Franks, (Gertrude) Lucy (1878–1964), president of the Irish Countrywomen's Association, was born 27 February 1878 in Westfield, Queen's Co. (Laois), daughter of Matthew Henry Franks, landowner, JP and DL of Mountrath, Queen's Co., and Gertrude Franks (née Despard). The noted socialist and feminist, Charlotte Despard (qv) was an aunt through marriage. Lucy (as she was always known) was educated at Alexandra College, Dublin, and on leaving school returned home to nurse her invalid father. In 1912 she joined the United Irishwomen (UI), which had been founded two years earlier as a sister organisation to the Irish Agricultural Organisation Society (IAOS) of Horace Plunkett (qv) to encourage countrywomen's industries and handicrafts. Five years later she helped to found a UI branch in Castletown. The family home at Westfield was burned down in 1923 during the civil war and the Franks moved to Blackhill House, Abbeyleix; the following year her father died and Lucy Franks left Ireland for a time, travelling to South Africa and England. Returning in September 1926, she found that the years of political upheaval had taken their toll on the UI: there were only eight branches left and fewer than a hundred members. Franks put her energies into resuscitating the organisation; her prime objective was to make it useful to Irish women, equipping them with practical skills to enhance their lives. She had learned basket-making in England, and one of her first projects was to set up basket- and tray-making classes, encouraging UI members to sell what they made. By 1927 she was a member of the RDS and was organising a stand at the spring show to sell women's work. The UI's annual spring show stand was called ‘Countryside workers exhibit’ and showcased weavers, spinners, mat- and basket-makers, and the work of Montessori school children. Muriel Gahan (qv) became involved in the 1929 show and afterwards worked with Franks at the UI offices in 33 Molesworth St., Dublin. The following year Gahan came up with the idea of establishing a permanent retail outlet in Dublin for selling the produce of cottage industries. This became the Country Shop, which was run successfully in 23 St Stephen's Green from 1930 to 1978 by the company Country Workers Ltd, of which Franks was a director until she died in 1964. Franks suggested opening a restaurant in the shop and this, as Gahan later acknowledged, was the most lucrative aspect of the enterprise.
Franks was noted for her international outlook and was a founder member of the Associated Country Women of the World (ACWW) in 1927. At the third triennial conference of the ACWW in Washington (1936) she spoke of the aims and functions of the newly renamed UI, known since 1935 as the Irish Countrywomen's Association (ICA). She was national president of the ICA from 1942 to 1952 and had a successful tenure despite her increasing deafness. Under her direction ICA craft workers were made into a guild, monitored by tests and judges, and she set up the garden scheme, which involved turning crossroad plots into roadside gardens, as well as overseeing the fund-raising country fairs. It was during her presidency that plans were laid for a permanent residential college to house the highly popular summer schools, where dancing and music combined with learning practical skills. The college ‘An Grianán’ in Termonfeckin, Co. Louth, was inaugurated in 1953 with sponsorship from the Kellogg Foundation.
Franks was named buan chara (honorary life member) on her retirement from the presidency in 1952. She died twelve years later on 12 July 1964. The following year Ireland hosted the triennial ACWW conference. A garden house dedicated to her memory stands in An Grianán ICA college. She is widely credited with revitalising the UI in the 1920s and giving it pragmatic direction. Energetic and focused, she was described by fellow ICA member Livie Hughes as ‘an adventuress if ever there was one’ (Mitchell, 124).