Lady Law Clerks Strike Out, 1920

From the Irish Examiner, 3 June, 1920

“The Law Clerks, who are on strike, and a number of their colleagues, who joined with them in sympathy, made a remarkable demonstration at the Four Courts today, on the occasion of the resumption of business there on the opening of Trinity Term.  At about 10 o’clock, to the number of about 250, of whom a large number were ladies, the demonstrators marched in procession from their headquarters in College St.  Arrived at the Four Courts, they continued to parade the Quay and Chancery street until about 11 o’clock, when they entered the Four Courts premises.  In the meantime they were busily occupied in distributing new handbills.

Among the judges who witnessed the demonstration was the Lord Chancellor, who, having left his motor car, stopped for a short time to observe the procession.  Outside the Courts buildings the procession met Mr Justice Gibson, who returned their salute and smilingly accepted some of the handbills.  The Recorder was also encountered outside the Courts.  One of the processionists handed him a handbill and walked with him for some distance discussing the situation.  The Recorder spoke in sympathetic terms, and expressed his regret that the present situation had arisen.

Subsequently, while the judges were passing from their chambers towards the Solicitors’ Chambers to attend the meeting there, the young lady clerks handed them leaflets, which they accepted. Two well-known King’s Counsel on being handed the leaflets gave the encouraging greeting “Carry on.” After a time the main body of demonstrators departed, leaving pickets on duty at the Courts.

About 400 demonstrators, including a considerable number of ladies, wearing strike badges and distributing leaflets, marched from their union headquarters, College Green, through Dame Street, Parliament Street and towards the Four Courts.  Traffic was held up on a part of the route, while photographers and cinema men were busy on Grattan Bridge.  The Four Courts were surrounded by the processionists, and judges and barristers presented with leaflets  on arrival.”

The law clerks were seeking an increase in their salaries, which had failed to keep pace with the increase in wages generally. The strike ended successfully later that week with agreement to establish a permanent Conciliation Board to deal with the questions of salaries and hours then and in the future.

The female-dominated strike may perhaps have benefited from previous suffragette experience. Clerking was one of the few legal jobs open to women prior to the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919.

I wonder did any of the women who participated so impressively in the strike subsequently go on to qualify as solicitors?

Image Credit (not actual Four Courts strikers)

Author: Ruth Cannon BL

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

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