Clara Brett Martin is the first female lawyer in all of the British Empire. She also paved the way for all female Canadian lawyers in the future, introduced in Season 8 of Murdoch Mysteries, portrayed by Patricia "Trish" Fagan.
Clara Brett Martin accomplished all this and more. From a well-to-do Anglican-Irish family, she went to Trinity College and received a Bachelor in Mathematics at the age of sixteen. After applying to become the first female lawyer, her cause was supported by reputable people such as Lady Aberdeen and Emily Stowe, the first female doctor in Canada.
Martin was not a leader of the women's movement, but she worked diligently to promote opportunities for women. She hired women law students, worked to establish a Women's Court, and served for ten years on the Toronto Board of Education, recognizing that education is the key to empowerment. Her achievements were not examined until the early 1980s, when academia began to recognize women's accomplishments. [*]
In 1913, the Star Weekly interviewed her for a lengthy feature about Canada’s “pioneer woman lawyer.” The article noted that Clara had no hard feelings about her battles with the Law Society and went on to observe that despite her success in the legal profession, Clara Brett Martin had not become “masculinized.” Moreover, the article pointed out, “she is proof that a handsome woman can participate in public affairs without sacrificing the graces of a kindly nature.” Though the accolades still carried the whiff of old prejudices, it was clear that the tone had changed. [*]
Appearances and Mentions
- Clara Brett Martin first appears in court as the women are being read their charges. She asks to act as lawyer to the four women facing charges, and both they and judge agree to it. Later on, the charges on the other women are dropped, save for Emily.
- After being released, Julia meets with Clara, who talks about how it took a year for the Law Society to decide that "person" in their statute included women. Together, the women come up with a plan to save Dr. Grace.
- Julia and Clara meet with the Crown Prosecutor, telling him about Leslie Garland's past misdeeds, and warn him they will press charges unless they drop the charges against Emily.
- At Dr. Grace's trial, the judge asks if Clara Brett Martin has prepared a defense, which she has, but the Prosecutor announces that they've dropped all charges due to new information. The judge expresses disappointment at not seeing her at work, but Miss Martin assures him that he'll hopefully see her again one day.
- Clara Brett Martin and Margaret Haile encourage Julia to run for elected office.
- Clara Brett Martin helps Margaret Haile to officially be on the ballot using her skill as a lawyer and her cunning use of the law.
- Attending the League of Women's Voters supported Women's Suffrage public meeting, Clara Brett Martin is injured badly by a bomb exploding backstage and is taken to the Toronto Mercy Hospital where Dr. Talbot and Dr. Ogden operate to save her life.
- Quite early in her recovery, Clara is visited by Detective Murdoch but she doesn't remember much and, upon hearing about the death of the young man, wishes she had been paying closer attention especially since the bucket of paint incident two months earlier during a gathering near the Legislature. She can confirm that she was backstage and went to ask the young man what he was doing there – when the explosion happened erasing all other recollection.
- Later, Murdoch returns to ask Clara Brett Martin how had she made contact with Dr. Talbot for the speaking engagement. Clara explains that she was made aware Dr. Talbot would be coming to Canada. Known as a fierce fighter for women's rights, Talbot was an ideal person to speak on the subject. The initial contact was with Emily Pankhurst, who informed Clara they had a falling out, so she contacted Dr. Talbot through the hospital she worked at – St. Stephens in Central London. With this information and the lapel pin, Murdoch can solve not only the identity of the young man but also why he was backstage with the bomb.