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When women were finally admitted to the Quebec Bar in 1942, it was largely due to the efforts of McGill Law alumna Annie McDonald Langstaff, who in 1914 had been the first woman in Quebec to receive a law degree. At the time, she required her husband's permission to engage in business of any kind, so the Bar turned her away. The fact that her husband had disappeared some years earlier, leaving her to raise their daughter on her own, earned her no sympathy. The situation finally changed after a series of meetings between Langstaff and Quebec Premier Adélard Godbout in 1941. McGill graduate Elizabeth Monk was also at those meetings and she would go on to be the first woman admitted to the Bar the following year, with Suzanne Raymond-Filion.
Feb. 7 was a night of celebration at McGill's Faculty of Law. Langstaff, Monk and Raymond-Filion were honoured along with women from a number of social and legal arenas: academia, politics, the courts, public administration and the business sector.
Hosted by the Montreal Bar, the Soirée Commémorative brought together lawyers, professors, students, judges from all courts, and others as they packed the house to recognize the 65th anniversary of women being admitted to the Bar in Québec.
It was a tribute to a great number of pioneering women, all of whom in their respective ways tore down gender barriers.
Dean of Law Nicholas Kasirer spoke of the importance of their struggle to the province and the university: "The women who are students and teachers in the Faculty of Law today – more than half our students and a growing number of professors – look to this evening's celebration as a profoundly meaningful and validating moment. Reminding us of the accomplishments of women at the Quebec Bar – from McGill and elsewhere – also reminds us that the Faculty of Law belongs to women as much as anyone."
Law Students Association (LSA) President Kara Morris and Ewa Krajewska from the McGill Law Women's Caucus spoke of the importance of such gatherings and how the past efforts of women in the legal world have paved the way for female students today. Women currently hold seven of the nine executive positions on the LSA, they said.