Crossing the Bar

In spite of the wishes of the large majority of the profession, and the benchers also if they only had had the manliness to speak out, the Attorney-General succeeded, by his political influence and vague threats of legislative vengeance on the Society, in carrying a motion so to admit women by a bare majority of one vote ...The Western Law Times, vol. 4, no.1, January 1893.

It is obvious that women were not cheerfully greeted into Ontario’s legal profession. This situation was not unique to the legal profession, nor was it restricted to this province. Women’s access to higher education and to the professions was debated throughout the second half of the nineteenth and into the early twentieth century in most of the Western world. When the Law Society of Upper Canada, the governing body of the legal profession in Ontario, admitted its first female member in 1897, it became the first such organization in the British Commonwealth to allow a woman into its ranks.

Women lawyers have worked hard to carve themselves a place within the profession and have earned the respect of both their male colleagues and the public. In the last 30 years, the profession, its membership and the conditions of practice have changed dramatically. In 2001, women represented 50% of new lawyers in the province. While their concerns may be different from those of their predecessors, it is important to remember that for the past 100 years, women have been “Crossing the Bar.”