Tag Archives: history

Gender & Professionalization Projects: Rethinking Stories of Early Women Lawyers: Mossman at the Berks

Following the IFLS co-sponsored panel at the Berks (Cutting Edge Contributions and Critical Reflections in Canadian Feminist Legal HistoryConstance Backhouse, University of Ottawa LawMary Jane Mossman (Osgoode) Bettina Bradbury, York University (History)  & Shelley Gavigan (Osgoode) both Profs. Gavigan and Mossman have kindly sent their remarks  for posting as blog posts.With great thanks! photo of Prof Mary Jane Mossman

Today: Mary Jane Mossman,  Gender and Professionalization Projects: Rethinking Stories of Early Women Lawyers

 (and Wednesday, Osgoode’s Shelley Gavigan on Not Taking a Break from Feminism:  Reflections on the Criminal Law on the Aboriginal Plains)

In my research about early women lawyers, there are three intersecting strands of ideas and approaches:

One is a focus on changing relationships between the traditional idea of law as a ‘gentleman’s profession,’ and the nature and impact of gender challenges presented when women succeeded in gaining admission to the legal profession. This strand focuses primarily on developments in legal history.


A second strand focuses on stories about the experiences of early women lawyers, and particularly, how early women lawyers negotiated challenges based on their engendering of the legal profession. This strand requires attention to critical approaches to women’s biography, not only taking account of emerging patterns among cohorts of early women lawyers, but also paying careful attention to individual circumstances, aspirations, and opportunities (or lack thereof).


And a third strand in this research focuses on connections between early women lawyers and feminism. That is, while few early women lawyers overtly identified themselves as feminists, is it possible that feminist approaches to researching their lives might reveal feminist goals embedded in hidden strategies?


My earlier research, published in The First Women Lawyers in 2006, was a collective biography of the first women lawyers, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, in the United States, Canada, England, New Zealand and Australia, India and parts of western Europe. My current research now focuses on a longitudinal study of women lawyers who entered the legal profession in Ontario in the seven decades between the 1890s and the early 1970s. This current study begins with the admission of Clara Brett Martin in 1897 (about whom Constance has written extensively), and explores the experiences of some of the approximately 300 women lawyers who were admitted to the Ontario bar up to the early 1970s.

The First Women lawyers by Mary Jane Mossman

Gender and Professionalism

As Ontario historians, Gidney and Millar argued, women’s entry into the traditional ‘gentleman’s profession’ of law in the 19th century challenged men’s monopoly on the distribution of knowledge and authority, as well as creating economic competition. In addition, Christopher Moore suggested that, although the legal profession in Ontario in the early 20th century experienced changes in professional organization, new developments in legal work, and increasing legal specialization, the legal profession never relinquished its traditional ‘patina of dignified and gentlemanly tradition.’ In my research, I am also exploring Michael Grossberg’s assertion, in the context of his study of masculinity in the US legal profession, that although women entered the legal profession, they never effectively confronted the gender premises of law or the legal profession.


In this context, the legal arguments presented in litigated cases routinely focused on principles of common law disabilities for women, male pronouns in statutes and Civil Codes, and significant precedents denying such claims such as Bradwell v Illinois in the United States. Judicial prejudices about new roles for women were also often on display.  For example:

When Mabel Penery French applied to the court for admission to the New Brunswick Bar in 1905, CJ Tuck rejected outright ideas based on ‘the advanced thought of the age and the right of women to share with men in all paying public activities.’ The court rejected her application unanimously. When she later moved to British Columbia and was admitted to the bar, the Law Society records noted ‘the admission of twenty gentlemen, including Mabel Penery French.’

For decades into the 20th century, male lawyers routinely lunched at all male clubs, including lawyers’ clubs, for both business and social purposes. In the 1940s, Eileen Mitchell Thomas, an elected member of the Can Bar Assoc National Council, was precluded from attending the Council’s dinner meeting because it was held in an all-male club in Montreal. A decade later in the 1950s, the Dean of Osgoode Hall Law School welcomed students in September, announcing that there were 935 students enrolled altogether, of whom 903 were men and 32 were of the ‘contrary sex.’


Mabel Penery French

The traditional ‘gentleman’s profession’ of law was also imbued with discriminatory culture towards both men and women who were not middle class, not white, and not Christian (especially Protestant) – and there is some evidence that these views created more challenges when coupled with gender. For example, the first Chinese-Canadian woman was called to the bar in Ontario in 1946, and the first Black woman lawyer was not admitted to the bar until 1960; and the first Aboriginal woman lawyer in Ontario was called in 1976 – while Chinese, Black and Aboriginal male lawyers had been called to the bar earlier. The first Jewish women lawyers were called to the bar in 1929 and 1930, and both women clearly experienced the combination of gender and Jewishness as creating significant problems for them in the legal profession. Indeed, antisemitism was widespread in the legal profession in Ontario, as elsewhere: there are reports of comments by both Clara Brett Martin in Ontario and Myra Bradwell in the United States that are disparaging about Jewish lawyers, for example.


