organisations simply perform better”. ——- The First 100 Years chronicles the journey of women in law since the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919. […]

21st March 2017

As one of the Inspirational Women in Law Award finalists, Georgina Wolfe submitted a short essay on ‘How can Women Shape the Future of the Legal Industry?’. She tells the story of her own experiences in the world of law, in particular at the Bar, and how women bring unique experiences and skills to the […]

7th March 2017

My maternal grandparents, Elsie Waugh and Stanley Turner, married in 1932, and their first child, a boy, was born in 1940. They were living in Willesden when in May of the following year, in the thick of the Second World War, Stanley joined the Royal Navy, leaving his job as clerk in the Lincoln’s Inn […]

28th February 2017

Written by Baroness Deech QC(Hon) I studied law at a time when it was not at all fashionable for women to choose this – there were 8 women amongst 150 men in my year at Oxford. I got a place at Oxford on my 9th attempt at the admissions exams for Oxford and Cambridge (one […]

21st February 2017

The story of Ada Yeates and Sisters, legal stationers, scriveners and typists, who were the successors to a “law and commercial stamp retailer” business operated by Catherine Carroll since 1851. Ada Yeates was born in 1852 to Robert Eustace Yeates and his wife Sarah. The Yeates family lived at Elm Hall in Celbridge, but in […]

30th November 2016

A woman of fierce determination, Agnes Twiston Hughes qualified as a solicitor in 1923 and thus became the first Welsh woman to qualify as a solicitor of the Supreme Court of England and Wales. Born in 1896, the younger daughter of solicitor John Williams Hughes, Agnes was trained by her father; on qualification she joined […]

23rd November 2016

Born in 1896 Mary Elaine Sykes was one of the first four women to pass the Law Society’s Final Examinations in 1922. She was the middle child of Huddersfield solicitor James Sykes and his wife Emma Amelia Turner. Her elder brother, Eric, died in France in May 1917 at the age of 22 but her […]

19th October 2016

In 1923 Mithan Tata became the first woman called to the bar by Lincoln’s Inn and the first practising Indian woman barrister. She would have been remarkable in any era, but for those times she was extraordinary. Mithan was born into a Parsi family in Maharashtra in 1898 and spent her childhood in different parts […]

17th October 2016

As we look forward to the Annual Spark 21 Conference on 9 November 2016 at Simmons & Simmons LLP, the First 100 Years Project will be publishing excerpts of speeches from the 2015 Spark21 Conference every Monday, leading up to this year’s conference. Please visit the website for more information on how to attend. In […]

13th October 2016

Mercy Ashworth was called to the bar on 26 January 1923 at the same time as Mithan Tata. They were the first two women from Lincoln’s Inn. At the age of 54, Mercy had waited a long time for to be called. Mercy’s age was not unusual amongst the early barristers. Cornelia Sorabji, Amy Edwards […]

12th September 2016

These are excerpts from the First 100 Year’s video interview with Ruth Lady Morris of Kenwood. The video is currently being produced and will be released shortly. Let me start by saying that in my day, and it’s as long ago as that, there were only 28 women a year who qualified, so it was […]

7th September 2016

The Founder of the First 100 Years project, Dana Denis-Smith, shares her personal story and her journey from Transylvania, in Romania, to being a journalist, City lawyer, woman in law and entrepreneur as well as a mother and wife.

5th September 2016

These are excerpts from the First 100 Year’s video interview with Dame Janet Gaymer, first woman to become Senior Partner of a Top 20 law firm. The video is currently being produced and will be released shortly. I think the story of women in law is very much a slow burn. It’s obvious if you […]

29th August 2016

These are excerpts from the First 100 Year’s video interview with June Venters QC, first woman solicitor to be appointed a Queen’s Counsel. The video can be found here. What happened was that the solicitors firm where I was working, one morning, on a Monday called me in to say they were closing the department […]

22nd August 2016

These are excerpts from the First 100 Year’s video interview with Shami Chakrabarti which can be found here. I think I wanted to become a lawyer fairly early on. I think I was partly shaped by the books and movies that my Mother shared with me, that’s ‘To Kill a Mocking Bird’, ‘Rumpole of the […]

