Our Stories

13th December 2018

A compilation of a few of our recent interviews that will be released soon!

13th December 2018

Helen Mountfield QC is a British barrister and legal scholar, specialising in administrative, human rights, and equality law. She was a founder of Matrix Chamber in 2000. She has been Principal of Mansfield College, Oxford since 2018.

13th December 2018

An exclusive interview with Alison Meek for First 100 Years. Alison is a partner in Harcus Sinclair’s contentious trusts and estates team and has been appointed by the High Court to act as executor in complex estates. She was a founder of ACTAPS (Association of Contentious Trust and Probate Specialists).

13th December 2018

In 2017, Baroness Brenda Hale became the first woman to be appointed president of the Supreme Court in England & Wales. The First 100 Years project was lucky to film her before, when she was the only woman supreme court justice. She is a true trailblazer for women in law and women in leadership more […]

13th December 2018

An exclusive interview with Shân Warnock-Smith QC for First 100 Years. Widely regarded as one of the leading names at the Chancery Bar, Warnock-Smith is an adviser and litigator specialising in trusts, succession and private wealth issues.

13th December 2018

An exclusive interview with Ruth, Lady Morris of Kenwood CBE for First 100 Years. An eminent property lawyer, Ruth worked at her father’s firm Janners for 25 years, before becoming Chairman of Partners. Ruth was also a vice-president of ‘Woman of the Year Lunch & Assembly’ and is a trustee of several charitable trusts.

13th December 2018

In an exclusive interview with First 100 Years, John Steel QC discusses how he was inspired to become a barrister by his mother, Marianne Steel (who practised under her maiden name and second name, Val Rees). Called to the Bar in 1978, John is a barrister at 39 Essex Chambers and was appointed Silk in […]

3rd December 2018

Angeli Arora, MA (Oxon) was one of the youngest lawyers to become partner, and managing partner, at a top tier international law firm. Indeed, she was amongst the first female lawyers to achieve record breaking success, as a solicitor qualified under the laws of England and Wales, in the international legal arena. In terms of […]

9th October 2018

Catherine Barnard, Professor of European Union Law and Employment Law at Trinity College Cambridge. Catherine Barnard is Professor of European Union Law and Employment Law and Senior Tutor of Trinity College. She is a leading researcher working on the issues surrounding the Brexit negotiations. She is also a Senior Fellow in the Economic and Social […]

1st October 2018

Jennifer Horne-Roberts, Barrister in practice in London I was born at Harrow on the Hill a few years after WWII. My father was a trade union official who helped work towards the NHS and Welfare State being set up. He had experienced great poverty, and my parents were Labour activists.They left school at 13 and […]

19th September 2018

Veronica Lowe, M.A.(Oxon), is a Solicitor and President St Hugh’s College Alumni Association, humorously credited with pioneering the six page CV for her continued success in a variety of fields within the legal profession. Lowe read Modern History at St Hugh’s College, Oxford University, and was the first woman to take Military History as a […]

19th September 2018

As the centenary of the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919 which paved the way for women to become lawyers for the first time looms, we are searching for the details of the first woman lawyers to become partners in solicitors’ firms.It was this photograph of Dorothy Livingston, the first female partner at Herbert Smith, which […]

4th September 2018

May Doris Charity Taylor (nee Clifford) was the first female prison governor in England and Wales. Born in Woking, Surrey, on 16th September 1914, Taylor qualified in medicine at the Royal Free Hospital in London. She later joined the Prison Commission during WW2 because she felt that her skills as a doctor should be used […]

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 […]

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 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 to be […]

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. […]

24th April 2018

In 1970, Claire Palley became a Professor of Law at Queen’s University Belfast. When she did so, she was the first woman in the United Kingdom ever to be appointed to such a post (though Professor Frances Moran had been a law professor at Trinity College Dublin from 1944 to 1963; it is an interesting […]

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, her birth was registered in Market Drayton, Shropshire, to […]

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

The 2018 Pankhurst Lecture, “2018 – A Year of Anniversaries”, was delivered on the evening of 8th February 2018 by Baroness Hale of Richmond DBE PC FBA, the first woman to become President of the Supreme Court. On the night, the University of Manchester, where Lady Hale taught law from 1966 to 1984, welcomed her […]

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

Women winning the right to enter the professions was an achievement “almost as important” as winning the vote, Baroness Hale has said. Speaking at the event “100 Years of Votes for Women: an LSE Law celebration”, a gathering also addressed by Baroness Shami Chakrabarti and Nicola Lacey, Baroness Hale traced the history of events from […]

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 […]

21st January 2018

An exclusive interview with Dorothy Livingston, the original inspiration behind the First 100 Years project. She was the first female partner of what was then Herbert Smith. She was promoted to equity partner whilst pregnant with her second child but believes it took her longer than her contemporaries to be promoted.

