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WOMEN AND THE WORLD TODAY 



By tht same Author 

FOR THE LITTLE ONES 

In preparation : 

GREAT COMPANY 



WOMEN AND 
THE WORLD TODAY 

By 

PEGGY CHAMBERS 




LONDON: 

FORBES ROBERTSON LTD. 
17 Fleet Street - B.C. 4. 



First Published April, 1954.. 



COPYRIGHT 1954 BY 
FORBES ROBERTSON LTD. 



PRINTED IN GUERNSEY, C I., BRITISH ISLES, BY 
GUERNSEY HERALD LIMITED, VICTORIA ROAD 



INTRODUCTION 

When on holiday in Scotland I had the pleasure of meet- 
ing Miss Elizabeth Oliver, for many years principal of 
Albyn School, Aberdeen. 

In the course of our many talks on literature she stressed 
the great scarcity of suitable books for girls during the 
transitional stage between The Best Girl in the School type 
of book and adult reading, and the need for works that will 
interest girls and encourage them to enjoy in later life the 
pleasure to be derived from books. 

Little has been written for this adolescent stage and still 
less about their own sex. With this in mind we discussed 
with Miss Peggy Chambers the creation of this book. Her 
preface takes us through the difficulties which accompanied 
the struggles for women's emancipation. Her short 
biographies, with two exceptions two who still rank in their 
own spheres so that they have no comparable rivals are 
of leaders in the various fields open to women today : open 
because of the tremendous fight for freedom by women of 
whom the preface tells. 

This, then, is how Women and The World Today was 
envisaged; but as the work progressed it became, not only 
a book for girls at school, but for every woman and man 
who is interested in progress. 

Our thanks are due to all the ladies whose biographies 
appear, for their willing co-operation in supplying 
information. 

If it appears that some professions such as the law have 
been overlooked, it is because of regulations within these 
professions which forbid inclusion in a work such as this. 

T. ROBERTSON. 

FORBES ROBERTSON LTD., 

17 Fleet Street, London, E.C.4. 

i Sth March, 1954. 



ACKNOWLEDGMENT 

Acknowledgment is made to the copyright holders named 
in the list of illustrations for kindly permitting the 
reproduction of their photographs. 



VI 



CONTENTS 

page 

INTRODUCTION v 

ACKNOWLEDGMENT vi 

CONTENTS vii 

LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS ix 

THE LONG YESTERDAY. (The Road to Freedom) - 1 1 

VERA BRITTAIN, M.A., Hon. D.Litt. (U.S.A.). Writer 27 

PETULA CLARK. Television Artist 43 

MARIE CURIE. Pioneer Radiologist 49 

MONICA DICKENS. Writer 61 

DAPHNE DU MAURIER. Writer 70 

MAUREEN GARDNER. Athlete 77 

CAROLINE HASLETT, D.B.E., J.P., Companion I.E.E. 

Electrical Engineer 83 

EILEEN JOYCE. Concert Pianist 90 
LAURA KNIGHT, D.B.E., R.A., Hon. LL.D., Hon. 

D.Litt. Painter - 100 

VERA LAUGHTON MATHEWS, D.B.E., M.B.E. 

Women's Services. Advisor on Women's Affairs 

to the Gas Council 1 1 1 

DORIS LANGLEY MOORE. Fashion Specialist - - 118 

KAY MURPHY, B.A. Business Executive - - - 125 

ANNA NEAGLE, C.B.E. Film Actress - - - - 131 

JOY NICHOLS. Radio and Variety Artist - - 137 

FLORA ROBSON, C.B.E. Actress 142 

MOIRA SHEARER. Ballerina 148 

JEAN SIMMONS. Film Actress 159 

DODIE SMITH. Dramatist and Author - - - 165 

NANCY SPAIN. Writer 173 

BEATRICE WEBB. Social Economist - - - 177 

GLADYS YOUNG, O.B.E. Radio Actress - - - 188 

vii 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 

facing page 

VERA BRITTAIN, M.A., Hon. D.Litt. (U.S.A.) - - 33 

(Pearl Freeman) 

PETULA CLARK 161 

(" Topical ") 

MARIE CURIE 64 

MONICA DICKENS 64 

DAPHNE DU MAURIER 33 

(Dorothy Wilding, London) 

MAUREEN GARDNER 161 

(Thomas Photos, Headington, Oxford) 

CAROLINE HASLETT, D.B.E., J.P., Companion I.E.E. - 65 

(British Electrical Authority) 

EILEEN JOYCE 32 

(Vivienne, London) 

LAURA KNIGHT, D.B.E., R.A., Hon. LL.D., Hon. D.Litt. 64 

(Marcel Sternberger) 

VERA LAUGHTON MATHEWS, D.B.E., M.B.E. - - - 1 28 

(Walter King Ltd.) 

KAY MURPHY, B.A. 65 

(Payer) 

DORIS LANGLEY MOORE 65 

(Felix Fonteyn) 

ANNA NEAGLE, C.B.E. 129 

(J. Arthur Rank Organisation) 

JOY NICHOLS -, - 161 

(Houston Rogers) 

FLORA ROBSON, C.B.E. 32 

(J. Arthur Rank Organisation) 

MOIRA SHEARER 160 

(Roger Wood) 

JEAN SIMMONS 161 

(J. Arthur Rank Organisation) 

DODIE SMITH 128 

NANCY SPAIN 33 

(Angus McBean) 

BEATRICE WEBB 33 

(Vandyk) 

GLADYS YOUNG, O.B.E. 129 

ix 



THE LONG YESTERDAY 
(The Road to Freedom) 

IN THE radio series of general knowledge contests between 
girls and boys from various schools, nearly all the Top of 
the Form competitors were able to tell their question masters 
what career they wanted to take up on leaving school. Art, 
science, medicine, law, journalism, teaching all were 
mentioned. There was no suggestion that the girls should 
merely stay at home while the boys went on to college. Less 
than a hundred years ago, however, women had to fight for 
higher education and the right to enter the professions. Let 
us look back and see how long and hard was that struggle 
towards equality. 

Before the latter half of the Victorian era, with few 
exceptions, the girls of the middle and upper classes were 
mostly taught accomplishments. They embroidered some 
of them very beautifully they dabbled in water colours, 
danced, sang and played at least one musical instrument 
(if they had no more talent than the youngest of the Bennett 
sisters in Pride and Prejudice they were never very much in 
demand in a drawing-room), they had, perhaps, a smattering 
of languages, and they learnt how to make small talk. In 
well-to-do families they indulged in a round of social frivolity 
and, if they enjoyed it, life was very pleasant. Their sole 
object was to find a husband. If they failed, they remained 
dependent on the charity of father or brother and were 
exposed to the contempt of a world which denied them the 
right to earn success in any other form. 

Except for the reference to conditions in the Scottish Medical Schools 
where Sophia Jex-Blake and her colleagues were fighting for recognition, 
the conditions and reforms mentioned throughout relate solely to English law. 



II 



12 WOMEN AND THE WORLD TODAY 

Throughout history princesses were, of course, usually 
educated with a view to becoming the wives of foreign rulers, 
though they seldom had any say in the choice of a husband. 
Some of those who came from other countries to be Queen 
of England used all their influence to promote trade and 
improve conditions for their people, even acting as regent 
during their husband's absence or son's minority, but the 
idea of a woman ruler in her own right was abhorred. 

Matilda, granddaughter of William the Conqueror and 
sister of the young prince drowned in the White Ship, 
plunged the country into civil war in her attempts to defeat 
her cousin Stephen's claim to the throne, and though she 
induced the Council to acknowledge her as Lady of the 
English, a deviation to flatter the Norman barons who hated 
the idea of serving a " queen ", her " reign " lasted only 
eight turbulent months. 

In the great feudal families, daughters who had been left 
as property owners by the death of fathers and brothers 
could be forced into marriage merely to guard the title 
deeds of land. Usually they accepted such a destiny with 
filial passivity, having been brought up to regard it as almost 
inevitable, and, anyhow, there was no other life for them 
except retirement to a nunnery. At the other end of the 
social scale there was no middle class in those days the 
peasants had too grim a struggle for very existence to bother 
about equality of any sort. 

The Renaissance brought great changes. Not only was 
it a period of expansion, discovery and invention materially, 
but minds, too, began to broaden. Hitherto, the Church 
had looked upon women as being responsible for the 
wrongs of the world ever since Eden (apparently men 
inherited no blame for the murder of Cain and the treachery 
of Judas!) but now the clergy were given permission to 
marry, and personal experience of wives and daughters 
taught them how to understand women a little. Moreover, 
people began to realise that perhaps some of the great 



THE LONG YESTERDAY 13 

preachers, such as John Knox, Luther and Calvin, thunder- 
ing out their denunciation of " the monstrous regiment of 
women ", were exaggerating, and that to enjoy life did not 
necessarily imperil one's immortal soul. 

When Edward VI died, the people of England, far from 
not welcoming a queen in spite of their dislike for her 
religion rose in rebellion against the Duke of Northumber- 
land who had tried to seize the throne for his unwilling 
daughter-in-law, Lady Jane Grey, to ensure that Mary 
Tudor received her rightful inheritance. Mary was well 
educated and had all the courage of her family, but her 
energies were directed almost wholly towards the re-establish- 
ment of the Roman Catholic faith, and her people suffered 
terribly through her intolerance. 

With joy they welcomed Elizabeth. Elizabeth was 
fortunate in the time, if not the circumstances, of her birth, 
for high-born young women were then receiving the same 
education as their brothers. Jane Grey, as is well known, 
was a brilliant scholar, and Elizabeth herself spoke French, 
Latin and Italian. This knowledge of languages, coupled 
with her great gift for argument, fully equipped her to play 
that astute game of deception called diplomacy, without 
the aid and interference of interpreters. 

Her Council looked upon government as being beyond 
the capabilities of a woman, but she matched their foresight 
with a vision as clear, and their will with that of Henry 
Tudor' s daughter. She surrendered none of her powers to 
them, and the responsibility of decision rested always with 
her. Under her influence the women of the sixteenth 
century became partners in the revival of learning and living, 
and their status was higher than it had ever been. 

Soon after her death, unfortunately, it declined upon the 
twin slopes of puritanism and the licentiousness of the Court. 
Away from the latter, however, the women of the country 
manors busied themselves, as those of Tudor days had done, 
with all the duties of household and estate, such as salting 



14 WOMEN AND THE WORLD TODAY 

beef, brewing beer, preserving fruit, gathering herbs, sewing 
the family linen, and with what little they knew of the art 
of healing. There was little education outside the home, 
and no profession was open to them, but they maintained 
that degree of dignity and self-respect which only work can 
give. 

In the eighteenth century it was the growing wealth of 
the leisured classes which forced upon women a genteel 
idleness in which it was correct to have only a lively 
(although controlled) tongue. Charming in a drawing- 
room, accomplished but uneducated, their sentiment and 
modesty were usually false. Even health and vigour and a 
good appetite were regarded as unbecoming, and if a girl 
possessed any natural wit or had culled a little learning from 
her schoolbooks, she had to hide both under a blushing 
duplicity. 

In 1792 was published a book in which a woman dared 
to raise her voice against this frivolous creature who had 
so little resemblance to reality The Vindication of the 
Rights of Women, by Mary Wollstonecraft. 

Mary, born in 1759, was the eldest child of a drunken 
father who, in spite of a legacy of ten-thousand pounds, 
made his home a place of poverty and wretchedness. After 
a weary fight to earn her living as companion, teacher or 
governess, Mary went to London to write. She was the 
first woman to make it a career. Others Fanny Burney, 
Amelia Opie, Maria Edgeworth, Lady Mary Wortley- 
Montague, Jane Austen wrote for amusement or pin 
money, and apologised for having stepped beyond the 
convention of womanly modesty. Mary became reader to 
a publisher at whose house she discussed doctrines of reform 
with men like Thomas Paine, author of Rights of Man, and 
Dr. Priestley, the scientist. In her book Mary demanded 
the rights of Woman. 

She freely acknowledged the superiority of man's physical 
strength, but she insisted that, with a body made healthy 



THE LONG YESTERDAY 15 

by sensible clothes and reasonable exercise, and a mind 
exerted by education and training, women would take their 
place in the world as reasonable beings. She demanded 
political emancipation, a share in government, and the right 
to enter the professions. She knew, however, that this could 
never be until the myth of women's artificial delicacy was 
destroyed. 

At present the only profession fully approved of for a 
lady was marriage, but, when she married, neither law nor 
convention offered her any protection if her partner failed 
her. Legally she had ceased to exist, so she was powerless 
to sue her husband if he ill-treated her. If she took the 
almost unprecedented step of leaving him, she could take 
nothing with her, not even of her own, and he could enforce 
her return if he wished. Any money she might manage to 
earn or be given by relatives he could seize. He could deny 
her access to her children until 1839 she had no guardian- 
ship over them at all, and then only in certain circum- 
stances and she was not even their legal guardian after 
their father's death unless he willed it so. Not until 1857 
was a woman allowed to get a divorce, and even then she 
received very little sympathy from a world which did not 
approve of a wife who presumed to defend herself. 

