The Law as a Profession for Women': A Century of Progress?

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Australian Feminist Law Journal. Volume 30, Issue 1 (2009), p. 131-145.


First Women Lawyers; law; legal profession; Profession; Retention of Women in Legal Profession; women


The inspiration for this paper was a short comment in the Commonwealth Law Review, entitled ‘The Law as a Profession for Women,’ published in March 1909. The author of the comment was Grata Matilda Flos Greig, a graduate of Melbourne Law School, who became the first woman in Australia to enter the legal profession when she was admitted to the bar in Victoria in 1905. A report in the press in 1907 suggested that Flos Greig had established ‘smart offices in the city, with tables strewn with papers, and a pretty typist steadily at work.’ A few years later, in March 1909, she published her views about law as a profession for women.This paper begins by reviewing Flos Greig’s comments about women’s suitability for the legal profession exactly one hundred years ago in 1909. It then turns to explore some of the patterns in the lives of other ‘first women lawyers’ in different jurisdictions at the beginning of the twentieth century. And finally, the paper briefly reflects on a recent initiative in Ontario, the Justicia Project, designed to foster the retention of women in the legal profession. As the paper suggests, patterns that initially created barriers to women’s admission to the bar in the early twentieth century may now be reflected in problems that result in contemporary women lawyers leaving the profession, a situation which suggests both change and continuity in the history of women in law.

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