Gladys Mary Chatterjee OBE, MA, DSc (née Broughton) was known as to the bar at Lincoln’s Inn in 1933, virtually 10 years after her marriage. This was most uncommon, as most girls of her class and age gave up work after marriage quite than actively pursue a brand new profession. 

judith bourne

She was very a lot an unbiased, educated {and professional} girl. Her areas of observe included probate, divorce, admiralty and poor individuals circumstances. She appeared earlier than the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in some Indian and Ceylon appeals and was counsel for the Authorized Help Committee for Poor Individuals. Through the second world warfare she acted as counsel for the Service Division of the Legislation Society in divorce circumstances. This Service Division was established by the Society to ameliorate any danger of hurt to the morale of the armed forces. This was a danger, as a result of over half of the nation’s solicitors left their practices to serve the warfare effort and so there was an issue with entry to authorized recommendation. The division tried to plug that hole and employed a full-time solicitor to take care of any poor individual or armed forces divorce if a professional bono solicitor couldn’t be discovered.

Chatterjee is necessary to girls’s authorized historical past as a result of she broke the mould: she was extremely properly certified (a standard characteristic amongst these first girls legal professionals is that they collected {qualifications}, as in the event that they wanted to show their mental value); she was one of many first girls to be awarded an OBE (her bravery was recognised by the Institution); she defied conference by marrying an Indian; and her defiance is seen once more when in 1933 she certified as a barrister, a occupation dominated by males.

Gladys Mary Chatterjee

Chatterjee was born in Ujjain, India, the daughter of Captain William Broughton. She attended the Excessive College, Bedford and in 1911 obtained a BA in philosophy at College School, London. She held quite a few scholarships at UCL: Gilchrist, John Stuart Mill, Joseph Hume and Ricardo, an apparent a tribute to her intelligence and arduous work. Later, in most of her bar exams, she scored simply third-class passes, however maybe, as many people know, it was arduous to steadiness home life and research. Like many ladies of this age, she studied for a educating qualification, attending Bedford School. Nevertheless, quite than pursuing such a profession, she learn for a DSc on the London College of Economics the place she wrote her thesis on ‘Ladies and Kids in Indian Trade’.

There’s a stressed high quality about her formative years. After her DSc she returned to the place of her delivery and was appointed inspector of faculties within the Central Provinces of India. This profession was interrupted by the primary world warfare and he or she was despatched to Delhi as welfare officer within the Ministry of Munitions. This work resulted in her being awarded an OBE in 1917 for her warfare work as organiser of girls’s welfare in shell and nationwide projectile factories. It was the damaging munition work of girls corresponding to Chatterjee, and the ladies who labored within the factories, that saved the frontline equipped with weapons and ammunition. After the warfare, Chatterjee held different official roles and suggested the Authorities of India on labour questions affecting girls and youngsters.

Sooner or later in India she met Lord Atul Chandra Chatterjee (1874-1955). Lord Chatterjee had graduated in historical past from Cambridge College in 1895 and returned to India, the place he labored a civil servant. He rose by means of the ranks to ultimately change into the excessive commissioner for India in London. He was accountable for the constructing of India Home, Aldwych. He was a superb administrator and diplomat, which is mirrored in his award of a KCIE in 1925 and KCSI in 1930. He later sat on the Council of India for 5 years and in 1942 was made adviser to the secretary of state for India. He was additionally a member of the council of the Royal Academy of Arts for 20 years and its chairman from 1939 to 1940.

Lord Chatterjee was a widower; his first spouse died shortly after the delivery of his second daughter within the early 1900s. He married Chatterjee on 30 April 1924 in Kensington Registry Workplace and so they settled in London. As could be anticipated of the Indian excessive commissioner, the couple had a busy social life and he or she was a famend hostess.

Lord Chatterjee died in Bexhill-on-Sea in 1955. His spouse would reside for an additional 14 years, revising his historic work and collaborating within the work of the Worldwide Federation of Ladies Legal professionals, of which she was vice-president. She represented the federation at quite a few conferences and was a member of the Marriage Steering Council (in 1956 she gave written and oral proof earlier than the Royal Fee on marriage and divorce). Chatterjee suffered a stroke and died on 7 Might 1969 in Bexley, Kent, leaving £7,906.

Chatterjee was a feminist pioneer and a girl far earlier than her time. She pushed the boundaries with the whole lot she did. She studied and educated herself past the norm; her distinctive warfare work was rewarded with a uncommon OBE; she certified in regulation, an atypical profession for a lady; and he or she married an Indian, an aberration.  She paved the best way for these of us who really feel ‘outsiders’ to practise regulation due to her early authorized profession, when girls weren’t welcomed. Nevertheless, her life did greater than that. Her alternative of husband challenged established perceptions of race, challenged associative discrimination, and paved the best way for higher equality and inclusivity.


 Dr Judith Bourne is a programme director for regulation and an affiliate professor at St Mary’s College, Twickenham