Keightley, Gertrude Emily (d. 1929), Lady Keightley , local administrator, was the younger daughter of Henry Smith of Northampton. In 1892 she married Samuel Robert Keightley (qv), barrister, politician, and author, of Lisburn. (She became Lady Keightley when her husband was knighted in 1912.)
Women became eligible to serve as Irish poor law guardians in 1896 (the first being elected – for Lisnaskea, Co. Fermanagh – in September of that year). This was seen, even by some anti-suffragists, as an extension of the domestic sphere, and Gertrude Keightley's activities should be regarded in this light. In 1899 she was elected to Lisburn board of guardians, on which she served continuously until her death in 1929 and which she chaired in 1913–20. As with female guardians elsewhere in Ulster, she served on committees dealing with workhouse visiting, female staff, clothing, and schools (as distinct from those dealing with male staff, finances, and building, which remained male preserves). As the only female guardian in the period 1900–06 (and later as one of only two) she found herself in charge of supervising ‘boarded-out’ (that is, fostered) workhouse children, ‘essentially a woman's work’ (Urquhart, 139). This task, combined with caring for her own children, and her very regular attendance at the meetings of the board, placed her under considerable strain and contributed to her offer to resign from the board in 1905, a suggestion that was rejected. Her role in fostering also led to her being involved with child emigration schemes.
In 1911 Keightley was partly responsible for the extension to Ireland of legislation that allowed the children of ‘physically or morally unfit’ parents to be fostered out (earlier this had been restricted to deserted or orphaned children). She was an unsuccessful candidate for Hillsborough rural district council in 1920; her husband's liberal politics may have been responsible for her defeat. In later life she chaired the maternity and child welfare committee of Lisburn urban district council and was prominent in the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. She was also vice-chairman of Lisburn employment committee and a member of the board of governors of Lisburn and Hillsborough district hospital.
In August 1925 Keightley was appointed a justice of the peace for Co. Antrim – the first woman magistrate appointed to that court. She suffered from frail health, which worsened towards the end of her life, but she remained active in various causes until the end. She died 30 October 1929 at her home, Drum House, Drumbeg, Lisburn, after a long illness. Keightley was described by her eulogists as possessing a self-sacrificing sense of public duty; her husband claimed that many of her happiest and most useful days were spent on poor law work. While some of her attitudes may with hindsight appear patronising, she was a pioneer of women's involvement in Irish local government. She had two sons (both of whom joined the British army – one died of influenza in 1919 after serving throughout the first world war) and two daughters.