Consultant Matilda Rubens reflects on her experience as a writer for the Genesis Jewish Book Week Emerging Writers Programme.
In June of last year, I was lucky enough to be chosen as one of 10 writers for the Genesis Jewish Book Week Emerging Writers Programme for 2022/23. The programme, now in its second year, champions and support emerging writers and is open to applicants over 18 years of age in the UK with less than three years of publishing experience.
Applicants can apply with a proposed project for publication in the field of fiction, non-fiction or poetry. The 10 selected writers are offered a bursary, mentorship from a leading writer and peer support sessions over the duration of the 10-month programme.
2022 marked the centenary of the first women to qualify as solicitors after the passing of The Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act in 1919 which finally allowed women to become barristers, solicitors and magistrates. Prior to the act, women were barred from becoming solicitors due to antiquated legislation from 1843 which said that only 'persons' could become solicitors and women were not deemed 'persons' for the purpose of this act!
When researching the early attempts of women to become lawyers, I became fascinated by the landmark case of The Law Society v Bebb (1913) where four courageous young women took on the Law Society to be allowed to be admitted to their preliminary examination to qualify. Gwyneth Bebb, Karin Costelloe, Maud Crofts and Lucy Nettlefold were four pioneering women who showed great bravery when there was so much misogyny in the legal profession at the time.
Although the case was not successful, it promoted great publicity and eventually led to the passing of the legislation for women to become lawyers in England and Wales. This formed the basis of my project which was to research and write about the lives of these four young legal graduates and reflect on their legacy 100 years on.
My research took me to the Women’s Library at the LSE which holds the scrapbooks of two of the women involved in the case. Maud Crofts and Lucy Nettlefold meticulously kept newspaper cuttings which chartered the progress of women to become lawyers. Throughout the programme, I received excellent mentoring from Anne Sebba who is a leading biographer and author who has written several significant biographies about women including her most recent best-seller about Ethel Rosenberg.
We also had monthly master classes from a range of leading poets and writers which proved invaluable in helping to develop my writing and find my voice. The programme culminates in a panel discussion at Kings Place in London on Sunday 5 March 2023 where we will be joined by our mentors to discuss our experience and progress over the course of the ten month programme.
The Genesis Foundation was founded by John Studzinski CBE in 2001 and has over the last 20 years donated significantly to the arts to provide opportunities for many young artists in theatre and music. Jewish Book Week is a literary festival held in London annually in February and March.