Class of 1977

After these experiences, law school seemed incredibly welcoming for women. However, the legal profession had some way to go. I was not certain about the practice of law, but quite sure Bay Street was not for me. However, I wanted to try it. Circumstances led me to Sudbury and to Miller, Maki, an established firm. I was their first female student. After I had been there a couple of months and was comfortable, the receptionist confided in me that when she heard a woman had been hired, she had told my secretary that she would never work for a woman and counseled her to refuse to work for me, adding ... "but, you're different ...."My first inkling that all doors were not open to me was as an undergraduate. I was majoring in Geology and a major oil company had on-campus interviews for summer jobs. I was granted an interview that was summarily terminated once I presented myself and the recruiter realized I was female. My professors were supportive and arranged summer work for me in one of their labs. This led to three summers spent working for the Geological Survey of Canada and a week-long coring cruise on the Great Lakes as the only female on board. It was only later that I became aware of the lengths to which my supervisor had gone to obtain permission to take me on board.

I had wonderful mentors who were learned in the law and willing to share their experiences and values with me. Though I was hesitant about appearing in court, I took to the experience with alacrity. Luckily, at the time the small claims court limit in the north was $1,000 as compared with $400 in the south, so I spent my time handling matters on my own, not just carrying bags, researching and filing documents. I won my first trial - a motor vehicle liability case. My opponent was a male lawyer, with several years experience. At the Christmas law dinner, he was overheard in the men's washroom complaining to his colleagues that he could beat me ... if only I was in there.

I returned to the firm as their first female associate. During my first year of practice, I acted as junior on a jury trial in North Bay. In those days there was a crackdown on Playboy and what constituted community values was tested. Our client, a mainstream distributor, was charged with distributing obscene magazines. My principal stayed in North Bay for the duration of the trial but propriety dictated I travel back and forth to Sudbury each day with our client.

Much as I enjoyed the north, the INCO strike and the massive economic slump in the early 1980s meant a return to southern Ontario. I was able to put my courtroom experience and scientific training to work as Counsel at the Niagara Escarpment hearings. From there, I moved into the Ontario Government where I have worked in various capacities as Counsel and Legal Director since 1982. Even there, in the early years, there was a significant salary differential between what was paid to men and women. Thankfully, that is now a thing of the past.