Wellington Scoop

Who’s Harriette? VUW celebrating centenary of first woman law graduate

News from Victoria University of Wellington

Victoria University of Wellington’s Faculty of Law is celebrating the centenary of its first woman law graduate, Harriette Vine.

The celebration began with an essay competition organised by the Wellington Women Lawyers Association, on the topic “Harriette’s challenges 100 years on: same or different?”

The two winning entries are published in a Special Issue of the Victoria University of Wellington Law Review (VUWLR) Women in Law, which is being launched tomorrow (September 17). The Special Issue contains articles relating to women in law.

“Harriette Vine practised law for 47 years, in the one firm, until her death in 1962,” says Editor, Associate Professor Elisabeth McDonald, “but she was never made a partner.”

“My Life in Law” by Shirley Smith is reprinted in the publication from the 1993 Suffrage Issue. Victoria’s Faculty of Law was the first in New Zealand to appoint a female (Shirley Smith) to its academic staff. To an extent, her essay provides a stepping stone between the earlier experiences of Harriette Vine and the observations made by the essay competition winners.

Other contributions include: “Girls Behaving Badly?:Young female violence in New Zealand,” by Dr Nessa Lynch; “Women Trailblazers in the Law: The New Zealand Women Judges Oral Histories Project” by Elizabeth Chan and “Disparity in Jack v. Jack: Judicial Overreach or a Just Result at Long Last?” by Susannah Shaw.

“There is much to celebrate,” says Associate Professor McDonald. “However, the same year all four Heads of Bench in New Zealand are female, women are not reaching the top of the legal profession in the same proportion as they are law school graduates.

“This issue of VUWLR both celebrates the achievements and scrutinises the continuing challenges and issues facing women in law from a feminist perspective, including the impact of gender in judicial decisions or legislation.”

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