Women in Saskatchewan Law – Celebrating International Women’s Day

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By Sarah Roussel-Lewis

Every year on March 8th we celebrate International Women’s Day. It’s a day to reflect on the challenges women still face and to celebrate our achievements. We also take the opportunity to look back on influential women who have helped pave the way for all women in the legal profession.

This year’s International Women’s Day is asking: Will you #BeBoldForChange?

Many women in Saskatchewan had to be bold to practice law, as they weren’t allowed to become members of the Law Society until 1913 when there was an amendment to The Legal Profession Act. The amendment allowed for the admission of female students, and the first two women to become students-at-law were Margaret I. Burgess and Mattie S. Boyles.

Margaret I. Burgess was refused application to become a student-at-law in 1912, but that wouldn’t stop her. In 1913, when the amendment to The Legal Profession Act was made, she became the first female student-at-law and in 1918 the second female member of the Law Society of Saskatchewan. She established her practice in the Westman Chambers in 1924 and was later a judge in the Juvenile Court of Saskatchewan.

Another woman who embodied boldness was Ruth McGill. Despite having been afflicted by Polio at a young age, she became a member of the Law Society in 1933 and worked in private practice until her death in 1974. She had offices in the Canada Life Assurance building and the Debenture Company of Canada office building, and later became the president of the company, which was founded by her father. She was also a member of the National Board of the Canadian Federation of Business, the Women’s Canadian Club of Canada, the Regina Hospital Board of Governors and was a city councilor for three years.

For more bold women, look out for the Spring 2017 issue of the Benchers’ Digest, which will have a detailed timeline of the Law Society of Saskatchewan. Take a look at our previous posts celebrating International Women’s Day for more great information!

Book Review – Women, Law, and Equality
Celebrating International Women’s Day
Chronology, Women and the Legal Profession in Saskatchewan
The Female View from the Bench 1968 (Throwback Thursday)
The Road to Equality (Throwback Thursday)

 

Sources:

Mentiplay, Iain A. (2007). A Century of Integrity: The Law Society of Saskatchewan 1907 to 2007. Regina: Law Society of Saskatchewan.
International Women’s Day. Retrieved on 7 March 2017, online: <https://internationalwomensday.com/>

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