Jane Shirley Smith
As a trail-blazing lawyer and human-rights campaigner from the early 1950s, jane shirley smith had her voice heard for those who had no one. She spoke out against gender roles and pursued equal rights for all.
She married Ted Turner in 1964 and they had three children together. Their marriage was not easy but they managed to work out their differences and divorced in 1988.
She was a lawyer
jane shirley smith’s career as a lawyer was shaped by her deep commitment to social justice, legal reform and gender equality. She acted for people on the margins of society and changed public attitudes to issues such as women’s rights, family law, gay law and abortion laws.
Her life started with a tragic loss: her mother died when Shirley was three months old and her father was away on war service. Her childhood was clouded by grief but she found a purpose in life by studying classics at Oxford.
As she became a lecturer in classics, she discovered that her liberal views were unpopular with colleagues. She fought for her loyalty to her professor and faced political battles in the department riven by factions.
She left university in 1961 to set up her own practice as a barrister and solicitor, representing clients from diverse backgrounds, with a focus on social justice. She also undertook pro bono work for organisations such as the Society for Research on Women and the Wellington Cook Islands Society.
She was a writer
Jane Shirley Smith wrote a number of novels and plays. She wrote about women and her own experience as a woman.
She also wrote about people on the margins of society and was an advocate for women’s rights. Her books, including Women of Thorndon (1969), were widely read and challenged conventional attitudes.
The novel Wide Sargasso Sea, which won a WH Smith Literary Award in 1967, was inspired by her experiences as a young Creole woman from Dominica who married an Englishman and deteriorated in England. Rhys uses the story as a platform to explore themes of dominance and dependence, especially in marriage.
Jane was born in Jefferson, Alabama, and died in Spring Hill, Florida. She was a divorced mother of three children. She was a longtime member of the First United Methodist Church in Hudson and Port Richey, Fla. She was a great sports fan and she loved to watch her grandchildren play football, baseball and lacrosse.
She was a mother
As a child, Shirley suffered from separation from her mother. Her mother was a nurse and had no time to care for her.
When Shirley was five, her family moved to Auckland. Her father was appointed a Supreme Court judge and she was sent to boarding school in Marton.
There, she discovered communism. Her letters home describe her feelings of being homely and homesick, yet she also gained a purpose in life. Her parents had decided to send her to Oxford to study classics.
After she graduated, Shirley worked as a barrister. She was known for her kindness and ability to understand the law. She also had a keen interest in defending young Maori and Polynesian men, particularly those who were accused of crimes. She made a significant contribution to the development of New Zealand’s legal profession. She was a pioneer and an icon. She was a force for good in her community, and changed public attitudes.
She was a wife
The daughter of barrister David Stanley Smith and his wife Eva Jane Cumming, Shirley was a trail-blazing lawyer and human rights campaigner. She fought for social and political reform and changed public attitudes, particularly with her radio broadcasts on gender and civil liberties.
She was the first woman to be appointed to a law faculty in New Zealand, and later she founded her own firm. Her clientele included people on the margins of society and she was a pioneer in family law.
After a brief stint working for an Auckland firm she returned to Wellington to set up her practice in 1961, and it soon became a thriving business. She remained committed to the cause of equality and human rights, and was appalled by draconian legislation following the 1951 waterfront dispute.
She fought for her husband and children, and was a loving and supportive wife. She was also a devoted mother and grandmother. She was a wonderful friend to all who knew her.
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