McMordie, Julia (1860–1942), philanthropist and politician, was born 30 March 1860 in Hartlepool, Co. Durham, England, fifth daughter of Sir William Gray , shipbuilder and shipowner, and his wife Dorothy (d. 1906), daughter of Capt. John Hall. A presbyterian, she was educated at Chislehurst, Kent. Following her marriage (21 May 1886) to Ronald James McMordie (1849–1914), a solicitor who was lord mayor of Belfast (1910–14) and unionist MP for Belfast East (1910–14), she moved to Belfast and had a son and a daughter. Her main concerns throughout her life were charitable and philanthropic: she was a member of numerous societies and charities, including the Samaritan Hospital, the Ulster Hospital for Women and Children, and the Cripples' Institute, and during the first world war was president of St John's Women's Voluntary Aid Detachment for Belfast. In 1919 she was awarded the CBE. Unsuccessful in her bid for a seat on Belfast corporation in 1916, she became the first woman councillor in 1918, and two years later was elected alderman for Pottinger ward (1920–30). Her main concern as alderman was bettering the health and conditions of the citizens, especially the children, but she also had political interests. An executive member of the Ulster Women's Unionist Council since its inception, she was vice-president from 1919 to 1942, and in 1921 she was returned as unionist MP for Belfast South, later Willowfield (1921–5), and was one of only two women to take a seat in the first Northern Ireland parliament (June 1921).
A tentative member who rarely contributed to debates or question time, she did not make her maiden speech till April 1922, ten months after the first parliament had convened. She then took the opportunity to defend resolutely the appointment of female police officers, there being at that time but two female officers in the 3,000 strong force in Belfast. The following month she first opposed the constabulary bill and then successfully argued for the insertion of a clause defining the term ‘constable’ as applicable to both sexes. Her other parliamentary concerns were welfare, education, and unemployment. She emphasised the need for sanatoriums for tubercular children, and specially trained teachers for disabled children.
She did not seek reelection in 1925, preferring to concentrate her considerable energy on committee rooms. At one stage she was a member of more than sixty committees, including the Belfast education committee and the school medical services committee. She endowed both the Boy Scouts' movement and the students' union of QUB with a McMordie Hall. She was the first woman to be elected high sheriff of Belfast in 1928 and was one of the first three women to be appointed JP for Belfast. She remained alderman of Pottinger ward till 1930, resigning in protest against the amending education act of that year. In 1935 she left Northern Ireland to be nearer her family, and she died at her daughter's residence, King's Cliffe, Oundle, Northamptonshire, on 12 April 1942.