My Mother the Judge, by Elsie Gregory MacGill, was published by The Ryerson Press in 1955. It is the remarkable story of a woman, Judge Helen Gregory MacGill, who successfully “asserted the freedom of women to apply their talents in a day when this was a solely male prerogative.”
Helen MacGill was born in Hamilton, Ontario in 1864. She was the first woman undergraduate of Trinity College, University of Toronto, receiving both a BA and an MA. She was also the first female in the British Empire to receive a Music Degree.
Helen MacGill was no stranger to politics or advocacy. Her maternal grandfather, also a judge, successfully represented participants in the Upper Canada Rebellion of 1837. Upon graduation, MacGill turned to journalism and wrote for Cosmopolitan, the Toronto Globe, San Francisco Morning Call and the St. Paul Globe. This led her to social advocacy and she spent much of the rest of her life pursuing better laws for women and children, notably in British Columbia. In 1917, she was appointed British Columbia’s first woman jurist and helped to establish standards in Juvenile Court. By 1947, MacGill had seen most of her personally-urged reforms become law.
From the flap copy of My Mother the Judge: “The story credits women with being the instigators of modern social legislation, and details this development in British Columbia. It treats the movement for women suffrage as part of the general social revolution, and the logical sequence to the struggle for manhood suffrage.” She served as a judge of the Juvenile Court of British Columbia for 23 years. Helen Gregory MacGill died on February 27, 1947.
Elsie Gregory MacGill, 1905-1980, grew up in Vancouver, British Columbia. She was the first woman to graduate in engineering at the University of Toronto (1929) and the first to take an MA in aeronautics at the University of Michigan. She became the chief aeronautical engineer of The Canadian Car and Foundry company of Montreal where she carried through the design, testing and certification of a primary training aircraft in 1939. She was also in charge of all engineering work of the Hawker Hurricane fighter (Battle of Britain) where she gained the title Queen of the Hurricanes. Following in her mother’s footsteps, Elsie MacGill was also an active feminist and was a member of the Royal Commission on the Status of Women, 1967-1970. Elsie Gregory MacGill died November 4, 1980.