17th August 2016

A member of the first small cohort of women to practise at the English Bar, Ethel Bright Ashford was called alongside Helena Normanton and seven other women at Middle Temple in November 1922. Her political background and subsequent career were very different to Normanton’s, highlighting the diversity of the legal pioneers. Thirty-nine years old at […]

15th July 2016

There is a saying in Latin America that when one woman comes into politics, she changes, but when many women come into politics, politics changes. When Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister she was one of very few women in the political arena. By comparison when Theresa May became the second female Prime Minister on Wednesday […]

12th July 2016

In 2016 Chambers & Partners described Clare Montgomery as ‘the most formidable member of the bar’. She is a highly respected specialist in criminal, regulatory and fraud law, known for her work on legally and factually complex cases. The following article is based on Clare’s video interview with First 100 Years and is written in […]

5th July 2016

This article is based on the video interview with Linda Dobbs which can be found here. I came to the UK when I was seven in the 1950s to stay with my English family, and I was usually the only person of colour in the area. I would have names thrown at me by the […]

5th July 2016

Guest Post by Elizabeth Cruickshank When Maud Crofts was formally admitted as a solicitor of the Supreme Court of England and Wales on 11 January 1923 she realised an ambition for which she had been working for more than a decade. Maud Isabel Crofts, (nee Ingram) was born in 1889, one of the twelve children […]

27th June 2016

In 1974, Barbara Calvert QC, later known as Lady Lowry, was the first woman to be a Head of Chambers when she founded 4 Brick Court. Eight years later she broke another glass ceiling as the first woman to become a Bencher at Middle Temple in 1982. Born on 30th April 1926 in Leeds, Barbara […]

13th June 2016

I should like to see more and more women at Westminster, and in the highest places, too. It would certainly be a good thing for the women of Britain. And I’m sure it would be a good thing for the men, too!’. As well as two term prime minister of the UK, in 1953 Margaret […]

7th June 2016

Born in Manchester into a well-off family, Joyanne Bracewell was educated largely at home and became a talented child actor. As a young teenager in 1948 she appeared in two comedy films and seemed destined for a career as an actress. Baroness Brenda Hale suggested that this acting training contributed to her outstandingly clear diction […]

6th June 2016

First 100 Years is delighted to share the story of BT’s first female lawyer, Mrs. Chaya Ray. Chaya and her ex-colleagues at BT have been able to tell us about her story in becoming their first female lawyer. She was born on 21st August 1931, and was called to the bar in 1957. She completed […]

3rd June 2016

These excerpts are special previews from Baroness Brenda Hale’s video interview capture her experiences of working in the legal profession, which is currently still in edit and will be published soon. We are honoured to share the details of her experiences and journey working in the legal profession. The journey of women in law was […]

27th May 2016

Mary McAleese, the second woman ever elected as president of Ireland, discusses the structural prejudices which are holding back the new generation of women working in law. She identifies the pressures facing female lawyers and the ways to overcome them, as well as the crucical importance of female voices in public affairs. At the recent […]

27th May 2016

This week we heard the sad news that Frances Murphy – the former corporate head at Slaughter and May - has died after a long illness.

26th May 2016

The first female Irish president who proved that women could be ‘the hands that rocked the system’ as well as the ‘the hands that rocked the cradle’. Mary Robinson’s views of the legal system were shaped by the optimism of the 1960s to use the law as an instrument of social change. As president of […]

6th May 2016

Story submitted anonymously through the website. Scene: Christmas Day, Cambridgeshire, 1980 Me (aged 5): [throws ball in sitting room narrowly missing Christmas tree] My mother: “Alice, don’t throw balls in the house!” Me: “But I didn’t throw the ball, I bowled it.” Auntie Joyce: “One day Alice, you will be a lawyer…” Fast forward to […]

14th September 2015

Guest post by Alice Tyson Lady Barbara (“Bill”) Littlewood (1909-1995) may not be a familiar name to many, but her contributions to women in the legal profession should not be overlooked. She spent her long career at a firm of “country solicitors” (as they were known). Alongside this, she held an impressive list of achievements […]

8th September 2015

In December 1922 Carrie Morrison became the first woman to be admitted as a solicitor in England and Wales. At the age of 34, and with a varied career behind her, Carrie set a high standard of determination and dedication to her profession for the women who came after her. Although three other women (Maud […]

