Jeannie Mercer (1880 – 1969) was sworn in as a magistrate in September 1920, one of the first women on the York bench. A schoolteacher, she had moved to the city with her husband, John (who is listed in the 1920 York Directory as a plumber with a business in Scarcroft Road).
Her appointment had been based on her services to the Co-operative movement, particularly in the field of education, and to the Health Insurance Committee. This was the forerunner of the National Health Service, which Jeannie served for 47 years.
On the same day that Jeannie was sworn in, York’s first women jurors were also sworn in at York Magistrates Court. A woman juror had to be ‘between the ages of 21 and 60, a householder assessed at not less than £20 a year, the occupier of a house with not less than 16 windows, and natural born subject or an alien of not less than 10 years domicile’.
During World War Two Jeannie had served on the Food Control and War Distress Committees, and also had a strong interest in trade and labour matters including the Women’s Labour Advisory Committee.
Jeannie retired from the bench in 1955, having served for 35 years.
Researched and written by Kate Hignett.
Source: ‘Obliged to Their Worships: The York Magistracy 1361 to 2011‘ by Fiona Holland, Gillian Sanderson and Sue Grace. ISBN 9780957064607