21st January 2018

14th November 2017

As part of the aims of the First 100 Years project, Spark 21 held the third annual conference providing a cross-sector platform to debate ‘Women Leaders in Law: a 21st Century Conversation’. The First Hundred Years in 2017 Dana Denis-Smith, the founder of First 100 Years and CEO of Obelisk Support, welcomed the event’s largest audience so […]

21st July 2017

Written by Dana Denis-Smith, founder of Spark21 and creator of the First 100 Years I was extremely privileged to have met Baroness Hale a few times in my legal career, both times part of our First 100 Years work, looking to document and archive the history of women in the legal profession. It is an […]

21st July 2017

Dame Jill Black’s appointment as Supreme Court judge will bring the number of women in the country’s highest court to two. Commenting on Lady Black’s appointment, First 100 Years founder Dana Denis-Smith told Legal Cheek that the judicial appointments represented “one of the most significant landmarks for women in law.” While noting the improvement in […]

21st July 2017

Baroness Brenda Hale of Richmond has been appointed President of the Supreme Court, the first woman to become the most senior judge in the UK. She will take up the role on 2 October 2017. A woman pioneer in law, Lady Hale has already broken the glass ceiling in the legal profession on several occasions. […]

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 […]

12th July 2017

Women were allowed entry into the legal profession in 1919 but the playing field remains unequal, almost a century later. Read about the women who are pushing for gender equality in The Guardian, featuring one of our very own First 100 Years champions, Funke Abimbola.

12th July 2017

In times gone by, access to the legal profession was governed by three factors: Gender, social class and wealth. In Scotland, 1901, Miss Margaret Howie Strang Hall petitioned the court asking to be admitted as a member of the then-termed Incorporated Society of Law Agents. The courts refused, referring to the Romans’ refusal to allow […]

5th July 2017

More women than men study law, receive training contracts and qualify as solicitors. However, the latest statistics published by Solicitors Regulation Authority indicate that only 33 per cent of partners across the UK are women. Emma Spitz, a director at the Executive Coaching Consultancy who has more than 12 years’ experience advising City law firms […]

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, […]

7th June 2017

In December 1919, the prohibition on women serving on juries in the United Kingdom was brought to an end. The Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919 was, itself, a compromise, with the government agreeing to lift various sex-based disqualifications but refusing to equalise the parliamentary franchise, or open membership of the Lords to women. And it […]

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 […]

11th May 2017

One of our student ambassadors from the University of Oxford, Wenyi Gaia Shen, discusses the current gender gap in university applications, with 100,000 more women applying to university than men. However, if we look more closely, the gender divide is reflected in the choice of subject, with maths and computer science being heavily male-dominated. __________________ […]

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 […]

18th April 2017

One of our student ambassadors, Ndifreke Ekaette, has been discussing the FHY project with a local school in Blackpool. The first of a series of meetings, Ndifreke tells FHY about her first event and the importance of talking to a younger generation about the history of women in law. _______________ Lawyers are a crucial part […]

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 […]

18th February 2017

We hosted a celebration party in support of the project attended by Lady Hale, the only woman on the UK Supreme Court, and Lord Neuberger, the president of the Supreme Court.

