In December 1922 Carrie Morrison became the first woman to qualify as a solicitor in England.
Carrie was born in 1888. She attended Manchester High School for Girls and then went on to study at Girton College, the first women’s college in Cambridge University. However, despite achieving First Class Honours she was not allowed a degree because she was a woman. She became a language teacher before working for MI5. Via a contact in MI5 she was taken on as a legal clerk and then, after the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act was passed in 1919, qualified as a solicitor in 1922.
When she was interviewed shortly after her qualification Carrie said that men had told her the law was too “rough and tumble” for women, but that she had seen plenty of that in her life. She commented that the cost of qualifying as a solicitor was a more significant barrier to women.
Carrie worked as a “poor man’s lawyer” providing free and low cost legal services to people in London’s East End. She took on cases considered to be socially challenging at the time, including acting for prostitutes, the Women & Children’s Protection Society and protesters. She was keen to see reform of divorce laws and equality between the sexes.
Carrie Morrison and the women who followed her were trailblazers for women in the law. By 1967 2.7% of solicitors in England were women. This figure rose to 32% by 1997 and now, 100 years after Carrie’s qualification, over 52% of qualified solicitors are women.
This December we will be highlighting some of the wonderful female lawyers at Slee Blackwell as we remember the contribution of those who came before and celebrate the increased range of legal talent and experience that has been opened up following the 1919 Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act.