The Development Office is delighted to be supporting the St Hugh’s College Alumni Association’s symposium celebrating the life of St Hugh’s alumna and law pioneer, Gwyneth Bebb (Law, 1908), one of the first women barristers, and the impact of Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919, which enabled women to enter the professions for the first time.
Join an eminent panel of speakers over a series of sessions to discuss the short but extraordinary life of Gwyneth Bebb and the impact of her fight against the exclusion of women from the legal profession, and hear from women who illustrate the significance of the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919.
The Rt Hon Dame Elish Angiolini DBE QC, Principal of St Hugh’s
Dame Janet Gaymer DBE QC (Hon.)
Carolyn Kirby OBE
Professor Senia Paseta, Tutorial Fellow in History and Tutor for Women at St Hugh’s College, and co-director of Women in the Humanities
The Rt Hon Nicky Morgan MP
Sheila Cameron CBE QC
Jane Robinson, the author of Bluestockings
Veronica Lowe, President of the St Hugh’s College Alumni Association
Standard tickets for this event are £10. St Hugh’s alumni are eligible to book one free ticket. Please scroll down for details of how to book.
Guests are welcome to bring a picnic and enjoy lunch in the College grounds before the symposium.
University of Oxford alumni are asked to book tickets through the central Alumni Office. Please click here to be directed to the booking page. Alumni are also able to book tickets for three guests at this link. If you require any additional tickets, please fill out the booking form below.
PLEASE NOTE: St Hugh’s alumni are able to enter a promotional code when booking through the University to receive a free ticket (please contact the Development Office for the code or see your Gaudy weekend invitation for details).
If you would like to attend the symposium and are not coming with an alumnus or alumna of the University of Oxford, please fill out the booking form below.
Born in Oxford on 27 October 1889, Gwyneth Bebb read Jurisprudence at St Hugh’s College from 1908, achieving first class honours in 1911. On leaving St Hugh’s she applied to sit the preliminary solicitors’ examinations but the Law Society refused her because of her gender. In 1912 a private Member of Parliament introduced a bill that would allow women to become solicitors, but its slow progress led Gwyneth, along with Karin Costelloe, Maud Ingram and Lucy Nettlefold, to launch a direct assault on the Law Society, claiming that the Society had no right to refuse to examine a woman or register her articles.
Through Bebb v. the Law Society, Gwyneth sought, but failed to obtain, a declaration that she was a ‘person’ within the meaning of the Solicitors Act 1843, and amending acts, and was therefore entitled to be admitted to the preliminary examinations of the Law Society. The case was also unsuccessful on appeal.
Between 1911 and 1920 Gwyneth held posts with the Ministry of Food and the National Service for Women, and she was one of the first women to receive the OBE in 1918 for her contribution to the war effort.
Harbouring ambitions to practise as a barrister, Gwyneth made an unsuccessful application to study at Lincoln’s Inn in 1918, after which the Inns set up a joint committee to report on the issue of admitting women. On 23 December 1919, just a year after the election of 1918 in which some women over 30 had voted for the first time, and on the very day on which she gave birth to her daughter Alice Diana Broughton Thomson, the King gave royal assent to the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act. Her second application to Lincoln’s Inn was accepted the following day and she was formally admitted in January 1920.
Following a difficult second pregnancy during which she was reading for the Bar, Gwyneth died from an infection at a nursing home in October 1921 on the birth of her daughter Marion, who also passed away.