Helena Mary Early (1888 - 1977) was originally from Swords, Co. Dublin one of five children of a farmer, from a Roman Catholic family. Her brother Thomas was admitted to the Roll in Hilary term 1899, and she worked for him as a law clerk, she was placed first in the Preliminary Examination in January 1920, which was a necessary prelude to her signing indentures on the 22 June 1920, aged 32. She was elected Auditor of the Solicitors’ Apprentices Debating Society for 1920-1, which was an achievement, partly explained by her maturity and her political activism. The next woman auditor was not to be until 1970, the Irish Times on the 28 October 1970 carried a photograph of both.

Early placed first in the Intermediate Examination and fourth in her Final Examination in May 1923, she was admitted to the Roll on the 25 June 1923. She practised with her brother at 63-4 O’Connell Street, Dublin in the courts particularly the District Court, and was a familiar figure, she combined practice with left-wing political activism. She was President of the Ireland–U.S.S.R. Friendship Society, which was in existence between 1945—66, its purpose to ‘combat all falsehoods designed to misrepresent the peaceful aims of the Soviet Union’. This cause did not meet with universal approval, a meeting in the Mansion House was interrupted by neo-Nazis, in the consequent disorder two of the stewards Harry Ryan and Sean Dempsey were charged and convicted of assault, receiving a fine of £95 or three months in jail in lieu. Early, as president, signed the appeal to raise the money to pay the fine. The Friendship society operated on ‘a spasmodic basis during the 1950s and 1960s’, the society became moribund, a new one was established in 1966 titled ‘the Ireland—U.S.S.R. Society’, without involvement from Early. She retired in the 1960s and died in 1977. She is represented as the ‘first woman practising solicitor in Ireland’, which is technically correct, as she took out a practising certificate, her name is recorded in the archives.


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