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.
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.
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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, […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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, […]
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 […]
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 […]
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
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 […]
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 […]
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, […]
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 […]
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 […]
This week we heard the sad news that Frances Murphy – the former corporate head at Slaughter and May - has died after a long illness.
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 […]
‘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 […]
By Alice Ackernley (née Gutteridge) Scene: Christmas Day, 1980 Me (aged 5): [throws ball 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 2019. Me, mother of two, […]
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, […]
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.
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 […]
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.
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"
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.
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. Chakrabarti was […]
Barrister Charlotte Proudman accused male solicitor of sexism after he described her photograph on the networking site LinkedIn as 'stunning'
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.
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’.
Lord Sumption claims rushing to achieve equality could damage the judiciary
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.
Women who want to re-enter the world of work after having children are struggling, and business needs to do something about it
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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. […]
We're in the second decade of the 21st century but there are still places where women will never be equal
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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.
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 […]
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.
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. […]
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 […]
In a first for any legal profession in the world, female Irish solicitors now outnumber male solicitors practising in the country.
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 […]
Baroness Janet Cohen talks to the First 100 Years about her journey in law.
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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. […]
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 […]
Baroness Hale claims male colleagues have concerns about changing the application and hiring process
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. […]
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. […]
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 – […]
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 […]
Ada Summers was the first female magistrate, one of the first women in England to become a Justice of the Peace and was the first female councillor, mayor and freeman of Stalybridge. Born Ada Jane Broome in 1861, Summers was elected as a councillor in Stalybridge in 1912, representing the Liberal Party, years before women […]
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 […]
Gwyneth Bebb was a 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, […]
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 […]
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, […]
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 […]
To change the future, first celebrate the past Dana Denis-Smith talks about what inspired the First 100 Years Project: A wonderful group image captured my imagination in 2013 – it was a photograph of the partners of city law firm Herbert Smith (now Herbert Smith Freehills) dating from 1982, marking the firm’s centenary at Grocer’s […]
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 […]
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 […]
This article is about the recognition of the First 100 Year Project, some information about Obelisk Support, the progress made so far with getting women into law, and Dana’s thoughts regarding this.
The legal establishment still looks like it is stuck in the Victorian era, the new justice minister has claimed as he announces a drive to boost the number of female and ethnic-minority barristers.