Lucy Deane was from an upper class military family and was appointed in 1893, aged 28, by Herbert Asquith; then the Home Secretary, and she was sent across the British Isles, to the dismay of male factory inspectors, to inspect and report on the conditions of women workers. She and her four colleagues had no precedents and no training. Lucy’s up-market family were horrified –“a most unladylike occupation.”
Eliza Orme, the first female lawyer, advised her to keep private records of “everything and everyone – in small cheap exercise books with indelible pencils. And write as soon as you leave the workshop or the meeting, in the cab or on the train.” She continued as a factory inspector until 1911 when she married her old friend Granville Streatfeild. But she was constantly called upon to consult and advise on women’s’ social issues, writing the first reports on the dangerous trades, and the first reports about asbestos. In the First World War, she was in charge of organising the Women’s Land Army, and gained an MBE for her efforts.
Author Lisa Wright married Martin who was the cousin of Lucy Deane. Lucy was Martin’s Great Aunt Evelyn’s best friend, who kept her diaries and a store of anecdotes. The books provide an insight into her daily life from 1893-1898, until she was sent to investigate the appalling state of the British concentration camps for women in the Boer War. They provide reports into every type of factory, her new hats, her home life with sister Hyacinth, her propensity for crashing her bicycles, her constant travel, her opinions of her fellow male inspectors and the respect they gradually gave her and her four colleagues. Lisa uses the diaries to write this insightful biography. Lisa lives in London and spent her early life in large rectories in urban deprived areas during the war. She then trained as a drama teacher at the Central School of Drama, based in the Royal Albert Hall. Lisa later taught in the USA before coming back to England to become one of the first women to be ordained priest in the Church of England. Since 1987, she has worked pastorally in South London, taken her one woman show to the Edinburgh Fringe and now in her 80s, has written this book.