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First Women Lawyers in Great Britain and the Empire Symposia at St Mary's

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‘Those Who Tried and “Failed” and the quasi-lawyers’

The First Women Lawyer’s Symposia held its second symposium on Thursday 30 June 2016 at St Mary’s University, Twickenham and was very grateful to the SLS and Obelisk for generously supporting the refreshments. The aim of the symposia is to unite researchers and scholars in this area to both explore and record the journey of those first women lawyers. This year we produced our first output, the first volume of our annual journal, The First Women Lawyers in Great Britain and the Empire Record. This journal records the struggle of women who attempted to join the legal profession pre-1919 and those who subsequently went on to practice law after 1919. Their struggle demands recording as those women influenced the course of history. They are an essential part of women’s struggle for legal equality; an on-going struggle. Twenty-four delegates attended the second symposium. Three plenary papers were presented by Dr Cheryl Law, Dr Anne Logan (University of Kent) and Professor Leslie Howsam (via Skype from the University of Windsor, Canada). Professor Kim Rubenstein also delivered her paper via Skype from ANU College of Law, Australia. The remaining papers were given by Funke Abimbola (practising solicitor with Roche), Charlotte Coleman, Dr Alana Harris (KCL), Maya Evans (KCL), Alison Lindsay (National Records of Scotland), Dr Frances Burton (Buckinghamshire New University), Ros Wright (Barrister and Bencher, Middle Temple) Dr Caroline Derry (London Metropolitan University), Professor Rosemary Auchmuty (University of Reading) and Judith Bourne (St Mary’s University, Twickenham). It was both an exciting and stimulating day with thirteen papers delivered on those who tried and ‘failed’: Dr Letitia Fairfield, Margaret Hall, Ruth Ginsberg, Eliza Orme, Ethel Bright Ashford, Miss Bebb and Bertha Cave. Other papers also looked at the historical context of these ‘failures’, historians’ perspectives of the 1919 legislation, why the first women magistrates’ matter and the very early women lawyers. The day finished with a wine reception sponsored by Obelisk Legal Support Solutions Ltd, followed by a light supper in the Senior Common Room. Next year’s symposium will take place at St Mary’s University on Thursday 29 June 2017 (tbc) and will focus on: ‘Individual Struggles of the “Successful” – Williams, Morrison, Normanton and the rest of the 1922 cohort’. Papers are particularly welcomed from contributors on: Monica Mary Geikie Cobb (first woman to hold a brief), Auvergne Doherty, Naomi Constance Wallace, Elsie May Wheeler, Lillian Maud Dawes, Beatrice Honor Davy, any of the first women solicitors and first women lawyers from other countries in order to place the campaigns in England and Wales in an international context.   After 2017 the timetable will run as follows: June 2018 Symposium: “The Road to 1919”. This meeting would celebrate the anniversary of the vote and look at its effect on the road to the 1919 legislation. It will explore the extent to which it gave impetus to women such as Normanton to make renewed attempts to join the profession in 1918. 2019 Celebrations: Symposium: Thursday February 7 2019 to be held at Middle Temple (continuing the theme of the road to 1919 and a celebration of the Act which received Royal Assent on December 23 1919), and Celebration Dinner at Middle Temple Hall Saturday January 11 2020 (centenary of the first women Bar students’ first dinner) and exhibition opening. June 2020 Symposium: 'Legacy' June 2021 Symposium: ‘The other women lawyers that history has, at best forgotten, at worst ignored’ 2022 Celebration of the November 1922 Call night (Thursday 17 November)   Please contact Judith Bourne to submit papers for the 2017 symposium or for a copy of the ‘The First Women Lawyers in Great Britain and the Empire Record’ (priced £8.99): Judith.bourne@stmarys.ac.uk, 0208 240 8224, @1919lawpioneers.
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