Women in History – 19 August

Dame Rose Heilbron DBE QC (19 August 1914 – 8 December 2005) was an outstanding English barrister of the post-war period in the United Kingdom.

Her career included many “firsts” for a woman – she was the first woman to win a scholarship to Gray’s Inn, one of the first two women to be appointed King’s Counsel in England, the first woman to lead in a murder case, the first woman Recorder, the first woman judge to sit at the Old Bailey, and the first woman Treasurer of Gray’s Inn. She was also the second woman to be appointed a High Court judge, after Elizabeth Lane.

Heilbron was born in Liverpool, the daughter of a Jewish hotelier, Max Heilbron. She attended The Belvedere School and Liverpool University, where she became one of the first two women to gain a first class honours degree in law, in 1935. She was awarded the Lord Justice Holker scholarship at Gray’s Inn in 1936, and she became one of only two women to hold a master of laws degree in 1937. Two years later she was called to the bar, and joined the Northern Circuit in 1940.

Heilbron and her husband had moved from Liverpool to London when she was appointed a High Court judge. She died in a nursing home in Islington, of pneumonia and cerebrovascular ischaemia, survived by her husband and daughter. A biography of Rose Heilbron by her daughter Hilary was published in 2012