She started her career in 1926 at the Board of Trade as an Administrative Trainee (a Fast Stream grade), joining what was undoubtedly a male dominated environment. Many women worked in junior levels of the Civil Service, but as in many other organisations of the day, women earned less than men and until 1947, they were expected to resign if they married.
Women in the civil service did not receive equal pay with men until the 1950s, but an exception was made for Evelyn Sharp when she became a deputy secretary in the Ministry of Town and Local Government: she received equal pay ten years before other women in the civil service. Dame Evelyn became the ministry’s permanent secretary in October 1955.
Dame Evelyn is acknowledged as one of the most outstanding and formidable Civil Servants of her day. The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography describes her as inventive, resourceful and committed to achieving results and positive action– exactly what civil servants are expected to show today.
Humour In Applications
Candidates often showed their sense of humour when completing the Civil Service entrance examinations. One candidate in the 1920s, when asked to give ‘Christian and Surname at full length’, answered with:
William Smith, 5 feet 8½ inches
Certain Persons are regarded as definitely ineligible for appointment as Branch Manager:
- relieving officers
- money lenders
- women (save in very exceptional circumstances and when no suitable man is available)
Taken from the Ministry of Labour Staff Code, 1927
Right up unitl 1939, if you wanted to join the Indian Civil Service, as well as passing the written examinations, you had to satisfy the superintendent of the Royal Artillery Riding Establishment at Woolwich of your ability to ride a horse.
Permanent Secretary’s Court Uniform
This court uniform from the 1920s is made with gold braid and black velvet. It consists of a black high-collar jacket with gold oak-leaf embroidery on the chest, cuffs and long tails; black trousers with gold stripes; and a cocked hat with white ostrich plumes. It was required wear on ceremonial occasions, and similar jackets would have been worn by British diplomats as well as Governors and other colonial officials within the British Empire.
This particular uniform – Civil Uniform 2nd Class – was worn by Sir Francis Floud KCB, KCSL, KCMG (1875-1965), Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (1920-27).
Francis Floud had distinguished career at the top of the Civil Service. After leaving the Ministry in 1927 he become Chairman of the Board of Customs and Excise, then Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Labour (1930-1934) before becoming High Commissioner to Canada (1934-1938).
This is in fact an amalgamation of two uniforms – the jacket is from Court dress, but the trousers are from the Levee dress – as shown in the image below, taken from Dress and Insignia worn at His Majesty’s Court which was published about the same time as this uniform was worn :
The uniform is displayed in the Permanent Secretary’s waiting room at the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.