Michael Dwyer tells the story of pauper Georgina Frost, discriminated against in the workplace because of her sex, who took on The King of England in the House of Lords in April, 1920.
Georgina Frost was born in 1883 and lived her entire life in Sixmilebridge, Co. Clare. In the 1901 Census, she is returned as an eighteen-year old scholar living with her father and sisters. Her mother died when Georgina was five years old.
The small town had two significant public buildings: The RIC barracks and the Courthouse, where The Petty Sessions were held. Here the relatively modest post of Clerk of Petty Sessions had been held by her family for two generations. Her maternal grandfather, John Kett, and later, his son-in-law, Thomas Frost (her father), had held the clerkship between them since the 1840s.
Petty Sessions were similar to the modern District Court. The Clerk recorded its proceedings, issued summonses, had charge of fines and was required to keep abreast of all relevant changes in legal administration. It required an educated person of the utmost exactitude for the post. The magistrates who presided then weren’t always lawyers. They were men of integrity and common-sense.
About 1909, Georgina’s father’s health became problematic. She first assisted and soon took over, becoming clerk in all but name. Deteriorating health made it impossible for Thomas Frost to continue, and he retired in 1915.
By law, the magistrates sitting in petty sessions for the united courts of Sixmilebridge and Newmarket-on-Fergus were obliged to assess applicants and propose a replacement to the Lord Lieutenant. They duly did on 13th July, 1915: Georgina Frost. The magistrates knew their acting female clerk had acquitted herself with distinction.