Alumna: Ivy Williams

Ivy Williams (1877–1966) was one of the first women to be awarded a law degree at Oxford.

Ivy WilliamsIvy Williams was one of the first women to be awarded a law degree at Oxford, the first woman to be called to the bar of England and Wales, and the first woman to teach Law at an English university. 

Ivy was born in Devon in 1877. Her only brother Winter Williams studied Law at Corpus Christi College and became a barrister, but died in World War One. Ivy endowed two law scholarships at Oxford in his name, one of which was for women only. 

Ivy was only the third woman to study law at Oxford and did so at the Society of Oxford Home Students, which later became St Anne’s College. She took a second class in jurisprudence in 1900 and in the BCL examination in 1902. However, Ivy had to wait until 1920 when Oxford awarded degrees to women to receive her degrees. Ivy matriculated on 7 October 1920, and received her BA, MA, and BCL a week later on 14 October 1920. In 1923 she became the first woman to be awarded the degree of Doctor of Civil Law at Oxford for her published work The Sources of Law in the Swiss Civil Code. 

Women were first admitted to the Inns of Court in 1920 and Ivy joined the Inner Temple on 26th January that year. She received a certificate of honour (first class) in her final bar exams and was the first woman to be called to the English bar, on 10th May 1922, but did not practise as a barrister. The Law Journal described her call to the bar as ‘one of the most memorable days in the long annals of the legal profession’.

From 1920 to 1945 Ivy Williams was tutor and lecturer in law to the Society of Oxford Home Students. She was elected an honorary fellow of St Anne's College in 1956. In later life, as her eyesight failed, she taught herself to read braille and produced a primer which was published for the National Institute for the Blind in 1948 and went into more than one edition. Ivy died at her Oxford home on 18 February 1966, aged 88. 

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