Quiet Rebels

A History of Ontario Women Lawyers

By Mary Jane Mossman
Categories: History, Law & Legal Studies, Canadian History, Gender & Sexuality Studies, Women’s Studies, Legal History
Publisher: Wilfrid Laurier University Press
Hardcover : 9781771125925, 460 pages, November 2023
Ebook (EPUB) : 9781771125932, November 2023
Ebook (PDF) : 9781771125949, November 2023

Table of contents

Introduction: Telling the Stories of Ontario’s Women Lawyers
Part One
Contexts in Canada, Ontario, and Beyond, 1897–1918
Introduction: An International Movement
1. Challenging Male Exclusivity in the Canadian Legal Profession
2. Women Lawyers in Ontario after Clara Brett Martin
Conclusion: A Kaleidoscope of Patterns and Puzzles
Part Two
The Interwar Years, 1919–39
Introduction: A Turning Point for Women?
3. Pioneers and Prejudice after the War, 1919–29
4. Unlimited Possibilities in the Depression Years, 1930–39?
Conclusion: A Meagre, If Resourceful, Handful
Part Three
War, Reform, and Education, 1940–57
Introduction: Women and the Legal Profession
5. Gendered Hierarchies and Relations of Power, 1940–49
6. Transitions in Law and Legal Education, 1950–57
Conclusion: Achievements on the Margins
Part Four
Changing Patterns after 1957
Introduction: Continuity or Transformation?
7. The Accreditation of University Law Schools and Surging Numbers
8. Diversification and Globalization
Conclusion: Change in the Legal Profession
Epilogue: A Legacy of Gendered Patterns
Appendix: Statutes in Canada re the Admission of Women as Lawyers


“It’s a girl!” As the Ontario press announced, Canada’s first woman lawyer was called to the Ontario bar in February 1897. Quiet Rebels explores experiences of exclusion among the few women lawyers up to 1957, and how their experiences continue to shape gender issues in the contemporary legal profession.

Author Mary Jane Mossman tells the stories of all 187 Ontario women lawyers 1897-1957, revealing the legal profession’s gendered patterns. As a small handful at the Law School, (sometimes the only woman), they were often ignored, and they faced discrimination in obtaining articling positions and legal employment. Most were Protestant, white, and middle-class, and a minority of Jewish, Catholic, and immigrant women lawyers faced even greater challenges. The book also explores some changes, as well as continuities, for the much larger numbers of Ontario women lawyers in recent decades.

This longitudinal study of women lawyers’ gendered experiences in the profession during six decades of social, economic, and political change in early twentieth-century Ontario identifies factors that created – or foreclosed – women lawyers’ professional success. The book’s final section explores how some current women lawyers, in spite of their increased numbers, must remain “quiet rebels” to succeed.