Female Lay Litigant Insists on Being Described as a Lady, 1836

Female advocacy did not begin in 1919. Throughout the previous century, there run accounts of skirted lay litigants occasionally creating consternation in the manly precincts of the Four Courts.

As this story from Saunders’ Newsletter of 6 December 1836 shows, they could prove courageous opponents, capable of turning any point – including the approaching season of goodwill – to their advantage!

Mrs Reynolds, a loquacious good humoured woman, addressed the Court… for the purpose of [compelling] the receiver to pay to her a sum of money… She stated that she had not a penny to support herself, and she… looked to Baron Pennefather for a “happy Christmas”.

Mr Lyle… was interrupted by Mrs Reynolds, who said she overheard him state she had been guilty of fraud. She appeared there as her own counsel, and she would make Mr Lyle account for accusing her of such a crime, and tarnishing her spotless reputation… [Also] Mr Lyle had called her a woman.

Baron Pennefather said she should in the future be designated a lady and also intimated to her that the receiver would account for her satisfaction.

Could we possibly have this event to thank for the origin of the dread term ‘lady barrister’?

Author: Ruth Cannon BL

Irish barrister sharing the history of the Four Courts, Dublin, Ireland, and other Irish courts.

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