She chose to turn her status as an outsider – by virtue of her gender – into a strength rather than a weakness. Making something unusual, like being the first woman on the Court of Appeal, look utterly normal is her legacy to future generations of women lawyers. And is something that might resonate more in the future that it was appreciated in her day.
In 1988, Elizabeth Butler-Sloss became the first woman to be appointed to the Court of Appeal of England and Wales. Hers was a speedy rise, after less than a decade as a High Court judge. It was also an historic one; she was – at the time – the highest-ranking woman judge in the country, a position she held until Lady Hale’s appointment to the Appellate Committee of the House of Lords in 2004. Ten years later, in 1998, she became the first woman President of the Family Division, a role she held until her retirement in 2005, and in which she is yet to be followed by another woman. She chaired a number of high-profile government inquiries, including the Cleveland Child Sex Abuse inquiry and the inquiry into the death of Princess Diana, as well as ruling in high-profile children’s rights and capacity cases.
The full version of this landmark is written by Dana Denis-Smith.
A conversation with Lady Justice Butler-Sloss: https://www.gresham.ac.uk/lectures-and-events/a-conversation-with-lady-justice-elizabeth-butler-sloss
Profile: Elizabeth Butler-Sloss: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-28211253