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The First Women Lawyers

A Comparative Study of Gender, Law and the Legal Professions

By: Mary Jane Mossman
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Published: 31-05-2006
Format: PDF eBook (?)
Edition: 1st
Extent: 342
ISBN: 9781847310958
Imprint: Hart Publishing
RRP: £35.09
Online price : £28.07
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About The First Women Lawyers

This comparative study explores the lives of some of the women who first initiated challenges to male exclusivity in the legal professions in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. Their challenges took place at a time of considerable optimism about progressive societal change, including new and expanding opportunities for women, as well as a variety of proposals for reforming law, legal education, and standards of legal professionalism. By situating women's claims for admission to the bar within this reformist context in different jurisdictions, the study examines the intersection of historical ideas about gender and about legal professionalism at the turn of the twentieth century. In exploring these systemic issues, the study also provides detailed examinations of the lives of some of the first women lawyers in six jurisdictions: the United States, Canada, Britain, New Zealand and Australia, India, and western Europe. In exploring how individual women adopted different legal arguments in litigated cases, or devised particular strategies to overcome barriers to professional work, the study assesses how shifting and contested ideas about gender and about legal professionalism shaped women's opportunities and choices, as well as both support for and opposition to their claims. As a comparative study of the first women lawyers in several different jurisdictions, the book reveals how a number of quite different women engaged with ideas of gender and legal professionalism at the turn of the twentieth century.

Table Of Contents

Introduction The First Women Lawyers
Prologue: Contemporary Questions about Women as Lawyers
Rethinking the First Women Lawyers: Themes of Gender, Professionalism and Women's Lives
Toward a Comparative History: Introducing the First Women Lawyers
1 American Pioneers: The First Women Lawyers
A Century of Struggle
The Context for the First Women Lawyers: New Ideas about Women's Equality and Legal Professionalism
Constitutionalising (In)Equality for Women Lawyers
Women's Rights and Professional Identities
2 Women Lawyers in Canada: Becoming Lawyers 'On the Same Terms as Men'
Women as 'Fellow Lawyers'
The Context for the First Women Lawyers in Canada: Reformist Ideas about Professionalism and Women's Roles
'Persons,' Pronouns, and Policy Choices: Judicial Reasoning in French and Langstaff
Contested Ideas: New Women and Legal Professionalism
3 'Sound Women' and Legal Work: The First Women in Law in Britain
Women's Access to the Legal Professions in Britain
Eliza Orme: Challenging 'Woman's Sphere' and a 'Gentleman's Profession'
A Woman in Law in the Public Sphere
Eliza Orme and the Gender Issue
4 Colonies of the British Empire: The First Woman Lawyer in New Zealand
Women Lawyers in the Colonies
Ethel Benjamin
A 'Rebel [Extending] the Boundary of the Right'?
5 The Empire and British India: The First Indian Woman 'In Law'
A Woman Pleading in a British Court in India: 1896
Becoming a Woman in Law in India
Cornelia Sorabji: 'No Peer Among the Women of India'
6 European Connections: Women in Law and the Role of Louis Frank
La Femme-Avocat and European Women Lawyers
Lydia Poët, Marie Popelin and Jeanne Chauvin: Louis Frank's Support for Women in Law
The Context of L'Affaire Chauvin
Conclusion Reflecting on the First Women Lawyers


“Mossman's The First Women Lawyers offers a pinnacle achievement, both in depth of biographical and legal case inquiry and in scope of comparative cross-national research. For scholars of the legal profession, and gender and the professions more generally, The First Women Lawyers is simply required reading…offers tremendous breadth of cross-national research and refined precision through detailed individual biographies, blended together in a masterful work. Extricating patterns across countries, time, lives, and laws is a monumental undertaking. Mossman succeeds formidably, and her meticulous comparative analyses reveal several compelling patterns…offers a wealth of new insights and resolutely challenges established views held by several scholars of women in the legal profession...does much to advance our understanding of the culture of the legal profession and women's challenges to male exclusivity during the past two hundred years...Mossman...provides the most ambitious cross-national comparative and historical work on women lawyers to date.” –  Fiona M. Kay, Osgoode Hall Law Journal, Vol. 45, No. 2

“…a thoughtful exploration…it fits well alongside..the contemporary accounts of women lawyers at the turn of the 21st century…” –  Erika Rackley, Feminist Legal Studies

“It is a compelling story both scholars and the general population should be able to appreciate. In addition, the book is particularly well suited for those interested in comparative scholarship, gender issues, and of course, law and politics…It is one thing to write a scholarly work, and another to write in a manner that makes the experience both informative and enjoyable. Mossman clearly does the latter while holding true to comparative and historical institutionalist methodology.” –  Jennifer Woodward, Law and Politics Book Review, Vol.17 No.2

“I recommend this as a text for graduate students in women studies or legal history; as a text for further reading for undergraduate studies in colleges and universities, particularly in the areas of organizational behaviour or human resources. It is an edifying and informative read for feminists.” –  Patricia DeGuire, Voices, Vol 13, No 2

“Some of the most interesting insights of Mossman's work involve her identification of those historical aspects of women's entry into the law that shaped and continue to impact the way the profession is conducted today.” –  Sara Gottlieb, German Law Journal, No 3

“...a rich historical treasure trove in which one can find lots of theoretical and evidential jewels…[Mossman's] assiduous approach to research, combined with her wide knowledge of previous work on women's entry into the legal profession, has enabled her to make useful cross-cultural comparisons and new theoretical points.” –  Dr Paula Bartley, Women's History Magazine, Issue 57

“In its identification of important themes and issues, no less than its careful study of hitherto neglected sources, Mossman's book offers an invaluable and very readable contribution.” –  Rosemary Auchmuty, The Journal of Legal History, 28:2

“The First Women Lawyers is a lively account of remarkable women who became the first women to practice law in their regions
The breadth and detail of this work develops themes of gender and professionalism on a global scale, while remaining true to the lives and spirits of these women.
The issues raised … establish and important context to the issues we face today in the professions.

” –  Linda Gehrke, Journal of Law and Social Policy, Volume 22

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