Did You Know Who was the First Black Female Lawyer in Canada?

Violet King, First Black Female Lawyer in Canada

We’re reposting our article on Violet King from February 2016 because not enough people know about Violet King, Canada’s first black female lawyer.

Violet Pauline King Henry (1930-1981), was the first Black Female Lawyer in Canada. But you won’t find a Canadian Heritage Minute clip for her, and she’s not listed on Historica Canada’s Black History Canada Profiles.

Yet, when Violet King Henry (née King) graduated from the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Law in 1953, she was became the first Black person to graduate from the U of A law school. In 1954, after being Called to the Bar, Ms. King Henry became Canada’s first Black female lawyer.

Ms. King Henry was born on October 18, 1929 and grew up in Calgary. Her father, John,worked for the Canadian Pacific Railways (CPR) as a porter and her mother, Stella, was a seamstress. Growing up, Ms. King Henry was an active community leader. In grade 12, she became President of the Girls Association and expressed an interest in practicing criminal law.

In 1948, she entered the University of Alberta (U of A) and continued her community leadership and activism. She was Vice-President of the U of A Students Union and the university’s representative to the Union of National Federation of Canadian University students. She was also an early second wave feminist. Violet King Henry was a member of the U of A Blue Stocking Club, which was a “general discussion group for women at the University of Alberta. The emphasis of the group was on history and public affairs.” The club’s name references the Blue Stockings Society in 18th century England. This was an informal group of educated and intellectual women who discussed the topics and issues of the day. A”bluestocking” referred to women participants, who apparently wore stockings.

Violet King Henry’s Law School and Articling Years

When Ms. King Henry started law school, she was one of three women in the entire student body and was the only women to graduate from the U of A Faculty of Law in 1953. This is hard to believe given that today about 51% of Canadian law school graduates are comprised of female students. But it’s true.

After graduation, she articled  with a local Calgary lawyer Edward McCromick. However, she wasn’t only interested in criminal law. Ms. King Henry apparently acted as treasurer for a local labour union.

Upon completing her articles, Ms. King Henry was admitted to the Alberta Bar in 1954, becoming Canada’s first Black female lawyer as well as Alberta’s first Black lawyer.

Violet King Henry’s Legal Career and Beyond

After Ms. King Henry was admitted to the Alberta Bar, she practiced criminal law in Calgary. She worked at the law firm with A.M. (Milt) Harradence, a criminal lawyer who was eventually elevated to the Court of Appeal.

It’s unclear when exactly an opportunity in Ottawa came up, but Ms. King Henry left Calgary for Ottawa to work in the Department of Citizenship and Immigration. She traveled the country meeting community leaders. In April 1956, she switched her Law Society status to a non-practicing member of the Alberta Law Society.

In 1963, she moved to the United States to work with the Newark, New Jersey, YW-YMCA as the associate general secretary. Ms. King Henry distinguished herself through her hard work and focus on helping unemployed Black persons find jobs. In 1969, she moved to Chicago and was named the Director of Manpower, Planning and Staff Development for the Chicago YMCA. Not much information is available about her years in Chicago.

However, in 1976, Ms. King Henry became the first woman appointed to a senior executive position in the American National YMCA. She took on the role of Executive Director of the National Council of YMCA’s Organizational Development Group. Ms. King Henry credited her legal training as good preparation for social and community leadership work.

She died of cancer in 1981.

Not enough is known about Violet King Henry. We’ve included links to what little information we found on Ms. King Henry. We encourage everyone to learn more about Violet King Henry by reading the Canadian Legal History Blog by clicking  here, or by reading Rachel K. Bailie’s and Professor David Percy’s article here.

Do you know who were the first Black Female Provincial Judges in Central Canada?

Juanita Westmoreland-Traoré and Micheline A. Rawlins were the first Black Female Provincial Judges appointed in Central Canada.

Who is Juanita Westmoreland-Traoré?
Juanita Westmoreland-Traoré In 1942, Juanita Westmoreland-Traoré was born in Verdun, which is now part of Montreal. The daughter of Guyanese immigrants, she entered Marianopolis College, and then went on to study law at the Université de Montréal.

