This Week in History
British Columbia’s First Female Judge
For the week of Monday January 7, 2008
On January 7, 1864, Helen Gregory MacGill was born in Hamilton, Ontario. MacGill was a pioneer in the Canadian women’s movement in the late 19th and early 20th century where she fought for the rights of women and children.
MacGill attended Trinity College in Toronto and became the school’s first woman graduate. After college she began a career in journalism, which led to an interest in social and political reform. She moved to Vancouver in 1903 where she would spend the remainder of her life.
At this time in British Columbia, fathers had sole guardianship of children and a husband could will away all his property and leave his wife with nothing. It was also legal for 12-year-old girls and 14-year-old boys to marry. The Laws Committee actively campaigned for amendments to these such acts, which were considered unfair to women and children.
Counted among MacGill’s successes were the Equal Guardianship Act in 1917 which gave mothers and fathers equal rights in regard to their children, the Minimum Wage for Women Bill and amendments to inheritance laws, giving more rights to widows.
For her contribution to the suffrage campaign, legal reform and juvenile law, Helen Gregory MacGill has been designated a National Historic Person.
- Date Modified: