Judge Helen MacGill
1864-1947
Helen Gregory MacGill
Helen Gregory MacGill
Detail of A-04288

Helen Gregory MacGill was the first woman judge in British Columbia. Born in 1864 into a prosperous and well-connected family in Hamilton, Ontario, Helen grew up an ambitious and educated woman. Helen earned the degrees of Bachelor of Music, Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts.

She was the first female undergraduate at Trinity College in Toronto before becoming the first woman to earn a music degree in the entire British Empire.

After college Helen began a career as a journalist working as a foreign correspondent for Cosmopolitan.

At a young age she married Lee Fletcher and moved with him to San Francisco where Lee enrolled in medical school. Lee completed his medical training, and the family moved to Minnesota. Unfortunately, did not live long after this move, dying when he was still young. Two-years after Lee's death, Helen met and married one of her former classmates, James MacGill, who was know a successful attorney in Vancouver, British Columbia.

In Vancouver, Helen MacGill became a founding member of both the Vancouver Women's Press Club and the Vancouver Creche, a free nursery for children of working mothers.

MacGill continued her fight for women's rights, and found support for her cause at the University Women's Club. After joining the club, MacGill became chair of the Laws Committee. MacGill's efforts for women's rights proved fruitful when, in February of 1912, a bill allowing women to practise at the bar in British Columbia passed into law.

Helen went on to become the first woman judge in British Columbia. She was named Judge of Juvenile Court in 1917. During her tenure, she focused on improving pensions, women's minimum wage and other social laws.

Helen passed on her academic inclinations and independence to her daughter, Elsie Gregory MacGill who became the first woman to graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree specializing in electrical engineering

Helen Gregory MacGill died in 1947.