Archives provinciales du Nouveau-Brunswick

Dictionary of Miramichi Biography

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FISH, FRANCES LILLIAN, teacher, lawyer, and deputy county magistrate; b. Newcastle, 18 Dec 1888, d/o Charles Elijah Fish and Anne E. Willard; unmarried; d. Chatham, 27 Oct 1975.

After graduating from Harkins Academy, Frances L. Fish took degrees in classics from the universities of New Brunswick (BA 1910) and Chicago (MA 1913). In 1911-12 she worked as a teacher in Winnipeg. Between 1912 and 1915 she was assistant to the principal of the superior school in Campbellton, and for a few months in 1916 she was principal of the Blackville Superior School. She then left the educational field and entered Dalhousie University to study law.

Fish was the first woman to be granted an LLB by Dalhousie (1918) and the first woman to be admitted to the Nova Scotia bar. She was employed with a law firm in Halifax for about two years and with the legal department of the Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. in Ottawa for a somewhat lengthier period. She later worked in Montreal as a legal assistant to the Hon. Charles H. Cahan, secretary of state in the cabinet of Prime Minister R. B. Bennett. She failed to gain admittance to the Quebec bar, however, since women were not yet recognized as 'persons' in law in that province.

In 1934 Fish was called to the New Brunswick bar and returned to live in the family home in Newcastle. In the provincial election of 1935 she ran as a Conservative, and as the first woman to try to win a seat in the Legislative Assembly. The Liberals took all four seats in a landslide, but she polled the most votes of any of the Conservative candidates. She also ran federally in 1935 as a candidate for the short-lived Reconstruction party, only the national leader of which won election to the House of Commons. These were her only attempts to enter provincial or federal politics, but she remained active in the Conservative party and was later honored with a life membership.

Until the year before her death Fish pursued a private law practice in Newcastle in which she concentrated on criminal and divorce cases. In 1947 she was appointed deputy magistrate of Northumberland County, again as the first woman in New Brunswick to hold such a post. In the political and professional spheres she claimed to have been motivated purely by personal interest and ambition and denied ever having viewed herself as a crusader for women's rights.

As a young woman, Fish played hockey, swam, and engaged in other taxing sports. In later life she was an award-winning gardener. Most of her community activity came through her work, but she served terms as president of the local Children's Aid Society and secretary of the Red Cross Society. She was a life member of the IODE and an adherent of the United Church. At the time of her death she was a patient at Mount St Joseph in Chatham.


[b] church records [d] Leader 5 Nov 1975 / Advocate 24 May 1910, 10 Sep 1918, 6 Sep 1927, 28 Feb 1934; Commercial World 8 Mar 1962; NB Elections; PPNB; Telegraph 16 Feb 1963; Tulloch


It was announced in the Union Advocate of 1 May 1928 that Fish had been granted a PhD in classics by the University of Chicago, and her possession of this degree was frequently asserted after that date, e.g., in Graves and PPNB. However, the university archives advises: "Our records do not indicate that Ms. Fish was ever awarded a Ph.D. degree from the University of Chicago."