Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Dorothy Peel, OBE (1868 - 1934) - British businesswoman, writer and journalist

Constance Dorothy Evelyn Bayliff was born on 27th April 1868 in Ganarew, Herefordshire, the seventh of nine children, four of whom died in infancy.  Her parents were Richard Bayliff, an Army Officer, and his wife Henrietta, nee Peel.   Dorothy's siblings were Charlotte, born 1862, Hugh, born 1964, Richard born 1867 and Rosa, born 1873.  The family moved to Bristol where the boys were educated at Clifton Academy.

Dorothy was initially educated by her parents - education for children did not become compulsory in Britain until a law was passed in 1880 and an Act of Parliament decreed that all children between the ages of five and ten years old had to be educated either in a school or at home.   At that time, 'boys were educated intellectually, girls socially - they were expected to marry someone able to support them financially.  Not to be married was to announce oneself a failure.   Legally women belonged to their husbands.  It was the duty of a woman to provide a comfortable home life, with the help of servants, for her family'. (p. 15).   Dorothy was brought up to know that "it was the duty of wealthier people to do what they could to help the poor".

When Dorothy was seventeen, the family moved to Twickenham.  Dorothy's cousin Mrs Talbot Cole wrote articles for "The Queen" newspaper which Dorothy's sister Charlotte illustrated.   Dorothy wrote an article which she entered into a competition run by "Woman" magazine and she won.   When Arnold Bennett took over the post of editor of "Woman" he encouraged Dorothy and helped her to become a professional writer, writing mainly about domestic matters and cookery.  In addition to writing for the "Daily Mail" and other publications, Dorothy also ran her own business - a hat shop.   She lectured and gave demonstrations on the art of cookery.

In 1894, Dorothy married her second cousin Charles Steers Peel, an engineer, in St. Paul's Church, Knightsbridge.  As well as working, Dorothy brought up a family and managed the household.  Dorothy and Charles  had two daughters and lost a third child.   Once married, Dorothy wrote under the name of Mrs C.S. Peel.

"It needed the war to accustom us to women in trousers" (p.56) because until then, "women dribbled about in muddied petticoats which cramped their movements and added to the fatigue of their tasks." (p.63).   During the First World War, Dorothy ran a club for the wives of men in the forces, continued with her charity work among the poor and co-directed the Ministry of Food during the period when food was rationed.  In 1918, she was given the editorship of the women's page of the 'Daily Mail"  For her services during WW1, in 1919 Dorothy was awarded the Order of the British Empire.  

Dorothy's account of her life "Life's Enchanted Cup: An Autobiography 1872 - 1933" was published in 1933.

Dorothy died on 7th August 1934 in Kensington.   

All quotes from "The Life and Times of Dorothy Peel, OBE Bicycles, Bloomers and Great War Recipes",
 by Dorothy's great-granddaughter Vicky Straker, published by Pen & Sword, Barnsley, 2016.

For a review of the book please see

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