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The first women admitted as members of Lincoln’s Inn

Following the passing of the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act towards the end of 1919, Lincoln’s Inn admitted its first female members in 1920.  These are the six women who were admitted to the Inn that year.

Marjorie Powell

Admitted on 16 January 1920

Marjorie Powell was the first female member of Lincoln’s Inn. Daughter of a Shropshire farmer, she studied economics at Newham College Cambridge, gaining a first. She was never Called to the Bar, deciding instead to focus on her career as an academic; she taught at several universities, creating a distinguished career for herself as an economics lecturer and writer.

Gwyneth Thomson (nee Bebb)

Admitted on 27 January 1920

Admitted to the Inn under the name Thomson but better known by her maiden name of Bebb, under which she brought the 1913 case against the Law Society for their refusal to admit women. After the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act was passed, the Benchers of the Inn wrote to her inviting her to become a member; she would have been the Inn’s first female member had she not been delayed from joining due to having just given birth to her first child. She was awarded an OBE for her work during the First World War.  Sadly, she was never Called to the Bar; she died in 1921 giving birth to her second child.

Mithan Tata

Admitted on 13 April 1920

Mithan was the first women from Lincoln’s Inn to be Called to the Bar. She was an active campaigner for women’s suffrage and spoke passionately about the need for votes for women in her native India. She studied for her Master’s degree at the London School of Economics whilst simultaneously reading for the Bar. She returned to India to practise and became India’s first female Law Professor.

Mercy Ashworth

Admitted on 16 April 1920

Mercy, daughter of a Lancastrian hat maker, was the second woman to be Called by the Inn, at the same ceremony as Mithan Tata. She was 54, making her significantly older than many of the men Called that day.  Several of the women called in the early years after the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act were significantly older than their male counterparts, having waited their whole lives for the privilege. Mercy had chambers in Lincoln’s Inn after being Called and definitely appeared in at least one case but we can’t be sure how much she practised.

Halcyon Sladen Wing

Admitted on 13 October 1920

Halcyon was never Called to the Bar. In 1921 she married Thomas Nottidge, a solicitor in her father’s firm. She had 5 children, four sons and one daughter; her youngest son became a lawyer for the United Nations.

Ilma de Jonge

Admitted on 22 November 1920

Ilma was the youngest women to join the Inn that year, at only 20 years old. She was born in British Guiana (now Guyana) to a Dutch-Guyanese father and an Anglo-Indian mother. She was Called to the Bar 27 years after she joined under the name Ilma Fuller. She died at the age of 99.