Female legal stories will celebrate the centenary of women in law

Published: 15 April 2019

Legal professionals and schoolchildren are at the University of Glasgow today to help celebrate 100 years of women in law.

Madge Easton Anderson, Daily Record 16 December 1920 - Courtesy of The Mitchell Library, Glasgow 650

Legal professionals and schoolchildren are at the University of Glasgow today (Monday, 15 April) to help celebrate 100 years of women in law.

The University is very proud of the fact that the first female lawyer in the UK was a Glasgow graduate - Madge Easton Anderson.

She qualified to practise law in Scotland following the passage of The Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919 which allowed women to become lawyers for the first time. Anderson later became the first woman to qualify and practise in both Scotland and England, and was a partner in the first law firm in the UK to be run by only women.

At an exhibition event to mark the centenary, the University today celebrates Anderson and other women connected to law in Glasgow and Scotland while also raising awareness of the ongoing need to promote gender equality and diversity in the legal profession.

Joining them on the day will be Glasgow school pupils from Pollokshields Primary School and Hutchesons’ Grammar School where Anderson was educated. Also at the event will be law academics, students and members of the legal profession from across Scotland. Lady Wolffe, a Court of Session judge, will open the event; Lady Hale, judge and President of the Supreme Court, will offer closing remarks.

Maria Fletcher, Senior Law Lecturer at the School of Law, who is leading on the University’s centenary celebrations said: “Today more than half (51%) of those in the legal profession in Scotland are women. This conference will celebrate the woman who came before us and upon whose shoulders we stand today.

"The stories of pioneering women like Madge Easton Anderson should be told and re-told, to inspire future generations of school children and law students. A centenary on from legislation which paved the way for woman to become lawyers, we can’t be complacent. Access to the legal profession appears to be a gender battle won looking at today’s numbers, but career progression remains more challenging for women, and access to the sector for other groups – such as ethnic minorities and those from poorer backgrounds - remains a real problem.”

Seonaid Stevenson, co-founder of RebLaw Scotland and a research assistant on the project, said: “As a young female lawyer, I am inspired by the life of Madge Easton Anderson. I studied at the University where she studied and trained at the firm where she was an apprentice. I often reflect on how different our experiences must have been.

“Madge’s legacy reminds everyone that change can, and does, happen. But we have to continue to fight for and protect these rights.

“At the event today we will be asking everyone to commit to taking action of some sort. Every delegate will be asked to complete a card that reads ‘to champion equality, I pledge…’.”

The University’s School of Law event is supported by the First Hundred Years project (a history project charting the journey of women in law since 1919), the Law Society of Scotland and Dentons, whose legacy firm Maclay, Murray & Spens is where Anderson began her career in law.

As part of the celebrations of the centenary, the University is also gathering the ‘voices’ of 100 women associated with the School of Law to create a digital exhibition called 100 Voices for 100 Years. The project aims to capture the stories and aspirations of women, past and present: the exhibition was launched last week with stories from the first five female professors of law at the University of Glasgow - https://www.gla.ac.uk/schools/law/100years/

The First 100 Years is a ground-breaking history project, supported by the Law Society and the Bar Council, charting the journey of women in law since 1919. Read more on The First 100 Years project.

You can read Madge Easton Anderson (24 April 1896 - 1982) Glasgow story here.

First published: 15 April 2019

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