Janet November

In the Footsteps of Ethel Benjamin: New Zealand's First Woman Lawyer

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In the footsteps of Ethel Benjamin tells the inspiring story of New Zealand'’s first woman lawyer.

The book solves some of the mysteries of Ethel'’s life and work: how many brothers and sisters did she have? Where did the family live? Why did she, as a “first wave” feminist, act for hoteliers when many of the women’s movement supported the prohibitionists?

It shows some of the obstacles Ethel encountered to becoming a lawyer in the late nineteenth century all-male conservative legal profession. The book portrays Ethel’'s determination, hard work, mental ability and “can do” attitude and challenges the idea that Ethel was ultimately not successful in her chosen career.

The epilogue compares Ethel'’s story with that of some of her less well-known but notable successors in the mid twentieth century (Marion Thomson and Margaret McKay), and some of her famous successors (Dame Silvia Cartwright, Dame Judith Mayhew Jonas and Judith Medlicott). This is a book about how New Zealand women overcame obstacles to practice in the legal profession, once the sole preserve of men, some soaring through the “glass ceiling” to high positions in public life.

Praise for In the Footsteps of Ethel Benjamin

In this meticulously researched and well-illustrated book, Janet November brings New Zealand's first woman lawyer alive.

Janet November has painstakingly painted an absorbing portrait of a competent woman who, early in her career, developed an assertive and tenacious business persona.
...A valuable part of November's book are full and wide-ranging notes, plus a good bibliography and index. She has done Ethel Benjamin proud.


In the footsteps of Ethel Benjamin ends with an account of five significant female lawyers who have indeed trod the same path, which lends the book a sense of contemporary relevance. Ethel Benjamin’'s story is an important part of our legal and social history, and November has rightly told it with great detail and respect.
Charlotte Bradley SALIENT

Delicious and the perfect way to end a very enjoyable occasion. Congratulations Janet on your very interesting book about a fascinating and ground-breaking woman.

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Janet November was born in Cheshire, England, educated in Liverpool and took a degree in Russian at Nottingham University in 1968. In 1980, she moved with her family to Victoria and completed an LLB at Melbourne University.
Janet is married and has a son and a daughter and two granddaughters. She and her husband live in Eastbourne, near Wellington. She has been working as a Senior Legal and Policy Adviser at the Law Commission since 2001.

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