4th September 2015

Photo credit: Court of Justice of the European Union Eleanor Sharpston QC, Advocate General at the European Court of Justice Interview by Alison Maitland Eleanor Sharpston QC, the first woman appointed by the UK as Advocate General to the European Court of Justice, is one of the most distinguished contemporary lawyers. Yet her struggle to […]

7th August 2015

Eliza Orme (1848-1937) was the first woman in England to earn a law degree, in 1888 at University College London; she was 39 years old and already unofficially ‘practicing’ law out of an office in London’s Chancery Lane where she and a colleague prepared the paperwork for property transactions, patent registrations, wills, settlements, and mortgages. […]

19th June 2015

Baroness Brenda Hale has always been known for her vivacious attitude towards women’s rights and diversity in the legal profession. At grammar school, she first noted there were only half the number of places available for girls as for boys. Whilst reading Law at Girton College, Cambridge, she found that she was one of only […]

18th June 2015

Solicitor, Business Leader and Diversity Campaigner Funke is a multi-award-winning Solicitor, Business Leader and Diversity Campaigner with 18 years’ comprehensive achievements within niche ventures, regional and national businesses and global, multinational organisations. She has been recognised for her inspiring and impactful leadership in both full time & voluntary C-suite roles and has proven success in […]

11th June 2015

Most famously known by her married name – Blair – Cherie Booth QC is celebrated for her work in human rights, in particular women’s and children’s rights. Patron of many charities (Breast Cancer Care, Jospice, Scope…), Booth’s legal work mirrors this. She was one of the 22 barristers to set up Matrix Chambers, known for […]

10th June 2015

When asked what books she wanted on the GCSE set texts, Shami Chakrabarti cited Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird. Not only is the book’s lawyer, Atticus Finch, one of Chakrabarti’s inspirations, but the novel itself, she argues, has inspired many towards human rights, “ [it is] touchingly human and intimate but concerned with massive […]

20th April 2015

Top City of London lawyer Elaine Aarons is one of the founding mothers of employment law and is a pioneer of flexible working in the legal profession. When Elaine qualified in 1982, employment law was not a recognised speciality. Within two years of qualifying, she decided to make it her sole focus. “I felt I […]

12th March 2015

On Christmas Eve 1919 the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act became law. On the same day the appointment of the first seven women to be justices of the peace (JPs) was announced by the Lord Chancellor. One of these seven was Miss Gertrude Mary Tuckwell (1861-1951), who shortly after became the first woman to be sworn […]

12th December 2014

Baroness Cohen has enjoyed a colourful career, excelling in a remarkably varied number of fields. A published novelist, a Labour peer and Chancellor of BPP University, Janet’s accomplishments to date can be traced back to the earliest part of her career, when she practiced as a solicitor. Having graduated from Newnham College, Cambridge with a […]

22nd October 2014

As a young, black woman, Dawn Dixon’s route into a legal career inevitably involved an enormous amount of determination, and even more hard work. That she had not been educated at a red brick university further stacked the odds against her, as this was viewed as essential for anyone with ambitions of climbing to the […]

15th October 2014

Born in 1882, Helena Normanton was the first woman to practice at the Bar (although not the first to be called to the Bar: that accolade went to Oxford academic Ivy Williams). She continually shocked and scandalised the legal profession – and wider political circles – with her tireless refusal to accept female exclusion. She […]

30th September 2014

Born in 1954 and educated at Jews Free School in Camden, Barbara Roche’s attitude to equality and diversity coupled with her natural aptitude for public speaking and debate allowed her to flourish in both of her areas of passion: politics and the law. When it came to choosing a path for university, the world of […]

22nd August 2014

Born in Queensland, Australia, Margaret’s journey to prominence in the legal profession has taken her to the other side of the world, with an enormous amount of hard work required to get her there. As one of six children born into a working class family, Margaret’s work ethic was instilled into her at a young […]

21st August 2014

The richness and diversity of Eileen Pembridge’s experience before qualifying as a lawyer perhaps goes some way to explaining why her approach to the law is so vastly empathetic. Her balancing of a rigorous and effective approach with a genuine and palpable interest in those individuals who seek the help of her firm is perhaps […]

6th August 2014

As one of the UK’s leading judges, Anne Rafferty commands great influence over the legal system, with her success bringing a new touch of radicalism to a traditionally male profession. As the first female chair of the Criminal Bar Association she is a genuine trailblazer, who capitalised upon her novel status as a female in […]