There were, of course, many happy marriages, but the 
unhappy ones had to be hidden behind a genteel camouflage 
of duty from which there was no escape but death. In the 
words of Caroline Norton, who in 1836 left a tyrannical 
husband, women had no rights : they had only wrongs. 

Mary Wollstonecraft demanded a fair division of power 
between husband and wife, knowing that equality of rights 
must follow, and dignity and respect take the place of the 
ridiculous self-negation expected of the wife. 

The book created a great sensation and was widely 
censured. Men saw their own rights being threatened, 
and women, long inured to the stigma of inferiority, 
professed themselves shocked. Mary died five years after 



1 6 WOMEN AND THE WORLD TODAY 

its publication, and for another half-century the position of 
women remained unchanged. Gradually, however, the 
light began to dawn. 

In 1852 another young woman, one whose girlhood had 
been surrounded by every comfort and affection, who had 
been far better educated than many of her class and had 
travelled widely, was finding the monotony of life in the 
family drawing-room more than she could bear. Her sister, 
like most young ladies of their kind, was quite happy in 
the social round of town and country, but Florence Nightin- 
gale wanted to be of USE. She wrote in her diary : " What 
have I done this last fortnight? I have read ' The Daughter 
at Home * to Papa. Learnt seven tunes by heart. Written 
various letters. Paid eight calls. Done company. That is 
all." 

To Florence it was a martyrdom of inactivity. Fortun- 
ately her father was a broad-minded man who finally 
sympathised with her longing to become a nurse and 
allowed her to have some training. That was the beginning 
of the career of the woman who in 1854 went out to the 
little Crimean peninsula in the north-east corner of the 
Black Sea, and brought order and relief to thousands of 
wounded soldiers suffering in appalling conditions in the 
barrack hospital of Scutari. 

After her return home she spent the rest of her life 
fighting dilatoriness, apathy and pig-headedness in high 
places. She drove the gin-sodden Sairey Gamp Dickens's 
portrait in Martin Chuzzlewit of a typical nurse of the 
time into tipsy immortality, and established nursing on 
the basis of hygiene and humanity. Even Queen Victoria, 
recovering a little from what she had described as "her 
horror of women's rights ", said of her, " Such a clear head ! 
I wish we had her at the War Office." 

While the young Florence had been eating her heart out 
at home, another woman who, in her girlhood, had felt 
the same urge to direct her life towards some useful purpose, 



THE LONG YESTERDAY 17 

was being consulted on prison reform by the crowned heads 
of Europe. Quaker Elizabeth Fry, however, had had little 
time to be bored. One of a large family, she married young 
and was the mother of eight children when another Quaker, 
Stephen Grellet, horrified at what he had seen when visiting 
the London prisons, hurried to tell her about them. With 
her friend, Anna Buxton, Elizabeth, who all her life feared 
death, darkness and the sea, went to see the women in their 
yard in Newgate Gaol, where the Governor himself dare 
not enter unarmed. Poverty, crime, filth and misery had 
created a hell no animal on earth would ever fashion for 
itself. The yard of the women prisoners was a den of 
maddened beasts where viciousness lay deep in every pair 
of wild eyes, and obscenities on every leering mouth. Pity 
filled Elizabeth's heart. Crime alone could not have so 
degraded these poor creatures, nor poverty have robbed 
them so completely of human dignity. Into that den 
Elizabeth took clothing, covering and food, and kindled 
a spark of humanity where none believed it could exist. 
But domestic affairs kept her away for another four years 
before she was able to fan that spark into flame and she 
had to begin all over again. To see her reading the Bible 
in Newgate to the poor creatures whose self-respect she had 
restored became one of the sights of fashionable London, 
but she carried on with her work of humane reform until 
the public conscience stirred slowly into action. Even the 
American Ambassador wrote home to say that he had seen 
the two greatest sights in London, St. Paul's and Mrs. Fry 
reading the Bible to the prisoners in Newgate. 

In that London where two worlds lived but seldom 
met the one of fashion and extravagance, the other of gin 
shops and public executions the Industrial Revolution 
had worsened the conditions of the working people a 
hundredfold. Children under ten worked sixteen hours a 
day in the factories and fell asleep at their machines. 
Women carried their little ones with them down the mines 



1 8 WOMEN AND THE WORLD TODAY 

where both were chained to wagons of coal to pull them 
along the rails. Many children were crippled or, more 
happily, died, whose childhood was sacrificed to the 
inexorable law of supply and demand, upon the smooth 
running of which the prosperity of England depended, no 
matter what the cost in human health and life. But when 
Elizabeth Fry and Florence Nightingale wanted to offer 
help to the poor and sick, whether they were in prison, 
factory, hospital or workhouse, they had to risk the severest 
of all forms of opposition, social boycott. It took all their 
courage to overcome it. 

Two isolated examples of heroism, however, were not 
enough to free women from their conventional bondage, 
although the murmurs of rebellion were swelling. 

One night in 1860 three young women in a house in 
Aldeburgh, Suffolk, sat planning their future. Emily Davies, 
daughter of a northern rectory, shy and plain but with an 
iron will, insisted that women must have the same education 
as men and determined to open the universities to them. 
Elizabeth Garrett, daughter of a well-to-do manufacturer 
of agricultural implements, declared her determination to 
become a doctor, hitherto a profession closed to women. 
Her younger sister Millicent planned to win the 
Parliamentary vote for her sex. 

They did not laugh at their " unwomanly " ambitions 
but set about beating down the opposition. Elizabeth's 
father, although he considered doctoring disgusting for a 
woman, was not wholly unsympathetic towards her 
ambition, but her mother cried herself ill. After Harley 
Street had either laughed at or been openly rude when 
interviewing Elizabeth and her father, a doctor at the 
Middlesex Hospital put her to a stiff test by painting a 
picture of the horrors of the wards. The theory of wound 
infection was not yet understood and antiseptics were 
unknown. Hospital gangrene often closed whole wards 
(as the windows were never opened the stench can be 



THE LONG YESTERDAY 19 

imagined) and surgery was a thing of agony and terror. 
Though few operations were performed the death rate was 
appalling. 

Elizabeth passed the test, went to the Middlesex for 
six months as a nurse, and was later admitted to chemistry 
lectures and dissecting rooms. In her examinations she 
gained a certificate of honour, but one day, when only she 
could answer a question put by the lecturer, most of the 
students demanded her dismissal. At the end of the series 
of lectures she was banned from the school. For three years 
all her appeals to teaching hospitals and universities failed. 

The Society of Apothecaries had earlier offered to admit 
her to a qualifying examination, but now, when she decided 
to take this and supplement it with a foreign medical degree, 
the Society tried to go back on its word and would have 
prevented her had not her father threatened legal action. 
As soon as she had passed with credit, the Society altered 
its regulations and stipulated that future candidates must 
have worked in a medical school. 

Elizabeth put up her plate in Upper Berkeley Street and 
opened a dispensary for women in Marylebone Road. Busy 
as she was, she never slackened her interest in the Women's 
Movement for which Millicent, Emily Davies, Sophia Jex- 
Blake, Barbara Bodichon, Helen Taylor and others were 
working with ever widening support. 

In tackling the Paris medical degree Elizabeth had to 
face six examinations in a foreign language, no light task 
on top of her day's work. It was necessary to revise all her 
preliminary subjects, and one day, when she was studying 
a disjointed skeleton, her maid announced H.R.H. Princess 
Louise. The Princess, fourth daughter of Queen Victoria, 
had called, not as a patient, but to show her interest in a 
woman doctor, which proved to Elizabeth that her work 
had attracted attention in high circles. When she passed 
her finals in June, 1870, even the medical press was 
complimentary to her. 



2O WOMEN AND THE WORLD TODAY 

In 1 869 women had been granted the municipal franchise, 
and a year later were allowed to stand for election to school 
boards opened to them under the Forster Education Act. 
Elizabeth stood for Marylebone and Emily for Greenwich. 
Both won their seats, Elizabeth's 47,848 votes being the 
highest number polled. It was a great victory for the 
women's cause. 

Meanwhile, Sophia Jex-Blake was waging a great fight 
for recognition in the Scottish medical schools. She and 
six other women students had matriculated brilliantly at 
the Faculty of Medicine in Edinburgh, and one of them 
had won the Hope Scholarship for chemistry. The Professor 
of Chemistry, however, refused to award it to a woman. 
The storm broke. Years of struggle and legal proceedings 
followed. Determined that women should not have to go 
abroad for their degrees, Sophia came south and opened 
the London School of Medicine for Women. The Dean's 
appeal to have it placed on the list of recognised medical 
schools met with complete refusal. There was another 
long battle until, in 1876, the Medical Act, allowing any 
medical school to give degrees to women, was passed. 

In 1871 Elizabeth Garrett married James Anderson, 
member of a London shipping firm. Many people assumed 
that this would end her career. She wrote to Millicent 
expressing her opinion that the woman question would 
never be solved as long as marriage was thought incom- 
patible with freedom and an independent career. She and 
James, she was sure, had a very good chance of disproving 
that idea. 

She was right: they were completely happy and he 
enthusiastically supported all her work. On their retire- 
ment they returned to Aldeburgh where, on her husband's 
death, Elizabeth was invited to take over the office of mayor. 
The following year she was elected herself, the first woman 
to hold the position. 

In Euston Road, London, stands the memorial to her 



THE LONG YESTERDAY 21 

courage and her greatest achievement, the Elizabeth 
Garrett Anderson Hospital. It is run entirely by women 
(apart from male porters) and has only women patients 
except for boys up to twelve years old. 

All this time Barbara Bodichon had been fighting for 
those of her sex who lacked such rare good fortune as she 
herself possessed. Barbara Leigh Smith (she married Dr. 
Eugene Bodichon) was the daughter of a remarkably 
broadminded man who believed in equal freedom and 
education for his sons and daughters. When, on Barbara's 
coming of age, he gave her three-hundred pounds a year, 
their acquaintances considered that he was undermining 
that citadel of Victorian respectability, the home. They 
were deeply shocked when Barbara built a country cottage 
for herself. 

Barbara, free, happy and charmingly feminine, 
published in 1854 a pamphlet on the legal position of 
women, and called a meeting of those who were interested 
to collect petitions for the Married Women's Property Bill 
which was to be introduced into the House of Commons 
by members of the Law Amendment Society. The 
Saturday Review, sworn enemy of the Women's Movement, 
sneered at the Bill for dressing all the hitches which occur 
about money matters between married people, and added 
that there was a smack of selfish independence about it 
which rather jarred with poetical notions of wedlock. 

For the seventy petitions supporting the Bill, Barbara and 
her friend, Bessie Rayner Parkes (later Mrs. Belloc and 
mother of Hilaire), with their colleagues, collected twenty- 
four thousand signatures from women whose experience of 
selfish partners had wholly destroyed what poetic notions 
they might have once cherished. The Bill got no further 
than a second reading, and it was not until 1882 and 1893 
that the final Acts went through. But hope was kindling. 

Women were plucking up courage to voice their wrongs. 
In 1856 the Englishwoman's Journal was launched. As 



22 WOMEN AND THE WORLD TODAY 

editress Bessie Rayner Parkes demanded that, since many 
women were denied by their very numbers the career 
of wife and mother, other doors should be opened to 
them. 

In 1865 John Stuart Mill, writer, philosopher and pioneer 
of women's rights (another of Barbara's friends, Helen 
Taylor, was his stepdaughter), was elected to Parliament, 
and the following year Emily Davies and Elizabeth Garrett 
carried to Westminster Hall his petition on Votes for 
Women, for which they had collected over one thousand 
signatures. Henry Fawcett, husband of Millicent Garrett, 
was among its supporters, but it was defeated by 196 votes 
to 73. Barbara was a little discouraged and remarked that 
Emily would have to go to the poll on crutches, and she 
herself come out of her grave and vote in her winding sheet. 
Indeed, Barbara was to be dead nearly thirty years before 
the battle was won, almost obscurely in a world torn by a 
greater war. 

Long before that, however, Emily had won her fight for 
higher education. The same devious routes had to be 
followed with infinite patience and tenacity, the same 
derision endured, before public opinion could be brought 
to realise that to let women use the brains God had given 
them was not to deprive them of the charm and femininity 
it pleased men and conventional women to regard as their 
most winning qualities. 

In 1869 Benslow House, Hitchin, in Hertfordshire, was 
opened as a college for women, and one October day five 
students arrived for their first term. Emily Davies, a little 
nervous herself, welcomed them. They were given a bed- 
sitting room each. 

Their own relatives, on learning that they were going 
to college, had explained, " How worldly ! " A clergyman, 
seeing them in Hitchin, referred to them as " the infidel 
ladies ". Charlotte Yonge, the authoress, had feared that 
they would " rub off the tender home-bloom of maidenliness 



THE LONG YESTERDAY 23 

which is a more precious thing than any proficiency in 
knowledge ". 

In spite of all disapproval and prophecies of disaster they 
were very happy. Admittedly, they so far forgot them- 
selves as to act scenes from Twelfth Night in male attire, 
which nearly brought the whole college committee out to 
point shame at them, but it didn't damp their spirits. By 
1871 there were twelve students. When the lease of 
Benslow House expired they moved to Girton College, two 
miles out of Cambridge. 

Emily, its first headmistress, knew that only by insisting 
on her girls taking the same examinations as the men would 
women ever be admitted to the universities. In 1890 
Millicent Fawcett's daughter Philippa sat for the 
Mathematical Tripos at Newnham and came first on the 
list, but because degrees were not given to women she had 
to be placed above the senior wrangler. In spite of 
Cambridge's lead in possessing the first university college 
for women, it was twenty-five years behind Oxford in 
admitting women to equal status with men. 

It was the great campaign for women's suffrage which 
took the highest toll of all in human suffering. Far from 
being the amazones of the newspaper caricatures, many of 
the leaders of the movement were slight, attractive and 
simply dressed and every one had a shining courage. 
When non-violent methods failed, Emmeline Pankhurst 
founded the Women's Social and Political Union and 
determined on militancy. Her daughter Christabel, with 
brilliant wit and logical mind, took her LL.B. degree with 
first-class honours in June, 1906, having already won a 
prize for international law. In July she became secretary 
of the Union. Prevented from taking up her chosen career 
of barrister-at-law by the refusal of the Benchers of Lincoln's 
Inn to admit a woman student, she deplored the tame 
acceptance by generations of women of the inferiority 
accorded them. 



34 WOMEN AND THE WORLD TODAY 

Beaten up at meetings, imprisoned, derided, forcibly fed 
in their cells when they went on hunger strike, nothing 
could deflect the suffragettes from their purpose. They 
smashed windows and set fire to buildings, knowing that 
only by progressive violence could they prove to the 
Government that they would never give in. The perfection 
of their organisation provoked loud praise in the Press. As 
the agitation grew, so did the numbers of their supporters, 
men and women. The smug of both sexes despised them, 
but secretly envied their dauntless spirit. 

In 1911 Olive Schreiner, author of The Story of an African 
Farm, published her book, Woman and Labour, in which 
she demanded that women be given work and the 
training for it. It became the Bible of the Women's 
Movement. 

Then came WAR on a scale unprecendented, and, as 
men went to the front, women filled the spaces in the home 
ranks. They kept the life blood flowing, and when the 
conflict was over they could not again be degraded to the 
paralysis of dependence. In February, 1918, woman 
suffrage became law. Emily Davies, eighty-eight years old, 
and Millicent Fawcett, seventy-two, went to the poll 
in 1919 and surely, Barbara dead 'since 1891, went with 
them in spirit and in pride. That same year the Sex 
Disqualification (Removal) Act opened more of the profes- 
sions to women. 

Great work was done for aviation in the 19305 by women, 
led by Amy Johnson, the Yorkshire girl who, though a B. A. 
of Sheffield University, hated the thought of becoming a 
teacher and found office life hardly more congenial. 

Working in a London solicitor's office, she lived in rooms 
in Maida Vale, and the noise of aircraft from Stag Lane 
Aerodrome, not far away, was music to her ears. She could 
not afford the fees of the De Havilland Aircraft Company, 
so she joined the London Aeroplane Club. That was 
in 1927. 



THE LONG YESTERDAY 25 

A few years later she became the first woman to fly solo 
from England to Australia, breaking the world record for 
a flight to India en route. Her lone flight from England 
to Capetown set up yet another record. With her husband, 
J. A. Mollison, she flew the Atlantic. 

All these records have long been broken, crossing the 
Atlantic is now commonplace the young Queen of 
England has flown it twice on her Commonwealth tours 
but the name of Amy Johnson is recorded for ever across 
the skies she loved and knew so well. 

Now we have two World Wars behind us. In the Second, 
Odette Churchill and others proved that the courage of 
Edith Cavell in the First had not diminished. The women's 
Services stand permanently beside those of the men. Women 
build, drive and fly machines. Specialists in medicine and 
surgery, and women barristers, are taken as a matter of 
course. Men and women work in partnership in commerce, 
industry, sociology, politics, science, the arts. The fight for 
equal pay goes on, but it will be won. 

Nearly all the women who were pioneers in the great 
movement were happily married. They proved that 
economic independence does not detract from the poetic 
notions of matrimony, but enriches them. "A woman can 
be a good citizen without being a wife and mother: she 
cannot be a successful wife and mother without being a good 
citizen. 

Florence Nightingale, first woman to be awarded the 
Order of Merit, wrote : " What greater reward can a good 
worker desire than that the next generation should forget 
her and regard the work done as obvious?" 

Perhaps, but is it fair to take for granted what was so 
dearly won? Today, during the last years at school, it is 
easier to look ahead to whatever career we have chosen than 
to look back upon the imperishable courage of those who 
for generations fought the long, slow battle for our rights. 
Some of their names have been forgotten, many were never 



26 WOMEN AND THE WORLD TODAY 

known, and only a few stand commemorated on Rolls of 
Honour, but in the value women of today set upon their 
freedom and the dignity of equal status, shall rest the 
measure of their memorial. 



VERA BRITTAIN, M.A.; D. Lrrr (U.S.A.) 
Writer 

THE ONLY association Vera Brittain's forebears could 
claim with future literary eminence except her own was 
by proximity. Her father was a pupil at the High School 
at the same time as Arnold Bennett attended the Middle 
School in Newcastle-under-Lyme, and though there was 
little communication between the families, the future 
author of the stories which immortalised the Five Towns 
could have looked with pride upon that future biographer 
of her generation who shared die county of his birth. 

Her childhood was spent in Macclesfield, uneventful in 
itself, touched only by the passing drama of events great 
yet insignificant beside the catastrophe which overwhelmed 
her youth. The dear companionship of her brother 
Edward, less than two years younger, and her own literary 
ambitions she wrote five novels before she was eleven 
were of far greater importance during that remote but 
threatened security. 

When Vera was eleven her parents moved to Buxton 
and she and Edward went to day schools. She reached the 
top form when twelve years old. At thirteen she went to 
St. Monica's, Kingswood, Surrey, where her determination 
to go on to college met with the Principal's sympathy but 
did not receive the preparation necessary for entrance 
examinations. 

Her companions, destined for the matrimonial com- 
petitiveness of the social round, needed the decorative 
accomplishments of hostesses rather than the capabilities 

37 



28 WOMEN AND THE WORLD TODAY 

of intelligent women. The Principal, helpless in the face 
of the distorted values of parents, lent Vera books on the 
Women's Movement, and when Olive Schreiner's 
triumphant Woman and Labour, the " Bible " of the Move- 
ment, was published in 1911, Vera Brittain became a 
feminist. 

When she left school, however, her parents had no 
other ambition than to launch her into provincial society. 
She " came out " at the High Peak Hunt Ball in 1912 but 
soon tired of the trivial round of dancing and bridge and 
golf. Edward was at Uppingham. She had no one to talk 
to, no simple constructive purpose towards which to direct 
her mental energy. She begged and badgered her parents 
to let her go to college, but their good-humoured indifference 
to her demands was as automatic as their assumption that 
Edward had every right to go. She came to hate Buxton. 
To her it typified all the false values of small-town society 
which assesses the worth of its inhabitants by their 
conformation to its standards, and recognises no develop- 
ment of independent thought outside the implacable barriers 
of its gentility. 

The visit of a friend of her father, a family lawyer, brought 
her the first breath of freedom. At dinner the conversation 
touched on Oxford, and the visitor's total lack of surprise 
at the presence of women at the University, and at the 
enthusiasm of a potential undergraduate at the same table, 
made so great an impression on his host that the armour 
of opposition began to weaken. 

Briefly, she won her way. Essays, lectures, the Oxford 
Summer School, hours of study and coaching, then the 
scholarship examination for Somerville in March. She 
was awarded a college exhibition, to take effect if she passed 
the Oxford Senior Local the following July. 

Before then, however, the captain of Edward's House at 
Uppingham came to spend part of the Easter holidays at 
her home. Armed with her exhibition she refused to be 



VERA BRITTAIN 29 

daunted by his brilliant reputation, and they talked with 
all the earnestness of serious-minded youth of Olive 
Schreiner and immortality. They met again on the School 
Speech Day, when he upheld his position by going up for 
six of the first seven prizes. Between the functions of those 
three sunlit days they continued their discussions. She 
thought little of the coming Oxford Senior and nothing at 
all ot an assassination at Sarajevo. How could the murder 
of a Balkan archduke touch the lives of young English men 
and women destined for Oxford? How could Vera Brittain 
and her brother, and his school-fellows Roland Leighton and 
Victor, a devoted trio, believe that death could reach out 
from so far away and doom their generation? 

The War was already a month old when she learnt that 
she had passed the Senior Oxford. Far from sharing her 
pleasure, however, her father was so distracted by the awful 
possibilities of the conflict that he angrily refused to 
consider the idea of college any longer. Edward thereupon 
quietly announced that, if his sister could not go, neither 
would he : it seemed as if that far-flung bomb had clouded 
the very sun of noon. But when Vera saw the rash of 
conventional patriotism breaking out in Buxton she was 
more determined than ever to escape. 

The first fever passed. Edward, Roland and Victor went 
into training and Vera to Oxford. She threw herself into 
work, student activities and late-night discussions with the 
avidity of one left far too long to her own resources. The 
War retreated a little until Edward came to Oxford to begin 
O.T.C. training. They met occasionally in cafes, and at 
practices of the Bach Choir and Orchestra for which he 
had been chosen as first violin. In November he was 
gazetted to the nth Sherwood Foresters and they said 
goodbye almost opposite the place where, ten years later, 
would stand the Oxford War Memorial. At Christmas he 
got leave, the last Christmas they were to spend together 
as a family. 



30 WOMEN AND THE WORLD TODAY 

When Roland, too, left for the Front in March, 1915, 
the War could never again retreat. If Vera became a nurse 
and transferred to a London hospital she might be able to 
be near him if he came home wounded. Only the purpose 
of getting through Pass Moderations in June enabled her 
to give some attention to Plato and Homer while Roland 
endured his first shell fire. Sunlight on the river, the May- 
day hymn from Magdalen Tower, music in chapel and 
cathedral all these emphasised her remoteness from the 
danger he faced. 

Vera passed her examination and pushed ambition to the 
back of her mind. On 27th June, 1915, a day which, ten 
years later, was to mark another milestone in her life, she 
began nursing at the Devonshire Hospital in Buxton. It 
was only a stepping stone to the ist London General 
Hospital at Camberwell, military extension of St. 
Bartholomew's. 

Again she threw herself into the job with the fervour 
of a martyr. Nothing less was needed to sustain her and 
her fellow V.A.D.s, whose untried patriotism was ruthlessly 
exploited by authorities indifferent even to the fact that 
lack of hot water, and of transport for the two miles between 
hospital and hostel, were scarcely conducive to health 
and efficiency at either beginning or end of a day 
spent in contact with pain, suppurating wounds and 
death. 

Only hope and letters kept exhaustion at bay hope, and 
the news that Roland was coming on leave on Christmas 
Day until the end of the year. Vera's parents were now 
living at Brighton and Roland's at Keymer, and she 
arranged to go to Brighton on Christmas morning. She 
spent Christmas Eve filling red-paper bags with crackers 
and sweets, joy defeating her ironical contemplation of war 
on the night of the birth of the Prince of Peace. To-morrow 
was Sunday; there might be delay in getting a wire through, 
but he would come: only the Channel separated them. 



VERA BRITTAIN 3 1 

Vera rushed down to Brighton and waited. All day the 
grey waves tumbled on the wintry shore, and night fell 
on silence. In the morning a call sent her joyously to the 
telephone to learn from Roland's sister that he had died 
of wounds on 23rd December. 

While she had prepared for the patients' Christmas, 
patients mostly happily recovering and looking forward to 
the modest festivities, Roland had lain dying in a Casualty 
Clearing Station. She heard the waves still falling on the 
indifferent shore: the Channel would separate them for 
ever now. It was Edward who took her back to Camber- 
well, Victor and Geoffrey Edward's friend in his regiment 
who gave her all their sympathy, but no one could help her 
through the stupefying weeks which followed. 

In July Edward himself was wounded and sent to the 
ist London General Hospital, but, by the time the story 
of the action in which he had won the Military Cross was 
published in The Times, his sister was on her way to service 
in Malta. The beauty of the island partially restored her 
resilience of body and mind, but every evening The Last 
Post sounded over the water to remind her of Edward and 
Victor and Geoffrey, and of the guns which still tore the 
earth of France. 

In April, 1917, Victor was wounded at Arras. His 
Military Cross seemed little compensation for the loss of his 
sight. Edward wrote to tell Geoffrey, but before the letter 
could reach him Geoffrey was killed in action. 

When work slackened in Malta during the summer Vera 
came back to England. Was it possible to help Victor who 
had been Roland's friend, and who would need someone 
now so desperately? He recognised her voice and the touch 
of her hand and was glad of her coming; but a few days 
later he, too, was dead. He died in the darkness of the early 
hours, though dawn and midnight had long been the same 
to him. 

By August, Vera, whose help neither Victor, Roland, 



32 WOMEN AND THE WORLD TODAY 

nor Geoffrey would ever need, was at the 24th General 
Hospital at Etaples. 

The great German offensive of the spring of 1918 swept 
back the Allies, but illness at home proved that even in the 
Services women were not considered immune from the 
demands of domesticity. Torn between loyalties, she had 
to come back, but found it difficult to be impressed by 
servant shortages after the agony she had left in France. 

It was from Italy, however, that the surmounting tragedy 
struck. In June, Edward was killed on the Asiago Plateau. 
The four friends were in good company. 

To fill the paralysing 'emptiness of the ensuing months 
Vera went back to nursing and, working like an automaton, 
survived. She left in April, 1919. 

No word of welcome softened the bleak conventionality 
of the Principal's greeting on her return to Oxford, no 
enthusiasm complimented her change of School from English 
to Modern History, in the study of which she sought to 
renew her faith in the inherent nobility of mankind, and, 
by throwing her own heart and brain into the relentless 
exposure of the futility of war, to try to prevent the repetition 
of a generation's sacrifice. 

Isolated in a community which did not seem to welcome 
survivors, she began to write. She contributed to the Oxford 
Outlook, a new undergraduate production, an article on the 
point of view of the woman student, and the following term 
was invited by the editor of a local paper to submit a weekly 
column on the activities of the women's colleges. It would 
have been a modest beginning on the path to journalism 
(and helped to pay her book bills), but it was forbidden by 
the Principals who, walking delicately during that difficult 
period of struggle for women's degrees, " did not consider 
it suitable for a student to do such work ". However, she 
did write general articles and poems, and was co-editor of 
Oxford Poetry, 1920. 

Not only literary work but the friendship of a fellow 



FLORA KOBSON 













DAPHNE DU 











VERA BRTTTAIN 33 

student had begun to lighten her post-war desolation the 
friendship of Winifred Holtby, to be broken only by death. 

In May, 1920, the statute giving degrees to women was 
passed and came into force on i7th October. A week later 
Vera and Winifred sat in the Sheldonian Theatre to watch 
the first Degree-giving in which women had taken part, 
knowing that with them in spirit watched all those who had 
laboured so long for this step further on the road towards 
equality. 

The following year, disappointed at getting only Second 
Class degrees, they consoled themselves with the assurance 
that they were released from the academic temptations of 
a First. They planned to share a flat in London and write, 
but before they settled down they travelled to France and 
Italy. For Vera it was a long-promised pilgrimage to the 
graves of Edward and Roland. 

At the end of the year they moved into their Bloomsbury 
studio. For two or three days a week they taught, lectured 
and coached to offset the bankruptcy threatened by 
accumulating rejection slips. In addition Vera became a 
lecturer for the League of Nations Union. 

The studio was sunless and cold and they crouched 
beside a meagre fire to draft their novels, correct essays 
and write articles, and revelled in the inestimable joy of 
privacy. Unimaginative relatives commiserated, fellow 
graduates wrote of their agonising experiences in teaching 
posts, and the two sometimes felt a little guilty at being free 
to follow their literary choice. Vera's own teaching was 
not so arduous since her pupils were looking forward to St. 
Margaret's, Westminster, rather than to Lady Margaret 
Hall. 

Far more exciting were her adventures on the platform 
for the League of Nations Union. Being only five feet 
three, she was frequently greeted by the organisers with 
ill-concealed astonishment and "Are you Miss Brittain? 
I thought they were sending us a proper lecturer." 



34 WOMEN AND THE WORLD TODAY 

During the next three years meetings for the Union 
brought her into contact with people in every walk of 
society and every shade of religious and political opinion. 
One of her chairman was Mr. (later Sir) Percy Harris, 
prospective candidate for South- West Bethnal Green, who 
in 1922 invited her to act as his secretary during the 
campaign for the forthcoming General Election. As 
engagements prevented this, Winifred took it on, but Vera 
rushed off to Bethnal Green whenever she was free to canvas 
and speak at meetings, and in both 1922 and '23 saw Mr. 
Harris win his seat. 

For two years she and Winifred became members of a 
political club, but never heard an address given there by 
a woman. Indeed, if ever " the ladies " were invited by a 
condescending chairman to give their views, the male 
members sat back with a general air of relaxation which 
implied that, if women had any views, they could not 
possibly be worthy of undivided male attention. Once Vera 
uprose and gave hers, and the atmosphere was immediately 
charged with polite astonishment. There being no sign 
of forthcoming equality, she and Winifred left the club. 

Many women's organisations were now beginning to use 
their power. Women over thirty now had the vote, and in 
1919 the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act had opened 
several professions previously closed to them law, banking, 
accountancy, civil and judicial posts, and the lower grades 
of the Civil Service. But it was still half-heartedly applied 
in many directions and Lady Rhondda, under whose chair- 
manship the Six Point Group had been inaugurated in 1921, 
aptly remarked that the word (Removal) had not yet 
managed to get outside its brackets. 

Support of the Group, which aimed at pensions for 
widows, equal rights of guardianship of children, equal pay 
for teachers, equal opportunities for both sexes in the Civil 
Service, and the improvement of laws dealing with child 
assault and the position of the unmarried mother, brought 



VERA BRTTTAIN 35 

Vera and Winifred into contact with Lady Rhondda, that 
vigorous and gallant feminist, and Winifred later became 
a director of her paper, Time and Tide. 

Meanwhile, their first novels had been completed. 
Winifred's, a tale of Yorkshire farm life, was accepted in 
the summer of 1922, but Vera's, The Dark Tide, was gone 
for months on that long disheartening journey so familiar 
to young authors, before it found its harbour. A story of 
Oxford life, it contained, as its author freely admitted, the 
crudities of youth which recognises no understones, and 
when it was published in July, 1923, the commendable 
number of reviews it received was tempered by a few 
indignant letters from dons who saw themselves none too 
flatteringly portrayed in the book. The letters hurt. 
Winifred, on holiday in Yorkshire, quoted the advice of an 
established author : " Write what you think, not what 
people want you to think." 

Vera's second novel, Not Without Honour, was accepted 
in the autumn, and the number of editors' rejection slips 
grew less. She was a professional writer. Not in her most 
extravagant dreams, however, could she have foreseen one 
event which resulted from the publication of her first book. 
A few weeks before it came out she and Winifred went to 
Oxford for the Somerville Gaudy, the after-term gathering 
of old students. On their return Vera received a letter 
forwarded from her college and containing a man's visiting 
card bearing the name of his. On it was written an 
invitation to tea. The writer claimed to have seen her in 
Oxford and remembered her at debates. But his. name 
was unknown to her and she tore up what might be called 
her first fan letter. 

After The Dark Tide was published a packet arrived 
containing press cuttings and a small book, the fly-leaf of 
which informed her that the author had been a New College 
Exhibitioner and was now a lecturer at a northern 
university. A note added that he had read her novel with 



36 WOMEN AND THE WORLD TODAY 

the utmost pleasure. The reply to her letter of thanks came 
from America where he had taken up a lecturing appoint- 
ment. Nevertheless, he sent enough appreciative criticisms 
of her book to demand a further answer if only out of 
courtesy. By the third exchange of letters they were, not 
uncharacteristically, arguing on the status of the post-war 
woman. He believed emphatically in the equalisation of 
the position of women, and the economic security of the 
worker. Their philosophy had much in common. 

When she learnt that he had known some of the 
Uppingham schoolboys who had gone on to New College, 
she realised that, had there been no war, he and Edward 
would have been contemporaries. Shortly before he 
returned to England he told her with the directness of 
simple truth that on the day he read The Dark Tide he 
determined to win the creator of the young student. 

She did not accept the ultimatum without perturbation. 
She had at last achieved the kind of life she wanted to lead 
and had not anticipated emotional complications. But they 
met again on the sixth anniversary of Edward's death and 
there seemed a double link between her brother and this 
young scholar whose ideals she shared. After a further 
meeting in Oxford, crowded for her with dear and anguished 
memories, she returned to London engaged. 

A year passed before they were married. During the 
period of their engagement he went back to America and 
she and Winifred left for Geneva and a tour of those 
European countries on which the aftermath of war still lay 
heavily. They found little to encourage them in their 
hopes of peace. Hatred still fed on humiliation, suspicion 
festered in the minds of those deprived of their rights, and 
everywhere armaments piled up in short, the cancer of 
power and profit ate into the hearts of men, fed by the 
money which can always be conjured for destruction but 
seldom for the betterment of living and the preservation of 
sanity* 



VERA BRTTTAIN 37 

Nearer home she had her own problem to face. She had, 
however, the infinite satisfaction of knowing that her 
fiance recognised as supreme her right to pursue her literary 
and political work, and looked upon her equal status with 
a nobility rare in a man. He wrote : " I offer you as free 
a marriage as it lies in the power of a man to offer a woman. 
I ask you to give what you want to give no more. I hope 
you will never be condemned to regard marriage as in any 
way an impoverishment." 

When one recalls the massacre of the innocents in 
marriage throughout the centuries, the mockery still often 
made of the " honourable estate " and the man's offer to 
endow or share his worldly goods, one wishes that the words 
of that letter could be substituted for the extravagant 
emotional demands made by the marriage service with its 
insistence still upon woman as the humbler half of the 
contract. 

Vera went to Oxford to take her M.A. degree two days 
before the wedding. They were married exactly ten years 
after the day on which she had become a V.A.D. and 
after the ceremony she gave her flowers to Roland's 
mother. 

She and her husband spent their first year of marriage 
in America, an America strident with post-war prosperity 
and ostentation and brashly indifferent to the sufferings of 
Europe; a country of contrasts and contradictions. In a 
small university town they found that, owing to the 
prohibitive price of domestic labour, many of the young 
wives of dons had succumbed to the, to them, tedium of 
domestic tyranny and lost their eagerness to contribute to 
the intellectual life of the community. 

In Washington, Vera met Alice Paul, founder and leader 
of the National Woman's Party, counterpart of the Six Point 
Group, a dauntless and uncompromising fighter for her cause 
to the exclusion of all else. In the great cities social and 
professional work was carried on by women on a much 



38 WOMEN AND THE WORLD TODAY 

wider scale than in England. But at a meeting in Long 
Island, thirty miles from New York, half the audience had 
not heard of the smaller countries of Europe. 

Vera did not return to America until 1934. Winifred 
shared their home in London. In 1930, owing to the 
demands on space made by two babies and a growing library, 
they moved to Chelsea, and the new household, with its 
atmosphere of gaiety and affection and, oh rare quality! 
complete mutual compatibility, came as near to complete 
happiness as, in the words of its mistress, she was ever likely 
to know. After Winifred's death the memory of her 
glowing companionship was so poignant that they had to 
leave. 

In 1929 Vera began to write Testament of Youth, the 
biography of her youth and a generation's which had been 
demanding expression for years. As she had to cope with 
a baby daughter at the same time, the book took longer to 
write than she had anticipated and, more than once in an 
attack of that abysmal depression from which no writer is 
immune, she felt tempted to abandon it; but Winifred, 
now fighting the pain of the prolonged illness which 
condemned her to so tragically early a death, spurred 
her on. 

The Macmillan Company of New York accepted the 
book first and asked for the English publisher. Vera had 
to wait in a fever of suspense until that day in February, 
1933, when a letter from Mr. Victor Gollancz arrived. It 
ended with the words every young writer would rejoice to 
read : " I shall be very proud to publish it." 

It came out in August, 1933, and its author, still dazed 
by its reception, was overwhelmed with letters (thirteen 
hundred in the next four years), and requests for lectures 
and speeches. In 1934 Winifred supervised the household 
while Vera undertook a lecture tour of America. She was 
wryly amused, not at being able to travel first class this 
time, but at the deference accorded her at the American 



VERA BRITTAIN 39 

Consulate now that she had " made her name ", compared 
with the brusque condescension meted out to her on her 
first visit as a " mere wife ", when she had defied official 
attempts to rob her completely of her individuality 
and insisted on retaining her maiden name on her 
passport. 

The bewildering experience of a highly organised 
American lecture tour has to be endured before it can be 
believed. The vast journeys, the crowded social arrange- 
ments, Press interviews, appearances at book stores, 
greetings with officials, the constant demand for one's 
opinion on social and economic problems, and the mounting 
correspondence always in pursuit, fill a programme 
calculated to exhaust the vitality of a Titan before any 
lectures are delivered, to say nothing of the incessant 
packing and unpacking, and the deprivation of that sustain- 
ing and habitual British tonic, afternoon tea. 

She found America, still in the shadow of its own Great 
Depression, much more sympathetically inclined toward* 
the sufferings of Europe than it had been in the booming 
twenties. President Roosevelt's policy of the Good 
Neighbour was reflected, not only in this, but in the gentler 
consideration of public manners and the Americans' 
humbler assessment of themselves. 

Vera Brittain ended nine strenuous weeks, richly assorted 
in experience, with a broadcast on behalf of the League of 
Nations Association. In this she appealed to the youth of 
America and Britain to wipe out the bankruptcy of war by 
building up the economy of peace on an impregnable 
foundation. 

