Dr Ivy Williams – IWD24

Dr Ivy Williams – IWD2024

Dr Ivy Williams was born at 21 Devon Square to Emma Ewer and George St Swithin Williams, on 7th September 1877.

She was privately educated, alongside her brother Winter, and they studied Latin, Greek, Italian and Russian. Ivy could also speak French and German and travelled around Europe before 1900.

In 1896 she started studying Jurisprudence (the philosophy of Law) at Oxford and completed her BA in 1900 and Bachelor of Civil Law in 1902. Oxford University at the time did not award degrees to women, so these academic achievements were not officially recognised until 1920.

She also studied at the University of London, where they did award degrees to women, and she achieved her law degrees; an LLB in 1901 and an LLD in 1903.

Despite her vast qualifications in Law, she was unable to become a barrister, a lifelong dream of hers, as women were not allowed to join the profession.

This changed with the introduction of the Sex Discrimination (Removal) Act 1919. In January 1920, Williams was admitted to one of the four Inns of Court, Inner Temple, and was able to take her Bar exams. She was awarded a first class pass and came second out of 123 candidates.

Due to her outstanding achievement, Williams was Called to the Bar!

However, by that time, Williams had decided she would not continue with her dream of being a barrister, as she thought she was too old.

Image of Dr Ivy Williams in her barrister wig and robe.

Williams returned to Oxford where she was appointed as the first woman to teach law in the UK. She taught future female barristers at the Society of Oxford Home Students, now known as St Anne’s College.

Later in life, once she had retired, her eyesight began to fail. Dr Williams taught herself how to read Braille. She went on to create a Braille Primer, which was published in several editions, and created a Braille reading course for the Royal National Institute for the Blind.

Dr Ivy Williams died in her Oxford home On 6th February 1966 at aged 88. Her remarkable achievements – especially as a woman from a small town – continue to be a source of inspiration.