by Maille Halloran
Ada Evans was born in England into a family with a background in professional law. After moving to New South Wales, Evans graduated from the University of Sydney with a Bachelor of Arts. After becoming increasingly aware of the chauvinism of a legal system driven entirely by the opposite sex, Evans enrolled in tertiary studies again, this time at the Sydney University Law School, with the intention of endorsing female influence in a male dominated industry.
It has been said that Evans’ successful enrollment was a fluke, as the law school’s first dean was absent at the time of her application, which he would likely have rejected. In 1902 Ada Evans became Australia’s first female law graduate. Evans completed her degree even though the state’s law at the time would not allow her to practise upon graduation.
Delays in changes to the legislation of her home state meant Evans was not the first woman in Australia to be admitted to practise. That title was reserved instead for Flos Greig in Victoria. After the eventual introduction of an enabling act, Evans was the first woman in NSW to be admitted to the bar.
Evans declined her first brief, citing poor health, family commitments and the long interlude between her graduation and her admission to the bar. Although she never worked as barrister, Ada Evans no doubt inspired and paved the way for women across the nation to assume the mantle.