In a race with death itself Winifred finished her 
Yorkshire novel in the spring of 1935. By September her 
vital mind could drive her failing body no longer and she 
went into a London nursing home for intensive treatment. 
Vera was in Brighton with her husband, who was 
convalescing after a severe illness, when a telephone message 



4O WOMEN AND THE WORLD TODAY 

told her that Winifred's condition was critical. She rushed 
back to London. Winifred comrade at Oxford and in 
their first assault on Fleet Street, partner in ensuing triumphs, 
dearly loved " aunt " of her two children sixteen golden 
years of friendship were ending. She died in her sleep 
as dawn broke on the last Sunday in September, not 
knowing that Vera had sat beside her throughout her last 
hours. 

She left a masterpiece in South Riding as her monument 
and a proof of the greatness of her loss to English literature. 
Vera acted as her literary executor and in 1940 published 
her tribute, a tribute worthy of its subject, Testament of 
Friendship, the biography Winifred did not live to write 
herself. It was the most widely reviewed book of the year. 

Before then, however, Vera had toured Holland and 
published her long novel with its feminist background, 
Honourable Estate. 

In 1939 peace, in whose cause she had equipped herself 
to fight unremittingly since the conflict a mere twenty-five 
years ago, went down before the same enemy in a new guise. 
On holiday with her children in the New Forest she heard 
over the radio the announcement of war WAR, which had 
taken Edward and Roland and Victor and Geoffrey, now 
threatened the lives of her own son and daughter. 

The children went back to 'school and their parents to 
London. Travelling to lectures became a cold, drawn-out 
ordeal, fraught with uncertainties, but books were booming 
since people had been driven to their firesides by the 
black-out. 

As Europe fell beneath the Nazi machine and the blitz 
struck England, Vera and her husband faced the problem 
shared by all parents : the safety of the children. At the 
end of her 1937 tour of America she had known that there 
was no other country to whose care she would rather entrust 
her children if war came. They made their decision and 
they alone bore the heartbreak of their separation. The 



VERA BRITTAIN 41 

children appreciated the adventure and speculated casually 
upon the whereabouts of submarines, but they crossed the 
Atlantic safely. 

Their mother went gratefully to work at the Children's 
Overseas Reception Board, interviewing escorts who had 
offered to take other children abroad. Those evacuated 
to the country in Britain proved, in some cases, how the 
old truth still prevails that one half of the world does not 
know how the other half lives. The appallingly low standard 
of living to which many had obviously been accustomed all 
their young lives proved also that the other half is frequently 
content neither to know nor care. 

The War passed but the wreckage of a world re-wounded 
was left for the builders to search in the hope of finding a 
new foundation. Vera toured Scandinavia in 1945, 
America again in 1946, and Germany in 1947. In spite of 
the exhausting business of lecturing, her literary output 
since the War has included two novels, Account Rendered, 
and Born 1925, and a biography, In the Steps of John 
Bunyan. 

Search After Sunrise, a travel story based on her 
experiences during a tour of India and Pakistan in 1949-50, 
was published in November, 1951, and Lady Into Woman : 
a History of Women from Victoria to Elizabeth II, in the 
autumn of 1953. 

In her book, On Becoming a Writer, published in 1947, 
she described how the writing of Testament of Youth purged 
the bitterness out of her memories of the First World War 
and left only the beauty of cherished relationships. In this 
privilege the writer receives the freedom of the world as does 
no one else, writing out of his system any emotion or 
perplexity which has taken its hold. But he carries, too, a 
great responsibility that of one who possesses a weapon 
of tremendous power : the pen, with which he may influence 
the lives of his own and coming generations, with which 
he may fight for his beliefs and his rights. 



42 WOMEN AND THE WORLD TODAY 

Vera Brittain has fought and is still fighting for hers 
the equality of men and women as human beings irrespective 
of sex, and the direction of the world's wealth, intelligence, 
courage and vitality towards the maintenance of a brother- 
hood of mankind founded on peace. 



PETULA CLARK 

Television Artist 

A FAR CRY from the tragedy of Mary Tudor to the 
triumph of television ! A little girl of seven, taken to the 
theatre, watches a distinguished actress play the leading 
role, and is determined that she, too, shall go on the stage. 
She does not know that the distinguished actress herself, 
Flora Robson, was inspired to make the same decision in 
similar circumstances when only five years old. 

Petula Clark was born on ijth November, 1932, at Ewell 
in Surrey, and now lives near Hampton Court with her 
father and mother and younger sister. She went to school 
in Surbiton, first to St. Bernard's and then to the Romanoff 
School, and, if she were not a conspicuous success at 
mathematics, made up for it by her progress in French, 
English and netball. 

Even before her schooldays, however, she had revealed an 
entirely different talent. She could sing a tune through 
after hearing it once. When aged six she was invited to 
sing at a concert at Chessington : with a complete lack of 
stage fright Petula sang " Mighty Like a Rose " and, for an 
encore, " I'll Pray for You ". She was as much at home on 
the stage as off it. 

Three years later, in 1941, she proved herself equally at 
ease before the microphone. She was waiting with several 
other children in the studio of the B.B.C/s Overseas Service 
to send a message to her uncle in Iraq. Faced with the 
problem of how to make an hour's wait pass pleasantly for 

43 



44 WOMEN AND THE WORLD TODAY 

the children, the producer asked if any child would like to 
entertain the others. Without any hesitation one small 
hand shot up and one small figure came forward. With the 
effortless charm of unselfconscious childhood she sang 
again " Mighty Like a Rose " to the orchestra's impromptu 
accompaniment. 

It caused a minor sensation : producers and technicians 
came hurrying. Here, at the tender age of nine, was the 
perfect microphone voice. She sang the song again as her 
greeting to Iraq the first musical message to be sent by 
a child during the War. Afterwards people rang the B.B.C. 
to find out who was the " little girl with the voice like chapel 
bells". 

It was not unnatural that producer Cecil Madden should 
think of her on the tenth anniversary of the B.B.C.'s Over- 
seas Service. It happened to be Petula' s tenth, too, and she 
celebrated both occasions by singing in the special 
programme relayed from the Queensbury Club (now the 
London Casino). This was only the beginning. She took 
part in over five hundred shows for the Forces, and her 
stage was sometimes the Americans' Rainbow Corner in 
Shaftesbury Avenue, the Stage Door Canteen in Piccadilly, 
or lonely gun sites in remote places all over England. 

From there she went on to appear at the Albert Hall. 
To perform in London's biggest concert hall for the first 
time is an ordeal calculated to test the nerves of any veteran; 
to hold eight thousand people spellbound is a formidable 
task for even a virtuoso; and to act a character part in a 
sketch well enough to bring forth offers of film roles is a 
proof of no small versatility. Petula did all these in one 
night when she was not yet eleven years old. 

The sketch, written by her father, was about a Cockney 
maid, Daisy, who was film-struck, and, whether Petula her- 
self was film-struck or not, it began her screen career in 1943. 
On the strength of it she was offered the part of Irma, a 
Cockney evacuee, in " A Medal for the General ". A series 



PETULA CLARK 45 

of small parts followed, then she was given her first big 
screen role. She was appearing in an Ail-Star Show at the 
Albert Hall when Wesley Ruggles, the producer, saw her 
and chose her for the role of Peggy, daughter of the late Sid 
Field, in the jnusical, "London Town". 

It is a good thing that Petula looks upon her work as a 
pleasure, for she has had little free time since then. Films, 
including the Huggett family series with Jack Warner and 
Kathleen Harrison as her parents, and Jane Hylton and 
Susan Shaw as her elder sisters; variety shows, broad- 
casting and making personal appearances, have built her 
into one of Britain's most popular and versatile young 
stars. 

Five feet nothing, with blue eyes and brown hair, she has 
the friendly manner of the born trouper, and a charming 
naturalness which is as much at home at a civic reception 
as at a party of youngsters of her own age. It is not 
surprising, then, that she was such a success on tele- 
vision. 

Petula made her first appearance in June, 1946, four years 
earlier than is generally thought. Having had considerable 
experience of film and stage work, she found the new 
medium a compromise between the two, and more difficult 
than any other form of entertainment. 

On the radio, no matter how many rehearsals have been 
held, the actor still carries the script and does not have to 
rely on memory. In a stage play small crudities on the first 
night can be polished, and technical problems overcome, 
by repeated performances. In filming, if a " take " is not 
satisfactory it can, of course, be cut and tried out again and 
again until it reaches the required standard of excellence. 
At most it usually lasts no more than a minute; a five-minute 
" take " is rare. 

Though a television artiste might be before the cameras 
no longer than a minute (or as long as an hour in a straight 
play), in her usual programmes, such as " Starlight " or 



46 WOMEN AND THE WORLD TODAY 

" Pet's Parlour ", Petula worked for fifteen or twenty minutes 
at a stretch, and, well, the camera would have had no mercy 
if she had made a mistake. A televised play is seldom 
shown more than twice, so there is no opportunity to improve 
a performance with practice. 

In spite of makijig regular appearances since 1946 she 
had her own weekly programme for several months and 
becoming a firm favourite with the Forces, Petula was 
astonished when she learnt that she had been chosen as the 
outstanding woman personality of the year for 1950. Once 
she got over the surprise she was, of course, very, very 
thrilled. It was not only a recognition of her talents; it was 
a proof that she had given great pleasure to millions of 
people, many of them far away from their homes. 

At the Dorchester Hotel in Park Lane, with James 
McKechnie and Gladys Young receiving theirs as the best 
actor and actress of the radio year, and Richard Dimbleby 
his as the outstanding male personality on television, Petula 
was presented with the Silver Microphone to mark her 
success. At eighteen it was no light achievement. 

Unfortunately for " viewers " film work has considerably 
cut down her television appearances. She prefers, as far as 
possible, to keep her screen acting separate from her other 
forms of entertainment. Her ambition is to become a first- 
rate actress, but many people, including film producers, are 
apt to doubt the ability of a singing star to play straight 
parts, or to think that she is wasting her time and talent if 
she does not break into song on the slightest provocation 
throughout the film. 

As Petula, even in tender years, could play a farmer's 
daughter, a spectacled little know-all (offspring of a wealthy 
family), and a Limehouse labourer's daughter, in three 
successive films, her early versatility suggested that, at a more 
mature age, she would be capable of repeating such 
characterisation and adding to it. 

Indeed, she has already done much to prove it. In the 



PETULA CLARK 47 

film, Dance Hall, her ambition was to become a champion- 
ship dancer; in White Corridors, adapted from Helen 
Ashton's novel, Yeomen's Hospital, she had her first straight 
dramatic role as a probationer nurse; in Madame Louise, she 
was a dress-shop assistant; she was the girl whom Alec 
Guinness married in Arnold Bennett's The Card; she co- 
starred with David Tomlinson in Made in Heaven, the story 
of the Dunmow Flitch trial, and also in Scream in the Night, 
with Margaret Rutherford and Frankie Howerd. 

During a break between films Petula appeared in one 
week's variety at a music hall. This was so successful that 
she was offered a long string of similar engagements, 
including appearances at the London Palladium and in the 
West End musical shows. But a new film was unexpectedly 
brought forward and she was able to fulfil only three more 
variety weeks before she was back in the film studio. 

Offers have been made to her of a long season in Australia, 
a short one in Switzerland, another in Scandinavia, and a 
combined broadcast and television performance for 
A.V.R.O., Holland, but acceptance can only be made if she 
is available from filming. 

Film work, probably requiring her on location out of 
London, has prevented her from accepting invitations to 
appear in exclusive West End cabarets. 

Two of her recent gramophone record " hits " were Snow 
Man and Christopher Robin at Buckingham Palace. Both 
of them became best-sellers in America. 

Petula does not love music any less now than in her 
childhood. She plays the guitar and taught herself to play 
the piano by ear on the instrument she first had when 
only ten years old, although her father has since bought 
a beautiful grand piano for her. Her outdoor hobby is 
riding. 

Whatever her medium of entertainment, Petula Clark 
gives of her best to an audience which reaches far and wide 
and is still growing. Her fan mail once included a letter 



48 WOMEN AND THE WORLD TODAY 

still her favourite from a little native boy in Zanzibar, who 
addressed her as " Honoured and revered Miss Clark ". 

If the day comes when an Oscar takes its place beside the 
Silver Microphone, " honoured and revered Miss Clark " 
will still take the same size in hats. 



MARIE CURIE 
Pioneer Radiologist 

A LITTLE GIRL stood on tiptoe before a glass case in her 
father's study, containing some delicate glass instruments 
and specimens of minerals. She was only five years old 
so, when the Professor, her father, explained what they 
were he had to break up the words into syllables . . . 
44 Phys . . ics app . . a . . ra . . tus." 

The family of Marya Sklodovska lived in Warsaw, in a 
country dismembered by partition, oppressed by its Russian 
conquerors whose police were scattered among its schools, 
its churches and its people to suppress religion, learning, 
even language, and to destroy slowly the character and the 
heart of Poland. 

Like all teachers, Mara's father, a professor of physics, 
suffered humiliation at the hands of the school director, the 
representative of the Tsar but, affecting deference, carried 
on the daring conspiracy of secretly training the youth of 
Poland in its forbidden culture. Every Polish child was as 
fiercely patriotic as its parents, every child burned to serve 
its country, and none more than Manya, as she was called, 
and her brother, Joseph, and her sisters, Zosia, Bronya and 
Hela. 