The intersection of professional culture and gender also created practical problems for early women lawyers. For example:

Bertha Wilson, who became the first woman appointed to the SCC in 1982, recalled later in her life how, as a practising lawyer in the 1950s, a male client had angrily told her, ‘I don’t want any bloody woman drafting my will.’ Indeed, as a judge in the 1980s, Wilson regularly advised women law students to be ready to ‘prove themselves again and again in their careers.’ As she explained, it was her view as late as the 1980s that ‘all your life as a woman you are proving yourself … proving … that you can do it.’

Bertha Wilson

There are also numerous stories about the lack of facilities for women lawyers in courthouses, including both robing rooms and washrooms. Even in the mid-1970s, women lawyers appearing in the SCC usually had to robe in the furnace room in the basement. Moreover, women litigators often felt disadvantaged because male barristers routinely engaged in settlement negotiations in their robing rooms. In the 1960s, one intrepid woman barrister (Judy LaMarsh) confronted this challenge head on in the Toronto courthouse – by ‘degendering’ the men’s robing room. Her decision to robe in the men’s robing room resulted in the creation, shortly thereafter, of robing rooms for women.


These examples reveal how the engendering of the gentleman’s profession of law continued to be experienced, in a variety of different ways, for decades after women first gained admission to the bar in Ontario – and there are similar stories in other parts of Canada and in other jurisdictions. Yet, while there is considerable evidence that, as Grossberg claimed, women entered the legal profession without challenging its gender premises, an assessment of relationships between gender and professionalism in law needs to attend carefully to stories of early women lawyers. As Joan Wallach Scott suggested in a slightly different context:

How are those who cross the threshold received? If they belong to a group different from the one already ‘inside,’ what are the terms of their incorporation? How do the new arrivals understand their relationship to the place they have entered? What are the terms of identity they establish?


Telling the Stories of Women’s Lives

In telling the stories of these 300 early women lawyers in Ontario, who represented a very small group within the legal profession for nearly seven decades into the 20th century, there are a few reported cases, Law Society records, and press reports, as well as some detailed information in the archives of the Women’s Law Association of Ontario (established in 1919). As Hermione Lee lamented, however, while biographies include facts, there are also ‘absences, gaps, missing evidence, knowledge or information that has been passed from person to person, losing credibility or shifting shape on the way…’ In such a context, reconstructing the context in which these early women lawyers experienced opportunities or setbacks; made choices about where or how to practise law; decided whether to marry at a time when women were expected to have either a career or a marriage, but not both; or elected an identity as a lawyer – ungendered – all create challenges. Moreover, as Jill Ker Conway argued, we need to attend carefully to these ‘silences’ in women’s life stories. Or, as Carolyn Heilbrun suggested more pointedly, biographers of women must ‘reinvent the lives their subjects led, discovering from what evidence they [can] find the processes and decisions, the choices and unique pain, that lay beyond the life stories of … women.’


Here are some examples of the challenges in telling the stories of early women lawyers.

Some stories of these early women lawyers appear rather amusing at first glance. Probing more deeply, however, they may reflect quite significant efforts to ‘fit into’ the legal profession (ungendered). For example, when Winnifred Wilton arrived in London in 1917, having been called to the bar in Manitoba, to work in the office of the Canadian Expeditionary Forces, she gave a report to the British press. In 1917, women were not yet eligible to join the legal professions in England, and Wilton thus exclaimed, ‘I am trying to discover why people think that a woman lawyer must be a freak of some sort.’ Interestingly, decades later in the 1970s, when Laura Legge became the first woman elected as a Bencher for the Ontario Law Society, she later explained that it was important for her to demonstrate that she was not a ‘monster,’ and that she was not going to ‘make a lot of waves.’ In the context of such language, ‘fitting in’ to the legal profession appears to have been a significant concern for women lawyers.


Laura Legge

Another feature of early women lawyers’ experiences was invisibility, not only in the legal profession but also after women began to be appointed to the judiciary. After Mabel Van Camp became Ontario’s first SC justice in 1971, she travelled by train to sit as a judge in a town in northern Ontario. On arrival at the train station, she was unrecognized by the court staff who had a car waiting to take her to the courthouse, and she hailed a cab herself to go there. On arrival at the courthouse, she found everything in an uproar. As the clerk explained, ‘We’ve lost the damn judge.’ Apparently, without missing a beat, Justice Van Camp replied, ‘I am the damn judge.’


Perhaps most significantly, early women lawyers were not ‘women lawyers;’ they were ‘lawyers’ (ungendered). In the US context, Nancy Cott argued that turn of the century ideas about ‘dispassionate professionalism’ were powerfully resonant among women professionals (including women lawyers), especially after suffrage was achieved after World War I. Since formal barriers had been removed, women relied on the professions’ neutral and meritocratic … ideology’ as the best strategy for achieving professional success. For example, one of the most successful women lawyers in Ontario in the mid 20th century was Margaret Hyndman, who gave a report to the press in 1949, stating: ‘Only the fact that I am a lawyer matters. That I am a woman is of no consequence. I make a point of not knowing how many women lawyers there are in Canada.’


Early Women Lawyers and their Feminist ‘Silences’

In the context of second wave feminism in the 1960s and 1970s, women quite suddenly began to populate university law schools, both in Canada and elsewhere. Indeed, although only about 300 women had entered the Ontario legal profession in seven decades between the 1890s and the 1970s, more than 300 women were called to the Ontario bar in the seven years between 1969 and 1975. Women began to be appointed as judges, as tribunal chairs, as university law professors, and as partners in large law firms. After the enactment of Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, women as lawyers and as judges began to reshape legal principles and practices. In such a context, the ‘silences’ about gender and feminism among earlier cohorts of women lawyers often appeared puzzling to these new women entrants to the legal profession.


