In this slim publication, Rosie MacGregor pays tribute to a trailblazing lawyer, whose strong socialist and feminist principles permeated her work and life. Born in 1906 into a family of Bristol solicitors, Angela Gradwell Tuckett became the city’s first female solicitor, qualifying three years after the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919 removed the bar on women practising law.
The first barrister she instructed reportedly exclaimed ‘My God, a woman, we’ve lost!’ when they met at court, shortly before her careful preparation helped win the case.
Angela joined the Communist Party as a young woman, acting as a legal observer at demonstrations and facing police baton charges. She defended the leaders of the National Unemployed Workers Movement and frequently represented clients in south Wales, where socialist demonstrations were met with police violence and punitive sentences in the courts.
Author: Rosie MacGregor
£10, WaterMarx Media
In 1940 Angela was appointed head of the legal department at the National Council for Civil Liberties (now Liberty), where wartime restrictions on civil liberties, including detention without trial or legal advice, contributed to a daunting caseload of 584 open matters. She later continued to combine the law and politics as a legal adviser to the Daily Worker newspaper.
Angela Remembered paints a picture of a passionate activist who used the law as a mechanism for advancing social justice. It is also the story of a woman who lived through a time of real ideological ferment, and who retained a conviction that politics and activism would bring about a fundamentally fairer society.
A number of contributors suggest that Angela’s commitment, whether to politics or playing the accordion, could verge on the relentless. However, overcoming the obstacles to establishing a legal career as a woman in the 1920s must have required some bloody mindedness.
MacGregor’s book is clearly a labour of love. She knew Angela personally and was plainly impressed by her. Ultimately, Angela Remembered is likely to be most enjoyed by a specialist readership, but this should not detract from its status as a fond but even-handed tribute to a committed and impressive woman.
Gus Silverman is a solicitor at Irwin Mitchell’s Bristol office, specialising in civil liberties