II-44445 | Law students, McGill College, Montreal, QC, 1877

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Law students, McGill College, Montreal, QC, 1877
Notman & Sandham
1877, 19th century
Silver salts on glass - Wet collodion process
20 x 25 cm
Purchase from Associated Screen News Ltd.
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  male (26812) , Photograph (77678) , portrait (53878)
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Keys to History

When Clara Brett Martin applied for admission as a student to the Law Society of Upper Canada, she received only a letter of rejection. Women, the Law Society argued, are not legally persons, and therefore are ineligible to study the law.

Not only were women prohibited from becoming lawyers and judges, they had no hand in making the laws that governed them, nor were they permitted to sit on a jury. In the second half of the 19th century, women appeared in court in only one of three capacities: as the accused, as witnesses or as spectators.

Attending criminal trials was a popular form of entertainment in this period. However, in keeping with contemporary mores regarding female modesty, judges cleared women from the courtroom whenever a witness was expected to provide gruesome or sexually explicit testimony.

Source : Straitlaced: Restrictions on Women [Web tour], by Elise Chenier, McGill University (see Links)

  • What

    Since women were not admitted to law school, it is not surprising that group photos like these are composed of all male subjects.

  • Where

    In 1877 McGill was one of only a few Canadian universities that had a law school.

  • When

    This portrait was taken in 1877.

  • Who

    Members of various clubs and societies frequently commissioned portraits from Notman. It would not be until much later that McGill clubs such as this one included women among their ranks.