Miss Warren’s profession

Helen Thomson in the Sydney Theatre Company's Mrs Warren's Profession

Mrs Warren

I went to see Mrs Warren’s Profession, by George Bernard Shaw, at the Sydney Theatre Company this week. A very enjoyable evening, but of more interest to the readers of this blog is Miss Warren’s profession:

‘I shall set up chambers in the City, and work at actuarial calculations. Last May I spent six weeks in London in Honoria Fraser’s chambers in Chancery Lane every day, working away at actuarial calculations for her. I like working and getting paid for it.’

The words belong to Vivie Warren, daughter of Mrs Warren.

If Miss Warren had been real she would probably have ended up one of, if not the, first qualified female actuaries in Britain. This article describes a few of them, including Sarah Alice Hussey, who applied for membership in 1894, but was rejected because the Institute’s solicitors advised that,

‘in their opinion the Council had no power to admit ladies as members’.

The first woman to qualify as an actuary in the UK was Dorothy Davis, who qualified in 1923. Sadly, here in Australia, it took until 1971 for Catherine Prime to be the first female qualified actuary.

For other actuaries in literature, check out Daniel Skwire’s great series of articles including actuarial issues in Jane Austen, Charles Dickens and Shakespeare.