The women who came to the U of T Faculty of Law in the 1970s hold a very special place in our history. At the beginning of the decade, women made up only 15% of the students in the law class. Very quickly, however, their numbers grew. By the end of the 70s, women comprised 30% of the law class. After graduation, many went on to work in the legal profession in law firms, government, the judiciary, business and academe. Their numbers were not large, but their influence was widely felt, and their impact literally transformed the face of the legal profession for the better, breaking down barriers and opening doors that today many of us take for granted. It was a decade of change, the positive effects of which are still felt today.

Many of the women that you will meet here in this exhibit were "firsts" - the first women to be hired as lawyers in their law firm, the first women to make partner in their firms, the first women litigators, the first women to become pregnant in their firms and take maternity leaves. The challenges they faced in breaking into a male-dominated profession with no female role models were significant: difficulty finding a law firm to hire them; not being taken seriously; relegated to the back rooms or "girl files"; playing "second string" to their male counterparts; being excluded from social events because the venues were restricted to men only; and juggling the demands of practice with pregnancies and raising children at a time when there were no maternity leave policies or benefits. Most recall awkward situations - and outright discrimination - with no protocols in place to assist them in addressing these issues. By necessity, their collective motto was, "work harder than the men, and be over-prepared."

Yet their stories are not all doom and gloom. They also talk with pride about their many successes and the contributions they have made to the profession, and feelings of gratitude for the encouragement and support they received from colleagues and mentors, both male and female. Despite their challenges, and with the help of many, they have risen to the top in diverse and fascinating careers. They are hopeful that the trail they have blazed will make it easier for the women who have followed and those who will continue to follow in years to come. Yet it is a hope mixed with a touch of reality. As one woman said, "The glass ceilings are still there, but they are getting higher."

We invite you to take some time to read their inspirational stories.