Gertrude, Lady Keightley ( - 1929):
Gertrude, Lady Keightley, wife of Sir Robert Keightley, was an energetic member of various local and charitable organisations, usually concerned with the underprivileged. In this context she was among the first women to be so involved.
She was born Gertrude Emily Smith, younger daughter of Henry Smith of Northampton, and married Samuel Robert Keightley in 1892. In 1899 she was elected a Poor Law guardian for Lisburn, one of the first-ever female guardians, as women were not eligible until as late as 1896. She would serve in the post right up until her death, chairing the board from 1913-1920. A dedicated worker, as the sole female guardian for many years she found herself doing committee work specialising in areas which were deemed suitable for women rather than men. Thus, she was asked to concentrate on workhouse visiting, clothing provision, female workhouse staff and schooling, whereas matter such as finance and building were effectively closed to her, being seen as male preserves. She was also concerned with fostered children (“boarded out” as they were described).
She stood unsuccessfully for local government in Hillsborough, though she later was accepted onto local government committees in Lisburn, dealing with such matters as maternity and child welfare; she was active in the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) and on hospital boards. In 1925 she became the first woman Justice of the Peace for County Antrim.
She and her husband had four children, two sons who served in the First World War as army officers, and two daughters; her elder son died young, probably due the effects of gas inhalation during the war; after his death, Lady Keightley’s husband collected letters and diary entries he had intended to publish, and himself arranged for their publication (as Among the Guns: Intimate Letters from Ypres and the Somme. Her less than robust health, perhaps combined with her considerable work may have contributed to her relatively early death, which occurred at home, Drum House, Drumbeg, near Belfast.
|Died:||30 October 1929|
Dictionary of Irish Biography (Patrick Maume); Sir Anthony Hart:Sir Samuel Keightley: An Ulster Liberal, Land-reformer and Novelist unpublished memoir (6.1.2003); www.lisburn.com/books
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