Scrapbooks of the Women's Law Association of Ontario

The Women’s Law Association of Ontario (WLAO) was founded in 1919 by two law school students, Laura Denton and Helen Currie. The organization initially began as an association for women law students in the Toronto area, but quickly expanded as increasing numbers of women began practicing law. In its early incarnation, the Women’s Law Association of Ontario was an alternative to the male-dominated professional organizations of the period, which often did not permit the membership of women, and the association focused on the promotion and support of women’s equal participation in the legal profession during this time.

In later years, the association provided networking opportunities for new lawyers and addressed the professional interests and career development concerns of its members through seminars and speakers’ events. Concerned with both the welfare of women in the legal profession and women and the law in general, the Women’s Law Association of Ontario has represented its members on a variety of legal committees and as a lobbying body for women’s legal and professional rights. The organization also continues to award scholarships to law students and to recognize achievement in the legal profession through its annual President’s Award.

Shortly after its formation, the organization began to keep a scrapbook on the first women lawyers in Ontario. The first scrapbook documents the legal careers of many early women lawyers in Ontario. Typewritten pages contain information on their education and legal careers, and, in a few cases, a newspaper clipping is attached. In several cases, very little is known on the lives of the women after their call to the Bar. Many early social events organized by the association are also documented in the scrapbooks. The events gave members an opportunity to network and socialize with one another and with others in their profession, and evidence of this activity is found in the variety of photographs, event programs and mementos preserved in the scrapbooks. Newspaper and magazine clippings about women in the law and legal issues relating to women dominate the later scrapbooks. There are ten scrapbooks in total, documenting women lawyers from circa 1895 up until 1983.

The Women’s Law Association of Ontario donated its records to the Archives of the Law Society of Upper Canada in 2006. In the fall of 2007, the Archives was able to process the records of the WLAO due to the financial assistance of Library and Archives Canada, through the Department of Canadian Heritage. The records of this important legal organization are now available for research at the Archives of the Law Society of Upper Canada.

To research the records of the Women’s Law Association of Ontario, please contact please contact

The following images represent a small sample of entries contained in the scrapbooks. Browse the collection by selecting a title from the list:

  1. Entry on Grace Hunter from Volume 1 of the scrapbooks  
  2. Photograph of Clara Brett Martin, [1895?]
  3. Letterhead of Clara Brett Martin, 7 February 1917
  4. Photograph of Gertrude Alford on her call to the Bar, 1916
  5. Song by Ruby Wigle, 1920s  
  6. Annual Report of the Women’s Law Association of Ontario, 1923-1924
  7. Photograph of Maria Kurenko, ca. 1925
  8. Invitation written on a Power of Attorney form, 1926
  9. Letter from Sir James Aikins, 23 November 1926
  10. Toast list, 1927
  11. Toast list for the 10th Anniversary Dinner, 1929
  12. Photograph of Sir William Mulock’s garden party, 1930
  13. Invitation to a reception and tea for Mrs. Ward Wright, 1932
  14. Programme from Women’s Law Association of Ontario dinner, Royal York Hotel, 1933
  15. Photograph of Judge Helen Kinnear, [1943?]
  16. Photograph of Helen Palen on the steps of the Belleville courthouse, 1945
  17. Programme from Canadian Bar Association - Ontario meeting, 1947
  18. Election promotional card for Ethel B. Fagan, 1950
  19. Photograph of Harriet Clark in front of Mount Vernon, September 1950
  20. Programme from Women’s Law Association of Ontario annual dinner, 14 April 1951
  21. List of signatures, 1951
  22. Photograph of a garden party for Osgoode Hall Law School graduates, September 1951
  23. Photograph of Osgoode Hall decorated for Royal Visit, 1951
  24. Programme from Hobby Show, 1953
  25. Photograph of Rainey Hunter and Miriam Kelly looking at the Women’s Law Association of Ontario scrapbooks, 1978