Douglas-Pennant was the sixth daughter of Lord Penrhyn.
Although a Conservative Party member of
the London County Council, she developed a reputation as someone with
liberal views on social reform. For example, Douglas-Pennant was an active
supporter of the Workers' Educational Association and in 1911 the Liberal
Government appointed her as National Health Insurance Commissioner for
Wales. Douglas-Pennant's salary of £1,000 a year made her the most highly
paid woman in Britain.
Douglas-Pennant became an important political figure during the First
World War. An organiser of the Scottish Women's Hospital Unit she helped
form the Women's Army Auxiliary Corp (WAAC) and was involved in the
recruiting campaign for the Women's Royal Naval Service (WRNS).
Douglas-Pennant to become commander of the Women's Royal Air Force. It was
not long before Douglas-Pennant got the impression that the Royal Air
Force was not fully committed to the WRAF . She was given no secretarial
help and had difficulty getting the use of a staff car for official
journeys. Douglas-Pennant resigned but agreed to go back after being
promised that her complaints would be dealt with.
Sir William Weir, Secretary of State for Air, asked Lady Margaret Rhondda,
Director of of Women's Department of the Ministry of National Service, to
report on the state of the WRAF. Rhondda's report was highly critical of
Douglas-Pennant, and Weir decided to dismiss her as Commandant of the WRAF
and replace her with Helen Gwynne-Vaughan, Overseas Commander of the
Women's Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC). Politicians and trade union leaders
were appalled by the treatment of Douglas-Pennant. Lord Ampthill, Mary
Macarthur and Jimmy Thomas sent a letter of complaint to the Daily
Telegraph about Weir's behaviour.
After the matter was raised in the House of Commons it was decided to set
up a House of Lords Committee Inquiry. Douglas-Pennant's case was not
helped by making false accusations against several of the witnesses.
Douglas-Pennant lost her case and was also successfully sued by two of the
libelled witnesses and had to pay substantial damages.
The report can be read in the National