They were a- devoted family, far from well-to-do, but they 
lived in an intellectual circle in which vulgarity and 
discourtesy were unknown, a family so uniformly brilliant 
that its most dazzling star did not yet outshine the rest. 

Russian oppression was not the only shadow over their 
young lives. Their mother, stricken with consumption, had 

49 



50 WOMEN AND THE WORLD TODAY 

to go to Nice for treatment, and in 1873 the Professor fell 
victim to the spite of the Russian principal of his school. 
He was deprived of his title of under-inspector, and of his 
lodging, and his salary was reduced. The family had to 
move to another apartment and take in boarding pupils. 
Then in 1876, while Mme. Sklodovska lay coughing in her 
room, Zosia died of typhus. Manya was ten when the 
greatest catastrophe of all fell two years later, and the gentle, 
gracious mother joined her child. 

Three more years of school and Bronya won her gold 
medal, left, and took over the housekeeping. Joseph won 
another and went on to study at the Faculty of Medicine. 
In 1 883 Manya brought home hers and an armful of prizes. 
Having worked so well she was to have a holiday. For a 
whole year she lived in the country, and one enchanted 
summer night she danced through the soles of her russet 
slippers. It was the only year of leisure she was ever to 
know. 

Soon the Professor's salary would give place to a meagre 
pension. The young students must work. Manya gave 
lessons and throughout a dull winter met other students in 
secret places to discuss how best they could serve Poland. 
Proud of this " Floating University ", she wrote, " We 
cannot hope to build a better world without improving the 
individual." 

While Hela won prizes for singing, Bronya dreamed of 
Paris where the university was open to women and she could 
study medicine. Manya, too, dreamed of the Sorbonne, 
but they could not both go: they must pool resources. 
Bronya would go. Manya spoke German, Russian, French 
and English; she would become a governess . . . and wait. 
She asked for four hundred roubles a year. 

Her first post was with a family of lawyers, a rich house 
demoralised by wealth, where scandal and slander tore 
character to pieces, and she learnt "to know the human 
race a little better by being there ". Disillusionment and the 



MARIE CURIE 5 1 

need to save more money drove her to a family in the 
country, the Z.s. She was happy there, treated as a friend, 
and in her spare time she taught the village children to read 
and write Polish. At night she sat for hours over books on 
sociology and physics, and tried to keep up her knowledge 
of mathematics by correspondence with her father. 

The eldest son of the house came home from the university 
and fell in love with her. They made plans for the future, 
and the boy asked his parents' permission. She was pretty, 
accomplished, and of good family; her father had been 
their guest. They had made her presents and treated her 
affectionately, but at the mere mention of marriage up went 
the social barriers : their son could not marry the governess. 
The boy gave way. Manya was deeply hurt, but she could 
not afford to give up a post which enabled her to send nearly 
half her salary to Bronya. She carried on, withdrawn into 
herself, for three monotonous years. 

Having obtained his pension, the Professor immediately 
took the unpleasant but well-paid post of director of a reform 
school. Now he could send money to Bronya and she, 
happily in love with a medical student and looking forward 
to their marriage, began to repay her sister. Back in Warsaw, 
a year at home gave Manya her first opportunity of entering 
a laboratory. It was at the Museum of Industry and 
Agriculture, behind whose harmless windows the young 
Poles secretly learnt science. Exaltation filled Manya. She 
wrote to her sister could she and her husband give her 
a room, and tell her where she must go to register as a 
student? 

Manya Sklodovska travelled fourth class to Paris in a 
carriage like a freight car. Sitting on a wooden bench she 
was in heaven. In three years she would return to find a 
place as a teacher, but now . . . 

The Faculty of Science! She sat enthralled at the 
Sorbonne lectures and was utterly happy. To be nearer 
the university and to ensure absolute privacy, she went to 



52 WOMEN AND THE WORLD TODAY 

live in at attic which had a skylight in the sloping roof. 
For water she had to fill a jug at a tap on the landing, for 
cooking she used a tiny alcohol heater, for light a petroleum 
oil lamp, and for heat a stove for which she carried a meagre 
supply of coal up six flights of stairs. A folding iron bed, a 
wash-basin, a table and a kitchen chair furnished her 
hide-out. 

She would work in the warm library until it closed, then 
in her attic until two or three o'clock in the morning. For 
weeks she lived on bread-and-butter and tea. Filled with the 
intoxication of learning, she seemed immune to cold and 
hunger, though sometimes she wondered why her head 
spun. Living thus on forty roubles a month, she aimed at 
a master's degree in both physics and mathematics. In July 
she sat for the first, and a few days later in the amphitheatre 
crowded with anxious candidates and their families, heard 
the lists read out First Marie Sklodovska. (She was called 
Marie in France.) Joyously she went home for the holiday. 

Through the efforts of another Polish girl student she 
was awarded the Alexandrovitch scholarship. This meant 
six hundred roubles, enough to live on for fifteen months. 
She fled back to France. Years later Marie returned those 
six hundred roubles out of her first earnings, to be given to 
some other girl who had been as poor as she. 

Early in 1894 she was working on a study of the magnetic 
properties of steel, which needed apparatus too cumbersome 
for a crowded laboratory, and through a mutual friend met 
a young French physicist who had a workroom to spare 
Pierre Curie. He was thirty-five, tall and grave, with the 
detachment of manner of the scientist serene in his world, 
a man in whom nobility of mind and character blended 
finely. He discovered in the young Polish student of 
brilliant reputation a girl still gentle and reserved, with grey 
eyes and lovely hair swept up from a fine high forehead, 
who could talk of facts and formulae with deferential zeal. 

They met again. He saw the poverty in which she lived 



MARIE CURIE 53 

and was stimulated by it out of some of his own indolence. 
Cycling in the country they talked of the future. However 
great her desire to serve Poland, he told her that she had 
no right to give up science. 

After the summer examination she was a master in 
mathematics as well as physics. In October she came back 
for, she thought, her last year in Paris, but Pierre Curie 
offered to exile himself in Poland rather than lose her, 
though another year went by before she consented to be his 
wife. 

Marie asked that her wedding dress, given her by Bronya's 
mother-in-law, should be suitable for wear in the laboratory 
afterwards, so it was of navy with touches of lighter blue. 
They were married on 26th July, 1895, and spent their first 
weeks roaming the countryside, picnicking on bread and 
cheese and fruit, going where they would, and completely 
happy. 

They had a three-roomed flat in Paris and Marie learnt 
to do for Pierre what she had never bothered to do for her- 
self cook a meal; but household tasks were reduced to a 
minimum : their lives, perfectly united, were consecrated to 
science. In the July examination for a Fellowship in 
Secondary Education Marie passed first. 

Their first daughter, Irene, was born in September, 1897, 
and Marie failed in neither love, maternity nor science. 
She worried about the baby's weight and the magnetism of 
steel and the strange properties of a rare metal, uranium. 
The French scientist, Henri Becquerel, had discovered that 
uranium salts, without exposure to light, spontaneously gave 
off an unknown kind of ray. Marie discovered that another 
element, thorium, did likewise, so she gave the phenomenon 
the name of radioactivity. 

Experimenting, she discovered that the radioactivity of 
a given quantity of uranium or thorium was far stronger 
than could have been foreseen. Where did it come 
from? There must be a much more powerfully radioactive 



54 WOMEN AND THE WORLD TODAY 

substance than either. She had examined all the known 
elements; what was the unknown element? Using an ore 
of uranium called pitch-blende, Marie and her husband 
discovered that there were two new elements. She called 
the first after her own country polonium. Five months 
later, on 26th December, 1 898, they announced the existence 
of the second RADIUM. To show it to the world they 
laboured for four years. 

They were poor. The Sorbonne could not find a spare 
room for them, and their laboratory was a dilapidated shed 
on the Rue Lhomond lent them by the School of Physics 
where Pierre gave lessons. It had no chimneys, the roof 
leaked and the stove was rusty; in winter it was icy, in 
summer torrid. But they were grateful. Crude pitch-blende 
was far too expensive for them to buy, so they obtained the 
cheap residue after the ore had been treated for uranium 
salts used in the manufacture of glass. 

Sometimes Marie would stand for a whole day stirring 
a cauldron, a boiling mass, with an iron rod as big as herself. 
Working together they separated radium and polonium, 
then Marie concentrated on obtaining salts of pure radium. 
Often desperately tired she conquered the poverty of her 
equipment with superhuman tenacity. They were heroic 
yet happy years. She wrote to Bronya ..."... this year 
we have not been either to the theatre or a concert, and we 
have not paid one visit . . . the child is growing well, and 
I have the best husband one could dream of; I could never 
have imagined finding one like him. . . . 

She and Pierre wondered what their beloved radium would 
be like. Marie hoped it would have a beautiful colour. 
One night, in 1902, when she had put Irene to bed, and old 
Dr. Curie, Pierre's father, who now lived with them, had 
gone to his room, Marie tried to sew but she could not settle. 

" Suppose we go down there for a moment," she suggested. 

Arm in arm they hurried to the Rue Lhomond. " Don't 
light the lamps," she whispered. 



MARIE CURIE 55 

They opened the door and saw the pale phosphorescent 
outlines of the glass receivers which held the precious 
particles gleaming in the darkness. Radium, their 
RADIUM, spontaneously gave out light. 

Letters from the greatest men in science reached the Curies, 
begging for information on the wonderful properties of 
radium and radioactivity and of their dangers, for the 
fingers of those who held glass tubes of radium were burnt. 
It destroyed diseased cells, cured growths and certain forms 
of cancer. They called this use of it Curietherapy. Radium 
had become indispensable. 

Technicians wrote for the details of the production of 
pure radium. The Curies talked it over. Pierre explained 
that they could give them, including the process of purifi- 
cation, or they could consider themselves the proprietors 
of radium, " patent " the technique and assure themselves 
of the rights over its manufacture. 

Marie shook her head. " It would be contrary to the 
scientific spirit," she said. 

Pierre smiled. He was not surprised. Money would have 
ensured their comfort, the future of their child, and their 
own freedom for research in a fine laboratory. But nobility 
of mind does not put profit above service. Radium was 
used to fight disease : they did not want to be paid for that. 
They chose poverty, and published their researches without 
reserve. But France never gave Pierre Curie his laboratory. 

Marie's father died in May, 1902. In the following year 
both she and Bronya lost a baby. Pierre was not well. 
Marie was overwhelmed with anxiety and for once the 
woman triumphed over the scientist. 

" Pierre/' she said, " if one of us disappeared ... the other 
should not survive. We can't exist without each other, can 
we?" 

But Pierre shook his head gently. " Whatever happens, 
even if one of us has to go on like a body without a soul, one 
must work just the same." 



56 WOMEN AND THE WORLD TODAY 

In June, 1903, Marie became a Doctor of Science, 
presenting her thesis on " Researches on Radioactive 
Substances " to the judges at the Sorbonne. It was England, 
however, who honoured the joint discoverers first with the 
award of the Davy Medal. At the end of the year Sweden 
crowned their triumph with the Nobel Prize for Physics, 
shared with Professor Becquerel. This money they did 
accept, for it released Pierre from his teaching, repaid past 
kindnesses of friends and relatives, and built a bathroom in 
their house. It did not occur to Marie to celebrate by 
buying a new hat. She went on teaching. 

Overwhelmed with fame and publicity, they could not 
always escape official functions. Then Marie put on her 
one evening dress and a gold filigree necklace and looked 
exquisitely fair. Looking at her, Pierre said, " Evening 
dress becomes you. It's a pity. But there it is, we haven't 
time." 

Their second daughter, Eve, was born in December, 1904, 
and the enforced rest did Marie good; but she was back 
teaching in February. In 1906 they spent Easter in the 
country, lying on the grass while the children played around 
them, and Pierre touched his wife's hair and told her, " Life 
has been sweet with you, Marie." 

Thursday, igth April, was showery. Pierre, after attend- 
ing a luncheon, walked back along the narrow Rue 
Dauphine, crowded with traffic. Lost in thought he stepped 
from behind a cab into the path of the horses pulling a 
twenty-foot-long loaded wagon, and slipped. Miraculously 
the hooves and front wheels missed him, but the left back 
wheel crushed his head and the brain of a scientific genius 
lay scattered in the bloodstained roadway. 

Inert, grey and dry-eyed, Marie heard the news and tried 
to believe. " Pierre is dead . . . Pierre is dead." In the only 
diary she ever kept she poured out the stark agony which 
filled her. "... it is the end of everything, everything, 
everything." Yet had not Pierre said, "... even if one of 



MARIE CURIE 57 

us has to go on like a body without a soul, one must work 
just the same " ? 

Not only for her pupils and for research must she work 
on alone, but to support herself and her daughters, and 
when the University of Paris abandoned its anti-feminist 
traditions and named her Pierre's successor, she gladly took 
over his former teaching. 

The French Academy of Sciences objected to the election 
of a woman, but other countries poured honours upon her. 
In 1911 Sweden awarded her the Nobel Prize for Chemistry : 
no other man or woman has twice been judged worthy of 
the honour. 

