Grace and Scarlet, Year 13, and Millie and Isabelle, Year 12, were invited to St Hugh’s College, Oxford for a symposium in honour of the late Gwyneth Bebb, a former Old Girl of St Mary’s (1906 – 1908). Gwyneth Bebb is considered a pioneer of the legal profession as the first woman to graduate with a First in Jurisprudence from Oxford, the only woman in an undergraduate class of 400 men, and for arguing Bebb v. The Law Society (1913), ultimately opening the legal profession to women in Britain. We first heard from Professor Senia Paseta, of St Hugh’s, on the remarkable life and impact of Gwyneth Bebb from being denied her degree because she was a woman, to being given membership at Lincoln’s Inn and being awarded an OBE for her war work in 1921.
The panel of speakers were excellent and very engaging, giving lots of funny anecdotes about their time in the legal profession including the first female Advocate General for Scotland, the Rt. Hon Elish Angiolini DBE QC and the Rt. Hon. Nicky Morgan MP.
All panellists gave thought provoking and inspirational advice to guests. One of our favourite pieces of advice was from Carolyn Kirby OBE, the first woman to be elected President of the Law Society, who advised the audience to “never be afraid to be the first person to do something, someone has to be first”. Another was from Nicky Morgan, who encouraged us to “be brave – say yes to opportunities, then figure out how you’ll do it, find people to help you and persevere.” A wonderful day and a fitting tribute to the lasting impact of a St Mary’s Girl.