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UK Women in Law

Our first British women in Law to celebrate.  They will be added to but it's a start.  The old, the new and the renowned.

Elizabeth Garrett Anderson (1836-1917)

Main achievements: First Englishwoman to qualify as a Doctor, first female mayor in England and a member of the suffragette movement.


Elizabeth Garrett Anderson was a pioneering physician and political campaigner.  She was the first Englishwoman to qualify as a doctor. Female physicians were unheard of in 19th century Britain and her attempts to study at a number of medical schools were denied.  In 1865 she passed the Society of Apothecaries examinations and gained a certificate which enabled her to become a doctor. The society then changed its rules to prevent other women entering the profession this way. In 1866 she established a dispensary for women in London and in 1870 was made a visiting physician to the East London Hospital.  


Despite obtaining a medical degree from the University of Paris, the British Medical Register refused to recognise her qualification. In 1872, Anderson founded the New Hospital for Women in London (later renamed after its founder), staffed entirely by women.  Anderson's determination paved the way for other women, and in 1876 an act was passed permitting women to enter the medical professions. In 1883, Anderson was appointed dean of the London School of Medicine for Women, which she had helped to found in 1874, and oversaw its expansion.  In 1902, Anderson retired to Aldeburgh on the Suffolk coast. In 1908, she became first female mayor in England. She was also a member of the suffragette movement.

Professor Dame Sally Davies DBE, FMedSci, FRS

Chief Medical Officer for England and the first woman to fill this post


Sally Davies is the Chief Medical Officer for England and the first woman to fill this post. She is a haematologist with specialist research interest in sickle cell disease. But in her advisory post she guides government decisions on diverse subjects such as superbugs, drug trials and obesity.

She developed the National Institute for Health Research in 2006 with a budget of £1 billion. She is an Emeritus Professor at Imperial College.


She was chair of the 2013 AMR forum at the World Innovation Summit for Health (WISH) and was for three years the chair of the WHO Strategic and Technical Advisory Group on AMR. Most recently, Dame Sally has been appointed a co-convener of the UN Inter-Agency Co-ordination Group on AMR, set up in response to the AMR declaration made at UNGA 2016.


Dame Sally was a member of the World Health Organization (WHO) Executive Board 2014-2016 and has led delegations to a range of WHO summits and forums since 2004.

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Dame Janet Hilary Smith, DBE (born in Stockport 1940 - present)

The Rt Hon. Lady Justice Smith was called to the Bar in 1972.  She practised in Manchester for 20 years, specialising in personal injury and clinical negligence.  In 1986 she was appointed QC and in 1992 High Court Judge at which time she received the Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire.


After several high profile cases she became the fourth woman to be promoted to the Court of Appeal in 2002.  2003 saw her appointed to chancellor of Manchester Metropolitan University. in June 2011 Smith was appointed to succeed Lord Brennan of Bibury QC as the independent assessor for miscarriages of justice compensation for England and Wales.  In 2012 she became Treasurer of Lincoln's Inn and was selected to lead an inquiry by the BBC into allegations of sexual abuse by Jimmy Savile.

Mary Howarth Arden, Baroness Mance (born in Liverpool 1947 - present)

The Rt Hon. Lady Justice Arden studied law at Girton College, Cambridge and Harvard Law School she was called to the Bar in 1971 and joined Lincoln’s Inn in 1973.  She mainly practiced company law and became a QC in 1986. Lady Arden served as Attorney-General of the Duchy of Lancaster between 1991-1993.  She is an Honorary Fellow of Royal Holloway, University of London.  In 1993 she became the first woman to be appointed as a High Court of Justice Judge for the Chancery Division and was appointed Dame Commander of the British Empire (DBE).  In 1996 she became chairperson of the Law Commission and was given the Times Woman of Achievement Lifetime award. In 2000 she was appointed to the Court of Appeals the third women to do so. 


In April 2005 Lady Justice Arden was appointed Judge in charge of International Judicial Relations.  Lady Arden continues to contribute to numerous legal reference works and author articles in legal journals.

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