Today at Kelly Kelly Legal we are celebrating the milestone and incredible achievement of the first woman to practice law in South Austraila – Mary Cecil Kitson. On this day 100 years ago Mary Kitson was the first female to be admitted to legal practice in South Australia, paving the way for other women to enter the legal profession.
Mary Kitson took advantage of the Female Law Practitioners Act of 1911 which for the first time allowed women to practice law.
Mary Kitson was a brilliant student who, at age 16 was head prefect and dux at St Aloysius College, and went on to become an exceptional lawyer, particularly in the area of juvenile justice and child welfare.
Mary was employed as a managing clerk after completing her articles with Poole & Johnstone in 1917. Two years later she became partner of the firm, which changed it’s name to Johnstone, Ronald & Kitson.
She made history again when, shortly after marrying in 1924, Mary partnered with Dorothy Somerville to form the first firm in the history of the Commonwealth to comprise solely of female partners.
Mary moved to Sydney in 1933 as a single parent to work as a legal editor, so she could work from home and care for her son, who had cerebral palsy. She wrote many text books over the next 15 years.
Among numerous other roles, Mary was appointed Chief of the Status of Women Commission in the Human Rights division of the United Nations. She was also awarded an OBE for her child welfare work.
Mary was born in Caltowie and was the fourth child of John Kitson, a police inspector, and his wife Mary, both of whom encouraged their daughter to pursue her career.