Celebrating the first female chartered accountant

It was recently the anniversary of Mary Harris Smith becoming the first female chartered accountant in the world (May 1920). To honour her ICAEW commissioned a painting by Toby Wiggins and her portrait now hangs proudly in Chartered Accountants’ Hall. About time is all we can say!

However, Harris Smith was initially denied membership because she was a woman! ICAEW Present Charles Fitch Kemp said in 1885 he would be so embarrassed by the admission of women that he would rather retire than consider it!

It was only after the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act was passed in 1919 was she allowed to become the first female chartered accountant.

Harris Smith set up her own accounting firm in 1887 and in women periodicals she was described as a ‘lady accountant’ Harris Smith would be 75 when she was finally admitted to the ICAEW.

Women would have to wait until 1979 before they were elected onto ICAEW Council.