The day a woman was finally appointed to Canada's Supreme Court

It took nearly nine decades for a woman to join the ranks of Canada's Supreme Court.

Bertha Wilson had reportedly been advised to 'take up crocheting' when she entered law school in 1955

Bertha Wilson joins the Supreme Court

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39 years ago
On March 30, 1982, Bertha Wilson was sworn in as a justice of the Supreme Court of Canada. 2:22

It took nearly nine decades for a woman to join the ranks of Canada's Supreme Court.

And it was Bertha Wilson who made that historic step up to the top court in 1982.

The announcement was made on March 4, 1982 that Wilson would be appointed to the Supreme Court. By the end of the month, she had been sworn in.

"In a simple, but moving ceremony, the Scottish-born, former Ontario Appeal Court judge finally breached the last major national institution to have remained an all-male preserve," the CBC's David Halton reported on March 30, 1982, the day Wilson was sworn in.

'A sense of satisfaction'

Justice Bertha Wilson listens as the court registrar reads the proclamation appointing her to the Supreme Court of Canada during a ceremony in Ottawa March 30, 1982. (Canadian Press)

The significance of her achievement was not lost on the incoming Supreme Court justice.

"This day holds for so many of my well-wishers a sense of satisfaction in the evolution and fulfilment of a long-standing dream," said Wilson.

And at a very early point in her legal career — at the very beginning, in fact — she had been discouraged in setting out on the path that would take her to the top of her chosen profession.

"Justice Wilson has recalled that when she entered the Dalhousie Law School in 1955, the Dean of Arts told her: 'Why don't you go home and take up crocheting?" said Halton, pausing for effect during his report on The National.

"Well, she didn't and today's she's Canada's first lady of the law."

Wilson would serve on the court for the rest of the decade and retired in 1991. She died in 2007 at the age of 83.

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