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The Stage Career of Cicely Hamilton (1895–1914)

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Seán Moran

Drawing on recently released or previously neglected archive material, this book is the first dedicated to the stage career of Cicely Hamilton (1872–1952). Best known for her work with the women’s suffrage movement, Hamilton was at the same time deeply committed to the commercial stage as an actress, dramatist and activist. The book draws extensively on Hamilton’s own recollections as well as those of her close associates, supplemented by contemporary press reviews and articles, and concludes with a chronology of the productions in which she performed as a touring actress based on confirmed dates and venues.

This book «(…) is a fascinating and fantastic resource for current and future scholars of Hamilton’s work, as well as those interested in the wider framework of (…) the theatre industry of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.»

Dr. Naomi Paxton (School of Advanced Study, University of London)

«With its documentation and assessment of Hamilton's touring career, (…) this well written and meticulously researched study provides an original contribution to theatre, dramatic, and reception history.»

Prof. Dr. Rudolf Weiss (University of Vienna)

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Chapter Two. ‘Suffrage’ Drama

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Chapter Two‘Suffrage’ Drama

The end of Hamilton’s career as a touring actress around 1903 coincided approximately with the formation of the Women’s Social and Political Union in Manchester. Three years later, in the same year that she returned to the stage full-time, the WSPU took the momentous decision to move to the imperial capital in its effort to bring women’s suffrage to the forefront of contemporary British politics. One aspect of this struggle was the unparalleled use of drama as a propaganda tool, a campaign in which Hamilton excelled. This chapter will consider those plays written under the general auspices of the women’s suffrage movement – the two collaborations with Christopher St John How the Vote Was Won (1909) and The Pot and the Kettle (1909), her own A Pageant of Great Women (1909) and Jack and Jill and a Friend (1911), as well as others in which she participated as actress.

Literature was an essential component in the suffrage campaign to an extant that few political movements, then or since, could rival. The pages of the suffrage press, militant and constitutional alike, were a regular forum for book and theatre reviews, discussions and literary analyses. Poetry, prose and short dramas all appeared frequently, although more often in the two militant journals Votes for Women and The Vote than in The Common Cause. Book reviews featured works of interest to modern women, from Ancient Greek drama through to mainstream contemporaries and well-known works or authors (such...

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