On this day, 100 years ago, the first woman was called to the bar

Avatar photo

By Rona Ankrah on


Dr Ivy Williams made history on 10 May 1922

Dr Ivy Williams (image via Wikimedia Commons)

On this day, 100 years ago, Dr Ivy Williams made history by becoming the first woman to be called to the bar of England and Wales.

Born in 1877, Williams studied law at the Society of Oxford Home Students (later incorporated into Oxford University as St Anne’s College) and despite completing her law examinations in 1903, she was unable to receive her BA, MA and BCL until 1920 when Oxford changed its regulations.

The 2022 Legal Cheek Chambers Most List

Williams joined the Inner Temple as a student in 1920 and went on to score several ‘firsts’ during her legal career. She was the first woman to be called to the bar, on 10 May 1922, and the first to teach law at an English University, lecturing at her alma mater from 1920 to 1945. Williams, who never practised, was also first woman to be awarded the degree of Doctor of Civil Law at Oxford.

The accolade of first woman to practise at bar of England and Wales goes to Helena Normanton, who was called to bar several months after Willams.

Legal Cheek reported how Normanton was commemorated with an English Heritage London blue plaque in September 2020. It marks the address she resided for the early part of her legal career at 22 Mecklenburgh Square in London’s Bloomsbury.

Like Normanton, a blue plaque in Williams’ memory was placed at her former Oxfordshire home in 2020.

For all the latest commercial awareness info, news and careers advice:

Sign up to the Legal Cheek Newsletter

Related Stories

New blog post documents incredible lives of first female barristers

Chronicles their lasting legacies

Nov 12 2018 11:30am

London chambers set to make history by renaming itself after a woman

Helena Normanton was the first woman to practise at the bar

Sep 27 2018 11:28am

The story of Christabel Pankhurst, the law graduate suffragette barred from joining an Inn

We pick up the trail of the female suffrage campaigner coined 'Queen of the Mob' by the press, 100 years after (some) women got the vote

May 9 2018 9:18am