Professor Frances Elizabeth Moran was the first female law lecturer in Ireland, the first female Regius Professor at Trinity College, Dublin and the first woman to take silk in Ireland, years before any woman in Britain.
Born on the 6th December 1893, the second daughter of Senator James Moran, Frances Moran was educated at Dominican College and then at Trinity College, Dublin, where she was awarded her LLB and LLD the following year. She was called to the Irish Bar in 1924 and the English Bar in 1940, later becoming the first woman to take silk in Ireland when she was called to the Inner Bar in 1941, years before any woman took silk in Britain.
As the first female law lecturer in Ireland, predating her UK counterparts by 45 years, Moran was appointed to a succession of positions, including Professor of Equity at the King’s Inns in 1932 and Professor of Laws at Trinity in 1934. Her lectures were known for being rigorous and she did not tolerate carelessness by her students in their knowledge of the law or in their use of the English language. Moran’s appointment as Reid Professor in 1925 was the first appointment of a woman to Dublin University Chair in any subject, and she held this position until 1930. She was subsequently the first woman to be appointed the prestigious post of Regius Professor at Trinity in 1944 and continued to hold this position for 30 years. She also became the first woman to sit on the Board of the College. In 1968 she became Honorary Fellow and Honorary Bencher of the King’s Inn in Dublin.
As an intellectually curious and adventurous woman, Moran attended the Nuremberg Trials, and reportedly commented that the men were “so ordinary” and looked like they had “sat up all night in a third-class railway carriage”. She also undertook a number of world tours for the International Federation of University Women, of which she became President.
Following Moran’s death on the 7th October 1977, aged 83, an obituary spoke of her sociable side, enjoying legal gossip, sherry and cigarettes. She was also praised for her contribution to women’s education and their advancement in society. This is in addition to her being a pioneer for women in academia and the legal profession.
Written by Caroline Dix, Project Coordinator of First 100 Years