Monday, March 16, 2009

New Exhibit: Woman Solicitors in England

The Law Society announces the opening of the exhibit "From Minority to Majority: The Rise of Women in the Solicitors' Profession" in its Reading Room in Chancery Lane. According to the press release, the exhibit, which runs through March 24, draws upon "material from the Law Society's archive and library special collections, which date from 1646."
The exhibition highlights one of the earliest attempts by women to gain permission to sit the Law Society examinations and the implementation of the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919, which gave women equal access to the legal profession. The Act came into force following a five year battle by women to prove they were just as capable of performing traditionally male-dominated occupations. The Law Times noted on 1 February 1919 that "...the time is arriving when the doors of the Profession should be opened to all persons irrespective of sex."

The first four women to qualify as solicitors in 1922 were Maud Crofts, Carrie Morrison [pictured at left], Mary Pickup and Mary Sykes. After that date an average of thirteen women a year qualified between the years 1923-1943. The Law Society holds details about the gender of its solicitors going back to 1957 when there were 356 female solicitors with practising certificates. In just over fifty years that figure has grown to 47,070 female solicitors (or 43 per cent of the total profession).
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