International Women’s Day- Black History – Violet King Henry: Canada’s First Female Black Lawyer

Violet King shattered both glass ceilings and racial barriers:

1. Was the first black woman lawyer in Canada, the first black person to graduate law in Alberta and the first black person to be admitted to the Alberta Bar.

2. When she graduated from U of A (University of Alberta) Law in 1953, King was the only woman in her class and had been only one of three women in the entire student body during her time in law school.

3. A 1954 article in the Winnipeg Tribune that announced King’s admission to the bar cites her as the second woman to practise law in Calgary. “I don’t think women have become very generally accepted with favor in the legal field,” said King in a 1956 interview.

4. She later cited her gender as a hurdle to working in the profession: “I’ve been discriminated against, not because I’m coloured, but because I’m a lawyer— a field some feel a woman shouldn’t be operating in.”

5. King was a fierce promoter of women’s rights, working with Alberta women’s groups to promote equal pay legislation.

6. She became the first woman to hold a senior management position with the American national YMCA organization.

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