First Female Magistrate Appointed

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First Female Magistrate Appointed

West Ham, London The 26th of May 1913 AD

The first two decades of the 20th century saw many milestones for women in Britain: in 1907 Florence Nightingale the first woman to receive the Order of Merit; in 1908 medical pioneer Elizabeth Garrett Anderson became the first woman elected as Mayor in this country thanks to the people of Aldeburgh ; and in May 1913 Miss Emily Cecilia Duncan became our first female magistrate less than a month before her namesake Emily Davison made greater headlines with her fatal protest during the Derby .
Emily Duncan it appears was one of the quiet revolutionaries, rewarded with her appointment after more than 20 years working for West Ham Union Workhouse as one of its board of guardians and eventually its Chairman. A portrait commissioned by her colleagues there shows a very Victorian lady, silver haired and tightly buttoned up, evidently a formidable woman. That it should only have been in her later years that Emily Duncanís talents were officially recognised is an indictment of a long period of our history; a reminder also to resist in the future the illogical and illiberal waste of female talent.

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