Nancy Cott’s arguments about professional ideology and its attractiveness to women professionals suggest how early women lawyers became ‘lawyers’ – ungendered. As she stated:

The professional ethos, with its own promise of freedom from sex-defined constraints, was released to flourish in aspiring women’s minds…. [Women professionals did not deny the instrumentality of feminism in breaking down barriers to women’s first entry to the professions, but they [accepted] the professions’ hallmarks [of] objectivity, empiricism, [and] rationality, [as well as collegially determined standards…. Feminism seemed to openly conflict with those hallmarks….


In Canada, Sylvia Bashevkin similarly concluded that a schism developed between women professionals (who were usually unmarried and economically independent) and the middle class married women who formed the nucleus of social feminism in early 20th century Canada (and who argued for suffrage based on women’s purifying influence). Moreover, there is evidence that some early women lawyers fully embraced a professional, rather than a gendered, identity. As a prominent early woman lawyer proclaimed, ‘The only battle that needed to be won by women lawyers was won by Clara Brett Martin in 1897. Our attitude was: “You’re a lawyer, get on with it and do it.” And we did.’ In the context of problems finding articles or employment, lack of acceptance by firm clients, courthouses without proper robing rooms and washrooms, and the use of all-male clubs for both legal negotiations and social activities for the profession, such a comment suggests a strategy for achieving success in the legal profession – and the rejection of a feminist strategy that was to become so much more useful when the numbers of women lawyers increased in the 1970s and 1980s.


Some confirmation for this conclusion is available in one response to a survey conducted by Cameron Harvey in the late 1960s, in which Marguerite Ritchie, a woman lawyer in the federal  Department of Justice (and an expert in human rights) suggested that:

You may discover that some replies indicate an apparent lack of discrimination [in the legal profession]; in many cases I have found that women are unwilling to admit discrimination, either because they are trying to conceal the fact from themselves or because they must play the role of ‘Uncle Tom’ and that their chances of promotion depend absolutely upon their conformity to and acceptance of existing patterns.


It is in these ‘existing patterns’ of opportunities and choices for early women lawyers that we may find confirmation of Grossberg’s assertion that women entered the legal profession without challenging its gender premises. Moreover, as Carol Sanger argued, we must understand that ‘women who chose to locate their professional lives in law are likely to [leave behind] stories of piecemeal progress and circumscribed success.’


Nonetheless, there are two reasons for searching for the stories (and the silences) of early women lawyers. One is to identify how, even as they often appeared to conform to the professional norms required to be a lawyer ungendered, they also contributed to changing norms, both in the profession and in Canadian society. For example, Margaret Hyndman, who strongly asserted that she was a lawyer, and that being a woman was of no consequence, was among the influential group of women who pressured the federal government to establish the Royal Commission on the Status of Women in the late 1960s, and Judy LaMarsh, acting within the federal cabinet, helped to make it happen. Even Justice Van Camp’s statement that ‘I am the damn judge’ may have changed ideas about gender and judging in the 1970s. The second reason for exploring the experiences of early women lawyers relates to the contemporary context, in which both professional and societal norms may not ensure equality for women in law. As Scott concluded:

Feminist history is not the recounting of great deeds performed by women but the exposure of the often silent and hidden operations of gender that are … present and defining forces in the organizations of most societies.

Law's Slow Violence Guest Post: Doug Hay on law, slow violence & history

As part of the Law’s Slow Violence workshop hosted by Osgoode Hall Law School next week (June 14) (complete information here or at the bottom of this post), we have solicited guest posts from academics attending the workshop and interested in the issues. 

Find the other three posts here.


Today, Prof Doug Hay  offers excerpts from his thoughts on reading Nixon’s Law’s Slow Violence & the Environmentalism of the Poor (  links all added by the editor).  Hay is appointed to both Osgoode and the Department of History and throughout his long and distinguished career has highlighted the relationship between violence and law.


I read Rob Nixon’s engrossing and appalling book from the perspective of an historian who works on law. It opened to me an immense range of scholarship and activism of which I was only tangentially aware. But it also has themes that resonated, on almost every page, with things I study. Law certainly appears in the book. Here I want here to emphasize its importance to his argument, and to widen the discussion of chronologies.


Nixon discusses the destruction and activism and literature of recent decades, and at the other extreme, the deep environmental time of climate change, fossil fuel creation, the 4.5 billion year half life of depleted uranium. The disjunction of temporal orders, of chronologies or chronotypes, is a main theme of his book (61 and passim).  In these remarks I want to look at the mid-range: the early modern/modern period ospiral clock indicating infinityf the 16th to early 20th centuries.  Humanity lacked the capacity for purely technological destruction at the beginning of this period (suffering rather the biological destruction of the Black Death spread by human commerce—the plague destroyed one-third to one-half the population of England in the 14th century, and returned repeatedly into the 1600s).  But by the 18th century the groundwork of modernity was being surely laid.

