I became interested in Lady Frances in the mid-1980s when, reading her autobiography, I realized that she had ended the book 20 years before she died. Intrigued about ‘what came next’, I contacted the National Records of Scotland to see if any of her papers were available. From their representatives, I learned that the Frances Balfour papers had only just been deposited in the national records. As soon as I could, I traveled to Edinburgh to see when I might be able to access the papers and whether anyone else was working on her life story. Her earliest diaries were immediately available, and the letters would be as soon as they had been surveyed. Dr. Hazel Horn, librarian, whom I had met by this time, surveyed the papers; when she finished the survey, she sent me the rough draft, thus allowing me knowledge of everything in the Frances Balfour Papers in the library’s possession, meaning I did not have to conduct my search through microfiche (a huge plus!).
Meanwhile, I made the acquaintance of the 4th Earl of Balfour, who owned the papers and whose permission I would have to have in order to quote from the work. He was a delightful, accommodating fellow whose friendship I treasured and whose death in 2003 I mourned.
In 1987, the National Records of Scotland became the first library in the country to do so when they permitted me to bring a laptop computer into the General Reading Room. (It was an amusing experience, as a line of librarians and others in the room filed past periodically to witness the oddity of me pounding away on my very loud computer–early laptops did not have ‘clickless keys’.) As I pursued my research, I came to realize that Lady Frances was not an aristocrat who simply donned a convenient mantle but one who truly worked — not just for suffrage, but for women’s rights in all aspects. As my work went on, I found her to be a more and more interesting personality.
Ultimately, she worked on a total of 19 issues immediately affecting women, serving many times with the government as well as with middle-class women who strove ‘in the trenches’, so to speak. Despite a congenital defect which left her with a shortened leg and perennially in pain, she never shirked, participating in numerous marches, making innumerable speeches, and working almost literally to her last day for the cause of women in Great Britain. My fascination merely grew with each new piece of information, and now, 30 years later, after massive research, I am able to present the story of this remarkable woman to a public for whom her name has largely been lost in history.