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Laws 2016, 5(4), 39; doi:10.3390/laws5040039

Precedents, Patterns and Puzzles: Feminist Reflections on the First Women Lawyers

Osgoode Hall Law School, York University, Ignat Kaneff Building, 4700 Keele Street, Toronto, ON M3J 1P3, Canada
Academic Editor: Frank Pasquale
Received: 1 August 2016 / Revised: 9 September 2016 / Accepted: 10 October 2016 / Published: 18 October 2016
View Full-Text   |   Download PDF [234 KB, uploaded 18 October 2016]

Abstract

This paper initially examines the historical precedents established by some of the first women who entered the “gentleman’s profession” of law in different jurisdictions, as well as the biographical patterns that shaped some women’s ambitions to enter the legal professions. The paper then uses feminist methods and theories to interpret “puzzles that remain unsolved” about early women lawyers, focusing especially on two issues. One puzzle is the repeated claims on the part of many of these early women lawyers that they were “lawyers”, and not “women lawyers”, even as they experienced exclusionary practices and discrimination on the part of male lawyers and judges—a puzzle that suggests how professional culture required women lawyers to conform to existing patterns in order to succeed. A second puzzle relates to the public voices of early women lawyers, which tended to suppress disappointments, difficulties and discriminatory practices. In this context, feminist theories suggest a need to be attentive to the “silences” in women’s stories, including the stories of the lives of early women lawyers. Moreover, these insights may have continuing relevance for contemporary women lawyers because it is at least arguable that, while there have been changes in women’s experiences, there has been very little transformation in their work status in relation to men. View Full-Text
Keywords: women lawyers; history; biography; legal professionalism; feminism women lawyers; history; biography; legal professionalism; feminism
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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MDPI and ACS Style

Mossman, M.J. Precedents, Patterns and Puzzles: Feminist Reflections on the First Women Lawyers. Laws 2016, 5, 39.

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