Today’s neoliberalism is a reprise of classical 18th-century liberalism in markets—and globalization is a reprise of 19th century globalization in the century before 1914. (After the world wars and depression, world trade only recovered to 1914 levels again in the 1980s ). It was in the 18th and 19th centuries that law, in particular, prepared the way for destruction of lands and peoples by the powerful.  Because law is the rhetorical and instrumental mode by which the powerful both justify and enact their predations. Because law is the principal creation of the state, and the mode of state power—they are coeval—[Nixon’s] emphasis on the importance of the state (p.141) is amply justified.  

State Law

Over the last two centuries, state law in England and America radically redefined human beings’ relationship to their landscapes, removed all legal recourse against the employer for industrial injury in order to ensure corporate profitability, degraded legal rights to water and air quality in order to accommodate and foster industrial development, and created empires of law as well as of capital to export all these legal inventions to their colonized subjects.

What we see in the last thirty years is what can be traced over the last 200; intensified, no doubt, as technological danger and military force have become greater, but facilitated and obscured by legal inventions well over a century old. Common law, the law of the great British and American empires of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, rests on past authority. And a century, in law, is easily long enough to count as tradition, precedent, the authoritative past.

Nixon’s emphasis on the occult characteristics of slow violence resonates very strongly for me as a social historian of law, because the common law has been an elite jargon, an immensely complicated social and intellectual structure, from its beginnings.

Revolutionaries in every century, including levelers and fifth monarchy millenarians in the 17th century, called for a single, simple law book and the elimination of the lawyers: justice should be clear and open, not hidden by tortuous language and intricate procedures navigable only by the legal priests who served the upper classes. (Veall; cf Nixon 125).   Those who demanded popular justice were right.  The common law,  the forum within which the most wealthy increasingly conducted their quarrels rather than through directed violence, was also, from its beginnings, the instrument by which the great and powerful obfuscated and legitimated the extraction of wealth from the rest of the community.

On a wider scale, the early-modern period of early imperial expansion generated even more raw expressions of legal power. State law in the special form of the law of states—international law– legitimated destruction of  ‘savage’ and ‘uncivilized’ populations, and the rejection of their claims to rights against harm, rights slowly being built up, under wider voting franchises, in the metropoles of the empires in the nineteenth century.  …


From the seventeenth century to the mid-twentieth, when British suppression of mau mau in Kenya used terror, mass execution, and vast concentration camps to maintain the colonial regime that had seized land and reduced peoples to coerced labourers, British imperialism scorned ‘rule of law’ for subject peoples of colour. But they maintained its façade through rhetoric and guile, and here Nixon’s emphasis on the occult is particularly apt: the facts of the mau mau repression have only recently come to light (Anderson, Elkins; cf Nixon 137ff).  Information about the Kenyan atrocities the British public might not have ignored were deliberately suppressed by the state. As Nixon puts it, memory loss is often memory repression.  Thus ‘writing as scripted obliteration’ (p.95) aptly characterizes Niall Ferguson’s celebration of the glories of the British Empire. The historian Bernard Porter notes that Ferguson also celebrates his idyllic childhood memories of Kenya, a few years after the British atrocities committed against the Kikuyu. He says nothing about it. Empires demand amnesia.

As Nixon puts it, memory loss is often memory repression.

Legal facilitation of empire

Behind the façade of ‘rule of law’ lay the coercive, facilitative machinery of legal form, legislative terms, judicial interpretation and punitive enforcement.  We could examine the role of the corporate form, the deliberate absence of environmental regulation, or the huge legislative corpus and police forces that constructed taxation schemes and land appropriation schemes, new enclosures, to ‘free’ landscapes of  people and to construct the inputs of land and labour (South Africa enacted more laws than any other historical regime, bar Nazi Germany).  All this recapitulated on a world scale the early-modern history of English capitalism, and the laws used in colonial settings were copies of English law, but often far more punitive.

English master and servant law was coercive from its beginnings in 1349. It only ceased to be enforced by penal (criminal) sanctions in Britain in 1867/1875 (imprisonment of the worker for breach of contracted abolished, followed by the end of  penal fines.) Meanwhile, in the growing Empire, a vast legal/administrative apparatus of coerced ‘free’ labour replaced slavery. It was created, disciplined, and oppressed for profit through the state enforcement of highly exploitative contracts of employment. Under indenture, vast numbers of workers, both willing and coerced, signed contracts to labour in unknown conditions at the other side of the world—they came primarily from India, and went primarily to the British Caribbean, to Africa, to Mauritius. But also from Pacific Islands to Queensland, and many other local variants, including within India itself. Peasants were remade into labourers. Law constructed their working conditions as highly coercive, with employers often given rights to discipline and punish that only magistrates could exercise in England, and with a huge recourse to flogging, deduction of wages, mandatory increased lengths of contracts to punish absenteeism, and the deliberate creation of perpetual debt. (referred to in Nixon, 71, 83; cf Hay and Craven)

Imperial master and servant law was thus similar to, and based on, English employment contract law, but far more punitive, with a massive advantage granted to employers. Ex-slave colonies were  particularly notable in this regard, but the terms of this mass of legislation (over 2,000 enactments in over 100 colonies) was approved by London (which had the power of disallowance). Indeed, as ‘scientific racism’ increasingly informed the bureaucrats of an ever-widening empire in the later 19th century, the minimal protections for workers (such as limits on the legal length of contracts) were progressively removed. Only the collapse of world trade in the early 20th century, and pressure from the ILO, persuaded London to repeal the most egregiously exploitative elements of master and servant law in their colonial possessions.


