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Rose Heilbron


Rose Heilbron was born into a Jewish family in Liverpool in 1914, a time when women were fighting for their presence in the public sphere. Rose was to join that fight. Choosing to study law at Liverpool University in 1932, Rose was one of only two women in her year. She graduated with a First Class Honours Degree, which she followed with a Master of Laws two years later. Shortly thereafter, Rose was the first woman to be awarded the Lord Justice Holker Scholarship by Gray’s Inn, gaining her entry to the legal profession. Despite facing considerable prejudice at the male-dominated bar, Rose was not deterred and she gained a pupillage in 1939 at 43 Castle Street, Liverpool. She continued to succeed in the hostile environment, driven by her inherent passion for working with the law. She became an icon for women lawyers by achieving a number of firsts: in 1949, Rose became one of the first two women King’s Counsels (now Queen’s Counsel); in 1956, she became England’s first woman judge; and in 1972, she was the first woman to sit as a judge at the Old Bailey, London’s famous criminal court. In 1974, she became the second woman High Court Judge. As well as blazing a trail for women at the bar and on the bench, Rose engaged in challenging many of the injustices that face women, and was asked to chair a governmental Advisory Committee on Rape in 1975. Rose retired in November 1988, and passed away in December 2005. During her memorial service, her daughter Hilary described Rose as ‘a remarkable person: barrister, judge, colleague, friend, wife and mother in all of which roles she excelled’. 

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