Tuesday, September 22, 2015


"On the Waterfront Part 2"
"The Murdoch Appreciation Society"
"Election Day"

Those are the episodes in which Clara Brett Martin, the first woman lawyer in the British Empire, appeared.

From Wikipedia:

Clara Brett Martin (25 January 1874 – 30 October 1923), born to Abram and Elizabeth Martin, a well-to-do Anglican-Irish family, opened the way for women to become lawyers in Canada by being the first in the British Empire in 1897.

In 1888, Martin was accepted to Trinity College in Toronto. And in 1890, Martin graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Mathematics at the age of sixteen, which was almost unheard of because of the masculinity associated with that field.

In 1891, Martin submitted a petition to the Law Society of Upper Canada to permit her to become a student member, a prerequisite to articling as a clerk, attending lectures and sitting the exams required to receive a certificate of fitness to practice as a solicitor.

Her petition was rejected by the Law Society after contentious debate, with the Special Committee reviewing the petition interpreting the statute which incorporated the Law Society as permitting only men to be admitted to the practice of law. W.D. Balfour sponsored a bill that provided that the word "person" in the Law Society's statute should be interpreted to include females as well as males. Martin’s cause was also supported by prominent women of the day including Emily Stowe and Lady Aberdeen. With the support of the Premier, Oliver Mowat, legislation was passed on April 13, 1892, and permitted the admission of women as solicitors. As Canada prepared to enter the 20th century, women were barred from participation in, let alone any influence on or control over, the legal system at its fullest -- women could not be voters, legislators, coroners, magistrates, judges or jurors. They were visible in the courts as litigants, witnesses & accused persons.

In later life, Martin ran for Toronto City Council in Ward 2 but was defeated in the 1920 municipal election.

In the episode "On the Waterfront (Part 2)" of the crime drama 'Murdoch Mysteries', she is introduced and helps the female characters in their endeavors.

In 1989, the provincial government announced that Martin was to be honoured by having the building housing the Ministry of the Attorney General named after her. The government revoked the honour after an anti-Semitic letter written by her in 1915 came to light.

There's no way 'Murdoch Mysteries' will be around long enough to be plotting stories that take place in 1915.  Getting this coming ninth season, which arrives on the air in Canada October 5th and is probably taking place in 1903-4, seemed dicey for a while.  So I doubt we might ever find out why Ms. Martin held those anti-Semitic views in that letter.

But doesn't it seem likely that she held those views years earlier in her life?  Or perhaps they grew over time, or were based on one specific moment in her life to change her beliefs forever?  For the time being, in the episodes in which we have seen her portrayed by Patricia Hagan, Miss Martin has carried herself well as a champion of women's causes and in what is just and fair in general.  Granted, such a belief as she held in that letter is only a small part of her character and it's not up to me to judge her entirely based on that.  But do you think it possible the show might touch on it at least at some point?  That is... if the show continues beyond a ninth season.

What do you think?  Let me know.....


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