Calls for Papers, Events

Women’s Legal Landmarks

Rosemary Auchmuty and Erika Rackley

2019 marks the centenary of women’s formal admission into the legal profession. This was a key legal landmark for women but, of course, it was not first. Feminists have a long history of engaging with law and law reform with the result that women’s legal history is full of landmarks – key events, cases and statutes – shaping and responding to women’s lives and (diverse) experiences.

To commemorate the centenary of women’s admission into the profession, this project aims to bring together interested feminist scholars to engage in the process of identifying and writing about key legal landmarks for women. The landmark must be significant for feminists, even if it only had an impact on a group of women. These might be one or a series of cases, a statute or campaign, an individual, a monument or event. Indeed, it may not have been positive at the time, yet turned out to be a catalyst for change. The landmark may be well-known or less familiar. We are focusing on legal landmarks in the UK and Ireland and hope to cover a broad range of substantive topics.  Our goal is the production of a number of outputs celebrating women’s legal history, reaching both a scholarly and a general audience.

Possible landmarks could include: the Contagious Diseases Acts 1864-6; the statue of Emmeline Pankhurst in Victoria Tower Gardens; The Well of Loneliness trial; Williams & Glyn’s Bank v Boland [1981]; S41 of the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act; the appointment of Lady Hale.  Contributions will be quite short – 2 – 3,000 words – so that we can include as many as possible.

This is estimated to be a two-year project (2015-2017). We envisage a series of workshops, each of which will consider a number of legal landmarks from a particular period or on related themes. It is anticipated that the participants in the project will, so far as they are able, attend each of the workshops, to be held across the UK and Ireland (we hope to secure funding to support this). The workshops will not only provide an opportunity for the development of materials, but encourage the development of a network of feminist scholars and activists.

How to get involved

Having already received an enthusiastic response from the legal community, we are now looking for historians to comment and advise on the process of researching and writing feminist history.  It is envisaged that you would attend the workshops, comment on presentations and play a full role in discussions.  This approach is similar to the one adopted in the Feminist Judgments project (see Rosemary Hunter, Clare McGlynn and Erika Rackley eds. Feminist Judgments: from theory to practice (Hart Publishing, 2010), in which practising lawyers acted as consultants assisting the academics with judgment-writing.

There is also the possibility for historians to contribute a landmark should you wish.  A grasp of legal method would be an advantage.  Some landmarks have of course proved very popular and it may be necessary to select one from many proposals.

Project Outline and Outputs

The collected landmarks (each essay of 2,000 – for ‘first women’ and 3,000 – for other landmark) will be published in an edited collection, accompanied by an extract of the relevant primary material, photograph or other source.  In addition, there will be a website in the form of an online exhibition with further links to primary sources.

If you would like to participate in the project, please write to Erika Rackley ( and Rosemary Auchmuty (, indicating:

either that you would like to be involved as a historical ‘adviser’
or the legal landmark(s) you would like to consider and why you think they are legal landmarks (max 200 words per landmark).

Closing date for expression of interest: 30 April 2014


  • 10 June 2014:  Initial workshop to discuss content, approach and contributions, along with guidance on doing historical research.
  • January 2015:  Project workshops begin.