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By: Hilary Heilbron QC
Media of ROSE QC
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Published: 07-11-2019
Format: Paperback
Edition: 1st
Extent: 416
ISBN: 9781509933631
Imprint: Hart Publishing
Dimensions: 234 x 156 mm
RRP: £12.99
Online price : £11.69
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Loren Epson


Re-issued in paperback to mark the centenary of legislation enabling women to enter the professions for the first time in the United Kingdom.

Rose Heilbron QC (later Dame Rose Heilbron), was an English barrister, who became a world famous icon of the 1950s and 1960s. She was one of the two first women King's Counsel (later Queen's Counsel) in 1949 and the first senior woman Judge in England in 1956 when she became Recorder of Burnley. This biography, written by her daughter Hilary, also a barrister and Queen's Counsel, charts her rise to prominence and success against the odds, excelling as an advocate and lawyer and later as only the second female High Court Judge in a career spanning nearly 50 years. She broke down many barriers with a string of firsts in the legal profession. She became a pioneer for women at the English Bar and for women generally, championing many women's causes in an era when it was not fashionable to do so.

The biography highlights her role as an inspiring and successful defence advocate in many famous and fascinating cases as well as in cases of great legal importance. These include the Cameo murder case in 1950; the trial of Devlin and Burns for capital murder; the representation of the striking Liverpool Dockers in a case of national importance; the defence of the notorious London gangster, Jack Spot; and the representation, in an early anti-discrimination case, of the world renowned cricketer, Learie Constantine.

Also chronicled are her years as a High Court Judge and the wide range of other legal and non-legal activities she undertook as a result of her fame including her appointment by the government in 1975 to chair an Advisory Committee on Rape.

With the added insights and recollections of her daughter it portrays a multi-dimensional picture of the young and beautiful Rose Heilbron - barrister, judge, working wife and mother - who not only managed to combine these public and private roles in an era when to do so was extremely rare, but who did so with the combination of warmth, flair and determination which was to make her an internationally acclaimed role model for women.

Many people over the years have wanted to write about her; this is the first authorised biography.

From the Foreword by Cherie Blair QC
'[an] inspirational pioneer...But it wasn't her novelty that made Rose's career at the Bar such a glittering success. She broke the mould because she was a brilliant advocate and a master of her brief...Rose's daughter gives us in this book a personal and warm insight into Rose, the advocate, with a comprehensive account of a glittering variety of her legal cases from the notorious to the more mundane...the working mum who always found time for her family and...who cared about equality and justice for other women...'

Table Of Contents

Chapter 1 – Childhood
Chapter 2 – Liverpool University and Gray's Inn
Chapter 3 – Becoming a Barrister
Chapter 4 – Developing a Practice at the Bar
Chapter 5 – The End of the War and Marriage
Chapter 6 – Becoming a Mother and Taking Silk
Chapter 7 – The Cameo Murder Trials
Chapter 8 – Adjustment to Motherhood and in Demand as a Speaker
Chapter 9 – Getting into her Stride in Silk
Chapter 10 – Welcome and Unwelcome Publicity and Another Famous Murder Trial
Chapter 11 – A Series of High-Profile Cases
Chapter 12 – Rose Cements Her Reputation
Chapter 13 – A Series of Triumphs-On the Brink of Legal History Once More
Chapter 14 – An Unwitting Public Persona
Chapter 15 – First Woman Recorder and a Trip to Benin
Chapter 16 – Premieres, Parades, Parklands and Practice
Chapter 17 – A Flourishing Practice and a Royal Invitation to Lunch
Chapter 18 – Some New Experiences
Chapter 19 – Temporary Disappointments and Long-Term Achievements
Chapter 20 – Another Landmark Case
Chapter 21 – The Last Years at the Bar
Chapter 22 – The Start of Judicial Life
Chapter 23 – The Rape Report and More Honours
Chapter 24 – Settling into Judicial Life
Chapter 25 – The Final Years before Retirement
Chapter 26 – Retirement


“...[A] trailblazer for women. Hilary Heilbron's biography of her mother,...tastes of postwar Britain like the rock sold on Rhyl beach by one of Rose's clients who was accused of breaching rationing orders. In an age of true austerity and deprivation, an attractive young woman achieves celebrity status through her advocacy skills and the acres of newsprint (invariably under a headline describing her as a Portia) that they provoked...Hilary Heilbron's entertaining book captures the legal and social atmosphere in which her mother climbed to the top of her profession and started the process (still continuing) of removing the barriers against women.” –  David Pannick, The Times

