Clara Brett Martin overcame considerable obstacles and hostility to become the first woman to graduate from the University of Toronto with an LLB (1899), and to become the first female barrister in Canada - in fact, in the entire British Empire.

Ivy Maynier '45

Ivy Lawrence

Born in Montreal of Trinidadian parents, Ivy Lawrence Maynier defied the barriers of discrimination to become the first woman of colour to graduate from the U of T Law School. After graduating from McGill University, where she was President of the Women's Debating Union and the first woman to be awarded the McGill Debating Key, Ivy received a scholarship to attend U of T law school at a time when there were few students of colour. Her pioneering spirit stayed with her throughout her career. After her call to the bar in England in 1947 and a five year appointment with the United States Information Service in Paris, Ivy moved to Trinidad and Tobago. There she pursued her lifelong passion for adult education and developing courses, programs and lectures that would make university more accessible to dispossessed groups and communities in her country. In 1959 she married a career diplomat and moved to Jamaica where she continued her career in education at the University of the West Indies. 

Up to 1950, it continued to be rare for women to attend U of T's law program, and women continued to face obstacles in practicing law.

1915: Women restricted from practicing law in Quebec

"I would put within the range of possibilities though by no means a commendable one, the admission of a woman to the profession of solicitor or to that of avoue, but I hold that to admit a woman and more particularly, a married woman as a barrister, that is to say, as a person who pleads cases at the bar before judges or juries in open court and in the presence of the public, would be nothing short of a direct infringement upon public order and a manifest violation of the law of good morals and public decency."

Langstaff v. Bar of Quebec [1915], 47 R.J.Q. 131 at 139, Superior Court (Mr. Justice Saint-Pierre)