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Quiet Rebels

A History of Ontario Women Lawyers

By Mary Jane Mossman
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Hardcover : 9781771125925, 460 pages, April 2024

Table of contents

Preface

 

Prologue

Telling the Stories of Women Becoming Lawyers in Ontario

Toronto 1927: “A Toast to the Future of Women in Law”

Gender and History: Women and the “Gentleman’s Profession” of Law

Gender and Biography: The “Woman Question,” Puzzles, and Silences

Women Lawyers: Connecting the Past and the Present

Researching the Stories of Women Lawyers

  

PART ONE
THE FIRST WOMEN LAWYERS: MAKING HISTORY

Women in Law: An International Movement

 

Chapter One

Challenging Male Exclusivity in the Canadian Legal Professions, 1897–1918

The Canadian Context at the Turn of the Century

The “First” Women Lawyers in Canada

A Legacy of Gendered Precedents and Patterns

 

Chapter Two

After Clara Brett Martin: Ontario’s Early Women Lawyers

New Challenges in the Legal Profession

Challenging Ontario’s “Gentlemen’s Profession”

A Kaleidoscope of Patterns and Puzzles

 

 

PART TWO

OPPORTUNITIES AND BARRIERS: THE INTERWAR YEARS, 1919–39

After the First World War: A “Turning Point” for Women?

 

Chapter Three

Pioneers and Prejudice: After the War, 1919–29

 

Chapter Four

“Unlimited Possibilities”? The Depression Years, 1930–39

 

One Hundred Women Lawyers: “A Meagre, If Resourceful, Handful”

 

 

PART THREE

GENDERED LEGAL CONTEXTS: WAR AND POST-WAR REFORMS, 1940–57

Women Lawyers in War and Peace: Progress and Stasis

 

Chapter Five

“Gendered Hierarchies and Relations of Power”, 1940–49

 

Chapter Six

Transitions in Law and Legal Education, 1950–57

 

Achievements on the Margins of the Legal Profession

 

 

PART FOUR

AFTER 1957: CHANGING GENDER PATTERNS

Continuity or Transformation?

 

The Accreditation of University Law Schools

A Surge in Numbers and Second-Wave Feminism

Transformations in Legal Practice and Professional Culture

Diversifying the Bar

 

Women Lawyers: Still at the Margins?

 

 

Epilogue

A Legacy of Gendered Patterns

“Quiet Rebels”

The WLAO “Toast to the Future” 1927: Rewriting History?

 

 

Appendix: Statutes in Canada re the Admission of Women as Lawyers

Selected Bibliography

Index of Names of Women Lawyers

Index of Subjects

Description

“It’s a girl!” As the Ontario press announced, Canada’s first woman lawyer was called to the Ontario bar in February 1897. Quiet Rebels explores experiences of exclusion among the few women lawyers up to 1957, and how their experiences continue to shape gender issues in the contemporary legal profession.

Author Mary Jane Mossman tells the stories of all 187 Ontario women lawyers 1897-1957, revealing the legal profession’s gendered patterns. As a small handful at the Law School, (sometimes the only woman), they were often ignored, and they faced discrimination in obtaining articling positions and legal employment. Most were Protestant, white, and middle-class, and a minority of Jewish, Catholic, and immigrant women lawyers faced even greater challenges. The book also explores some changes, as well as continuities, for the much larger numbers of Ontario women lawyers in recent decades.

This longitudinal study of women lawyers’ gendered experiences in the profession during six decades of social, economic, and political change in early twentieth-century Ontario identifies factors that created – or foreclosed – women lawyers’ professional success. The book’s final section explores how some current women lawyers, in spite of their increased numbers, must remain “quiet rebels” to succeed.

Reviews

Mary Jane Mossman has produced an extraordinary work of scholarship in excavating the details of the 187 women called to the Ontario Bar between 1897 and 1957, as their lives were formerly entombed in silence. While we are familiar with the resistance of the ‘gentleman’s profession’ towards the entry of women, the struggles undergone by individual women to establish a career are less well known. The wealth of detail in this book relating to the impact of class, race, religion, family connections, as well as marriage and children, augments our knowledge of the sustained history of gender injustice in law.

- Margaret Thornton, Emerita Professor, Australian National University

This brilliant and innovative ‘group biography’ of pioneering women lawyers in Ontario gives voice to those mostly overlooked women. In doing so, it also sensitively explores the still elusive issues surrounding the relationships between inclusion/diversity and representation/reformulation and asks if what they began was the transformation or merely a slightly altered continuation of the traditional in the legal profession and the practice of law. Highly recommended.

- Martha Albertson Fineman, Robert W. Woodruff Professor of Law and Founding Director of the Feminism and Legal Theory Project and the Vulnerability and the Human Condition Initiative at Emory University