Scottish Women in Law Timeline

If you would like to add a significant event to our timeline – please get in touch.  We are keen to ensure that this is an evolving piece of work, document pioneering women and their journeys in law in Scotland.

1896 – Madge Easton Anderson

1896 – Madge Easton Anderson was born in Glasgow, the youngest of three girls.  When she was born, her father was a cutlery salesman and then sold surgical instruments. Madge grew up in Pollokshields and went on to be educated at Hutchesons’ Girls’ Grammar School from 1904 – 1913, where she received a bursary to assist her with the purchase of school books.


1900 – Margaret Howie Strang Hall

1900 – Margaret Howie Strang Hall was the first woman to try to be admitted as a lawyer in Scotland.  She petitioned the Court of Session – aged only 18 – to be allowed to sit the Incorporated Society of Law Agents exams.  She was refused on the basis that the relevant legislation applied only to men, although the term ‘persons’ was used.  Women were not deemed to be ‘persons’ in this instance.


1908 – Nairn v University Courts of St Andrews and Edinburgh

1908 – The case of Nairn v University Courts of St Andrews and Edinburgh was argued in the House of Lords, having already failed in the Court of Session in 1907.  The case concerned female graduates who argued that they had the right to vote for the members of Parliament for those Universities.  The Representation of the People (Scotland) Act 1868 used the term ‘persons’ when referring to those who could vote in these circumstances.  The Court refused the appeal on the same basis that Margaret Howie Strang Hall had her petition refused – the Court held that the term ‘persons’ referred only to men. The appellants included Jessie Chrystal Macmillan, an Edinburgh University graduate, who was later called to the Bar in 1924.


1909 – Eveline MacLaren and Josephine Gordon Stuart first women law graduates

1909 – Eveline MacLaren and Josephine Gordon Stuart became the first women law graduates in Scotland.  The women graduated from the University of Edinburgh.  Neither were ever formally admitted as law agents.  For more information on Eveline and Josephine, see Prof. Hector L MacQueen, “Scotland’s First Women Law Graduates”


1912 – First women law students at the University of Glasgow

1912 – The first women students at the University of Glasgow started studying Law in 1912.


1913 – Madge begins her studies at the University of Glasgow

1913 – Madge began her studies at the University of Glasgow, graduating with an MA in 1916.


1917 – Madge begins studying at the Faculty of Law at UofG

1917 – Madge began studying at the Faculty of Law at the University of Glasgow, graduating with a Bachelor in Law (BL) on 8 November 1919 and an LLB in 1920. 

In 1917 she also began working for the Glasgow law firm Maclay Murray & Spens LLP (now merged with Dentons LLP). John Alexander Spens gave her the opportunity to train as an apprentice, as he suspected that women would soon be allowed to be admitted as law agents.


1918 – The Representation of the People Act is passed

1918 – The Representation of the People Act was passed.  The vote was given to women over the age of 30 who met a property qualification. 


1919 – The Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919 is passed

1919 – The Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919 allowed women to enter the legal profession for the first time.  It also allowed women to become jurors for the first time.  Section 1 of the Act simply states “A person shall not be disqualified by sex or marriage from the exercise of any public function, or from being appointed to or holding any civil or judicial office or post, or from entering or assuming or carrying on any civil profession or vocation, or for admission to any incorporated society (whether incorporated by Royal Charter or otherwise).”


1920 – Madge is admitted as a law agent in Scotland

1920 –Madge was admitted as a law agent in Scotland, making her the first woman in the UK to become a professional lawyer.  Her admission was not without its challenges.  Initially the intimation of her apprenticeship was not recognised on the basis that it began before the 1919 Act came into force.  She petitioned the Court of Session and the Court held that the intimation of her apprenticeship should be accepted and she should be allowed to sit the final Law Agent exam.  She was admitted later that year.


1921 – The first female jurors in Scotland are sworn in at Edinburgh Sheriff Court

1921 – The first female jurors in Scotland were sworn in at Edinburgh Sheriff Court on 10 March 1921.


