Grata Flos Greig (Flos) was the first female admitted to practice law in Australia.
Flos and her family emigrated from Scotland to Australia in 1889. She was one of eight children, and one of five girls. Their father believed in higher education for girls, and insisted they go to university like their brothers. The sisters were all pioneers of their time, amongst them were two of the first 6 female doctors in Australia, two lawyers and the middle sister studied a Bachelor of Science and founded a coaching college for university students. At the time, it was impossible for woman to have a profession and be a wife and mother, so the five sisters decided to renounce marriage and pursue careers instead.
Flos attended the University of Melbourne and graduated second in her class with a Bachelor of Laws. At that time, females were not allowed to be legal practitioners. Flos, John Mackey MPand a University of Melbourne professor successfully campaigned to allow women to enter the legal profession.
In April 1903, the Parliament of Victoria passed the Women’s Disabilities Removal Act 1903 (Vic) (the ‘Flos Greig Enabling Act’), which removed ‘some anomalies in the law relating to women’ and allowed women to practice law in Victoria.
After completing her articles with Frank Cornwall in 1905, she became the first female admitted to practice law in Australia and the first female to be admitted to the law institute.
Flos continued to practice law throughout her life and focused on family law. She supported women’s suffrage and was the inaugural president of the Women’s Law Society of Victoria. She was also adventurous, travelling throughout South-East Asia and giving lectures and radio talks afterwards.
“Women are men’s equals in every way and quite competent to hold their own in all spheres of life” – Flos Greig, 1903