….  A new [period of imperial expansion] was well underway by the 1930s. The ILO campaign against British imperial master and servant law was in part an American-inspired attempt to undermine British imperial power.  The new world empire was being created. Since the second world war, renewed globalization, renewed neoclassical economics, vastly increased weaponry, deeper environmental degradation, accelerating global inequality among ever-larger populations, and selfish complacency among elites and governments, have a terrible urgency.  Nixon’s book is a wonderful response, a hopeful sign of the power of intelligence, of writing, of activism.


Since the second world war, renewed globalization, renewed neoclassical economics, vastly increased weaponry, deeper environmental degradation, accelerating global inequality among ever-larger populations, and selfish complacency among elites and governments, have a terrible urgency.

10 June 2013


Read the full post after Friday’s workshop…





Law’s Slow Violence Workshop June 14, 2013


poster for event contains same intormation as text on page

Law’s Slow Violence: A workshop at Osgoode Hall Law School

Friday June 14 2013

930AM to 430PM     Osgoode Hall Law School IKB 1014

with Rob Nixon, Rachel Carson Professor of English at the  University of Wisconsin-Madison,

Author of  Law’s Slow Violence & the Environmentalism of the Poor, HUP 2012

Registration is Free but Limited

RSVP www.osgoode.yorku.ca/research/rsvp  Event Code SLOW

Copies of the book are available at the York University Bookstore.

Order the book from Harvard University Press here  Order the book from Chapters/Indigo bookstores here.

Read Professor Dayna’ Scott’s review of the book (published in the Osgoode Hall Law Journal) on SSRN, here:

With gripping urgency, Rob Nixon’s book “Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor” seeks to reveal the “occluded relationships” between transnational economic actors and the things that tie them to particular places, such as labour, land, resources and commodity dynamics.

He brings into view the bodies caught in the middle – those that have been raced and erased, made invisible, and wiped away — by exposing the violence perpetrated against them across time and space. Nixon’s work is a broad synthesis of a seemingly disparate set of literatures in post-colonial studies, eco-criticism and literary studies. His arresting narrative engages three primary concerns: the phenomenon of “slow violence,” the environmentalism of the poor; and the role of the writer-activist in the work of making the first two ‘visible.’

Slow violence, in Nixon’s conception, is “a violence that occurs gradually and out of sight, a violence of delayed destruction that is dispersed across time and space, an attritional violence that is typically not viewed as violence at all.”

Because he views a major aspect of the critical challenge to be representational – the problem of devising “stories, images and symbols adequate to the pervasive but elusive violence of delayed effects” – Nixon focuses on the storytellers themselves. And the storytellers he chooses are the writer-activists that have inspired an environmentalism of the poor, primarily in the Global south. They include Arundhati Roy, Ken Saro-Wiwa, Abdulrahman Munif, and Jamaica Kincaid, among others. They are all figures who, like Nixon, demonstrate a stubborn resistance to liberalism’s urge to “locate violence outside law.” Instead of treating law as that which contains violence, they plainly confront its complicity.


The organizers gratefully acknowledge

the financial support of

the Dean’s Conference Fund,

a Harry Arthurs Collaborative Grant,

Osgoode’s Law.Arts.Culture initiative.

the Institute for Feminist Legal Studies,

& York’s Vice-President’s Research and Innovation

the work of

Natalia Angel (Osgoode Doctoral Candidate)

the administrative & organizational expertise of

Lielle Gonsalves and Jody-Ann Rowe-Butler




Rob Nixon is currently the Rachel Carson Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Professor Nixon received his Ph.D. from Columbia University and is the author of London Calling: V. S. Naipaul, Postcolonial Mandarin (Oxford University Press); Homelands, Harlem and Hollywood: South African Culture and the World Beyond (Routledge); Dreambirds: the Natural History of a Fantasy (Picador); and Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor (Harvard University Press 2011). Professor Nixon is a frequent contributor to the New York Times; his writing has also appeared in publications such as The New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly, London Review of Books, Times Literary Supplement, Village Voice, The Nation, The Guardian, Outside, Chronicle of Higher Education, The Independent, Critical Inquiry, PMLA, Social Text, Slate, South Atlantic Quarterly, Transition, Cultural Critique, Contemporary Literature, Journal of Commonwealth and Postcolonial Studies, Ariel, Modern Fiction Studies, New Formations, and Black Renaissance/Renaissance Noire. He has published over ninety journal articles, essays, and book chapters.  Professor Nixon teaches environmental studies, postcolonial studies, creative nonfiction, African literature, world literature, and twentieth century British literature. He is a former chair of the Border and Transcultural Studies Research Circle and is affiliated with the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, the Center for Culture, History, and the Environment (CHE), the African Studies program, and the Creative Writing Program.  Professor Nixon has been the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Fulbright-Hays Fellowship, a MacArthur Foundation Peace and Security Fellowship, and a National Endowment for Humanities Fellowship. He is currently a Senior Fellow at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Institute for Research in the Humanities.


