Partner Reina Lawrence
16 Regent Villas, 81 Avenue Road, London NW8 6JD, UK
Eliza Orme, also called Elizabeth Orme (December 25, 1848 – June 22, 1937) was the first woman Law Office in 1875 and the first woman to earn a law degree in England, from University College London in 1888. She had an intimate relationship with Reina Lawrence.
Orme was born at 16 Regent Villas, Avenue Road, London, into a well-connected middle-class family. She was the seventh of eight children of Charles Orme (c.1807-1893) and Eliza (1816-1892), daughter of Reverend Edward Andrews. Charles Orme was a distiller and her mother had been a governess to Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Eliza was educated at Bedford College for Women, and attended lectures at University College London from 1871. Her teachers included John Elliot Cairnes (1823–1875), W. Leonard Courtney (1850–1928), and W. A. Hunter (1844–1898). Before the passing of the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919, women were not permitted to qualify as a barrister or a solicitor in England; indeed, women were permitted to study but not to graduate at many universities.
Taking the advice of John Stuart Mill, a family friend, Orme worked in the chambers of a barrister, John Savill Vaizey, from 1873, but her aspiration to be recognised as a "conveyancer under the bar" was blocked. She established an office on Chancery Lane in 1875 with a friend Mary Richardson, and worked as a "devil", drafting documents for conveyancing counsel and patent agents. She received the degree of LLB from the University of London in 1888. From the mid-1880s, she worked with Reina Emily Lawrence, continuing to work on legal matters until about 1904. It was only 34 years later that Ivy Williams was called to the bar in England as a first, long after Canada had allowed women with their first lawyer being Clara Brett Martin in 1897. Orme was influenced by J. S. Mill, W. A. Hunter, John Elliott Cairnes and Leonard Courtney, all supporters of ''laissez-faire'' and Benthamite reform. She too became active in Liberal Party politics and as a feminist. She was involved with the National Society for Women's Suffrage and the Society for the Promotion of the Employment of Women, and assisted the Royal Commission on labour in 1892. She was also involved with the Women's Liberal Federation from 1887, leaving to join its rival Women's National Liberal Federation in 1892. She met the late nineteenth century English novelist George Gissing in November 1894. She wrote a biography of its founder Lady Fry of Darlington (1898). In 1902, she wrote the entry for the Dictionary of National Biography for Samuel Plimsoll.
She lived for most of her life with her parents in London until their deaths in the 1890s, and then with her sister Beatrice at Tulse Hill. She died in Streatham from heart failure. Her colleague Reina Lawrence was the executor and residuary beneficiary of Orme's will when she died in 1937.
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