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The Stage Career of Cicely Hamilton (1895–1914)


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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Shortly after war was declared in August 1914, Hamilton volunteered for the Scottish Women’s Hospital service (at a rate of 10/- a week) and was sent out to France in November 1914 to help prepare the ancient Cistercian abbey of Royaumont, 30 kilometres from Paris, for its new role as ‘Hôpital Auxiliaire d’Armée 301’ under the French Red Cross. It represents a strange step for a woman in her forties who had been enjoying considerable success on the West End stage. As Eileen Crofton points out, she would have had the consolation of being able to wear her father’s old regimental tartan (291), although her attitude to the prescribed uniform was notoriously lax, as shown by the photograph she includes in Life Errant of herself wearing tights and ribboned shoes, a large floppy bow in place of a tie or brooch, topped with a distinctly non-regulation Fedora-style hat.

Co-operation with the French was something of an expedient after the British authorities had assured the Scottish Women’s Hospital service that war was no place for ladies and advised them to go home and sit it out. Conditions were initially Spartan in the extreme but Hamilton, for one, seems to have revelled in the lack of heating, water or modern amenities and admitted to a tinge of regret when the abbey was finally up and running and ready to receive its first patients. Crofton states that she started in the lower position of “clerk” before rising...

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