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100 years of women magistrates

MA Twitter campaign

12 December 2019
100 years of women magistrates

On 23 December 1919, the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act became law, enabling women to become barristers, solicitors, jurors and magistrates. Seven women were immediately appointed to become magistrates, the first women to have a formal role in the courts. 100 years later, 56% of magistrates are women. To celebrate this centenary, throughout December the MA is running a Twitter campaign to celebrate the lives and achievements of some of the earliest women magistrates.

Among them are Ada Summers (pictured left), Mayor of Stalybridge and the first woman to sit as a magistrate, Gertrude Tuckwell (pictured centre), founding member of the MA and the first woman to sit as a magistrate in London, and Margery Fry (pictured right), long-term secretary of the Howard League for Penal Reform. Many of these women were political, such as Margaret Wintringham, who was the second woman to take a seat in the House of Commons, and Mavis Tate, an MP who campaigned for equal pay, better pensions and equal rights for women. Others were influential figures in youth justice, such as Clare Spurgin and Geraldine Cadbury, or authors, editors, philosophers, educators, nurses and doctors, to name just a few. Many of the women had been influential in the movement for women’s suffrage, and the majority were active in public life, sitting on various committees and involved in numerous organisations. All were trailblazers, and as magistrates they brought diversity to a previously male-dominated environment, paving the way for a modern magistracy that reflects the communities it serves.

You can read the full profiles on our Twitter feed, with more added each day up to Christmas. If you don’t have Twitter, we will also be featuring brief biographies of the women on a brand new page on our website: 100 years of women magistrates.

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