Williams, Ivy (1877–1966)

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Williams, Ivy (1877–1966)

First woman to be called to the bar in England . Born in 1877 in England; died in 1966 in England; educated privately; graduated from the Society of Oxford Home-Students, B.C.L., 1902, LL.D., 1903; earned a D.C.L. from Oxford University.

Ivy Williams was born in 1877 into a well-to-do British family who deemed education to be of prime importance. Educated privately, she also enjoyed the learning experiences provided by a tour of Europe undertaken when she was a young woman. Returning to England, Williams joined the Society of Oxford Home-Students (which would later become St. Anne's College), where she studied under professors Edward Jenks and Sir William S. Holdsworth. She earned her baccalaureate degree in 1902, and her LL.D. the following year. She became the first woman to be called to the bar in England when she was accepted to the Inner Temple in 1922. Working as a tutor to aspiring lawyers beginning in 1920, Williams served as a lecturer in law at her alma mater until her retirement in 1945.

In addition to her teaching career, Williams contributed to the general study of law through several books, among them The Sources of Law in the Swiss Civil Code (1923) and the annotated The Swiss Civil Code: English Version (1925). A respected authority on international law, she was appointed a delegate to The Hague Conference for the Codification of International Law, held in the Netherlands in 1930. Among her other accomplishments, Williams earned a D.C.L. at Oxford University, making her the first woman to receive that degree, and at the age of 70 taught herself to read Braille and composed a booklet sharing her expertise for use by the National Institute for the Blind. Supportive of students striving for a career in the legal profession, Williams endowed two scholarships at Oxford, one to benefit only female students. She died in 1966 at the age of 89.


The Concise Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992.

Pamela Shelton , freelance writer, Avon, Connecticut

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Williams, Ivy (1877–1966)