Blue plaque for first practising female barrister Helena Normanton unveiled

Helena Normanton, the first woman to practise as a barrister and lead murder trials in the English courts, has been honoured with a blue plaque at her former London home.

The trailblazing lawyer was also the first female law student at an inn of court, the first female counsel to lead in a case at the high court, the first woman to run a trial at the Old Bailey and one of the first two women to be made a King’s Counsel.

She was a champion of women’s rights outside as well as inside the courts, making history as the first married woman to have a passport issued in her birth name at a time when a wife not taking her husband’s name was a rarity.

Brenda Hale, the first woman to head the UK supreme court, unveiled the plaque on Wednesday at 22 Mecklenburgh Square in Bloomsbury, central London, Normanton’s home from 1919 到 1931 when she was forging her legal career.

“Helena Normanton was the pioneer of female barristers,” Lady Hale said. “She had to overcome a great deal of prejudice and discrimination. A blue plaque is a fitting tribute to her courage and her example to women barristers everywhere.”

Anna Eavis, the curatorial director at English Heritage, said Normanton “scored a remarkable number of firsts in her legal career and paved the way for other women to advance in the profession”.

Studying for the bar required membership of an inn of court, but Normanton’s first two attempts to join Middle Temple were rebuffed because women were not admitted. 在 24 十二月 1919, 然而, the day after the passage of the Sex (Disqualification) Removal Act, Middle Temple accepted her application, making her the first woman to be admitted to an inn of court.

Normanton was the second woman to be called to the bar but the first to actually practise, doing so until her retirement in 1951. She was active in the longstanding campaign to reform divorce laws, aiming to make divorce more equal, less difficult to achieve and less expensive.

She was also actively involved in numerous campaign groups, including the Women’s Freedom League and the Married Women’s Association.

Normanton was nominated for a blue plaque by female barristers at Doughty Street Chambers.

Half of London’s new blue plaques this year will be dedicated to women as English Heritage seeks to address the historical gender imbalance in the scheme.

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