During her legal studies, Ms. Westmoreland- Traoré was involved in Crossroads International, which took her to Senegal in 1964 and then to Togo in 1965.

In 1966, she graduated with her law degree from the Université de Montréal and went on to earn a Doctorate of State from the University of Paris II.

A Multifaceted Legal Career
Ms. Westmoreland-Traoré’s legal career moved from legal practice, to teaching and eventually serving in the judiciary.

She was called to the Quebec Bar in 1969 and started practicing law in 1970 at the law firm of Mergler, Melançon. Throughout the 1970s she taught at both the Université de Montréal and Université du Québec à Montréal. She specialized in a number of areas including immigration and citizenship law, human rights, family law and not-for-profit organization law.

From 1979 to 1983 she served as a member in the Office de protection des consommateurs du Québec. Afterwards, from 1983 – 1985, Ms. Westmoreland-Traoré was a Commissioner for the Canadian Human Rights Commission.

During the 1980s, Ms. Westmoreland-Traoré helped establish Conseil des communautés culturelles et de l’immigration du Québec and in 1985 became its first Chair.  In 1991, Junita Westmoreland-Traoré was named to an Officer of the Ordre National du Quebec. In that same year, she became the Employment Equity Commissioner of Ontario until 1995.

Prior to being appointed the Bench, Juanita Westmoreland-Traoré was the first Black Law School Dean. From 1996 to 1999 Ms. Westmoreland-Traoré served as Dean of the University of Windsor’s Faculty of Law. She joined Ontario’s Bar in 1997.

In April 1999, Ms. Westmoreland-Traoré was appointed to the Criminal and Penal Division and the Youth Division of the Court of Quebec and became the first Black Female Judge in Quebec.

Justice Westmoreland-Traoré served on the Board of the Canadian Chapter of the International Association of Women Judges and co-chaired the Equality and Diversity Committee of the Canadian Association of Provincial Court Judges.

Who is Micheline A. Rawlins?
In 1951, Micheline A. Rawlins was born in Montreal. Eventually, she attended McGill UnivJustice Micheline A. Rawlinsersity where she received a B.A. in 1975. From there Ms. Rawlins went on earn a LLB from the University of Windsor in 1978.

Ms. Rawlins was called to the Bar in 1982 and went on to work as an assistant Crown Attorney in Kent County.

A Passion for the Law and Community
Along with the law, Ms. Rawlins had a passion for serving the Windsor community. Throughout the 1980s, she served on the boards of a number of community agencies including Robinson House, Windsor Urban alliance, Windsor Media Council, the Girl Guides, the Boy Scouts and the University of Windsor Board of Governors.

In 1992, Micheline A. Rawlins was the first Black Woman appointed to the Ontario Court of Justice.

Justice Rawlins has received a number of honours and awards over the years.  She was awarded the National Congress of Black Women Outstanding Contributions to Women, to Law and to Canada Award in 2002 as well as the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal. In 2004, she was named Windsor Woman of the Year.

At the 2009 International Women’s Day Forum held at the Law Society Justice Rawlins advocated for more women on the Bench and stated that “judges must bring their personal perspectives to the bench without fear of being called less than impartial, and that the definition of perspective does not necessarily equate to male privilege.”

To learn more about Justice Juanita Westmoreland-Traoré click here. To learn more about Justice Micheline A. Rawlins click here.

Did You Know Who was the First Black Female Lawyer in Canada?

Violet King, First Black Female Lawyer in Canada
Violet King shakes hands with E.J. McCormick, with whom she articled. (June, 1954). Photographer/Illustrator: De Lorme, Jack, Calgary, Alberta.

Violet Pauline King Henry (1930-1981), was the first Black Female Lawyer in Canada. But you won’t find a Canadian Heritage Minute clip for her, and she’s not listed on Historica Canada’s Black History Canada Profiles.

Yet, when Violet King Henry (née King) graduated from the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Law in 1953, she was became the first Black person to graduate from the U of A law school. In 1954, after being Called to the Bar, Ms. King Henry became Canada’s first Black female lawyer.