4th August 2014

As the first female head of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde is one of the most powerful women in the world. As well as being an accomplished lawyer, Lagarde has served on the French government, becoming the first female Finance and Economy Minister of a G7 country. Her legal background – most notably her experience […]

1st August 2014

Edwina’s career is made remarkable not only by her becoming the first woman president of the Association of District Judges, but also by the atypicality of her education. Her original diploma was in housecraft and needlework and, upon receiving it, Edwina became a teacher. However, she always harboured a nagging aspiration to become a lawyer. […]

29th July 2014

Not only was Juliet a fantastic lawyer, but she also managed to bridge the gap between law and politics in a way far more accomplished than most. Her knowledge of these two sectors led to a tremendous career, encompassing many legal firsts which she took deftly in her stride. Juliet was the first female Treasury […]

23rd July 2014

Eulalie Evan Spicer was a lawyer and Legal Aid administrator, described as “one of the most prominent divorce lawyers of her day”. Born on 20th April 1906 to Charles Evan Spicer, a wholesale stationer, and Elsie Mary née Williams who came from a family of paper manufacturers. Eulalie was educated at St Helen’s School, Northwood. […]

21st July 2014

Dame Barbara Mills DBE QC was the first female Director of the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) from 1990 to 1992, and the first female Director of Public Prosecutions from 1992 to 1998. As Director of Public Prosecutions, she also served as the second head of the Crown Prosecution Service, presiding over a staff of 6,000. […]

17th July 2014

It would be no exaggeration to state that, without the efforts of Eva Crawley, the Association for Women Solicitors might not exist, and that many women who had taken career breaks to become mothers would have had neither the confidence nor the facility to get back into the profession. In 1969, the 1919 Club – […]

15th July 2014

Indubitably one of the most enigmatic and fascinating characters in the legal world, there are many more questions pertaining to Peirce than there are answers. Why did she change her name from Jean to Gareth? What motivated her, a Cheltenham Ladies’ College educated Oxford graduate – an education and upbringing most typically renowned for producing […]

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 […]

8th July 2014

The late Moira Gilmour’s remarkable achievements in the legal profession are made all the more laudable by the atypicality of her background. Born to shopkeeper parents and granddaughter to coal miners, she attended the local comprehensive before becoming the first member of her family to attend university, or indeed move out of the 10 mile […]

7th July 2014

Gwyneth Bebb was the plaintiff in the famous Bebb v Law Society case of 1913, which was an attempt by Bebb and others to open the legal profession to women in Britain, claiming the Law Society should be compelled to admit them to its examinations, as women were ‘persons’ within the Solicitors Act 1843. However, […]

7th July 2014

The late Dame Rose Heilbron’s remarkable catalogue of firsts reads like a record book: her career was truly unprecedented.  She was one of the first women to receive a first class Law degree from Liverpool University, the first woman to win a scholarship to Gray’s Inn, one of the first two women to be appointed […]

3rd July 2014

Cornelia Sorabji was the first woman to ever sit the Bachelor of Civil Laws exam at Oxford University. Born in Bengal in 1866, Cornelia achieved the unfathomable, becoming the first woman to practice law in both India and Britain. Coming from a large family, her mother strove widely for the education of girls in India, […]

1st July 2014

Louise Arbour’s list of honours and awards is staggering, and rightly so. Her long and distinguished career began in academia: following her graduation from the Université de Montréal where she completed an LL.B in 1970, she taught at Osgoode Hall Law School, climbing the ranks to become Associate Professor and Dean. From academia, she was […]

27th June 2014

Dr Ivy Williams was the first woman to be called to the English Bar on the 10th May 1922, although she never practised as a barrister. Born in 1877 in Devon, Ivy’s mother was Emma Ewers, and her father, George St Swithin Williams, was a solicitor. She was educated privately along with her brother, Winter […]

26th June 2014

Before rising to fame as a celebrity chef, Clarissa Dickson Wright was a barrister. There are many legends surrounding her time at the Bar, none more colourful than her impromptu appearance at a Gray’s Inn Smoking Concert. Notoriously ‘male only’, the concert encouraged Bar members to showcase their own talents. Clarissa attempted to circumvent her […]