Jeremy Baskin is a Senior Associate at the University of Cambridge’s Programme for Sustainable Leadership, a Senior Fellow at Melbourne Business School, and an Adjunct Professor at Latrobe University. In each role he focuses on the implications of social and environmental (un)sustainability for major organizations in business, government and civil society. From South Africa, he was previously a leading trade unionist, anti-apartheid activist and writer. Post-apartheid, he was a senior public servant and advisor to the Mandela Presidency. From 2001 he headed a UK-based global research team, examining the social, environmental and ethical practices of major global companies. From 2005 he has worked at Cambridge University. He moved to Australia in 2007.


Amar Bhatia is completing his S.J.D. in the Faculty of Law at the University of Toronto.  His work focuses on the status and authority  of migrant workers and Indigenous peoples under Canadian immigration law, Indigenous legal traditions, and Canadian Aboriginal law.  He received his LL.B. from Osgoode Hall and then articled and worked in union-side labour and employment law in Toronto before returning to graduate school, where he received the Howland Prize in U of T’s LL.M. program.  His article entitled “The South of the North: Building on Critical Approaches to International Law with Lessons from the Fourth World” (2012) appeared in a special symposium issue of the Oregon Review of International Law on Third World Approaches to International Law.  Another recent publication entitled “In a Settled Country, Everyone Must Eat’: Four Questions About Transnational Private Regulation, Migration, and Migrant Work” appeared in the German Law Journal (Dec. 2012).


Ruth Buchanan is Associate Professor at Osgoode Hall Law School.  She has research and teaching interests in the areas of law and development, international human rights, international economic law, critical legal theory, and law and film.  Her work frequently engages with issues of legal pluralism, resistance and affect.  She is a co-editor of Reading Modern Law: Critical Methodologies and Sovereign Formations (2012).  She has authored numerous articles and book chapters, including “Writing Resistance into International Law” (2008) International Community Law Review and “”Passing through the Mirror: Dead Man, Legal Pluralism, and the Deterritorialization of the West.” (2011) She holds an LLM and an SJD from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and has also taught at the University of British Columbia, the University of New Brunswick, and University of Melbourne law schools.


Bryony Halpin is a PhD candidate in the Faculty of Environmental Studies (FES) at York University.  She holds a Master of Arts in Public Policy and Administration from Ryerson University and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Concordia University.  Before joining FES, Bryony was awarded a Walter and Duncan Gordon Foundation water policy fellowship and conducted research for the non-profit sector in New York, Mumbai and Toronto.  She has been a course director at both York University and Ryerson University.  Bryony’s work is centered on environmental justice, racialization and the postcolonial city.


Douglas Hay is a Professor at York Universtity, cross-appointed to Osgoode Hall Law School and York’s Department of History since 1981, teaching the comparative history of criminal procedure, punishment, and crime, and the history of private law in the common law world.  He is co-director of a continuing international project on the evolution of the contract of employment (Hay and Craven, Masters, Servants and Magistrates in Britain and the Empire, 1562-1955 (2004) and other titles.)  Recent work includes the history of the English high court’s criminal jurisdiction (Crown Side Cases in the Court of King’s Bench, 2010), and Professor Hay is presently writing about the administration of the criminal law in Georgian England.  He has published on the history of English and Quebec criminal law; comparative history of criminal procedure; social history of crime; judicial biography; courts and their political significance; and the history of employment law.  He has been a visitor at Yale, Warwick, and Columbia law schools, and has been on the boards of the Canadian Historical Review, Law and History Review, the Law and Society Association, and the American Society for Legal History.


Sonia Lawrence is Associate Professor at Osgoode Hall Law School. She graduated from the University of Toronto’s joint LLB/MSW program, and went on to serve as law clerk to Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin of the Supreme Court of Canada.  With the help of Fulbright and SSHRC Fellowships, she then attended Yale Law School where she focused on constitutional equality issues and welfare administration.  A past member of the Board of Parkdale Community Legal Services, Professor Lawrence has also provided expertise to the African Canadian Legal Clinic, the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF), and the Court Challenges Program.  She is the case comments editor of the Canadian Journal of Women and the Law.  Her work centers on questions of equality and includes examinations of the Supreme Court of Canada’s equality jurisprudence, the influence of feminism in Canadian law, sentencing regimes for ‘drug mules,’ diversity on the bench, and section 28 of the Charter.  She is the Director of the Institute for Feminist Legal Studies and the chair of the Academic Policy Committee.  She teaches first-year State and Citizen (constitutional and public law) as well as Perspective Option/upper-year seminars including Law, Gender, Equality.  Professor Lawrence runs a blog for the Institute for Feminist Legal Studies at http://ifls.osgoode.yorku.ca/ and is on Twitter as @OsgoodeIFLS.


Karin Mickelson is Associate Professor at The University of British Columbia, Faculty of Law. She has taught in the areas of international law, international environmental law, real property, environmental law and legal theory, and has supervised and co-supervised graduate students in a wide range of areas including international environmental law, international legal theory and international human rights. She has also served as the faculty advisor to UBC teams participating in the Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition.  Professor Mickelson’s research activities have focused on the South-North dimension of international law; for example, she has explored the possibility of identifying a distinctive Third World approach to international law in “Rhetoric and Rage: Third World Voices in International Legal Discourse” (1998) 16 Wisconsin International Law Journal 353-419, and has analyzed the failure of international environmental law to respond to the concerns of the South in “South, North, International Environmental Law, and International Environmental Lawyers” (2000) 11 Yearbook of International Environmental Law 52-81.  Her current research focuses on the impact of developing countries on the evolution of international environmental law. She is also a contributor to leading Canadian casebooks on international law and environmental law.


