Full Time Practice

Friday, July 26, 2013

Pioneers: Some of the First Women Lawyers

On July 24th, in LDS communities, the Pioneer Trek across the United States was celebrated. As I thought about that, my mind shifted to other pioneers. Many of us know about the first women lawyers in our own part of the world. I thought you might be interested in finding out a little bit more about some in other parts of the world as well.

Clara Brett Martin
(The following information was taken from lawtimesnews.com. The information was published in The First Women Lawyers: A Comparative Study of Gender, Law and the Legal Professions by Mary Jane Mossman.)

Canada: Clara Brett Martin, was called to the Ontario bar in 1897. 

Arabella Babb Mansfield
United States: Arabella (Babb) Mansfield was admitted to the Iowa bar in 1869. The western states of the U.S. accepted some of the very earliest women lawyers, often with little formal record-keeping, while bar associations and law schools of the eastern states kept women out longer.

Jeanne Chauvin
Britain: No women formally became English barristers or solicitors until 1921-22. But Eliza Orme had all the credentials except the formal call and effectively practiced law from 1875.

France: Jeanne Chauvin was fully qualified by 1890, but was prevented from taking the avocat's oath until 1900.

Ethel Benjamin
New Zealand: Ethel Benjamin was called to the bar in 1897 but was largely isolated by her colleagues despite her acknowledged skills.

Italy: Lydia Poet had the qualifications by 1883 and practiced law from 1885. But Italian women were denied formal access to the profession until after the First World War.

India: Cornelia Sorabji, a Parsee, defended a murder charge in the Indian courts in 1896, but was denied full legal credentials on a variety of technicalities all her life.
Cornelia Sorabji

Here is an interesting observation from the lawtimesnews post:

Looking back from the early 21st century, it's striking how closely clustered these dates for the pioneer women lawyers now seem. The half century from 1870 to1920, less than one lifetime, saw women's first access to legal careers practically everywhere in the developed world. A tide was turning.

How grateful we are for them. How important it is for us to keep up that pioneering spirit in our effort to help others who will follow us.

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