A short introduction to the history of the 'Institute Lady' and her place in the Institute's Coat of Arms.
The identity of 'The Institute Lady' and the meaning of the coat of arms surrounding her is raised from time to time by curious members - and understandably so, as it can seem hard to imagine what connection the matronly figure with a ship's rudder has to the Institute of Chartered Accountants. In answering these questions we have to look back to the College of Heralds who granted the Institute's coat of arms in 1880.
The figure chosen by the Heralds would appear to be Economia, taken from the book 'Iconologia' by Cesare Ripa (1603) which is now held by the ICAEW in its collection of rare books. An illustration of Economia taken from Cesare Ripa's book can be seen below. In an article written for The Accountant in 1948 the Librarian, Cosmo Gordon, explained that 'The rod signifies command, the rudder guidance; with the dividers she measures her powers and so estimates what she has to spend'.
Cosmo Gordon went further and translated Cesare Ripa's description of Economia with an analysis of the meaning and the origin in greater depth. Full details can be found in the article, 'The Institute Lady', on page 371-2 of The Accountant, 6th November 1948.
Since the granting of the coat of arms Economia has been represented in a number of forms, ranging from the ICAEW logo to commemorative centennial plates. Over time the representation of Economia in these designs has itself changed. The logo (in the top left hand corner of this webpage) shows the current representation of Economia whilst a mid-twentieth century version can be seen in the Library bookplate designed by Sir Henry Badeley, K.C.B. in 1944.