Lloyd George's Girl Secretary is Adept in Guarding Secrets

From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia

Lloyd George's Girl Secretary is Adept in Guarding Secrets is an article written by Mary Conan Doyle, the first daughter of Arthur Conan Doyle, published in The Salt Lake Tribune on 28 august 1921.


Lloyd George's Girl Secretary is Adept in Guarding Secrets

The Salt Lake Tribune
(28 august 1921, supplement p. 2)

Great Responsibility Rests Upon the Shoulders of Young Woman, Who Is the Confidante of Great Britain's Busy Premier.

by Mary Conan Doyle

London, Aug. 27. — To be the prime minister's private secretary, and the first woman to hold the office (in these days of strain, and gloom, and general uncertainty), would seem a job fraught with care and anxiety.

But how often popular conceptions err!

Passing down a wide, red-carpeted corridor at No. 10 Downing street. I was shown into a Georgian room, with white walls, big windows and beautiful mahogany furniture. Sitting at the writing desk was a girl. The light fell on her fair hair and clear skin, and as she rose to greet me I was struck by the youth and happy efficiency of her.

Yet one of the most responsible jobs In the kingdom rests on her slim shoulders!

Tells of War Work.

"Routine?... There's hardly any..." Miss Stevenson said. "It's a matter of getting used to people and things, and the ability to adapt oneself to them. There is really very little I could tell a successor to prepare her in advance. One just has to attend to things as they arrive."

She told me that Lloyd George himself lives very like that, and how the only fixed and regular occurrence at No. 10 is cabinet meetings. She turned her head toward a heavy folding door.

"There's one going on there now."

I could hear the vague sound of voices and wondered what weighty matter of state was being discussed at the moment.

"Is your work of a confidential nature?" I asked her.

"It could scarcely be more so," she replied. "as all the correspondence passes through my hands."

Illusion Is Shattered.

The old saying that no woman can keep a secret occurred to me, and I thought: There goes another shattered illusion of the past!

She told me something of how the vast organization runs, in connection with the premier's arduous duties. There are three private secretaries — the other two being men. Then there is the parliamentary secretary, and other members of the secretariat, including Philip Kerr.

"All the personal side we attend to," said Miss Stevenson, "such as keeping his engagements, attending to business correspondence, etc. All special appointments are made through us."

She told me, smiling, how she remembered arranging the meeting of my father with Lloyd George when the two had breakfasted together.

"Who originated the breakfast?"

"Mr. Gladstone, I think — then it was dropped till Lloyd George revived it again."

To many of us, the idea of breakfast as a social meal presents nothing but terrors. It takes a particular order of mind to feel bright and normal first thing; the majority prefer to be left to drift into full consciousness about noon. I asked Miss Stevenson how she first got her unique job. She told me she had been a friend of Lloyd George's daughter, with whom she was at school, and that through this friendship she had got to know the family well. "I have done this work for eight years," she said, "and I would not give up for anything."

It is not to be overlooked that, with all her joyous personality and girlish appearance, Miss Stevenson is fully equipped mentally for her post, being a London Honors (Classics) B. A. She is an example of the finest type of English college girl, for she combines brilliant intellectual qualities with personal charm and attractiveness, and there is nothing of the stiff and angular academician about her.

I asked if the premier ever seemed overwhelmed by the stress of life he lives under.

"Not in the least," she said; "he is at his best in a crisis — a man built to meet desperate emergencies. An even existence would pall on him as monotonous."

She went on to tell me rather an amusing incident in connection with the old militant suffragette days. A certain mysterious looking packet arrived for Lloyd George. Miss Stevenson, of course, opened it, to find it contained black pepper packed so tightly that the effort to pull out the smaller envelope from the larger shot the contents into the recipient's face. The irony of it all was that Miss Stevenson was herself an ardent suffragette.

Living Tradition.

Needless to say, Lloyd George did not fail to supply witty comments on the subject of her "party."

It is wonderful to be inside that house — so historic in its associations and so curiously ordinary and unpretentious in appearance. It is in the heart of the empire and full of British characteristics. Nothing outside — but all its beauty and spaciousness within. Best of all, it stands for a living tradition — and not a dead one — which is shown by its ability to accept changes.

After countless generations of great men have done their life's work and passed on, these walls now shelter a woman whose career is but just begun — to what may this not lead? — perhaps the beginning of a new age!