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Sunny-Haired Girl is British Premier's Aide

From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia

Sunny-Haired Girl is British Premier's Aide is an article written by Mary Conan Doyle, the first daughter of Arthur Conan Doyle, published in the San Francisco Examiner on 19 june 1921.

Sunny-Haired Girl is British Premier's Aide

San Francisco Examiner
(19 june 1921, Second News Section, p. 12)

Frances Stevenson Shares State Secrets With Lloyd George as His Trusted Private Secretary

(Daughter of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, famous creator of Sherlock Holmes.)

LONDON, June 18. — For the first time in history a woman holds the post of private secretary to a British Premier.

As far as politics go, women have been "in the game" from the start, and have made their influence felt in every party and every government. But the official recognition is a new departure.

Although she is a London Honors (Classics) B. A., there is nothing of the hoary-headed academician about Miss Frances Stevenson. One of the most responsible posts in Great Britain is held by a sunny-haired girl. She looked a radiant figure, her fair skin and bright hair set off to perfection in a dark brown silk dress.

"No," she remarked, "there is scarcely any fixed routine about my work; if I were to introduce a successor, there is very little I could tell her in advance — it's all getting used to people and things, and being able to adapt oneself to them; it's really the unexpected element about the work that makes it so fascinating!"

I asked if Lloyd George himself were a man of precise and regular habits.

"Not in the least," she said. "He simply deals with questions as they arise; the only regular occurrence is cabinet meetings" — with a backward nod of her head — "there's one going on now—"

In the pause I heard the subdued murmur of voices behind the heavy folding-doors, and wondered what weighty matter of the empire was being discussed at that moment.

"Doesn't he get overwhelmed with the crushing responsibility and worry of it all?" I asked.

"No; far from it. He's at his best in a crisis — a man built to meet desperate emergencies, an even existence would pall on him as monotonous."


"He must have pluck, too, as well as moral courage."

"Yes; he got pretty roughly handled during the suffrage disturbances. On one occasion something in a tin was hurled into his carriage and struck him on the forehead; and on another he was actually knocked down by a 'male sympathizer' of the suffragettes!"

It seems that during the time that the militant suffragettes were expressing themselves forcibly and loudly, a certain mysterious looking package was sent to Lloyd George. Miss Stevenson, of course, opened it. to find it contained black pepper packed in 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 the whole thing was that Miss Stevenson herself was an, ardent suffragette, so that it was the ally, and not the enemy, who got hit! The incident gave rise to many witticisms from Lloyd George on the subject of Miss Stevenson's "party."

It certainly takes a man to be a Prime Minister, I thought, contemplating the idle gossips who insist that a great position can be maintained by "the gift of the gab," or any mere trick of chance. Some people will swallow the wildest nonsense sooner than acknowledge a man's ability.

"Do you mind telling me how you came to get this unique job?" I asked, looking admiringly at the bonnie youth and happy efficiency of this fortunate young woman.

"Well, you see, I went to school with Lloyd George's daughters; we were groat friends, and I got to know him in that way. I have done this work for eight years, and would not give it up for anything."


I asked if the work were of a confidential nature.

"Well, it could scarcely be more so," she replied, "considering that all the correspondence passes through my hands."

I thought of the old saying that a woman can never keep a secret. Another time-honored illusion shattered! She told me something of how the vast amount of business connected with a Premier's arduous life is tackled and got through. There are three private secretaries — the other two being men—then there is the Parliamentary secretary and other members of the secretariat, including Mr. Philip Kerr.

"We, the private,. secretaries," Miss Stevenson went on, "have all the personal side to attend to. Among other things, we keep engagements for the P. M., besides dealing with correspondence and the official papers. Anyone who wants to see him or any special matter makes the appointment through us. Yes," she went on, smiling, "your father had breakfast with Lloyd George. I remember it, because I arranged it!"


"I wonder who instituted the 'breakfast' as a social function?"

"I think it was Gladstone who first started it, then it was dropped for a time, and Lloyd George revived it again."

It struck me one might gauge a man's brain-power that way — by its clearness before 10 a. m. The artistic mind — the man of moods anti fancies — tends to wake up and get brilliant at night, but the real, clear thinker is usually an early bird.

No. 10 Downing street is a historic house. It has been the official residence of Prime Ministers for countless generations, How extraordinary to think that the whole of modern British history has been given birth to within these walls!

Incidentally, there is something about No, 10 that is symbolical or British life and character. Firstly, note that the Prime Minister's residence is not "house" or "palace," but just No. 10. as any private gentleman's might. be.


Then its frontage is singularly plain and unnoticeable — no majestic flight of marble steps, pillared portico, and impressive entrance, only a white door with an ordinary glass fanlight above it.

Yet within it Is spacious and beautiful to a degree, and one is struck by the contrast between what the privileged friend sees, and what the outsider views.

That contrast is typically British, and has its good and bad sides like all strong national traits. The best is that there is more than rests on the surface in us, and the worst — that we are constantly misunderstood, and apparently take infinite care to stage-manage the fact!

Certainly No. 10 has a happy atmosphere, and Miss Stevenson's sunny personality enhances it.

As I left a pile of music caught my eye.

"Yours?" I questioned.

"Yes. I adore music," she replied.

"Only there is not enough time for it."

What more natural than that sunshine and music should go together, I thought, as I passed out into the cool, wide corridor.


Miss Frances Louise Stevenson, the young woman who is private secretary to David Lloyd George, England's Premier. She is known in England as George's "right hand man."