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Glasgow marks Madge Anderson graduation centenary

8 November 2019

The University of Glasgow is today marking the day when, exactly 100 years ago, the UK’s first female solicitor graduated with a law degree from the university.

Madge Easton Anderson was the university’s first woman to gain a Bachelor of Law degree, though not the first female law graduate in Scotland.

In 1920 she went on to become the first woman to qualify as a solicitor anywhere in the UK. She also went on to be the first woman to practise law professionally in both Scotland and then England, and a partner in the first UK law firm to be run only by women.

However much of the detail of her life remains obscure and her achievements are not widely known or celebrated. Academics at the University of Glasgow are marking the centenary of her graduation as part of a wider project to mark 100 years of women in law, to honour her achievements and encourage Ms Anderson’s living relatives to get in touch.

Maria Fletcher, senior lecturer in European Law, who is leading the university team researching Ms Anderson's life, said: "As we mark the centenary of the passing of the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919 which permitted women to practise law for the first time, wider attention is rightly being paid to these important and incredibly inspiring early pioneers.

"Like so many women in history, their stories were not well documented at the time, and so they and their contributions have been under-recognised."

Seonaid Stevenson, research assistant and solicitor, added: "Recently, we interviewed Ms Flora Douglas, Ms Anderson’s former neighbour, to ask about her memories of this remarkable lady. Ms Anderson, who appeared to leave legal practice behind when she left London in 1949 to run a guest house in rural Perthshire, seemingly never spoke a word of her career and her many ‘firsts’ in the legal profession. She was described as kind, extremely independent, and always wearing a brown felt hat and tweed suit!

"However, some of her achievements were known and marked by her family when she died in August 1982 and are reflected on her gravestone. We know Madge is survived today by a great niece and nephew descended from Ellen Davidson Anderson, one of her elder sisters. It would be wonderful to be in touch with them."

Ms Anderson's gravestone reads: "A brilliant Glasgow University student and first woman solicitor in Scotland."

The research team also released today this photo of Ms Anderson, from a newspaper cutting about her graduation (©CSG CIC Glasgow Museums and Libraries Collection: The Mitchell Library, Special Collections):

 

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