“Rose Heilbron was one of the most prominent and influential English lawyers of the past century....Hilary Heilbron adds intimate and vivid touches to the portrait of the private Rose as wife, mother, home- and holiday-maker which no other author could (or maybe would) have essayed. But it was the public Rose who inspired a new generation of female advocates; and if more than half of those called to the Bar this year are women, she can claim the posthumous credit. The young Margaret Thatcher, when a Bar student, presciently praised Rose as a role model in an article in the Sunday Graphic; she was indeed as much a pioneer in the field of law as Lady Thatcher was in the field of politics. The author is properly proud of her mother and in this book, which supplies a necessary chapter in legal history, she has done her proud.” –  Michael Beloff, Times Literary Supplement

“Any aspiring lawyer should read... the wonderfully written account of the extraordinary life of Rose Heilbron...who became England's first female judge. ....She was without question before her time, blazing a trail now followed by countless other women....Her story has everything a good book should have: murder, mystery, suspense, courage, determination and, finally, ultimate the face of seemingly unsurmountable obstacles.....a story of a woman who...rewrote the rules, before the late Mrs Thatcher ever ventured into the House of Commons as [an] MP....This is the story of a woman to make all women proud.” –  Louis Flannery, Partner & Head of International Arbitration at Stephenson Harwood, New Law Journal

“Star who raised the Bar...this biography of an extraordinary woman...Rose Heilbron was the Margaret Thatcher of the law, a woman who broke through the glass ceiling by sheer force of personality and talent...The list of firsts in Rose's career was unique...This lucidly written and gripping a fitting filial memorial to a great woman.” –  Jonathan Goldberg QC, The Jewish Chronicle

“It is impossible to overplay the pioneering achievements of Rose Heilbron, who was made a Dame of the British Empire in 1974” –  Paddy Shennan, Liverpool Echo

“Through the personal recollections of her daughter we are given an insight into the private face of this very public, internationally acclaimed personality who demonstrated so impressively what a woman could achieve in the law.” –  Rt Hon Lady Cosgrove, Journal of the Law Society of Scotland

“The book has an enjoyable balance between Rose Heilbron's professional life and the relationships that she had as a wife, mother and friend ….Rose Heilbron's career was truly remarkable and her success laid the foundations for many other women to join the interesting and inspiring read about a fascinating life.” –  Catherine Brown, Counsel Magazine

“…this biography is a highly readable account of an extraordinary individual and is thoroughly recommended...These well-written pages provide a detailed and masterfully woven account of the life and times of an advocate who blazed a trail for so many others…Setting aside her gender, this biography is a study of the success of a good citizen, a great lawyer and judge.” –  Justice Gilles Renaud, Law Society Journal

“Hilary's warm and meticulously researched biography of her mother Rose is the definitive tribute to a truly remarkable woman, wife, mother, barrister, judge and Treasurer...I commend this book to you.” –  Master Heather Steel, GRAYA, No. 126

“Rose's story -- related in affectionate detail by her daughter Hilary, also a QC -- is one of a life well lived; full of incident, insight and achievement, as well as family life and fun - and yes, the more than occasional setback and disappointment....The biography certainly deserves pride of place in anyone's professional or home library.” –  Phillip Taylor, Richmond Green Chambers,

“This book will be of real interest to many who are, or who have ever been, in practice on the Northern Circuit.” –  Christine Bispham, In Brief, Magazine of the Northern Circuit

“The delight of this biography is the balance between the chronological account of the sensational or legally significant cases in which Rose Heilbron was involved and the background of the society in which these dramas were played out...[Hilary] writes with great warmth and knowledge, and from a unique position, of what it took for her mother to achieve such success.” –  Elizabeth Slade, The Brown Book

“This book is affectionate but also fact-intensive, as we say on this side of the Pond. It is an inspiring narrative of Heilbron's journey through the world of Britain's elite counselors and jurists…This book is both a history and a celebration, and is a good read during the centennial year of its subject's birth.” –  Richard C. Cahn, Journal of the American Trial Lawyers Association, Fall 2014

“Rose did not set out to break barriers, yet she wanted women, including working mothers, to have the same opportunities as men... Now women make up half of entrants to the profession and a woman holds the UK's highest judicial post. Yet Rose Heilbron, her daughter notes, would be the first to say there is some way to go.” –  Frances Gibb, The Times

“Drawing on her own diaries, correspondence, transcripts of cases, and newspaper articles, Hilary has written an elegant and absorbing chronicle of her mother's extraordinary life... Hilary's diligence is evident on every page of her meticulously researched and gracefully written book that provides a window into the world of a trailblazing woman lawyer who changed the landscape for all those who followed her.” –  John Fellas, Hughes Hubbard & Reed, New York Dispute Resolution Lawyer

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