But, however great the service to humanity, human 
nature must seek to belittle the one who made it. There 
were some who, when occasion gave them the chance to 
refuse her an honour, called her " the foreign woman who 
had come to Paris as a usurper ", a German, Russian, Pole, 
Jewess whichever seemed to them the highest brand of 
calumny. Yet when another country rewarded her, the 
same writers in the newspapers were glad to accept her glory 
on behalf of France, to call her " The ambassadress of 
France," and to deny her her pride in Polish birth. 

In May, 1912, domination being a little less rigorous in 
Poland since the revolution of 1905, a body of Polish 
scientists planned to create a laboratory of radioactivity 
in Warsaw and to offer its directorship to Marie. It would 
have been a great opportunity for her to turn her back upon 
baseness, but rancour never poisoned the mind of Marie 
Curie. Moreover, the laboratory she and Pierre had wanted 
for so long had at last been decided upon. She did not go 
to Warsaw but directed the laboratory from afar, placing 
two of her finest assistants at its head. She went to its 
inauguration in 1913, lecturing for the first time in Polish. 

In the summer of that year she and her daughters went 
for a walking holiday with Albert Einstein, the scientist, 
and his son, and both enjoyed the comradeship of genius. 



58 WOMEN AND THE WORLD TODAY 

The Institute of Radium in the Rue Pierre Curie 
comprised a laboratory for radioactivity, to be under 
Marie's direction, and another for biological research into 
the treatment of cancer and other diseases, both to work for 
the development of the science of radium. Even before the 
foundation stones were laid Marie herself planted some rose 
trees so that they might be in bloom when the building was 
finished. They were, in the July of 1914. 

Foreseeing that X-rays would be of immense value in 
the treatment of the war wounded, Marie created the first 
radiological car. In all she put twenty of them into service 
they were called Little Curies and kept one for her own 
use. When the telephone call came to say that one was 
needed she sat beside the driver, exposed to the cold and 
wind, and was driven off to where the wounded awaited 
her. To those alarmed by the apparatus she would say 
gently, " You'll see, it's just the same as a photograph." She 
worked to save their lives, saying nothing of the damage 
being done to herself by X-rays and radium. 

In 1921 she toured America with her daughters and 
received such a welcome as only America can give. At the 
White House the President presented her with a casket 
built to hold the gramme of radium (actually left at the 
factory for safety) to which a whole continent had subscribed, 
but she insisted on having the deed of gift made out to her 
laboratory. 

The following year the Academy of Medicine in Paris 
(less diehard than that of Science) elected her a member. 

All her life she maintained political neutrality, but when, 
in May, 1922, the Council of the League of Nations voted 
her a member of the International Committee on Intellectual 
Co-operation, she consented to go to Geneva in the cause 
of science. Deploring the waste of intellectual gifts among 
those too poor to develop them without financial help, she 
wondered how many great artists and scientists were lost 
among those who never escaped from peasant toil. With 



MARIE CURIE 59 

these in her mind she devoted much time to the develop- 
ment of international scientific scholarships. 

In the early years of the twenties her own long struggle 
began to take its toll of her. For three years she lived in 
the deepening shadows of blindness, heroically hiding it, as 
she thought, from her students, until in July, 1923, under 
an assumed name, she was operated on for double cataract. 
Other operations followed in later years and always, as soon 
as the dressings were off, she began work again. As Pierre 
had said long ago, there was so little time. 

For Poland, freed by victory, she wanted a radium 
institute, and Bronya flung herself into the task of collecting 
funds. Welcomed as the "first lady-in-waiting of our 
gracious sovereign, the Polish Republic", Marie laid the 
corner stone in 1925 and seven years later returned for the 
inauguration, and her last visit to Poland. She walked 
through the old streets of Warsaw and by the banks of the 
Vistula, and she who had served her country so brilliantly 
felt almost remorseful at having left it for so long. 

Honoured by the whole world, she never changed in 
herself. Always she upheld the maxim with which she had 
once flattened a well-meaning but inquisitive reporter, " In 
science we must be interested in things, not persons." For 
forty years she laboured for science with a brain which, ice 
clear, was a living storehouse of precise knowledge, yet 
she never lectured her students without getting stage- 
fright. 

The laboratory was her passion, bound to her by a 
thousand ties and memories, and she served it superbly. 
Yet always she remained solitary, remote from crowds even 
in their presence, as if the long struggle against grief, ill 
health and the problems of science had isolated her from 
the ordinary plane of humanity. Like all great minds she 
never lost her humanity, her complete disinterestedness 
in personal repute or material profit. One of her contem- 
poraries said of her, " Madam Curie is not only a famous 



60 WOMEN AND THE WORLD TODAY 

physicist, she is the greatest laboratory director I have ever 
known." 

She rejoiced over the successes of her students, though 
she did not live to see Irene awarded the Nobel Prize in 

'935- 
In spite of growing fatigue and tendency to fever she 

worked with die ardour which had seemed to fill Pierre 
before his death. She was ordered to rest but as usual took 
little notice. One day in May, 1934, she felt the fever 
coming back. She left the laboratory early but lingered in 
the garden where one of the rose vines she had planted was 
failing. 

" Georges," she called out, " look at this rose vine : you 
must see to it right away." 

That was her goodbye to the laboratory. Her restless 
hands, stained and burned, had touched their last " physics 
apparatus ". She was exhausted by overwork, but science 
itself had to name the mysterious disease which had finally 
defeated her aplastic anaemia. The bone marrow had 
been injured by long accumulations of radiations. She died 
on 4th July, 1934. Quietly she was buried above her husband, 
and Bronya and Joseph threw upon her coffin a handful of 
Polish earth. 

Let the great scientist, Einstein, write her epitaph: 
" Marie Curie is, of all celebrated beings, the only one whom 
fame has not corrupted." 



MONICA DICKENS 
Writer 

THERE are kitchens and kitchens. Charles Dickens made 
Fagin use his for nefarious designs. Charles's great-grand- 
daughter used other people's for purposes less infamous but 
far more entertaining. 

Born in a dignified Victorian house in Bayswater, the 
daughter of a barrister, Monica Dickens grew up in 
circumstances as far from those of the Artful Dodger (who 
would have got short shrift from the master of the house, 
anyway), Wackford Squeers, Mrs. Pipchin, Uriah Heep, 
Uncle Pumblechook, Sairey Gamp and company as it is 
possible to imagine, and farthest of all from Wilkins 
Micawber. Far from waiting, she went and turned up lots 
of things for herself. And yet perhaps their shadows did 
hover near her cradle when the gifts were given out, for 
surely in the diamond-etched clarity of her characters, the 
irreverent poke of her humour, the delicious sureness of 
of her touch probing, yet never maliciously, the nerve of 
human weaknesses is the eye of the master himself who 
created such a gallery of immortals. 

After a happily uneventful childhood she went to Nor- 
land Place School and then to St. Paul's. Being tough 
and good at games she enjoyed St. Paul's at first, but grew 
to dislike it intensely and was finally sacked for refusing to 
wear the school hat. 

She was sent to Paris to be " finished ", came home, got 
bored with a whirl of parties in London and New York, 
and felt worse than done for. She decided to try her luck 

61 



62 WOMEN AND THE WORLD TODAY 

at a dramatic school. It took only a couple of weeks to 
convince everybody that she was no Ellen Terry, but having 
endured the blistering sarcasm which was administered to 
the students to test their staying power, she thought she 
might as well settle down and enjoy herself as " the maid " 
or " one of the guests " or " a voice off "; until those in 
authority decided that the bottom of the profession was 
overcrowded, and that any occupant not likely to rise might 
as well make room for one who was. She took her black 
tights and left the fittest to survive. 

Reviewing other possibilities, she decided to try cooking, 
having had lessons at a school of French cookery in London 
where they specialised in the exclusive and ignored the 
commonplace. She disregarded the ribaldry of her family 
and called at an agency. Having suddenly acquired a 
widowed mother and a wolf-at-the-door look, she convinced 
the woman at the desk that she needed the job urgently and 
that she could cook manna from heaven. 

Her first engagement was a dinner party for ten at which 
she had to cope with a simple menu consisting of lobster 
cocktails, soup, turbot Mornay, pheasants with vegetables, 
fruit salad and a savoury. Apart from such minor draw- 
backs as cutting her thumb on the lobster tin (thus adding 
a little natural colouring to the cocktails), forgetting the 
sherry for the soup, breaking a wineglass, letting the 
potatoes boil dry, and burying the orange pith at the bottom 
of the fruit salad, she did splendidly. 

She followed up this overture with a variation on the 
theme of domesticity in the shape of a bowl of soapsuds 
and an electric iron which she dropped on the floor in a 
crescendo of blue sparks. She was dismissed with candour 
on her mistress's side and little regret on hers. She didn't 
like washing socks. 

Poor but honest, or at least looking both, she became cook- 
general at a small flat in Chelsea owned by a young woman 
so sophisticatedly well-groomed that she looked about as 



MONICA DICKENS 63 

human as chromium furniture. She was pleasant enough, 
however, and Monica enjoyed messing about in the kitchen 
on her own. The spice of life was considerably sharpened 
by the variety of her mistress's dinner guests, to say nothing 
of the seasoning added by tradesmen at the back door. 
Unfortunately, one of the guests, having had a sherry too 
many one evening, wanted to say goodnight to her while 
her mistress was dressing to go out, and the latter, politely 
but not unnaturally, suddenly decided that she had to go 
away. 

Monica's next employer was a dress designer with a 
weakness for Pekingese. He was touchy and his purse 
reluctant in the matter of paying household bills, and his 
hand seemed to itch if it were not on the bell push half 
the day. She stuck it for a few weeks, broke a considerable 
amount of crockery, and got worn out running upstairs 
from the basement to answer the incessant bell. Overtired- 
ness began to take its toll and when the man who came to 
mend the vacuum cleaner said he'd give notice if he were 
her, she did. Her employer, caught in an irritable mood 
and thinking she had had an easy time, was fairly taken 
aback. They indulged in a withering exchange of 
confidential opinions before they parted. 

She was much happier as temporary cook-nurse-house- 
keeper in the country to a family whose mother was ill and 
not likely to live long, and then with a couple of newly-weds 
who had the usual rows about Mother and each other's 
friends until the bride broke The News to the bridegroom 
and all acrimony dissolved in ecstatic and penitent tears. 

Her next trial almost reached Old Bailey proportions. 
She rose to the dignity of the Servants' Hall at a big old 
country house where life Upstairs was implacably divided 
from life Below by a green baize door. She slept in an attic 
with a sloping roof but was compensated by a view of the 
deer park and lily pond. 

Getting breakfast for the household with different menus 



64 WOMEN AND THE WORLD TODAY 

for the mistress's invalid tray, the family in the dining-room, 
the nurses and their charges in the nursery (when grand- 
children were staying), the housekeeper in her holy sanctum, 
and the staff in the kitchen, made a departmental store sale 
look like afternoon tea in a cathedral close. The scullery 
maid was " not quite all there " (if she had been she would 
not have been a scullery maid), and the butler by no means 
all his employer thought him. 

This rural-cum-county adventure was brought to an abrupt 
end at the Servants' Ball, when one of the guests of the house 
turned out to be a young man she had known in her 
debutante days, who had little tact and no respect at all 
for feudal etiquette. As a change from the widowed mother 
she rapidly invented a sister dying of double pneumonia 
and went home to become a terribly refined waitress, named 
Plover, at a cocktail party. 

A succession of odd jobs included that of being a scullery 
maid (very much " all there ") for one evening during which 
the staff, their employers having gone out after dinner, 
threw a party of their own in celebration of the butler's 
birthday, and she had a grand time. 

She was beginning to get a little depressed at the insight 
into human nature she had hitherto received from below 
stairs, and was glad of the chance to renew her faith in it 
at the Vaughans', a charming, friendly couple too good- 
natured to turn away self-invited guests, and kindly disposed 
towards their cook for whom it meant extra work. 

However, when married daughters with children and 
nurses came to stay while husbands were having appendices 
removed, and the usual guests continued to drop in, and 
Maud the char had to go home while mother had a spate 
of diabetic coma, Monica felt things were getting on top of 
her and, much as she liked the Vaughans, decided to have 
vertigo herself. 

She had seen enough of domestic service by this time 
to know that only basic training can bring it up to the level 



7*o/ right" 

LANGLKY 







MONICA DICKENS 65 

of other skilled jobs, and command the respect, wages, hours, 
holidays, and consideration due to it as such. 

One Pair of Hands, written at the suggestion o a 
publisher, gave an account of her experiences which would 
not have disgraced Pickwick himself. It was published in 
May, 1939, with a second impression in June. War 
interrupted the next issue but between 1945 and 1950 eight 
more came out. 

The War itself set her thinking again. Abandoning the 
Services, the Land Army and assorted Ministries, she took 
a pot shot at the W.V.S., the A.F.S. and various other 
initials, but left either through inaction or too much, and 
finally decided on nursing the real thing, in the best 
Florence Nightingale tradition, looking so composed and 
capable in her white cap that no patient would dare to let 
her down by dying. She brought a ninepenny manual and 
decided that she had enough of the virtues enumerated 
therein to warrant being given a trial. She was a little 
disappointed in the cap, which gave her a slightly halfwitted 
expression, after she had been galvanised into uncivilised 
activity at six o'clock in the morning. 

