History of Women in Legal Profession Joan O'Brien 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."
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