Usha Natarajan is an assistant professor in the Department of Law and the Center for Migration and Refugee Studies. She first joined AUC in 2010 as a visiting assistant professor of international law in the Department of Political Science.  Professor Natarajan has a multidisciplinary academic background, with a PhD in international law from the Australian National University, a MA in international law from the United Nations University of Peace, and an LLB (law) and a BA (art history) from Monash University. She has taught international law at the Australian National University, and worked with various international organizations including UNDP, UNESCO and the World Bank. She has worked with law initiatives in Asia, including Indonesia during its democratic transition, and in post-independence Timor Leste. Natarajan serves as a legal research fellow on human rights and poverty eradication at the Center for International Sustainable Development Law at McGill University. Recent publications include ‘Fairness and International Environmental Law from Below: Social Movements and Legal Transformation in India’ (2012) and ‘TWAIL & the Environment: The State of Nature, the Nature of the State and the Arab Spring’ (2012).


Pooja Parmar is the inaugural Catalyst Fellow and visiting professor at the Osgoode Hall Law School. She has recently completed PhD in law at the UBC Faculty of Law. The focus of her doctoral research was a dispute over groundwater that began with adivasi (indigenous) protests against a Coca-Cola plant in Kerala, India. Based on extensive legal, ethnographic and archival research, her dissertation explores how claims central to such disputes are inadequately understood.  Pooja received her LLM degree from UBC Law and her LLB degree from Panjab University in India. She has practiced law in New Delhi for several years, and has taught at UBC Law and Osgoode Hall.  Her research interests include legal pluralism, intersections of law and colonialism, indigeneity in a global context, human rights, law and development, and TWAIL. Her most recent paper titled ‘Undoing Historical Wrongs: Law and Indigeneity in India’ was published in the current issue of the Osgoode Hall Law Journal.


Sundhya Pahuja is a professor in the Melbourne Law School, University of Melbourne and the director of the Law and Development Research Programme at the Institute for International Law and the Humanities.  Pahuja’s scholarship is concerned with the relationship between international law and institutions and the question of global inequality. She researches, writes and teaches in the areas of law and development, international law, law and globalisation and legal theory.  Her work engages with the practice, and praxis, of international law and development through political philosophy, political-economy and postcolonial theories. She has worked as a research associate in international law and human rights at the EUI in Florence, practiced as a commercial lawyer, and for several years chaired the committee of management at the Darebin Community Legal Centre.  She is currently a member of the organising committee of the Legal Theory Interest group of the European Society of International Law and serves on the editorial boards of the Australian Feminist Law Journal * and the Law, Social Justice and Global Development Journal *(LGD) based at the University of Warwick.  Her latest book, Decolonizing International: Development, Economic Growth and the Politics of Universality, was awarded the American Society of International Law Certificate of Merit.


Dayna Nadine Scott is Associate Professor at Osgoode Hall Law School and the Faculty of Environmental Studies at York University. She joined York in 2006 after completing a SSHRC Post-Doctoral Fellowship at McGill’s Faculty of Law and a Hauser Global Research Fellowship at NYU. Professor Scott’s teaching is in administrative law, environmental law, risk regulation and international environmental governance. She recently completed a SSHRC-funded research project in partnership with environmental justice activists from the Aamjiwnaang First Nation, near Sarnia`s Chemical Valley, which tackled the issue of chronic pollution on an Ontario reserve. The project applied a critical, feminist perspective to the examination of law’s treatment of the “risks” of long-term, low-dose exposures to pollutants.  Professor Scott’s publications cover topics from international law’s “precautionary principle” and the regulation of toxic substances to the challenges posed for law and environmental health activism by the emerging endocrine disruption thesis.  She is interested in questions of environmental regulation and governance from an interdisciplinary perspective, especially work that interrogates the interaction between local and global modes of governing and ways of knowing.  The chapter, “Pollution and the Body Boundary: Exploring Scale, Gender and Remedy” appears in the recent volume, Feminist Perspectives on Tort Law, edited by Janice Richardson and Erica Rackley (Routledge, 2012).   Professor Scott is the editor of `Consuming` Chemicals: Law, Science and Policy for Women`s Health, forthcoming from UBC Press, and the Director of the National Network on Environments and Women`s Health. She is currently working on research related to the environmental justice implications of the pipeline decisions being contemplated by the National Energy Board.


Kate Sutherland is Associate Professor and Assistant Dean, First Year, at Osgoode Hall Law School.  She joined Osgoode’s faculty in 1998, and has taught law at the University of Saskatchewan. She has served as law clerk to Chief Justice Antonio Lamer of the Supreme Court of Canada, as well as Chief Justice E. D. Bayda of the Court of Appeal for Saskatchewan. Professor Sutherland is former Acting Director of the Centre for Constitutional Studies at the University of Alberta. She was the recipient of a Fulbright Fellowship in 1995 and the Law Society of Saskatchewan Gold Medal in 1989.  Professor Sutherland has written and presented in areas such as charter equality rights, sexual harassment, childhood sexual abuse, and tort law. She has served as editor or co-editor of several publications, including Review of Constitutional Studies, Constitutional Forum, Points of View, and Saskatchewan Law Review . Professor Sutherland has also written several literary pieces, including “The Necklace” in The New Quarterly , Winter (1997), Summer Reading: A Collection of Short Fiction (Saskatoon: Thistledown Press, 1995), and “Lucia” in Prairie Fire (1992).  Professor Sutherland’s community involvement has included her work for the Boston AIDS Care Project, University of Saskatchewan Women’s Centre, Her Story Calendar Collective, Saskatchewan Action Committee on the Status of Women, and the Saskatchewan Writers Guild.

