Eva Maude Powley wearing a graduation cap
Eva Maude Powley
(Photo courtesy of the Archives of the Law Society of Ontario)

Eva Maude Powley

  • Date of Birth: 28 December 1875
  • Date of Death: 27 November 1969
  • Accomplishments: Second woman to be called to the Bar of Upper Canada.


Eva Maude Powley of Port Arthur was called to the Bar of Upper Canada (Ontario) on June 24, 1902, becoming only the second woman in Canada to achieve this distinction.

Eva was born to William and Margaret Powley of Port Arthur in 1875, one of six girls. She excelled academically from an early age and attended St. Hilda’s College, the Women’s residential college at Trinity University in Toronto. She began to study law in 1897, and in 1900 when she passed the examination for barrister and solicitor it was observed that she was “the first person in Canada to take both the University and the Osgoode Hall (law) course together.”

In June 1902 she was called to the bar, becoming the second woman in Canada to do so. The first had been Toronto’s Clara Brett Martin (1874-1923) in 1897, after successfully challenging existing legislation in Ontario that only allowed men to be admitted into the profession.

Returning to Port Arthur, Powley practiced law in the firm of Keefer & Keefer (later Keefer, Keefer & Towers). She was active in Port Arthur’s social life and had a house built for her on Royston Court. However, in 1913 she resigned from the firm for reasons unknown, never to practice law again. Shortly after she sailed for Europe aboard the RMS Empress of Ireland.

By 1917 Powley had returned to Canada, as she is noted in local newspapers as having christened the Uglestad, a freighter built by the Port Arthur Shipbuilding Company. Shortly after she moved to Winnipeg where she worked in the coal industry, quickly rising to management roles. Eva passed away there in 1969, and is buried in the Powley family plot at Thunder Bay's Riverside Cemetery.

 Eva Maude Powley with her sisters and dog
Eva Maude Powley with her sisters and dog


Submitted by The Thunder Bay Historical Museum Society

Adapted from ‘Powley became lawyer in 1902’ by Meghan Dunn, 29 November 2015, from the Thunder Bay Museum’s Looking Back series in the Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal.

Other sources used:

The First Female Lawyers: Legal Trailblazers by Ella Andra-Warner, Northern Wilds Magazine, 28 January 2020.

Biographical Dictionary and History of Victorian Thunder Bay (1850-1901) by Frederick Brent Scollie (Thunder Bay Historical Museum Society, 2020), pg. 299.


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