31st January 2017

Did you know that one of our FHY Professional Champions is the World Bank Group’s Senior Vice President and General Council? Sandie Okoro, appointed to the position in November 2016, previous worked for HSBC Global as their Global General Council and has devoted much of her time to improving diversity in the City. She has […]

1st December 2016

The First 100 Years Champions have been selected for their committment to furthering equality in Law and beyond. This week, two champions have been featured in the national media to advance the causes of diversity and equality in the profession. Barry Matthews has been a champion for diversity in Law throughout his career. He currently […]

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 […]

29th November 2016

We are delighted to announce the winner and finalists of the First 100 Years’ Inspirational Women in Law Award. From the huge number of nominations we received from all over the legal industry, the First 100 Years team and our brilliant panel of judges were able to narrow the competition down to five finalists, from […]

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 […]

17th November 2016

On November 9th 2016, Spark 21 and the First 100 Years project held their second annual conference to promote gender equality and diversity in the legal profession. They day was a great success, with 150 delegates from all over the country (and beyond!), and raised nearly £3,000 for the project – thanks to the generous […]

8th November 2016

Lady Hale speaks to the First 100 Years about her journey in law, her role models and the progression of women in the legal profession.

7th November 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. Keynote […]

31st 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. The […]

26th October 2016

As we look forward to the Annual Spark 21 Conference on 9 November 2016 at Simmons & Simmons LLP, we feature one of our Red Chair Interviews with Funke Abimbola from the 2015 Spark21 Conference. Please visit the website for more information on how to attend this year’s conference. The idea behind the Red Chair […]

24th 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. The […]

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 […]

10th 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. Panel […]

3rd 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. Panel […]

26th September 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. Panel […]

19th September 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. Opening […]

16th September 2016

In September 2016, Dana Denis-Smith, founder of the First 100 Years project, introduced the project to employees of a large multinational banking organisation. Her speech at the presentation was titled, Why We Must Not Succumb to “Diversity Fatigue’. The First 100 Years project started with a photograph. I happened to glance it as I browsed […]

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 […]

9th September 2016

The First 100 Years project hosted its annual reception at the Supreme Court, thus marking the amazing achievements of the last year in the presence of the country’s top judges – the Supreme Court President and Baroness Hale, the only woman on the Supreme Court.

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 […]

2nd September 2016

#OnTheRoll captures the story of how women were prevented from getting a job in the legal industry for decades, simply because there were no female toilet facilities at law firms and legal institutions. This unbelievable story has been printed on one hundred limited edition toilet rolls. You can purchase this special edition roll for £100. […]

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 […]

26th August 2016

June Venters QC, the first woman solicitor to be appointed a Queen’s Counsel, speaks to the First 100 Years about her journey in law. Her interview transcripts can be found here.

24th August 2016

Barry Matthews, deputy General Counsel at ITV, in conversation with Mrs June Foote, his school headmistress and a magistrate, who inspired him to succeed in life and train as a lawyer.

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 […]

10th August 2016

The elevated social status of peers in the House of Lords might conjure an image of rigid and old-fashioned hierarchy and, more specifically, patriarchy. In contrast, an idealisation of the apparently more modern Commons may create assumptions of equality and fairness between MPs. I went into Parliament with these preconceptions when I carried out ethnographic […]

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 […]

11th July 2016

On the recent donation of one of our #ontheroll artefacts, it was suggested by a librarian that First 100 Years look into the innovative and important work done by female legal librarians over the past century. This is a field that is very un-worked, and we welcome any contributions from legal librarians on your work […]

8th July 2016

Tensions over labour relations and frustration that social change was stagnating caused a backdrop of restlessness to this decade. The First World War shook the British nation to its core and led to unprecedented changes in political, legislative, and cultural structures. This was the epoch that saw the sinking of the unsinkable Titanic in 1915, […]

7th July 2016

Before women were permitted, from 1920 onwards, to serve on the grand and trial juries which were responsible for the final determination of a person’s guilt or liability, they had occasionally been empanelled on “juries of matrons”. The most common reason for such a jury to be put together was if, on being convicted of […]

6th July 2016

This piece gives a snapshot of the state of affairs in legal academia for women, what challenges are faced by female students of law, and what the consequences of these issues are for the legal profession. In 2014 over 50 senior Cambridge academics called on the university to change its staff appointment procedure because the […]

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 […]

4th July 2016

On this day, 4th July, 240 years ago, the Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence, establishing that 13 American colonies regarded themselves as a new nation. The Declaration came at the end of bloody revolutionary wars in America. The economic and political pressures associated with wartime resulted in the roles of women undergoing significant […]

