Who was the first British woman certified accountant?

ETHEL PURDIE 1874 – 1923

In 1888, the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) refused an application for membership of the Institute from Mary Harris Smith.

In 1895, the President informed the Institute that he would prefer to retire than admit women to membership.

In 1909, a government minister, the President of the Board of Trade Winston Churchill, requested both the Institute and the Society of Incorporated Accountants and Auditors to admit women candidates.

Later that year, the London Association of Accountants permitted the first woman, Ethel Purdie, to join.

After an early career working in the Telegraph Department of the Post Office, Ethel married and had two children. She began to study accountancy and four years later opened an office from which she offered accountancy and financial services to several women’s suffrage organisations.

She was particularly concerned with tax law and supported many women who declined to pay taxes while they were unable to vote.

However, she took her own life in 1923 when she jumped in front of a train.

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