She was followed shortly after in early 1923 by three others – Maud Isabel Crofts, Mary Elizabeth Pickup, and Mary Elaine Sykes. Just nine years before, the Bebb v Law Society case had confirmed that women were not allowed to join the profession. However, the 1919 Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act at last opened up the profession, allowing women to be eligible to practice.
The legal profession was years ahead of other professions, including architecture, veterinary surgery, chartered accountancy, naval architecture, and scientific engineering. By late 1922 there were 60-70 women training to become solicitors, many of these female pioneers were the daughters of country solicitors, who either had no sons or lost them in WW1. By the end of 1922, hundreds of women were sitting as magistrates and 11 women had been called to the bar. These four women solicitors were hailed as legal trailblazers and shared the limelight, only to be entirely forgotten for most of their careers – and beyond.
The legacy of the first four women to practice law in England and Wales, has inspired generations of women who have come after them. While the legal profession has made significant progress (52.6% of solicitors currently on the roll are women), the work – to achieve gender equality in legal leadership and provide equal opportunities for women to progress in the legal workplace continues.
Read more about these trailblazing women here