There was quite the collection of legal heavyweights at the Royal Courts of Justice on Thursday evening to celebrate the centenary of Ivy Williams becoming the first woman to be called to the English bar, a judicial turnout rivalled only by the Opening of the Legal Year or perhaps a valedictory.
The lord chief justice Lord Burnett, master of the rolls Sir Geoffrey Vos, president of the Queen’s Bench Division Dame Victoria Sharp and the senior president of tribunals Sir Keith Lindblom were all in attendance, as was Supreme Court justice Lady Rose and the recently-retired Lady Arden.
Baroness Butler-Sloss, the first woman appointed to the Court of Appeal and first – and, to date, only – president of the Family Division also made an appearance, as did lords justice Haddon-Cave, Holroyde and Warby as well as ladies justice Macur, Nicola Davies and Simler.
The latter, chair of the Judges Council’s diversity committee, spoke about the ‘struggle, resistance and resilience’ of women in the law over the last century and celebrated the progress that has been made while saying that ‘there is more to be done, both in the judiciary and the legal professions’.
Judge Anuja Dhir QC, the first non-white female circuit judge at the Old Bailey, and Master Victoria McCloud, the first transgender judge in England and Wales, were also in the main hall for the event to mark Williams’ call back in 1922.
Obiter was inspired by the tales of Williams and other pioneering women such as Helena Normanton, Rose Heilbron and Carey Morrison, which show how far the professions have come in the last 100 years.
But – as was said when fellow trailblazer Baroness Hale became Supreme Court president in 2017 – while it is important to celebrate these achievements, there will hopefully soon come a time when ‘women firsts’ are less remarkable.