14 Pages


Flora Annie Steel

Flora Annie Steel, née Webster (1847-1929), novelist, short-story writer, and educational administrator, was born in London, but moved to Forfarshire, Scotland (where her father originated) at the age of 10. She was educated privately, and ‘finished’ in Brussels. After her marriage, at the age of 19, to a colonial administrator, she moved to India, where she was to live for twenty years, working in educational administration and advocating education for Indian women. She founded a school for Indian girls in 1884, as well as working as a school inspector, and estimated that about 20,000 girls had benefited from her care and attention. She published a collection of tales of the Punjab, Wide Awake Stories, in 1884, and began writing full time after she returned to Britain in 1889. The best known of her seventeen novels, many of which are set in India, is her non-partisan account of the Indian Mutiny, On the Face of the Waters (1896), but she also published, among others, Miss Stuart’s Legacy (1893), The Potter’s Thumb (1894), Red Rowans (1895), Hosts of the Lord (1900), Mistress of Men (1917) (set in seventeenthcentury India, the story of a girl who is abandoned and who becomes an empress) and The Curse of Eve (1929), which advocates birth control for women. She also collected and published folk and fairy tales, wrote a history of India and an Indian cookery book, and supported the women’s suffrage movement. Her autobiography, The Garden of Fidelity, was published posthumously.