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Helena Normanton


Helena Florence Normanton was born in London in 1882, and died aged 74 in 1957. Prior to her legal career, Helena had trained and practised as a teacher, having been awarded a First Class history degree from the University of London. She was active in the suffrage movement as a member of the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU), and later the Women’s Freedom League. As well as campaigning for women’s suffrage, Helena wrote and spoke on other feminist issues, including equal pay for equal work. Her move into a legal career began when she applied to be admitted to Middle Temple. This first application was rejected because she was a woman; however, it was not in vain, as Helena’s campaign for equality was considered to be a contributing factor in the passing of the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919, the legislation which removed the bar to women’s entry into the legal profession. In 1922, Helena became one of the first women to be admitted to the bar and she was the first female barrister to practise in England. Helena married in 1921 and became a prolific campaigner for women’s equal rights in marriage, including the right for women to retain their surname. In 1924, was the first married British woman to be issued a passport in her maiden name and she went on to become a co-founder of the Married Women’s Association. She was the first woman to prosecute a murder trial, the first woman to conduct a trial in the United States, and the first female counsel in the High Court of Justice, the Old Bailey and the London sessions. Along with Rose Heilbron, Helena Normanton became the first female King’s Counsel (now Queen’s Counsel) in England. 

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