10/08/2004 - 22:00

Edyth Haynes: a woman well ahead of the times

10/08/2004 - 22:00

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Edyth Haynes: a woman well ahead of the times

Edyth Haynes never spoke of her struggle to be admitted as a lawyer in Western Australia and only applied once for admission, even after the Legal Status of Women Act was passed in 1923 (introduced into parliament by Edith Cowan).

Miss Haynes’ application to the Supreme Court was rejected in 1904. In 1916 she joined the National Australia Bank, where she worked in the legal department until 1931.

Miss Haynes, the daughter of a well-known Perth doctor and Perth city councillor, was educated in Sydney where, among other things, she studied French, Latin and mathematics.

She was also the niece of prominent King’s counsel, Richard Septimus Haynes, who argued for her admission to practice and supervised her articles for the four years preceding her application.

Miss Haynes’ articles were registered on October 15 1900, when she became the first WA woman to be registered.

Even though her uncle was a significant personality in the legal community, and chairman of the barristers’ board at the time, Miss Haynes was held ineligible to be admitted on August 9 1904.

The West Australian ran a story at the time with the headline Lady lawyers: application to the Full Court – can they be admitted as practitioners? Answer in the negative.

Twenty-six years later, Alice Mary Cummins became the first woman to be registered as a legal practitioner in WA.

One of six children, Miss Haynes never married, although she did help raise two of her brother’s four young children after his wife died young.

Those children – Jim Haynes and Mary Margaret Monk – still live in Perth.

Ms Monk was contacted by WA Business News and said Edyth Haynes was a “terrific person” who would have been very honored by the celebration marking the centenary of the Supreme Court decision on August 9.

“She was a very private person and never spoke about her rejection to us,” Ms Monk said.

“She was a very fair woman with a lot of principles – right was right and wrong was wrong, there were no grey areas.

“She was very outgoing in some ways, but not in others.

“It is wonderful to think they are honouring her, I am thrilled at the thought because she was such a lovely person.”

Edyth Haynes died in 1968, but the house at 49 Outram Street, West Perth, in which she raised her nieces and nephews remains standing, having since been converted into Villa D’Este fine dining restaurant.

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