Workshop examines early contributions of women to legal education in Canada

Patricia McMahon headshot on white background
Professor Patricia McMahon

Legal scholars from across Canada gathered at Osgoode May 25th and 26th to advance work on a unique book examining the critical impact of women in shaping legal education in Canada.

“With women now making up more than half of most law school classes, it’s important to examine and analyze the lives and contributions of the women who taught them, especially because it has taken so long to have that same kind of representation in the front of the classroom,” said Osgoode Professor Patricia McMahon, who co-covened the workshop and is co-authoring the book’s concluding chapter.

Twelve of the book’s 16 contributors attended the third and final workshop, which was funded by Osgoode, the Institute for Feminist Legal Studies at Osgoode and a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Connection Grant.

The project is led by the book’s co-editors, Anna Lund, an associate professor in the Faculty of Law at the University of Alberta, and Virginia Torrie ’09, ’10 (LLM), a former associate professor in the Faculty of Law at the University of Manitoba.

McMahon said the book will detail the diverse lives and contributions of the early women members of Canada’s legal academy, including some of the first women appointed to tenure-track positions, as well a university registrar, a librarian, an Indigenous Elder and the first Black woman law dean.

She said she joined the project in its early stages because of her work with the oral history program at the Osgoode Society for Canadian Legal History, where she serves as program director. The society’s oral history program has so far collected more than 700 oral history interviews with members of the legal profession, including many women.

The as-yet untitled book is expected to be published by University of British Columbia Press later this year or early next year.