2019 marks the centenary of the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919 which facilitated access to the legal profession for women.
Dr Judith Bourne, ambassador for the First 100 Years Project, spoke at Queen’s University Belfast on 8 March to reflect on this historic change and explore the story of Helena Normanton, the first woman to practice as a barrister in England. Normanton was the first woman to be admitted to an Inn of Court after the passing of the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919 and was called to the Bar in 1922. Normanton would go on to be one of two first women King’s Counsels and one of the few women to maintain a practice at the bar at this time.
Dr Bourne is a Senior Lecturer at St Mary’s University, Twickenham.
Judge Liz Goldthorpe delivered the 2019 Spring Discourse on the subject of Averil Deverell BL, the second woman called to the Bar of Ireland and the first to practice in the South. Deverell went down to the Law Library to practise in January 1922, and remained in practice until her retirement in 1969. She was among the first group of women graduates from Trinity College, University of Dublin, obtaining her law degree in 1915. She died in 1979 and in her will left a bequest setting up a lectureship in the Law School of Trinity College.
The Honourable Society of the King’s Inns holds an archive of Averil Deverill’s papers, details of which can be found here.
The Spring Discourse took place on Friday 22 February at the Law Society of Ireland, and was well-attended.