The First Women Cohort Called to the Bar, 1922

Daily Mail for blog

On 22 November 1922 The Daily Mail published “Women’s Call to the Bar” in which ten women law students were “screened” for call.  To date, I have traced the careers of all but two, Naomi Constance Wallace and Lillian Maud Daws, of these women.  Some continued at the bar, some left to pursue a different life or career and others became twentieth-century legal pioneers.

Theodora Llewellyn-Davis, the first woman to be admitted to the Inner Temple on 9 January 1920 and called in 1922, becoming a junior in Theo Mathew’s Chambers until she married Rob Calvert in 1929.  She gave up practice and supported her husband in his campaign against the death penalty, continuing to work after his early death and combining penal reform with activity as a ‘poor man’s lawyer’ and magistrate in Surrey.[1]

Helena Florence Normanton, see the legal pioneers page.

Monica Mary Geikie Cobb continued to practice and was the first to hold an assize brief.  In 1922 she wrote an article, “Trial by Jury” for the Journal of Comparative Legislation and International Law.[2]

Auvergne Doherty was an overseas student from Australia.  She was admitted to Middle Temple in 1920 and called in 1922.  Doherty did not practise and returned to Australia where she became the manager of a cattle station; her father was a wool broker.[3]

Ethel Bright Ashford, admitted to Middle Temple 1920 and called 1922, achieved prominence in local politics.  She was a councillor in Marylebone as well as being very active in social work.[4]

Elsie Wheeler, admitted to Middle Temple 1920, called 1922 and practised at 5, Paper Buildings.[5]

Beatrice Davy admitted to Middle Temple, called 1922 to Inner Temple ad eundem 1926.  Beatrice stressed that “for a woman who must earn her own living the Bar is the very last profession in the world”, with this in mind, Davy went into the other branch and became a solicitor.[6]

Sybil Campbell, see the legal pioneers page.

Dr Ivy Williams, see the legal pioneers page.

[1] Patrick Polden, “Portia’s progress: women at the Bar in England”, 1919-1939, International Journal of the Legal Profession, 2007, 12:3, 293-338; The Guardian, 29 December 1988; The Times, 30 December 1988.

[2] Polden, 2007; Mary Jane Mossman, The First Women Lawyers: A Comparative Study of Gender, Law and the Legal Profession.  Oxford: Hart Publishing, 2006; Monica M. Geikie Cobb, “Trial by Jury”, Journal of Comparative Legislation and International Law, third series, Vol. 4, No. 4, 1922, p.210-217.

[3] The Times, 19 January 1961.  During 1919 – 1939, 91 overseas students (women and men) were called to the bar, from India, East Asia, West Indies, Europe, Irish Free State, North America, Australia, Africa and Middle East, see Polden, 2007, p.296.

[4] Polden, 2007.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Polden, 2007; J.A.R. Cairns, Careers for Girls (London: Hutchinson, 1928), p.53.


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