Kyle, Frances (Fay) Christian (1894–1958), barrister, was born 30 October 1894 in Belfast, the younger daughter of Robert Alexander Kyle, a Belfast businessman, and his wife Kathleen Frances (née Bates). She was educated in Belfast, France and Switzerland, before entering TCD, where she soon showed academic promise, achieving first place in French in Michaelmas term 1913. However, despite her prowess in languages she wanted to study law. Although legal and political science was an honours course at that time, it was a secondary moderatorship with only two years allocated to it. Kyle changed to law for her last two years, achieving a BA with a senior moderatorship and a moderatorship prize in 1916, as well as taking her (two-year) LLB in the same year.
It was not until the passing of the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act of 1919 that it was possible for a woman to become a barrister. Kyle enrolled as a student at King's Inns in Hilary term 1920, only the second woman to do so, the first being Averill Deverell (qv), who enrolled in Michaelmas term 1919. Kyle's intellectual prowess was evident when she came first in the final examinations in 1921, winning the first Victoria prize, and the John Brooke scholarship tenable for three years. This was no mean achievement as J. C. MacDermott (qv) (later Lord MacDermott and lord chief justice of Northern Ireland) was second, and Patrick McGilligan (qv) (later a distinguished politician and academic) third.
Because Kyle came first in the examinations, she was the first to be called to the Irish bar in her call of twenty people on 1 November 1921, with Averill Deverell in fifteenth place. This meant that Kyle had the distinction of being the first woman to be called to the bar in Ireland or in England, as the first woman to be called in England was not called until May 1922.
By November 1921 the new state of Northern Ireland had come into being, with its own bar and system of courts, so Kyle and MacDermott felt it prudent to be called to the Northern Ireland bar some weeks later. Kyle became a subscriber to the new Bar Library in Belfast, as well as joining the new circuit of Northern Ireland. On 14 June 1922 she was elected a member of the circuit, when it was recorded that she had appeared as a probationer at two assize towns, and had been excused attendance at a third. She was also present at the meeting in January 1926 at which the Inn of Court of Northern Ireland was formed, and her name remained on the list of members of the circuit until 1944, but it is unlikely that she was in active practice at that time. On her death in 1958 obituaries in two Belfast newspapers said that she practised for a short time. Margaret Aiken, who was called in Michaelmas term 1928, claimed in 1985 that she became the first woman actually to practise at the Northern Ireland bar. But Aiken had left the bar by 1932 to take up a post in the courts, whilst Kyle remained a member of the circuit until 1944. However, Kyle is not recorded as going on circuit after the surviving circuit records start in 1936, and the most likely explanation is that she may have tried to practise for a short time, and then remained a nominal member of the bar until 1944. It would not have been easy for a woman to build up a practice at that time, and none of the other four women who were called to the Northern Ireland bar before the second world war (excluding Averill Deverell, who was also called in Northern Ireland but practised in southern Ireland) was able to do so. However, times were hard and many men who were called during the same period were unable to make a living either, and obtained appointments in the colonies or went elsewhere abroad to practise.
During the war Kyle helped to provide support and hospitality for servicemen, using her gift for foreign languages to learn Czech so that she could help Czech airmen who felt lonely in a foreign country. A cultivated individual, Kyle held a small salon in her home in Belfast for some years before she went to live with her sister in Hampstead in London in 1944. Kyle died in London on 22 June 1958, leaving an estate of £12,845/5s./8d. A photograph in the Daily Sketch of 3 November 1921 of Kyle and Averill Deverell on the day of their call is reproduced in Ferguson, King's Inns barristers, 1869–2004, at page 94.