1923 – Dame Margaret Henderson Kidd KC (King’s Counsel) becomes the first woman member of the Faculty of Advocates

1923 – Dame Margaret Henderson Kidd KC  (King’s Counsel) became the first woman member of the Faculty of Advocates.  Margaret Kidd was a graduate of the University of Edinburgh and was the first female advocate in the 391 year history of the Faculty. She was the only woman in the Faculty until 1948. 


1928 – Representation of the People (Equal Franchise) Act 1928

1928 – Representation of the People (Equal Franchise) Act 1928 gave women and men the right to vote on equal terms.


1930 – By the end of the year, 21 women have qualified to work as solicitors in Scotland

1930 – By the end of 1930, 21 women had qualified to work as solicitors in Scotland.


1937 – Madge qualifies as a solicitor in England

1937 – Madge qualified as a solicitor in England, making her the first woman to qualify in two jurisdictions in the UK.  She worked in partnership in London with two women – Edith Annie Berthan and Beatrice Honour Davy; believed to be the first law firm in the UK with an all female leadership.  They worked together until 1951.


1948 – Margaret Kidd is appointed King’s Counsel in Scotland

1948 – Margaret Kidd was appointed King’s Counsel in Scotland.  She was the first woman in the United Kingdom to take silk.


1948 – Isabel Sinclair becomes the second woman to join the Faculty of Advocates

1948 – Isabel Sinclair became the second woman to join the Faculty of Advocates.  She took silk in 1964.


1960 – Margaret Kidd becomes the first woman Sheriff Principal

1960 – Margaret Kidd became the first woman Sheriff Principal when she was appointed Sheriff Principal for Dumfries and Galloway.


1967 – The Abortion Act 1967

1967The Abortion Act 1967 legalised abortion in Scotland, England and Wales.  The Act did not apply to Northern Ireland.


1970 – The Equal Pay Act 1970

1970 – The Equal Pay Act 1970 gave women the right to be paid the same as their male counterparts.


1975 – The Sex Discrimination Act 1975

1975 – The  Sex Discrimination Act 1975 - now replaced by the Equality Act 2010 – gave women the right not to be discriminated against based on their sex or marital status.


1982 – Madge Easton Anderson dies on 9 August

1982 – Madge Easton Anderson died on 9 August 1982 in Perthshire.


1985 – The Prohibition of Female Circumcision Act 1985

1985The Prohibition of Female Circumcision Act 1985 was the first piece of legislation which made female genital mutilation (FGM) a crime in the UK.


1990 – The first female law Professors are appointed at the University of Glasgow

1990 – The first female law Professors were appointed at the University of Glasgow - Professor Noreen Burrows OBE and Professor Sheila McLean.  They were the first female law Professors in Scotland.


1992 – Professor Esin Örücü becomes the third female law Professor at Glasgow

1992 – Professor Esin Örücü became the third female Professor at the Glasgow School of Law when she was appointed Professor of Comparative Law in 1992.


1996 – Lady Cosgrove is the first permanent female appointment to the Court of Session

1996 – Lady Cosgrove was the first woman permanently appointed to the Court of Session.  Lady Cosgrove studied Law at the University of Glasgow, graduating with an LLB in 1966.


1999 – Lady Clark becomes the first woman to hold a Law Officer position in the UK

1999 – As part of UK’s devolution settlement, the role of the Advocate General for Scotland was created in 1999.  The first post holder was Lady Clark, Baroness Clark of Calton QC.  She was the first woman to hold a Law Officer position in the UK.  

 


2001 – Professor Olivia Robinson becomes the fourth female Professor at Glasgow

2001 – Professor Olivia Robinson became the fourth female Professor at Glasgow’s School of Law when she was appointed Douglas Professor of Civil Law.


2001 – Dame Elish Angiolini QC becomes the first woman Solicitor General for Scotland

2001 – On 5 December 2001, Dame Elish Angiolini QC became the first woman Solicitor General for Scotland.  She was also the first Procurator Fiscal and the first solicitor to hold this post.  She grew up in Govan – the daughter of a coal merchant – and obtained her degree from the University of Strathclyde.

