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Celebrating 100 years of women in chartered accountancy

In May 2020, ICAEW marked a pivotal moment in our history’s advancement of access to the profession – the admittance of our first female member, Mary Harris Smith.


Making history

ICAEW has commissioned a blue plaque marking where the offices of Mary Harris Smith, ICAEW’s first female member and the world’s first female Chartered Accountant, once stood in London. 

A picture of the booklet that will celebrate 100 years of women in chartered accountancy.

The story

A book telling the story of the first 100 years of female chartered accountants, written by Jane Berney, Business Law Manager at ICAEW, was published in the autumn of 2019.

Digital archive of women's own stories

The heart of our centenary campaign brought to light the stories of our members in chartered accountancy, so we could fully grasp the progress we’ve made and understand what more there is to do to achieve gender equality in the profession.

We received over 200 stories which now make up our digital archive, open to all. While we were unable to publish every story online, the entire collection is being held with all other ICAEW archival material at the London Metropolitan Archives. This rich, completely unique source base will be available for future researchers working on the history of women in chartered accountancy.

                              Judith Mary CraigJudith Mary Craig letterJudith Mary Craig letter part 3

Portrait commission

To mark her tenacity, determination and impact on the profession, ICAEW has commissioned a portrait of Mary Harris Smith. An original work, this oil on canvas portrait by Toby Wiggins RP will be hung in Chartered Accountants’ Hall, as a permanent way to honour her achievement and the many female members who follow in her footsteps. We'll let you know here when it's ready to be unveiled.

Mary Harris Smith

Portraits of Mary Harris Smith from The Woman's Signal (1895), Daily News (1904), Pall Mall Gazette (1919), Daily Mirror (1919), Leeds Mercury (1920). 

We are grateful to accounting historian Professor Stephen Walker, Edinburgh Business School, for supplying photographs of Mary Harris Smith.

ICAEW's centenary coverage

Throughout her presidential year, ICAEW President Fiona Wilkinson led celebrations, from June 2019 to May 2020, which fortuitously culminated in the month when we celebrated 100 years exactly of female membership at ICAEW. 

The ICAEW Outstanding Achievement Award

In 2020, Mary Harris Smith was the recipient of the ICAEW Outstanding Achievement Award, which is given to an individual ICAEW member who has served the community in the broadest sense.