In her Master’s thesis Joan O’Brien clearly describes the historical situation facing women who wished to gain entry into the legal profession in NSW:
“During most of the nineteenth century women were surrounded by restrictive legal disabilities and only slightly less inhibiting social disabilities. Under the common law a woman’s status merged, on marriage, with that of her husband; she had little control over her own property and she was not the legal guardian of her own children. Because the English courts had interpreted the common law to mean that a woman was not entitled to hold any public office, women’s activities were confined to those associated with the home. A married woman, with the exception of royalty, was at law incapable of exercising any public function.”
An article on the stress experienced by lawyers and its relation to depression.
This Enabling Act was one of the most significant pieces of legislation affecting the NSW legal profession in the Twentieth Century. Finally, after decades of lobbying, women had the legal right to become lawyers and be elected to the NSW Legislative Assembly.
Tony Cuneen describes the difficulties of getting this legislation passed and its significance: “Apart from issues of prejudice, women were excluded from legal practice at the time for the bizarre reason that the denotation ‘person’ was interpreted as being male unless specifically stated otherwise. since only a suitable ‘person’ could practise as a lawyer, women were ruled out.” Legislation which specifically stated the right of women to practise as lawyers was needed to remedy the situation.
Dora de Beer’s account of the expedition to Mt Sansato. Dora was an eminent mountaineer who accompanied Marie to Yunnan Province in 1938.