1st July 2016

A tradition of strike action in the twentieth century resulted in legislative changes that shaped workers’ rights in Britain. This article briefly examines two successful strikes in Britain, 80 years apart, which were led by women. These two examples readjust the historical lens that traditionally sees change as initiated by men, instead drawing attention to […]

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 […]

27th June 2016

The fifth woman to sit in the Court of Appeal writes about the women in law who have inspired her during her career. In February 2013 she was called the 8th most powerful woman in Britain by Woman’s Hour. We are honoured to be featuring her fascinating story as part of the First 100 Years […]

27th June 2016

The first female jurors sat at the Bristol Quarter Sessions in 1920. These women were the first to step into a traditionally male role in the justice system. But there was in fact already a specifically female role in English common law, though it had become obsolete by the twentieth century, if not before. The […]

22nd June 2016

The First 100 Years project celebrates the right to enter the legal profession afforded by the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act in 1919. The year before, women were politically enfranchised by the Right to Vote. But how did the law in the twentieth century continue to influence how women spent their money? Money is one of […]

20th June 2016

Postcards provide an entertaining insight into popular imagination. Used by ‘ordinary’ people, as well as the ‘great men’ of history, the well-known images used on postcards reveal what appealed to contemporary tastes or interests. A flurry of propagandistic postcards circulating in the early twentieth century demonstrate what anxieties and hopes were also in circulation on […]

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 […]

13th June 2016

Due to her position as constitutional monarch, the Queen is more a woman above the law than a woman in law. Due to this position, Her Majesty has a unique relationship with the UK legal system, a relationship that can provoke both interest and criticism. This weekend the nation will celebrate the Queen’s 90th birthday, […]

8th June 2016

We interviewed Slaughter & May Corporate Partner Frances Murphy in December 2015. We were saddened to hear the news of her death on 25 May 2016. Legal Week have featured our film with her in which “Murphy discusses everything from her motivation for becoming a lawyer to her love of deals and the reality of […]

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

The UK’s supreme court should be “ashamed” if it does not radically improve its diversity in the next round of judicial appointments, according to its only female judge, Lady Hale. Read full story

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 […]

1st June 2016

Amelia Bloomer, American women’s rights advocate, gave her name to the emancipatory bloomer style of clothing because of her prestige as a spokesperson for women. Her newspaper, The Lily, promoted a change in dress standards, arguing that ‘the costume of women’ should be ‘suited to her necessities’. in 1851, Elizabeth Smith Miller, of New England, […]

1st June 2016

Interesting article by Rashmi Chopra on the Hanne & Co website. Introduction The recent campaign conducted by Ms Thorp, a receptionist at Price Waterhouse & Cooper (PwC), concerning the compulsory wearing of high heels at work raises issues concerning dress codes at work. Ms Thorp was sent home by her supervisor for not wearing high […]

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 […]

25th May 2016

‘A person shall not be disqualified by sex or marriage from the exercise of any public function, or from being appointed to or holding any civil or judicial post, or from entering or assuming or carrying on any civil profession or vocation.’ (Beginning of the Sexual Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919) In her 1938 essay ‘Three […]

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 […]

6th May 2016

It is fairly well known that the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919 abolished the previous bar on women serving as lawyers, judges or magistrates. What is less well known is that the 1919 Act also removed other bars to women’s formal inclusion in public life. It opened up much of the civil service to women, […]

8th March 2016

In 2004 Dame Linda Dobbs became the first black person appointed as judge of the High Court, commenting that she was confident that she was the first of many to come. In this iconic interview she describes her experiences of the legal world throughout her career.

8th March 2016

This short video captures the essence of the First 100 Years Project, featuring some of the trailblazing women who are being celebrated on the groundbreaking digital platform.

12th December 2015

First 100 Years organised a flagship event, the SPARK21 on 2nd November 2015, with confirmed keynote speaker Professor Dame Carol Black, and chair of the day Dame Jenni Murray from Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour. First 100 Years is a ground-breaking research project launched by Obelisk Support in partnership with the Law Society and the Bar […]

25th November 2015

The BSN, which published its first diversity league table in 2006, said its sample of firms in the early years had around one in five partners who were women and about 4% from a minority ethnic background.

