Christian Jollie-Smith

Christian Brynhild Ochlitree Jollie-Smith (1885-1963), lawyer, was born on 15 March 1885 at Parkville, Melbourne, daughter of Jessie Ochiltree (born McLennan) and Thomas Jollie-Smith, Presbyterian minister and professor of Hebrew and Old Testament studies at the University of Melbourne. She was educated at the Presbyterian Ladies' College and the University of Melbourne, graduating LL B (1911) and was admitted to the Bar in 1914. Her friends included Katharine Susannah Prichard and Nettie Palmer (qq.v.). She taught at Melbourne High School and Brighton Grammar School before being appointed professional assistant in the Crown Solicitor's Office, Melbourne.

At the University she had become a socialist. She campaigned against conscription and taught at the Victorian Labor College. Her mail was intercepted by counter espionage agencies and she came under suspicion of passing information to A. W. Foster, regarding prosecutions under the War Precautions Act and the proposed deportation of Adela Pankhurst (q.v. Walsh). Her appointment was terminated. She went in 1919 to Brisbane and in 1920 to Sydney, where she attended the formation meetings of the Communist Party of Australia. She was nominated publisher of Australian Communist. In 1919 she had published The Japanese Labour Movement, on the need for unity between Australian and Japanese workers.

Jollie-Smith made her home in Sydney. She came probably because of a relationship with William Earsmann, foundation secretary of the Communist Party, who left in 1922 for the fourth Congress of the Comintern in Moscow, and was denied re-entry. A later relationship with C. W. Baker scandalised Party members.

Her trade union connections enabled Jollie-Smith to set up a successful legal practice in Sydney. In the 1920s in the arbitration jurisdictions employers frequently briefed counsel, and unions more often sought legally qualified persons to appear for them. Jollie-Smith's practice also included matrimonial causes litigation. In the short time Sybil Morrison was at the Bar, Jollie-Smith gave her briefs.

Christian Jollie-Smith was the instructing solicitor in several famous cases. She defended the people arrested in anti-eviction fights during the depression, acted for the Communist Party when the government banned transmission of its papers through the post, and for Egon Kisch in his appeal against the Commonwealth Government's use of a dictation test in Gaelic to prevent his entry to Australia. In the 1940s she defended striking trade unionists and in 1950 was an instructing solicitor in the trade unions' challenge to the Commonwealth Act banning the Communist Party.

Christian was a frequent contributor to the Communist Workers' Weekly and later to Tribune, writing on a wide range of subject matter, including domestic problems and divorce. She had a deep sympathy for Aborigines; it was in her office that the preliminary meeting was held for the campaign to amend the federal constitution, to remove clauses offensive to Aborigines, and to confer legislative powers on the Commonwealth. When Katharine Susannah Prichard lived in Sydney in the 1940s she went often to Christian's Watson's Bay home to hear her play the piano, 'her heart's own love'. Christian died in January 1963 in hospital in Sydney.

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