Celebrating a centenary for women in the law

To mark the centenary of Olive Clapham becoming the first woman to pass the English Bar Finals, the Law School’s legal history research cluster welcomed an international audience to Diversity, Dilemmas and Discoveries: Researching the history of women in the UK’s legal professions. The event recordings are now available as a YouTube playlist.

The opening session explored Olive Clapham’s life and significance, (also see below) with a unique opportunity to hear from her daughter Margaret Miles, who shared her memories and previously unseen pictures and documents. Caroline Derry then considered the importance of her achievements for women lawyers both past and present.

Building on themes raised in that session, two panels explored the rewards and challenges of writing feminist legal biographies, and professional identities beyond the white, male model. Carol Howells considered researching across the four nations of the UK, while Avis Whyte and Seema Kandelia discussed researching early ethnic minority women barristers. Judith Bourne, biographer of Helena Normanton, explored the relationship between biographer and subject. Using the lives of Elsie Bowerman and Chrystal Mamillan, Laura Noakes considered political activist lawyers; Carrie de Silva looked at early Sri Lankan women lawyers. The current situation for women in the legal profession was explored by Leona Samuda, speaking on Covid-19 and working from home.

Rosemary Auchmuty and Erika Rackley gave the closing plenary, on lessons from the Women’s Legal Landmarks Project: the interwar years.

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