Please note that the titles and descriptions that accompany each Trailblazers photograph are dated to the launch of the exhibit, March 2006, and will not be updated.

Trailblazer: Clara Brett Martin 1899

"If it were not that I set out to open the way to the bar for others of my sex, I would have given up the effort long ago. You would not believe how many obstacles I have had to overcome single-handed."

Clara Brett Martin 1899 (1874 - 1923)
First woman to graduate from the U of T Law School (1899)
First woman barrister in Canada and the British Empire

The year was 1899. It would be another 20 years before women won the right to vote … almost 30 years before they were allowed to sit on Canada's Senate … and close to a century before their numbers equalled those of men in our law schools. One woman dared to challenge the establishment of the day. Her name was Clara Brett Martin. Barred from attending classes at the Law Society because she was not a "person," and later required to sit apart from her male colleagues and endure hissing and verbal threats, Clara eventually won her battle to practise law alongside men. She was called to the Bar of Ontario in 1897 and graduated with an LL.B. from U of T in 1899 as the first woman barrister in Canada and the British Empire. Despite the immensity of her achievement, in 1990 it was uncovered that, like others of her time, Clara held anti-Semitic views. Today we celebrate her courage and tenacity, while also acknowledging her human frailty and imperfection.

See more of the Trailblazers Exhibit