Dickie, Marie Louise (1871–1947), public servant, was born 13 October 1871 at 8 Wodehouse Terrace, North Circular Road, Dublin, the eldest and only surviving child of Thomas Frankfort Coyle , a wine merchant, and his wife Maria Elizabeth (née Hilles; 1842?–1931), the youngest daughter of James Hilles, justice of the peace (JP), of Newport and Balloorclery, Co. Mayo. Thomas Coyle died on 28 September 1872 aged thirty-eight, and Marie was raised by her mother, who appears to have had a comfortable income from house property; there was another daughter, Jane (b. 7 December 1872), who died in infancy. After attending Alexandra College, Dublin, Marie matriculated at the Royal University of Ireland in 1890, graduating Bachelor of Arts (BA) in 1894, Master of Arts (MA) in 1895 and Bachelor of Laws (LLB) in 1896. A member of the Church of Ireland, in 1898 she married Alexander Alfred Dickie (1868–1933), a presbyterian and native of Barronstown, Co. Louth, who had qualified as a barrister in 1893; they had one son, Alex Hugh Damon Massy Dickie, who graduated from Oxford and worked as a solicitor in London.
Having previously worked as the organising secretary of the Women Guardians and Local Government Association and as a representative of the Women's Trade Union League, Mrs Dickie was appointed lady inspector by the Local Government Board (LGB) in March 1902 to carry out 'a wise and effective inspection' of the conditions of foster children in Ireland. Until 1898 the official attitude was that pauper children would be better maintained and educated in the workhouse than in foster homes, but new legislation (the Pauper Children (Ireland) Act 1898) allowed the boarding out of children up to fifteen years of age and soon large numbers were being fostered. Following representations by various philanthropic bodies and poor law guardians in favour of a widening of the powers of boards of guardians in relation to these children, of which there were 2,761 in 1902, the Pauper Children (Ireland) Amendment Act became law on 22 July 1902. In anticipation of the act the LGB obtained sanction from the Treasury for the employment on a temporary basis of a lady inspector, and the appointment of Mrs Dickie to the new post followed. She became the first woman employed by the LGB in a senior administrative or professional capacity but her salary of £200 a year was less than one-third of the rate paid to the board's general inspectors and medical inspectors at the time.
Controversy soon followed when the guardians of unions around the country strongly protested against the appointment of 'an English protestant lady' to a post which involved dealing with children who were predominantly from catholic families. In Limerick one of the guardians went so far as to object to providing the names and addresses of children to Mrs Dickie lest the information might lead to proselytisation. Thomas Spring Rice (qv), Lord Monteagle, who had led a deputation to the chief secretary in January 1902 seeking the creation of the post, indicated in a letter to the Irish Times that he had urged on that occasion the appointment of a catholic, but appealed nonetheless that Mrs Dickie should be given a fair trial. The agitation led to an Irish Times editorial which took up a suggestion that the controversy might be resolved by the appointment of a second inspector, and a series of questions put down by nationalist MPs in the house of commons challenged the inspector's qualifications and, in one case, demanded the replacement of 'this government proselytiser' by a catholic. The chief secretary, George Wyndham (qv), insisted that he had no information as to Mrs Dickie's religion when she was being appointed, that she would have nothing to do with the education of boarded-out children, and that she was well qualified for the post, having had considerable experience of poor law work in England and of relief administration in connection with the factories acts. In June he refused to entertain a second appointment until more experience of the operation of the system was available, but a second appointment was made in November; this was Miss Aneenee FitzGerald-Kenney (c.1871–1965), of Clogher House, Ballyglass, Co. Mayo, who was formerly honorary secretary of a nursing association and of agricultural co-operative societies. She and Mrs Dickie gave valuable service in organising and supervising the boarding-out system before the latter's resignation at the end of 1911 to take up an appointment as one of the Irish Insurance Commissioners under the National Insurance Act (1911). In addition, she became a member of the newly established Irish Public Health Council in 1919.
With a salary that had been increased to £1,200 in 1919, Mrs Dickie was then almost certainly the highest paid woman in the Irish public service and probably in any other salaried position in Ireland. She also made history by becoming the first married woman civil servant to achieve permanent and pensionable status. When she claimed in 1919–20 that she was entitled to this status, the Treasury adamantly refused, citing the regulations which prohibited a married woman from holding a pensionable office. Her case was taken up, however, in the commons by Major Robert William Hugh O'Neill (qv), unionist MP for Mid Antrim, who succeeded in the course of the committee stage debate on the government of Ireland bill (1920) in adding a provision to the bill which would give pension rights to Mrs Dickie and others similarly situated. The Treasury then backed down and conceded pensionable status to her, following which a government amendment was moved at report stage in November to eliminate the clause from the bill. Mrs Dickie continued, but without success, to press the Treasury to allow her service with the LGB from 1902 to 1912 to be reckoned for pension purposes, forcing a Treasury official to comment that her case 'will be as permanent as Tennyson's Brook' (The National Archives (TNA), T. 162/23).
Mrs Dickie continued as an insurance commissioner until January 1933 when the work of the commission was absorbed into the Department of Local Government and Public Health. Her husband, by then a prominent KC, died in Dublin in June 1933. She died 8 May 1947 in London and was buried in the Coyle family plot in Mount Jerome cemetery, Dublin.