Who is Carrie Morrison?
Carrie Morrison was the first woman to be admitted as a solicitor in the England and Wales Supreme Court. Morrison became qualified in 1922 following the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919 at the age of 34. Alongside her were Mary Pickup, Mary Sykes and Maud Crofts whose undeterred dedication and persistence paved the way for many talented women solicitors today. Much has changed for women in the legal industry since Morrison’s admission in 1922; in the year to 31 July 2019, 63.1% of new admissions were women.
What did she achieve in the law industry?
After Morrison qualified she spent time working as a Poor Man’s Lawyer in London’s East End. Throughout her legal career she often stood up for those less fortunate than herself – this included frequently representing prostitutes in court. Morrison was the solicitor for the Women’s and Children’s Protection Society as well as the defence for the Beacontree Estate protesters in 1932.
Morrison was a strong advocate of Divorce Law Reform and a true pioneer of gender equality. She was one of the founding members of the 1919 Club (which became the Association of Women Solicitors) who held a minute of silence for her after her death was announced in 1950.
Notable legal work
Noted in the Law Gazette as a “forgotten activist for law reform”, Morrison worked on some high profile cases. One case that attracted a substantial amount of attention at the time was the case of Mrs Blackwell in 1943. Morrison worked together with Helena Normanton (Normanton was the first woman barrister to practice The Bar, appear in the High Court and the Old Bailey) on the family property law case.
The Law Gazette states: “Mrs Blackwell’s case centred on the issue of housekeeping savings – that is, money normally given by a husband to his wife to buy groceries and other items for the home. She was frugal throughout her marriage, bringing in lodgers to help her husband pay off the mortgage and shopping at the Co-op in order to receive dividends. Yet when she separated from her husband, the court would not allow her to keep the £103 she had saved, because it was deemed housekeeping money by the judge. Housekeeping money legally belonged to the husband, as he was the original owner of the property”.
Whilst Mrs Blackwell lost the case, it was a “turning point in legal history”. Not only did it mark a beginning to the first family property reforms since the 19th century, it helped shed light on the inequality between husband and wife. The Married Women’s Association even used the case to argue that the unpaid work women carried out in their homes should be economically valued.
Law Society honour A press release on the 29th of June 2020 revealed that Carrie Morrison is to have a room named after her at the historical Law Society HQ at Chancery Lane. The room, currently known as the Old Bookshop, will bear the trailblazing solicitor’s name – Carrie Morrison. Law Society of England and Wales president Simon Davis said: “I am delighted that our governing council have given Carrie Morrison’s name to one of the most prominent rooms at 113 Chancery Lane as a way to celebrate her achievements”.