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About the exhibition...


The Inspirational Women of the Law exhibition (and its sister event, held at Newcastle Law School on 5th March 2015) celebrates and promotes the achievements of just a small number of the inspirational women who have worked with the law, or who have used the law, to make a significant contribution to society. The exhibition will be on display at the Long Gallery (adjacent to the Hatton Gallery, Newcastle University, NE1 7RU) from 6th -14th March 2015, coinciding with International Women’s Day 2015. After this time, it will be permanently exhibited in Newcastle Law School.


Some of the women portrayed in the exhibition you may recognise: Lady Hale, for example, our first (and so far, only) female judge on the UK Supreme Court, or Vera Baird QC, the Police and Crime Commissioner for Northumbria. But you may not have heard of others, such as Helena Normanton who carved the way for women in the legal profession and campaigned for the rights of women in the early 20th century, or Cris McCurley, a partner at North East firm Ben Hoare Bell, who works tirelessly for women who have experienced abuse and campaigns against legal aid cuts so that everyone can have access to justice.   


The aim of the exhibition is to celebrate and promote the achievements of the featured women as well as the work and lives of the many other women not portrayed here but who are, in spirit, represented by our inspirational women. They demonstrate how, and instil hope that, structural barriers to women’s progression can be navigated and resisted; because despite the fact that a high proportion of law students and those entering the legal professions are female, there is a low proportion of women in more senior positions in legal academia, law firms, at the bar, and in the judiciary. Women comprise over 60% of law students and trainee solicitors (Universities UK and Higher Education Statistics Agency, Higher Education: A Diverse and Changing Sector, 2013, p 13; Law Society, Trends in the Legal Profession, 2009, p 6, respectively) and approximately 45% of pupils at the bar. However, of practising QCs, women make up 10% (The Bar Council, 2010); just over one third of practising barristers are women (The Bar Council, 2010); and 7 of 38 Court of Appeal judges are women, and there is only one woman judge – Lady Hale – who sits in the Supreme Court (Courts and Tribunals Judiciary, Judicial Diversity Statistics, 2014).


By showcasing iconic and influential women of the law, we want to inspire the next generation of women to study law, to practise law, to become law-makers and judges, and to recognise the power of the law to achieve social justice. We also want to increase the representation of women in public spaces, including here in our own University. We hope that the exhibition will continue to inspire for years to come, when it is placed in its permanent home in Newcastle Law School. The website will also be a place for people to read about and see our Inspirational Women of the Law.


This project was inspired by, and builds on, the Inspirational Women of the North East exhibition (IWNE). That project inspired us to curate this exhibition. The Inspirational Women of the Law exhibition is a collaboration between Newcastle Law School staff and students, and Fine Art students. However, it would not have been possible without the generosity of our sponsors and the help, advice and time of many others across and beyond the University.


Thank you to the incredible women who agreed to have their images used or their photographs taken or to speak to our students as part of the IWLaw project. You truly are inspirational.
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