Eccles, Charlotte O'Conor (1864/5–1911), journalist and novelist, was born in Ballingard House, Co. Roscommon, fourth and oldest surviving daughter of Alexander O'Conor Eccles, justice of the peace and founder of the Roscommon Messenger (1848–1935), a home rule newspaper. Charlotte was educated at Upton Hall, Birkenhead, England, and in convents in Paris and Germany, which she later observed ‘is not the kind of training that makes one enjoy facing the world’ (Blackwoods, June 1893). With a younger sister, she moved to London in the 1880s in search of press work, and met with considerable setbacks, which she wryly related in ‘The experience of a woman journalist’ (ibid.). Nevertheless she managed to get a brief stint in the London office of the New York Herald, and was then on the staff of the Daily Chronicle and the Star, for which she wrote a syndicated letter. From 1886 to 1905 she was a regular contributor to the Irish Monthly, and had published there two rather pedestrian poems, the only examples of her verse. Her clear, crisp, and occasionally didactic journalism was entirely directed towards social issues, her indignation being particularly aroused by the conditions of the poor and the inadequacies of women's education. With Sir Horace Plunkett (qv) she wrote and lectured around Ireland for the Department of Agriculture and Technical Instruction; a copy of her pamphlet on domestic economy, 18, Blank Street, written in the form of a story, was said to be in every house in Ireland. Well-travelled and a talented linguist, she translated Peasants in exile from the Polish of Henryk Sienkiewicz in 1899, and that year went to Vienna to report on hospital conditions. Her ensuing article on the appalling condition of women, ‘The hospital where the plague broke out’ (Nineteenth Century, Oct. 1899) revolutionised the treatment of women by the Allgemeine hospital. This was her most seminal article; however, a fellow journalist had already accused her in 1895 of ‘drifting entirely into the background since the uprise of the New Woman's agitation’ (New Ireland Review, Mar. 1895, 31).
Her first novel, The rejuvenation of Miss Semaphore (1897) was published under the pseudonym ‘Hal Godfrey’ and is a lively, farcical account of a middle-aged woman consuming too much of a rejuvenating elixir. It was popular; but it was her second book, The aliens of the west (1904), that drew critical acclaim, the Daily Chronicle declaring it one of the best modern books of short stories to have come out of Ireland. In six stories it depicts the loneliness and limitations of life in a small Irish town, Toomevara, and is acutely observed and simply told, with the dialogue rendered phonetically. It foreshadows the perennial themes of frustration and narrow-mindedness in twentieth-century Irish literature but suffers from a rather distant, unsympathetic attitude to the characters.
Charlotte O'Conor Eccles died unmarried on 14 June 1911 at her home, 139a Alexander Road, St John's Wood, London, having been ill for three years.