The 1921 census was released at the beginning of 2022 and I was keen to see where Dora was living at that time. I knew she’d returned from Ireland in 1919 and had been selling Comptometers for Herbert E Robbins Ltd. After the First World War the British Government decided it wanted to redeploy its existing Comptometers rather than buy any new ones. Dora was tasked with surveying all the various government departments about their calculating requirements and I imagine she also contributed some fresh ideas on the potential for mechanical accounting. The result was an order for 200 new Comptometers, the largest order the company had ever received! Her entry in the 1921 census describes her as ‘in charge of Comptometer service to Governments Depts.’

entry from 1921 census: Comptometer adding and calculating m/c, in charge of Comptometer Service to Government Depts.

Dora was living with her mother at Durham Terrace, Bayswater, London, at the time. There is no mention of her sister Hilary and, when I looked her up, she didn’t feature anywhere in Britain. I wonder if she was in Ireland, but I cannot be certain. Her brother Howard was in Iraq with the Royal Artillery in 1921. The transcription of the census entry for Dora was gobbledygook but, if you pay to see it, you are allowed to make corrections, so I have.

I recently looked through an old photograph album belonging to Howard (my grandfather) which gave some fresh details on Dora’s activities in 1930. This is the period when she worked on the Shannon Hydroelectric Scheme at Ardnacrusha. The scheme had begun in 1925 and was one of the largest civil engineering projects in the world. From 1929 it would bring power and economic development to Ireland, by 1935 producing 80% of Ireland’s electricity. Dora’s role was to do the costings for extending the transmission lines, which included substantial payments to landowners for putting pylons in their fields. What I hadn’t realised was that there was a family visit to see the scheme in 1930.

June 1930 family photograph of Greenes and friends
L to R: Hilary, Howard, his wife Phyllis, Kathleen Dobbs, Peggy & Owerson Flynn, Dora (in suit and hat behind laughing unnamed woman), Ali, Joy.
Ardnacrusha Electricity power house, June 1930

In my grandfather’s album there was also a photo of Dora (second to last row, below) attending a “statistical conference” in Geneva in 193o. Her cousin Everard Greene is present too (seated back row, under white square), captioned as ‘Kitten Greene’. He does look like a pussycat but that’s the first time I’ve seen him referred to by this name! His full name was Christian Augustine Everard Greene and I know Christian is sometimes shortened to Kit, but still. Dora says she met Ethel Wood in Geneva in 1930 and I wonder if this statistical conference was part of a League of Nations or International Labour Organisation assembly?

Statistical Conference, Geneva 1930

The League of Nations Assembly met in September every year and, from the late 1920s through the 1930s, there was much campaigning for equal rights for women, petitioning the League of Nations Assembly (all members) and Council (executive body consisting of 9 member states at this time). Viscountess Rhondda spearheaded the campaign via her Six Point Group, founded in 1921. In 1930 a subgroup was formed, called Equal Rights International (ERI), led by Helen Archdale, to lobby the League of Nations to agree a treaty on equal rights for women. I suspect that Ethel Wood was in Geneva as part of the lobby group that year – these three women were the founders of the Women’s Provisional Club that Dora would join in 1932.

Published by Mary276

I am an osteopath and author of a memoir of my father, Stranger In My Heart (Unbound, 2018). My debut novel, Power On, is based on the true story of my great aunt, Dora Metcalf, the first female tech entrepreneur.

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