On 24 December 1919, immediately after the Royal Assent to the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act, the Lord Chancellor announced the appointment of the first seven women Justices of the Peace (JPs) in Great Britain.After centuries of all-male law courts, the introduction of women JPs was not simply a legal landmark but a revolution. Moreover, it was a change which had immediate impact: whereas aspiring women lawyers took years to qualify professionally, women JPs could (for good or ill) sit in court right away.
Feminist campaigning, together with developments such as legislation aimed at protecting children, ensured a steady growth in the number of women magistrates.
Today just over half of all JPs are women. However the impact of women JPs went beyond mere numbers, they also inaugurated a transformation of the lay magistracy – who still handle the vast majority of criminal cases in England and Wales – in unexpected ways, utilising their networks to develop education and training opportunities for justices as well as being instrumental in the formation of the Magistrates Association.
The full version of this landmark is written by Anne Logan.
Anne Logan, ‘Gertrude Tuckwell—London’s First Woman Magistrates’ (100 First Hundred Years, 12 March 2015) http://first100years.org.uk/gertrude-tuckwell-londons-first-woman-magistrate/
Anne Logan, ‘A Suitable Person for Suitable Cases: The Gendering of Juvenile Courts in England, c. 1910-1939’ https://www.academia.edu/8504435/A_Suitable_Person_For_Suitable_Cases
Sir Thomas Skyrme, ‘History of Magistrates’ (Magistrates Association) https://www.magistrates-association.org.uk/about-magistrates/history-magistrates
Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council, ‘A Tribute to Ada Jane Summers, MBE, JP’ http://www.tameside.gov.uk/blueplaque/adasummers