Partner Florence Francis

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Dame Lilian Charlotte Barker, DBE, JP (February 21, 1874 – May 21, 1955) was first British female assistant prison commissioner whose work provided the basis for the modern day humanitarian prison system for female correctional facilities in Great Britain. Lilian had grown up in Kentish Town, and lived with her partner Florence Francis (known as Fluff or Florrie) for 40 years until the end of their lives.

Born in Islington, Barker was educated at the local elementary school system and graduated from Whitelands College (Chelsea). She had to interrupt her teaching career to look after her invalid mother, but that was to prove a turning point rather than a setback – it was whilst she worked as a Sunday school teacher at this time that she met fellow teacher Florence Francis. Lilian and Florence were to be together till Lilian died in 1955. In 1914, after her mother died, 40-year-old Lilian moved in with Florence and her family – the first time she and the love of her life had lived under the same roof.

As a schoolteacher specializing with delinquent and other troubled children, Barker was appointed principal of the London County Council's Women's Institute correctional facility in 1913. After serving for two years, Barker resigned from her post to join Britain's war effort during World War I, teaching army cooks and as lady superintendent of the Royal Arsenal, Woolwich, overseeing its 30,000 female workers.

Lilian’s career continued to flourish after the war, with Florence acting as home maker and driver for her partner, a long standing love that to the people Lilian helped, was immaterial, such was the support she gave to so many.

Following the war, Barker joined the Ministry of Labour's training department and, in 1923, was appointed governor of the Borstal Institution for Girls at Aylesbury. Under her administration, Barker made sweeping reforms under a model humane reformatory focusing on education, guidance and rehabilitation. By the time of her appointment of assistant commissioner of prisons in 1935, Barker would work to reform women's prisons throughout England, Wales and Scotland based on her work at Aylesbury until her death in 1955.

Barker was named a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in 1944 for her "services in connection with the welfare of women and girls".


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