'Dissonance and Distrust': A Silver Jubilee

Date & time
10–11.30am Thursday 18 November 2021

Online via Zoom

Emerita Professor Margaret Thornton FASSA, FAAL
ANU College of Law
Dissonance and Distrust: A Silver Jubilee

In 1996, Margaret Thornton’s landmark book Dissonance and Distrust: Women in the Legal Profession (Oxford University Press) was published. This webinar is a celebration of the book’s insights and its continuing relevance and resonance for the study of women in the legal profession today.The seminar brings together Emerita Professor Mary Jane Mossman (York University) for her opening address, followed by three Australian speakers, each taking one of the key themes in Dissonance and Distrust:

  • Associate Professor Heather Roberts (ANU College of Law) on the Legal Profession and the Judiciary;
  • Dr Susan Bartie (University of Tasmania) on the Legal Academy; and
  • Associate Professor Ann Genovese (Melbourne Law School) on Critical Feminist Legal Theory.

The event will close with a response from Professor Thornton and questions from the audience.

About the book

In Dissonance and Distrust: Women in the Legal Profession (Oxford University Press, 1996), Margaret Thornton provides a compelling theoretical account of the continuing resistance to the participation of women as legal professionals, despite their increased presence in law schools and in some areas of legal practice. She suggests that women are still 'fringe-dwellers in the jurisprudential community' (Thornton 1996: 3-4) and will remain so until it is recognised that the issue is not simply one of women being 'let in' to the profession in equal numbers to men, but also involves posing fundamental questions about the character and constitution of law as it is taught and practised.


  • Emerita Professor Margaret Thornton FASSA, FAAL »

    Emerita Professor Margaret Thornton is a socio-legal and feminist scholar whose work on the legal academy and the legal profession is internationally recognised. She is regularly invited to participate in international projects.

    She has published extensively in the area of discrimination and the law. Her book The Liberal Promise (Oxford, 1990) remains the only critical study of discrimination law in Australia. Her book, Dissonance and Distrust (Oxford 1996) is the only study of women in the legal profession in Australia. It was translated into Mandarin and published in Beijing (Law Press, 2001).

    Margaret also has a particular interest in the impact of the corporatisation of universities on the legal academy and has conducted research in the UK, Canada and New Zealand, as well as Australia. Publications from this research include Privatising the Public University: The Case of Law (Routledge, 2012). Her current ARC-funded research focuses on work/life balance in corporate law firms, particularly the gendered effects of globalisation, competition and technology.

    Margaret’s scholarship has been acknowledged by election to the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia, the invitation to be a Foundation Fellow of the Australian Academy of Law, and the award of an ARC Professorial Fellowship, in additional to international fellowships.

  • Emerita Professor Mary Jane Mossman »

    Mary Jane Mossman is Professor Emerita at Osgoode Hall Law School, York University, where her teaching and research included property law, family law, access to justice, and law and gender. In 2006, she published The First Women Lawyers: A Comparative Study of Gender, Law and the Legal Professions (Hart), and she has contributed to international collaborations about women lawyers, women judges and women law academics. In addition to recent publications about property law (2018) and family law (2019), she is currently completing a book about the experiences of early women lawyers in Ontario 1897-1957.

  • Associate Professor Heather Roberts »

    Dr Heather Roberts is an Associate Professor at the ANU College of Law. She researches legal history and judicial biography, with a particular focus on feminist legal history and women in the law. She is the leading and pioneer scholar on judicial swearing-in ceremonies, and her current project examines how these rituals tell a social history and biography of Australia’s judiciary and legal profession since Federation.

  • Dr Susan Bartie »

    Dr Susan Bartie is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Tasmania. She researches the history of legal ideas, law schools and lawyers in Australian society. She is currently working on a 50-year socio-legal history of Australian environmental lawyering which, from 2022 to 2024, will be supported by an ARC Discovery Early Career Researcher Award.

  • Associate Professor Ann Genovese »

    Ann Genovese is an Associate Professor at the Melbourne Law School. As an Australian historian, and a jurisprudent, she researches: the relationship between Law and History as disciplines and practices; the nature of legal archives and the responsibilities of custodians and writers towards them; and the sources, forms and techniques necessary to show how Australian people have lived with their law. She has explored these interrelated concerns across multiple sites and projects, and her work has been integral to the establishment of an emergent field - contemporary histories of Australian jurisprudence.

    Ann has collaborated with leading scholars from law, history, feminist theory and Indigenous studies, as well as with members of the judiciary and profession. She has been the successful recipient of ARC funding on several projects, most recently The Court as Archive (with Kim Rubenstein at ANU and Trish Luker at UTS).

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