Ceremony honours legal trailblazer
A pioneer for women in the legal profession recognised her predecessors at a ceremony held in her honour.
Shirley D. Simmons was acknowledged for being Called to the Bar a half century ago yesterday. A tree planting celebration at the Arboretum was organised by the Women’s Legal Network to mark the milestone.
The lone surviving member of the “Three Musketeers”, Ms Simmons, along with Ann Cartwright DeCouto and Dame Lois Browne-Evans, were Bermuda’s first female lawyers.
Ms Simmons was the second of the group, when she was Called to the Bar on June 2, 1967. She pointed to the importance of her time at the Berkeley Institute, where she said she was not only educated, but encouraged as well.
“Even though for some reason [the Women’s Legal Network] feel they should honour me, I say to them the glory,” Ms Simmons said of the school’s staff. “They saw something different and they nurtured it. Without that nurturing, I would not be here today.”
She also recognised her mother for the financial sacrifices she made to provide her with an education.
Ms Simmons said that from the time she was about 11 she knew that she wanted to be a lawyer. She said she could recall reading a book that had a big impact on her.
“It was a defence lawyer representing someone who was in prison and they hadn’t committed the crime,” she said.
“It definitely had something to do with it.”
Kimberly D. Caines, co-founder of the Women’s Legal Network, described Ms Simmons and her colleagues as inspirational.
“They didn’t allow society at that time to confine them,” she said. “I can only imagine what that would have been like.”
Ian Kawaley, chief justice, said Ms Simmons and her colleagues showed how much change could take place “once someone blazes a trail and breaks through the glass ceiling”.
“It opens up opportunities for others to follow,” he said.
The bar, Mr Kawaley said, was “richer” for the gender diversity it enjoyed today.
Part of the legal profession for the last 50 years, Ms Simmons said it was refreshing to see some of what she described as the bad practices that are enshrined in Bermudian law slowly being chipped away.
“I’m glad to know I am around to see some of that.”
Ms Simmons encouraged those thinking about blazing their own trail.
“If they can think it, they can do it,” she said.
“If they believe in themselves and go in it with love and passion, they can’t lose.”
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