Auvergne Doherty

Auvergne Doherty, M.A., B.A. (3 October 1896 – 3 January 1961) was born in Perth, Western Australia[1], the second daughter of Denis and Georgina Doherty. Auvergne was raised abroad, attending Convent schools in Belgium and England, one of which included the Convent of Holy Child Jesus in Cavendish Square, London. In 1916, Auvergne passed the Responsions exams for Oxford University; she graduated and matriculated on 30 October 1920.[2] Auvergne was among the first of nine women called to the Bar in England in 1922, following the enactment of the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919.  Auvergne Doherty was the first Western Australian woman called to the English Bar. Despite gaining admission to Middle Temple, Auvergne did not go on to practice law. In 1930 Auvergne returned to Western Australia with her father and sister, Dorothy.

When her father died in 1935, Auvergne took over his cattle business with Mr Michael Durack, in the Northern Territory where she became known as, “The Big Boss”.[3] She played a significant role in ensuring the success of a failing company: the Durack family noted that she was very competent and an expert at the business.[4] Four years before the company was wound up in 1950, Auvergne resigned as the company director and purchased a poultry farm in Keysbrook. In 1956 Auvergne was living in Waterman’s Bay and then moved to Carlisle.[5] Auvergne died at the Infectious Diseases Branch, Royal Perth Hospital Western Australia on 3 January 1961. She is buried at Karrakatta Cemetry, Western Australia, in the Roman Catholic portion next to her father.[6]

Call to the Bar

Auvergne Doherty applied for admission to Middle Temple on 5 January 1920. Just over two years later, she was ‘screened’ for Call on 24 October 1922 and formerly Called to the Bar on 17 November 1922.

Auvergne Doherty was among the first cohort of women Called to the Bar, along with Theodora Llewellyn-Davis, Helena Normanton, Monica Geikie Cobb, Ethel Bright Ashford, Elsie Wheeler, Beatrice Davy, Sybil Campbell and Dr Ivy Williams.[1] Ivy Williams was the first women to be called to the Bar in 1922. Helena Normanton was the first woman law student and first woman barrister to practice in 1922. Carrie Morrison became the first women solicitor.

Auvergne Doherty was the first women from Western Australia to be called to the English Bar. Auvergne was not the first Australian women to enter the legal profession, this title wen to Flos Greig, who was admitted in August 1905. The next Western Australian woman called to the Bar was Alice Mary Cummins, in 1930. It was not until 1975 that the first woman, Valerie French, signed the Bar Roll and practised as a Barrister in Western Australia.[7] In Western Australia, when you sign on to only practice as a Barrister, you sign the Bar Roll. What that means is that women did practice before this date but not specifically as Barristers.

Auvergne Doherty did not pursue a career in law. Instead, it is noted that she became a secretary for the British Drama League before returning to Perth in 1930.


[1] Western Australia Death Certificate for Auvergne Doherty.

[2] The Responsions where a kind of entrance examination involving Latin, Greek, Arithmetic, and the elements of Algebra or Geometry; Obituary for Miss Auvergne Doherty, The Times (London, England), Thursday 19 January 1961, p.17, Issue 54983; Oxford University Archives.

[3] Obituary for Miss Auvergne Doherty, The Times (London, England), Thursday 19 January 1961, p.17, Issue 54983.

[4] Notes from Patsy Millett, Mary Durack’s daughter.

[5] Mary Durack, Sons in the Saddle (Bantam, New Edition, 1985, p.426); Patsy Millett’s notes (Mary Durack’s daughter), 2017; Auvergne Doherty Death Certificate.

[6] Western Australia, Death Certificate for Auvergne Doherty.

[7] H & Rubenstein Kerwin  K (2011), “Davis, F, Musgrove, N and Smart, J (Eds) Founders, Firsts and Feminists:Women Leaders in Twentieth-Century Australia, p.172,” “Reading the Life Narrative of Valerie French, the First Woman to Sign the Western Australian Bar Roll,” n.d., 172–87. Valerie French has been interviewed as part of the Trailblazing women and the law oral history project. You can listen to her interview here:


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