Ms. King Henry was born on October 18, 1929 and grew up in Calgary. Her father, John,worked for the Canadian Pacific Railways (CPR) as a porter and her mother, Stella, was a seamstress. Growing up, Ms. King Henry was an active community leader. In grade 12, she became President of the Girls Association and expressed an interest in practicing criminal law.

In 1948, she entered the University of Alberta (U of A) and continued her community leadership and activism. She was Vice-President of the U of A Students Union and the university’s representative to the Union of National Federation of Canadian University students. She was also an early second wave feminist. Violet King Henry was a member of the U of A Blue Stocking Club, which was a “general discussion group for women at the University of Alberta. The emphasis of the group was on history and public affairs.” The club’s name references the Blue Stockings Society in 18th century England. This was an informal group of educated and intellectual women who discussed the topics and issues of the day. A”bluestocking” referred to women participants, who apparently wore stockings.

Violet King Henry’s Law School and Articling Years
When Ms. King Henry started law school, she was one of three women in the entire student body and was the only women to graduate from the U of A Faculty of Law in 1953. This is hard to believe given that today about 51% of Canadian law school graduates are comprised of female students. But it’s true.

After graduation, she articled  with a local Calgary lawyer Edward McCromick. However, she wasn’t only interested in criminal law. Ms. King Henry apparently acted as treasurer for a local labour union.

Upon completing her articles, Ms. King Henry was admitted to the Alberta Bar in 1954, becoming Canada’s first Black female lawyer as well as Alberta’s first Black lawyer.

Violet King Henry’s Legal Career and Beyond
After Ms. King Henry was admitted to the Alberta Bar, she practiced criminal law in Calgary. She worked at the law firm with A.M. (Milt) Harradence, a criminal lawyer who was eventually elevated to the Court of Appeal.

It’s unclear when exactly an opportunity in Ottawa came up, but Ms. King Henry left Calgary for Ottawa to work in the Department of Citizenship and Immigration. She traveled the country meeting community leaders. In April 1956, she switched her Law Society status to a non-practicing member of the Alberta Law Society.

In 1963, she moved to the United States to work with the Newark, New Jersey, YW-YMCA as the associate general secretary. Ms. King Henry distinguished herself through her hard work and focus on helping unemployed Black persons find jobs. In 1969, she moved to Chicago and was named the Director of Manpower, Planning and Staff Development for the Chicago YMCA. Not much information is available about her years in Chicago.

However, in 1976, Ms. King Henry became the first woman appointed to a senior executive position in the American National YMCA. She took on the role of Executive Director of the National Council of YMCA’s Organizational Development Group. Ms. King Henry credited her legal training as good preparation for social and community leadership work.

She died of cancer in 1981.

Not enough is known about Violet King Henry. We’ve included links to what little information we found on Ms. King Henry. We encourage everyone to learn more about Violet King Henry by reading the Canadian Legal History Blog by clicking  here, or by reading Rachel K. Bailie’s and Professor David Percy’s article here.

According to Prof Michelle Ryan, women start out as ambitious as men but it erodes over time.

The findings of this report isn’t news to most women. While women are graduating in record numbers form post-secondary school, the representation of women in the professions is still lagging. One of the greatest myths used to explain this away is that women aren’t as ambitious as men.

As part of its series debunking myths, The Guardian profiles the work of Michelle Ryan, a professor of social and organisational psychology at the University of Exeter. Professor Ryan determined that “Many women are just as ambitious as men when they begin their careers, but become so wearied by fighting against multiple structural and experiential barriers to their success that this ambition often wanes.”

We recommend reading the whole story. Learn more by clicking here.

 

Do you have the Grit you need?

Grit. We’re not talking about the dust that blows into your eyes. Grit is the strength of character, courage, resolve, perseverance, determination and endurance a person has and displays under pressure. It’s also something that helps a person bounce back in the face of adverse circumstances.

If there is one area that requires grit, then it’s the law. It doesn’t matter if you are studying the law or practicing law. Grit is an integral component. It’s that element that leaders inhabit and mentors can help nurture.

Travis Bradberry, a contributor to Forbes.com Leadership section, has pulled together a listical outlining the “11 Signs You Have The Grit You Need to Succeed”. You can read it here.