Oct. 24 4-6pm @yorku Prof. Bettina Bradbury: “Twists, turning points and tall shoulders: studying Canada and feminist histories”

Twists, turning points and tall shoulders: studying Canada and feminist histories: Bettina Bradbury

The Robarts Centre for Canadian Studies: Robarts Lecture and Publication Launch Wednesday October 24 4 – 6 pm; Senate Chambers, 9th floor N Ross Building

A light reception will follow the lecture. RSVP by Wednesday October 17 to Laura Taman (llt@yorku.ca).

The Robarts Centre is very pleased to invite you to the ‘new series’ of Annual Robarts Lectures featuring our distinguished colleague Prof. Bettina Bradbury (Women’s Studies and History) speaking on “Twists, turning points and tall shoulders: studying Canada and feminist histories.” In this ‘intellectual biography,’ Prof. Bradbury will reflect on her career in and contributions to the study of Canada.

photo of Prof. Bradbury receiving FGS award.

An award-winning historian of Québec and family history, Prof. Bradbury has served the university in various roles, among others, as chair of Women’s Studies and as director ofthe graduate programme in History. She recently received the Faculty of Graduate Studies Teaching Award (see photo).

Here are some of Prof Bradbury’s publications (i selected some of those most clearly relevant to legal scholars)

“Colonial Comparisons: Rethinking Marriage, Civilization and Nation in 19th century White- Settler Societies,” in Phillip Buckner and G. Frances eds., Rediscovering the British World, (Calgary: University of Calgary Press, November, 2005), 135-58.

“Widows Negotiate the Law: The First Year of Widowhood in Early 19th Century Montreal,” in Tamara Myers and Bettina Bradbury, eds., Negotiating Identity in 19th and 20th Century Montreal (Vancouver: UBC Press, 2005), 120-48.

“Debating Dower: Patriarchy, Capitalism and Widows’ Rights in Lower Canada, ” in Tamara Myers, Kate Boyer, et. al. eds., Power, Place and Identity: Historical Studies of Social and Legal Regulation in Quebec (Montreal, Montreal History Group, 1998), 55-78.

“Creating a More Inclusive History – An overview of the challenges and solutions faced in integrating class, race and gender into survey courses, ” in Bettina Bradbury, Franca Iacovetta, Joan Sangster et. al. Teaching Women’s History (Athabaska, 1995), 37-48.

Alongside this public lecture, the Robarts Centre is also hosting its first collective book launch for Canadian-themed publications produced by members of the York University community. This is an occasion to celebrate the breadth of Canadianist research at York.



a little something from the past

The best summer “work” project i have is that the IFLS needs to put some stuff up on the walls, now that we have walls.  Here are some pics from the Toronto Archives that I found noodling around

link to page describing the Pamela Harris fonds in the Toronto Archives. 

link to Pamela Harris’s Sumach Press Book, Faces of Feminism

Got ideas? Let me know. Budget for this project-get-art-on-walls is what you would expect for a feminist project.

Women's History Month + Law + Osgoode = Vera Parsons

Vera Parsons is one of Osgoode’s earliest female graduates.  Called in 1924 after wining Osgoode’s silver medal, she was quite a remarkable woman,

…one of very few women before the 1960s who challenged the perception that female lawyers were not su ited for court work, especially criminal litigation. Not interested “in sitting at a desk all day,” as she put it, she succeeded where few women lawyers were allowed or dared to venture: she became Ontario’s first woman criminal defence lawyer.  source

Read more in this great article by Mélanie Brunet.  who was the original project coordinator of the Osgoode History and Archives project (for those of you at Osgoode, check out the exhibits and the neat interactive/online stuff in the new main atrium across from Student Services.

Brunet’s “vignette” on Parsons is full of gems, including some on clothing and this:

Parsons spent her career trying to distance herself from “women’s issues” and essentially presented herself as a genderless lawyer. She believed that when she entered a courtroom, “she [was] just another black-robed advocate,” She resisted becoming associated with women’s organizations, such as the Women’s Law Association of Ontario. Yet, as a woman in a male-dominated profession, Parsons was, by default, engaged in negotiating gender, even coming to the conclusion early on that ”women should [not] enter law without the thought of using it as an alternative for something else. Law is hard work and calls for long hours and plenty
of study. I hardly th ink the study of law is a particularly good preliminary to marriage.”  source

 You can read more and find more links via Mary Stokes post here at the Osgoode Society for Canadian Legal History blog, which includes info on how to find Mélanie Brunet’s unpublished PhD dissertation (History), University of Toronto, 2005  Becoming Lawyers: Gender, Legal Education and Professional Identity Formation in Canada, 1920-1980, online!