MacGill (1864-1947) was a notable
journalist, judge and women’s rights advocate from Canada. She was one of the
first female judges in the country, and at one point, the only one.
She graduated from Trinity
College (part of the University of Toronto) in 1889, the only woman in her
class and the first female graduate of the institution. She co-founded the
Vancouver Business and Professional Women’s Club in 1923.
Irene Khan (b. 1956) is a Bangladeshi lawyer. She was the
Secretary General of Amnesty International from 2001 to 2009.
She studied law at
Harvard and became an expert in human rights, working for the UNHCR for twenty
years. She also served as the Director-General of the International Development
was the first female chief justice of California. She was appointed to the
court in 1977.
her career, she achieved a number of significant firsts: she was the first
woman to hold a cabinet-level job in the state of California, as Secretary of
Agriculture, first female justice, and the first female deputy public defender
in Santa Clara County. One of her most important positions was her strong
opposition to the death penalty, and the decision that the state must provide
free abortions for poor women.
Miriam Naveira (1934-2018) was the first woman to serve on the Supreme Court of
Puerto Rico, which she did for almost twenty years. She was also its first
She held two degrees, one in chemistry and one
in law. She was first appointed to the Supreme Court in 1985, and became Chief
Justice in 2004, a position she held until retirement.
Elizabeth Garrett (1963-2016) was the first female president of Cornell University.
She ascended to the role in 2015, but served for less than a year, tragically
dying of cancer while in office.
She studied law at the University of
Virginia, and later became a legal advisor for the Iran – US Claim Tribunal at
The Hague. She was a professor and deputy dean for academic affairs at the
University of Chicago and a visiting professor at numerous other institutions
around the world.
Eleanor Holmes Norton (b. 1937) is a lawyer and politician. She is a non-voting Delegate
to the US House of Representatives, as well as a devoted civil rights activist.
She studied law at Yale, and later worked
as the assistant legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union. In 1977
she became the first female Chair of the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission,
and in 1990 she co-founded the African-American Women for Reproductive Freedom
Theodora Wood (b. 1947) is a judge and former
police officer from Ghana. She was the first woman to serve as Chief Justice in
the country, a position which she occupied for ten years.
She studied at the Ghana Law School, as
well as the Police College, and was appointed to the Supreme Court in 2002. She
is also a member of the Council of State and a board member of the
international human rights organisation Global Justice Center.
Barbara Calvert (1926-2015) was a barrister specialising in
family law. She was the first woman Head of Chambers in the United Kingdom.
finished her studied at the London School of Economics and started her profession
at a time when only 3% of barristers were women. In 1974, she established her
own chambers in London, the first woman ever to do so in the country. She was
also the first woman elected as a Bencher of the Middle Temple.
Bolin (1908-2007) was a lawyer and judge who
achieved a number of historic firsts. She was the first black woman to graduate
from Yale Law School, the first to join the New York City Bar Association and
the first to serve as a judge in the United States.
She graduated from Yale Law School in 1931,
from a class where she was the only black student and one of three women. She
was appointed as a judge in 1939 and served in this position for 40 years. She
was also a legal advisor to the National Council of Negro Women and an activist
for education and children’s rights.
Moskalenko (b. 1954)
is the leading human rights lawyer in Russia. She and her team have won 27
cases against the Russian government at the European Court of Human Rights,
including the very first one that the Court heard against the Russian
She is a member of the
human rights organisation Moscow Helsinki Group, as well as the Media Legal
Defence Initiative, which provides legal aid to journalists and media
organizations worldwide. In 2008 she was the victim of an attempted mercury