25th November 2015

Charlotte Proudman - "I'm tired of members of the old boys' club telling me that quotas are 'patronising' to women while holding on to their privileged positions - especially in the legal profession"

25th November 2015

A lawyer who received the ‘Services to Law’ prize at the British Muslim Awards has said there is a “massive under-representation” of ethnic minority groups in the legal profession.

25th November 2015

Chakrabarti was born to Hindu-Bengali parents in the suburb of Kenton in the London Borough of Harrow. Her father, a bookkeeper, has been cited by Chakrabarti as an influence on her gaining an interest in civil liberties. She attended Bentley Wood High School, a girls’ comprehensive school, then Harrow Weald Sixth Form College.[4] Chakrabarti was […]

25th October 2015

Two women have been appointed as High Court judges for the first time in the history of the judiciary in Northern Ireland.

25th October 2015

Barrister Charlotte Proudman accused male solicitor of sexism after he described her photograph on the networking site LinkedIn as 'stunning'

22nd October 2015

Dr Mari Takayanagi writes for the First 100 Years project about some links between the women's suffrage movement and the campaign by women to enter the legal profession.

19th October 2015

First 100 Years is launching a campaign to fund the filming of 100 individual stories of leading women in law as it looks to build the UK’s first digital museum dedicated to the journey of women in the legal profession. This is a ground-breaking project that has the support of all corners of the profession.

19th October 2015

This month saw the launch of the First 100 Years’ In Conversation series, which brings together two leading lawyers from across the profession to talk about the key issues surrounding women in law. Our first event posed the question ‘How Can Innovation and Diversity Shape the Legal Profession’.

25th September 2015

Lord Sumption claims rushing to achieve equality could damage the judiciary

25th September 2015

Shocking levels of rampant sexism still exist among barristers “existing in a children’s playground” who know they can get away with “grossly disrespectful” comments, according to a major Bar Council report.

25th September 2015

Women who want to re-enter the world of work after having children are struggling, and business needs to do something about it

15th September 2015

The First 100 Years project was born out of a great need to highlight the certain invisibility and struggles that women in Law – and indeed across a myriad of professions – have faced. Since the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act of 1919, when women were permitted to join professions for the first time, pioneering women […]

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 […]

10th September 2015

The First 100 Years project is celebrating the centenary of the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919, which enabled women to become barristers, solicitors, jurors and magistrates. It’s not well known, however, that the Act might never have been passed at all if it hadn’t been prompted by a more radical private members’ bill. The government […]

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. […]

25th July 2015

We're in the second decade of the 21st century but there are still places where women will never be equal

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 […]

2nd June 2015

A guest post written by Matthew Holmes. The call to the Irish bar on the 1st of November 1921 was a historic one. It was the first call to the bar since the Irish Judiciary had been divided following our independence from England, it was also the first call to the bar anywhere in the […]

25th April 2015

The downward trend in the number of bar pupillages is continuing, reflecting a fall in the availability of work, statistics released by the bar’s regulator suggest.

25th April 2015

The Law Society’s latest Annual Statistics Report: Trends in the solicitors' profession, published today, provides an authoritative record of the numbers of practitioners and the types of organisations they work within in England and Wales.

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 […]

9th April 2015

This is a short trailer introducing the aims of the First 100 Years project, the UK’s pioneering digital space dedicated to the journey of women in law. Filmed on 12 March 2015, on the date of the official launch at the House of Lords.

25th March 2015

The future of London law firms will be threatened unless they speed up efforts to help women progress to their senior ranks, a report warned today.

12th March 2015

Grand portraits hang in the halls of our profession’s historic buildings – from the Law Society to the Inns of Court – and coherently chart the history of men in the legal profession over hundreds of years. They tell of imposing, confident, impressive individuals that have been some of the country’s leading names in law. […]

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 […]

25th February 2015

In a first for any legal profession in the world, female Irish solicitors now outnumber male solicitors practising in the country.

25th February 2015

Almost two-thirds of entrants into the Scottish legal profession are women, the Law Society of Scotland has said.

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 […]

11th December 2014

Baroness Janet Cohen talks to the First 100 Years about her journey in law.

25th November 2014

In a profession in which law firms struggle to retain female talent and establish gender parity at partner level, young female lawyers stand apart.

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 […]