Martin, Clara Brett

 Clara Brett Martin, lawyer (b at Toronto c1874; d there 30 Oct 1923). The daughter of an Irish Anglican superintendent of schools, Martin entered Trinity College, Toronto, in 1888, just 3 years after women were first admitted, and graduated with an honours BA in mathematics in 1890. The next year, she applied to the Law Society of Upper Canada for admission as a student but was refused. Only with the support of such influential figures as Dr. Emily STOWE and Premier Sir Oliver MOWAT and the passage of a provincial act admitting women as solicitors was Martin able to became a law student in 1893 and article with Samuel Hume BLAKE. Despite tremendous hostility from male lecturers and students, she placed first in the Law Society's examinations. Martin then enlisted the help of Lady ABERDEEN and Mowat to have legislation passed admitting women as barristers. The Law Society again tried to block her entry into the profession but relented when pressure was brought to bear by wealthy clients of the Society's benchers.

Martin finally achieved her goal on 2 February 1897, becoming the first woman lawyer in the British Empire. She went on to earn Bachelor of Civil Law (1897) and LLB (1899) degrees and to establish a successful Toronto practice. However, she was seldom able to appear in court because of the stir it caused, and never married. She participated in various women's organizations, served for a decade as the only female trustee on the Toronto Board of Education and was almost elected as an alderman. Despite Martin's heroic trailblazing, not until the middle of the 20th century did significant numbers of women enter the legal profession in Canada.