Dana Denis-Smith | First 100 Years

Dana Denis-Smith

In 2014 I founded the First 100 Year project (www.first100years.org.uk), my business, funded initially and has helped coordinated since 2014. It all began with an image from 1982 – that of one woman surrounded by a group of 50 or so male partners marking the 100th anniversary of one of the City of London’s best known law firms. I was fascinated to understand how it felt to be the only woman and what her journey in the legal profession had been. I was anxious to ask her how it felt to be a lonely star? And I am delighted Dorothy Livingston, the woman in the middle, has embraced the project and shared her story with us all.

The aim of the First 100 Years project was ambitious and clearly defined from the outset: a 5 year project (2014-2019) to create the world’s first digital museum (www.first100years.org.uk) dedicated to the journey of women in law. It would include 100 video personal stories of women lawyers as well as hundreds of digitised artefacts and exclusive content to chart our own journey in the legal profession since 1919 to the present.

There’s no doubt that as I reflect on the project to date, we have achieved a lot: we have a great following on social media, have acquired partnership from all of the main legal bodies (including the Law Society and the Bar Council), we filmed numerous videos with lawyers from Cherie Booth QC to Baroness Hale and Dame Janet Gaymer. Our visitors to the project website spend an average 5 minutes reading our stories. It is about to expand into Australia/ France/Ireland with local chapters.

There’s something empowering about understanding one’s history and celebrating. Although the family tree for women in law goes back less than 100 years, it is for us all to bring each piece of the puzzle we possess to make the picture complete. If not for our sake, for the sake of the next generation of women in law who need to build on the confidence of the past to secure an equal future.

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