Frost, Georgina (‘Georgie’) (1879–1939), court official, was born on 29 December 1879 in Sixmilebridge, Co. Clare, one of the five children of Thomas Frost (1842–1938) and his wife, Margaret Kett (d. 1888). Thomas Frost was the petty sessions clerk for Sixmilebridge and Newmarket-on-Fergus, as was Frost's maternal grandfather, John Kett.
In the six years prior to his retirement, Frost assisted her father in his duties and often performed these duties herself; at his retirement, the local magistrates appointed her to succeed him. However, under the Petty Sessions Clerk (Ireland) Act 1881, her appointment required the final approval of the lord lieutenant and, following advice, he rescinded her appointment because of her gender. He ordered the local magistrates to appoint another person but she was the only applicant for the position. Following the lord lieutenant's objection, the local magistrates gave her a temporary contract for a year to allow her to fight the case, but once again the lord lieutenant refused to sanction the appointment.
Frost then brought her case before the chancery division in Dublin, where Tim Healy (qv) KC and James Comyn KC represented her. In his judgment Mr Justice Dunbar Barton (qv) refused to usurp the powers of parliament. He stated that the disqualification of women was not upon the grounds of presumed inferiority of intellect or discretion, but because of considerations of ‘decorum’ and because the duties of the office could often be ‘painful and exacting’. He dismissed her petition with no order of costs. She then took the case to the court of appeal before the lord chancellor, Lord Shandon (qv), Lord Chief Justice Molony (qv) and Lord Justice Stephen Ronan (qv). The appeal was heard in November 1917 but judgment was reserved. When judgment was finally delivered in December 1918 Lord Shandon had resigned as lord chancellor, but in a letter to the court he outlined the grounds upon which he was prepared to allow the appeal. He was satisfied that neither the statutes nor the supposed principle of the common law invalidated the appointment. However, the other two judges felt obliged to hold to the opinion that the wording of the statute excluded Frost from the office.
Tim Healy learned that one of the law lords, Lord Shaw, was in favour of applying in the house of lords the Scottish practice under which an appeal could be brought in forma pauperis. This meant that if Frost were unsuccessful in her appeal, she would not have to pay legal costs. Thus she brought her appeal to the house of lords, where it was scheduled for a hearing on 27 April 1920. However, the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act of 1919 had become law and the legal bar to her appointment no longer existed. Lord Birkenhead, the lord chancellor, decided it was pointless in going into the old law and proposed to adjourn the case under the condition that he would contact the lord lieutenant, who might give a retrospective approval to her appointment. Counsel agreed to this and, consequently, she was appointed in April 1920, making her the first woman to hold such public office in the UK. Her triumph, however, was short-lived: the Free State government abolished her job in 1923. She later received a pension and died 6 December 1939 at the age of 59 in Sixmilebridge; she never married.
Frost's victory was not reported officially in any law reports and received only passing mention in the house of lords’ weekly notes. This situation was rectified in the Irish law reports of April 2000. Also in 2000 An Post issued a commemorative stamp incorporating a photograph of Frost.