Lilian Spender was born in 1880 in Lancaster Gate, London, to a rich Russian merchant. At 32, she came to Belfast recently married to Wilfred Spender, a military officer who had political aspirations. From an affluent background, her life was very diverse than most women of her era.
She was a prolific political observer and had a front seat in Ulster politics. She socialised with the cream of Ulster Society and lived a privileged life. Her 1914 diary is very descriptive and she paints pictures with her words of her many interests.
Whilst Lilian was involved in charity work and showed compassion, she could be quite patronising with others who she considered didn’t have ‘good manners’ or whose dress sense did not conform to society's rules, hence her dislike for the suffragettes.
On reading the diary, my first impressions were not favourable but decided to reserve my judgement on her. Lilian was living in a time of the Ulster ‘trouble' as well as the start of the First World War; nevertheless, her life went on relatively unscathed with luncheons, picnic days out, and social events.
Lilian comes across as a strong-minded woman but with her own insecurities. I feel that she writes the diary to 'unclutter' her mind and recognise her own actions in certain situations. She uses her diary as her friend and also to record for members of her family.
It was a privilege to have a snapshot into her life. I did have trouble selecting quotes as there are so many that could be included. My rationale to include the quotes I did was to cover the various aspects of her life.
Researcher: Gail McCullough
PRONI Reference for Diaries: D1633/2/19 (thanks to Mr. Brian Dingwell)
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