 


2003 – Lady Cosgrove becomes the first woman appointed to the Inner House of the Court of Session

2003 – Lady Cosgrove became the first woman appointed to the Inner House of the Court of Session.


2004 – Lady Hale became the first woman Lord of Appeal in Ordinary

2004 – Lady Hale became the first woman Lord of Appeal in Ordinary. On being appointed to the House of Lords she created a coat of arms bearing the motto Omnia Feminae Aequissimae, meaning “women are equal to everything”.  She was given an honorary degree by the University of Glasgow in 2011.


2005 – Caroline Flanagan becomes the first female President of the Law Society of Scotland

2005 – Caroline Flanagan became the first female President of the Law Society of Scotland

 


2005 – The Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation (Scotland) Act 2005

2005 – The Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation (Scotland) Act 2005 (which repealed the 1985 Act) made it a crime to have FGM carried out in Scotland or abroad.


2006 – Dame Elish Angiolini becomes the first female Lord Advocate in Scotland

2006 – Dame Elish Angiolini became the first female Lord Advocate in Scotland.


2006 – Professor Elizabeth B Crawford becomes the fifth female Law Professor at Glasgow

2006 – Professor Elizabeth B Crawford was appointed Professor of International Private Law – the fifth female Law Professor at Glasgow's School of Law.  Portraits of the first 5 female law Professors now hang in the School of Law.

 

 


2009 – Lorna Jack becomes The Law Society of Scotland’s first female chief executive

2009 – Lorna Jack became The Law Society of Scotland’s first female chief executive

 


2010 – The Equality Act 2010

2010The Equality Act 2010, brings together anti-discrimination law in one statute to protect people from discrimination in society and the workplace.

 


2011 – The Forced Marriage etc. (Protection and Jurisdiction) (Scotland) Act 2011

2011 The Forced Marriage etc. (Protection and Jurisdiction) (Scotland) Act 2011 creates a remedy known as a Forced Marriage Protection Order which aims to protect people from being forced into a marriage or to protect those who have been forced into a marriage.


2014 – Nicola Sturgeon MSP becomes the first female First Minister of Scotland

2014 – Nicola Sturgeon MSP became the first female First Minister of Scotland.  Sturgeon studied law at the University of Glasgow and worked as a solicitor in a Glasgow law centre until she was elected to the Scottish Parliament.


2015 – Female solicitors now outnumber male counterparts in Scotland

2015 – The Law Society of Scotland reports that, for the first time, there are more women than men solicitors in Scotland - with 51% of practising solicitors being women


2016 – Lady Dorrian QC becomes the first female Lord Justice Clerk

2016 – Lady Dorrian QC was appointed to the role of Lord Justice Clerk, the first woman to hold this role.  This appointment made her the most senior female judge in Scottish history.  On her appointment she said, “It is a great honour to be the first woman, the first of many I have no doubt, to be appointed to this great office.”


2016 – Lady Wolffe QC is the first woman appointed as a Commercial Judge in Scotland

2016 – Lady Wolffe QC was the first woman appointed as a Commercial Judge in Scotland.


2017 – Nicola Irvine is the first woman elected Dean of the Royal Faculty of Procurators in Glasgow

2017 – Nicola Irvine was the first woman elected Dean of the Royal Faculty of Procurators in Glasgow.  She is the first female Dean in the RFPG’s 349-year history.


2017 – Lady Hale becomes the first woman President of the UK Supreme Court

2017 – Lady Hale was appointed first woman President of the UK Supreme Court.


2018 – Anna Poole QC is appointed a Judge of the Upper Tribunal, Administrative Appeals Chamber

2018 – Anna Poole QC was appointed a Judge of the Upper Tribunal, Administrative Appeals Chamber.  She was appointed on “family friendly” terms of a four-day week and term-time working.


2018 – The Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018

2018 – The Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018 redefines domestic abuse to cover a broader range of behaviour, including, psychological abuse and controlling behaviour. 


2019 – Jill Carrick becomes the first woman Dean of the Faculty of Procurators in Greenock

2019 – Jill Carrick was appointed the first ever woman Dean of the Faculty of Procurators in Greenock.  She is the first woman Dean in its 203 year history.