Tag Archives: profession

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post here at the Osgoode Society for Canadian Legal History blog, which includes info on how to find Mélanie Brunet’s unpublished PhD dissertation (History), University of Toronto, 2005  Becoming Lawyers: Gender, Legal Education and Professional Identity Formation in Canada, 1920-1980,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