A WOMAN’S rights advocate and trailblazing barrister has been commemorated with a blue plaque.

Helena Normanton, who grew up in Brighton, was the first female to lead a case in the High Court, run a trial at the Old Bailey and lead murder trials in the English courts.

An English Heritage blue plaque has been placed outside her former residence in Mecklenburgh Square, London, where she forged her legal career.

After her father died when she was four, Helena moved to Brighton where her mother Jane set up a boarding house in 1886.

Helena initially worked as a teacher and became a lecturer at the University of London in 1916.

The Argus: Woman’s rights advocate Helena Normanton receives English Heritage blue plaque Woman’s rights advocate Helena Normanton receives English Heritage blue plaque

She was also an active campaigner, speaker and writer for equal rights for women at the time and began to eye a career in the legal profession.

However, studying for the Bar required membership of an Inn of Court and in February 1918, she applied to join Middle Temple but was rejected on the grounds that women could not be admitted.

On December 24, 1919, the day after the passage of the Sex (Disqualification) Removal Act, Middle Temple accepted her application, making her the first woman to be admitted to an Inn of Court.

The blue plaque to commemorate Helena’s life comes 100 years after she passed her Bar finals on October 26, 1921.

Lady Hale, the first woman to serve as President of the UK’s Supreme Court, unveiled the plaque.

“Helena Normanton was the pioneer of women barristers. She had to overcome a great deal of prejudice and discrimination,” she said. “A blue plaque is a fitting tribute to her courage and her example to women barristers everywhere.”

The Argus: Woman’s rights advocate Helena Normanton receives English Heritage blue plaque Woman’s rights advocate Helena Normanton receives English Heritage blue plaque

Helena, who also became the first married woman to have a passport issued in her birth name after marrying Gavin Bowman Watson Clark, practised law for the rest of her working life.

Alongside her successful legal career, she supplemented her income by public speaking, journalism and writing books.

Helena eventually retired in 1951 and died in 1957. Her ashes are buried with her husband’s in Ovingdean churchyard.

English Heritage curatorial director Anna Eavis said: “Widely acknowledged as a trailblazer, Helena Normanton scored a remarkable number of firsts in her legal career and paved the way for other women to advance in the profession.”

Dana Denis-Smith, of the charity First 100 Years, added: "If there is one thing we learnt from our work in unearthing the untold stories of many women legal pioneers, it is just how powerful visible role models are to future generations.

The Argus: Woman’s rights advocate Helena Normanton receives English Heritage blue plaque Woman’s rights advocate Helena Normanton receives English Heritage blue plaque

“Helena Normanton KC was just such a role model, and we are thrilled that she is being recognised with a blue plaque. We hope the plaque will stir the curiosity of many passers-by, men and women, who will look to learn even more about the important contribution she made to the legal world."

Of the more than 950 London blue plaques, only 14 per cent commemorate women.

A lifelong advocate of equality feminism, Helena was involved in numerous campaign groups including the Women’s Freedom League, Six Point Group, the Married Persons Income Tax Group, the Married Women’s Association, the Council for Married Women and the British Federation of Business and Professional Women.