She came through her first day convinced of two things 
that she would never make a nurse, and that she loved 
nursing. She loved not at all the inhuman adherence to 
points of etiquette which were allowed to override matters 
of vital importance. The absence of starched cuffs never 
endangered anybody's life. Lights out at half past ten 
smacked of prep, school prohibitions. In no other job would 
lectures be allowed to trespass on one's free time. 

Yet many of the nurses themselves sank into the routine 
until they were bogged in it. Far from having neither the 
energy nor the will to climb out, they even ceased to take 
an interest in the world outside the hospital (except for such 
minor intruders upon their consciousness as fiances or rela- 
tives). They grumbled and swore desertion but were too 
deeply rooted to find a new footing. 



66 WOMEN AND THE WORLD TODAY 

Efficiency, so often brimful and running over, was never- 
theless sometimes diluted with humour, and discipline 
tempered with humanity made immensely worth while the 
perpetual challenge to pain and death. 

There were, of course, patients themselves who would- 
none-of-them-be-missed had they been painlessly subtracted 
altogether the smug, the martyred, the arrogant, practising 
the Morse code on the bell, detaining the doctors in lengthy 
discussions on their ego, treating the nurses as something 
between a drudge and a halfwit. 

The Sisters themselves exploited the V.A.D.s for whose 
odd days every drab and tedious job was condescendingly 
reserved. As they were seldom allowed to do anything 
more vital than oiling trolley wheels they had little chance 
of getting the training the Sisters despised them for not 
having. However, those of the nurses to whom the hospital 
was not as yet their nunnery, welcomed them as beings from 
another world whose topics of conversation, if not new, were 
at least not staled by long association. 

The War itself did not do much to relieve the montony 
of the hospital. There was a factory explosion from which 
some badly burnt casualties were rushed in and the day shift, 
rocking on its feet, had to stay on all night, and the ward 
was a splash of gentian violet and a diagram of saline drips. 
When, however, the place was warned to stand by for a batch 
of blitz victims, and rushed itself frantic to create space 
where there was none and supply linen from invisible 
shelves, and doctors and surgeons stood at the ready, the 
patients turned out to be elderly chronics evacuated from an 
infirmary which was taking the bomb victims in their stead. 

Yet the thousand and one irritations that marred and 
nagged and harassed were wiped out by the triumph of a 
life fought for and saved, which meant, too, that a home 
was saved and perhaps a mother given back to her family, 
an old man to his old wife, a girl to her fiance, and a little 
more added to the sum total of human happiness. 



MONICA DICKENS 67 

One old lady was brought out of the theatre after a serious 
operation. Her relatives, with the last remnants of hope, 
waited outside the ward. Coming on night duty Monica 
and the senior nurse, Chris, learnt from the Sister that " it 
wouldn't be long now ". They looked at the old lady and 
could have believed her dead already, but hated accepting 
death so tamely. They gave her coramine and her eyelids 
fluttered. They begged the house surgeon to give her an 
intravenous saline drip; it was the first he had set up and 
he was as excited as they. He went off on a ward round, 
other patients moaned for attention and distracted them, 
but all the time one of them watched Mrs. Colley as if she 
were their special prize. Her husband and daughter were 
allowed a glimpse of her, and she opened one eye and 
recognised them. 

Then the drip stopped working. Chris took the apparatus 
to bits, but it was still blocked somewhere and they had 
to give Mrs. Colley more coramine and a draught of oxygen. 
Chris got it working at last, though she never knew how, 
and before the night was over Mrs. Colley was grumbling 
that her tea wasn't sweet enough. The day Sister came 
bustling on duty and demanded to know why they hadn't 
put out Mrs. Colley's mattress and pillow to be fumigated, 
and they forgot weariness and hunger (they hadn't had time 
to eat anything all night) in the pride of their announce- 
ment that she was still using both. It was a moment which 
went far to compensate for petty tyranny. 

But the latter finally drove Monica out of nursing. During 
one rare quiet night on duty she had written a short story 
which found a home after a while in a woman's magazine. 
With its heroine rechristened Hyacinth it told the story of 
a doctor who had fallen in love with a nurse it does some- 
times happen. Someone not at hospital suggested that the 
author wrote a book about her experiences, imagining them 
to be mostly the smoothing of pillows. Still, it was an idea. 

The Preliminary Examination was over and the results 



68 WOMEN AND THE WORLD TODAY 

still a speculation when Monica went to the Matron one day 
to ask for a sleeping-out pass. Matron remarked drily that 
she had heard about the story, and added that if the author 
repeated such a gross breach of etiquette she would have to 
leave the hospital. The author got her breath back after 
a few moments and used it to give in her notice. She 
preferred to go and make a tank. 

In 1942 One Pair of Feet was published: its twelfth 
impression came out in 1949. 

The film, The Lamp Still Burns, which was made by 
the late Leslie Howard, was based very freely on 
the book. Like the latter it showed how the long dark 
trail of monotony and weariness and petty restriction is lit 
by the glory of saving life and defeating pain, yet in no 
way should the rare gleam be allowed to excuse the darkness 
which could so easily be illumined by the rays of common 
sense. 

The book was hailed by the critics as even better than 
One Pair of Hands. The same inexhaustible humour 
enlivens both, the same facility of expression, the same 
sparkling variety of characters, diamond-cut in a few terse 
words. The Tale of a Tank remains untold, but in addition 
to Mariana, published before One Pair of Feet, her novels 
include The Fancy, published in 1943, Thursday Afternoons, 
1945, The Happy Prisoner, 1946 (adapted as a play and 
broadcast in " Saturday Night Theatre " in July, 1953), 
Joy and Josephine, 1948, Flowers on the Grass, 1950, and 
No More Meadows, 1953. In 1951 she continued her 
autobiography with My Turn to Make Tea, a lively account 
of work on the staff of a small provincial newspaper. She 
still continues her contributions to the women's papers on 
provocative subjects which sometimes bring forth a spate 
of replies acid, wheedling, appreciative, or just plain crazy. 
But they bring friends, too. 

This is scarcely surprising for, no matter whether she 
wears starched cuffs and print, or cap and apron, Monica 



MONICA DICKENS 69 

Dickens has never put off her cap-and-bells, the badge of 
office of one who can see the comic, the pathetic, and the 
pompous in life, and merge all three in a radiance of wit and 
laughter no mean task, either now or then, for the jester 
of old could not give notice or he would have lost his head, 
and he hadn't a pair of those. 



DAPHNE DU MAURIER 
Writer 

THE WIND blows in from the Channel along the rough- 
hewn coast of Cornwall, beating the rocks with a high white 
whip of spray. It lifts its voice to the cliffs and the trees and 
the tall chimneys of a manor house. There the moaning 
fades a little as the wind drops from the gables to the secret 
corners, prying, whispering, angered by the defiance of 
sodden walls, searching, always searching, as if for a story 
to tell. . . . 

It was within the sound of the Channel waves that Daphne 
du Maurier wrote her first novel, and it was across the same 
Channel that an emigre Breton family named du Maurier 
had gone back to France after nineteen years of exile caused 
by the Revolution. One of them became Daphne's great- 
grandfather. His son George, nicknamed Kicky, wrote in 1 892 
the first of the modern best-sellers, Trilby. It was his second 
novel and though the author knew that Peter Ibbetson, his 
first, was a better book, not having been written with an eye 
to public taste, he could not help but be gratified by the 
sensation it caused both in England and America. 

The book, if it widened his fame and lengthened his 
income, carried him back in memory, back to boyhood days 
in the Latin Quarter of Paris when, with little money but 
great zest for living, he and his artist friends painted and 
revelled in their noisy studios, and Kicky caricatured them 
in his sketch book. A carefree life in the Rue Notre Dame 
des Champs too carefree, in fact and Kicky realised that 
he was not making the progress he ought, so he left his 
distracting friends and went to the Academy at Antwerp. 

70 



DAPHNE DU MAURIER 71 

He worked hard, eating and sleeping at odd hours and 
taxing his strength beyond its limits, and one August 
morning, as he sat drawing with the other students, he 
discovered that he was half blind the sight of his left eye 
had gone completely. In spite of this great handicap he 
became in later years one of the most celebrated artists on the 
staff of Punch f and was already famous for his caricatures 
when he took to writing. 

Trilby was produced as a play by Beerbohm Tree at the 
Haymarket Theatre in 1895 and in the cast was Kicky's 
younger son, Gerald. Gerald du Maurier went on to make 
a great name for himself as an actor-manager. In 1903 he 
married Muriel Beaumont, a pretty young actress who had 
so beautifully played " Lady Agatha " opposite his " Hon. 
Ernest " in Sir James Barriers The Admirable Crichton. 
They had three daughters, Angela, Daphne and Jeanne. 

Before Daphne was born, however, Barrie wrote a play 
for the young sons of Gerald's sister, Sylvia Llewellyn 
Davies a play destined to be produced every year for the 
Christmas joy of children and, like its central character, 
never to grow old Peter Pan. In the first production Gerald 
doubled the parts of " Mr. Darling " and the pirate " Captain 
Hook ". 

Daphne was two years old when another member of the 
du Maurier family Gerald's elder brother, Guy created 
a literary furore. His play, An Englishman's Home, has 
been forgotten now but, in 1909, in the leisured security 
before the first world war, the prospect of an ordinary man- 
in-the-street defending his home against a possible invader 
touched the hearts of the public, and to touch the British 
heart is to touch the British pocket. Wyndham's Theatre 
was packed and Guy became famous overnight. The Press 
rode the immense wave of patriotism that swept over the 
country and appealed for compulsory military training. 
Then, as quickly, it died, and the brief possibility of war 
retreated who was to believe that the testing time was only 



72 WOMEN AND THE WORLD TODAY 

five years away? and the following year Gerald du 
Maurier took over the management of Wyndham's Theatre 
to begin an astonishing run of successes. 

Thus Daphne and her sisters grew up in the atmosphere 
of both literature and the theatre. Like all children they had 
their own small conflicts. There was a day when Daphne 
trod on her elder sister's face and Angela retaliated with 
a bear-like hug. Neither of them, however, being too short 
of breath to scream, the uproar penetrated to the drawing- 
room and the ears of their father, who promptly had them 
brought downstairs. An inveterate practical joker himself, 
he set the stage for a court of law, dressed up as a judge and 
" tried " the pair of them. The verdict is not known; good 
humour having been restored, they were probably dismissed 
with a caution. 

They spent their summers in the country and holidays by 
the sea until war on an incredible scale broke the old world 
into irreparable fragments, and Guy the prophet was killed. 
It passed, the first World War, leaving the inevitable after- 
math of disillusionment to fill the relaxed tension in which 
there was no rest. As if aware that it could never again 
know the security with which it had, for the two or three 
years before the outbreak, deceived itself, life quickened 
its pace and filled the days with action and noise and 
excitement. 

In 1922 Gerald du Maurier was knighted. Sometimes 
the children would go to First Nights at Wyndham's and 
sit in a box, thrilled with the tense atmosphere of the theatre 
before the curtain rose and Father came on to the stage. 

Daphne had begun to write short stories. When seven- 
teen years old she went to a finishing school near Versailles 
where, in her third term, she had a bad attack of influenza. 
Anaemia necessitated a course of medical treatment and 
she had to leave school. On her return to Paris she stayed 
with a French lady who became a very dear friend. 
Daphne got to know France well, the country of her great- 



DAPHNE DU MAURffiR 73 

grandparents, whose capital the author of Trilby had loved 
so dearly. She read omnivorously in French, spoke the 
language fluently, and thoroughly enjoyed her visits to the 
theatres. 

Back home she went on writing short stories. She showed 
some of them to Sir Gerald who, delighted to see the du 
Maurier literary talent continued unto the third generation, 
gave his opinion that they were good enough for professional 
consideration. He passed them on to his brother-in-law, 
W. Comyns Beaumont, who was then editor of The 
Bystander. The editor promptly accepted and published 
several of them, and advised her to take the rest to a reliable 
literary agent who would place them with other magazines. 
That was the beginning. She began to receive cheques for 
her stories not large ones, but infinitely gratifying in their 
proof that she was a professional writer, that she was building 
up a name by her own efforts. 

After a while Michael Joseph, then in charge of the 
agency's book section now a publisher himself suggested 
that she try to write a novel. She thought about it, let it, 
as the saying goes, " brew in her mind ", and in the autumn 
of 1929 went down to the house her parents had taken in 
Fowey, Cornwall, and began to work on it. 

Thus was born The Loving Spirit, based on the contents 
of some old letters, and stories she had heard of a local family 
of boat builders. The house was closed for the winter and 
her family in London, so she was able to concentrate on the 
work in hand without distractions. Daphne finished the 
novel soon after Christmas, packed it off to her agent and, 
having earned a respite, went over to Paris to spend Easter, 

While she was there Michael Joseph, himself pleased 
with the result of his suggestion, telegraphed her to say 
that Heinemann's had accepted it at once. Her intense 
delight was topped by the American publisher, Doubleday's, 
acceptance at the same advance of seventy-five pounds. 

To a young authoress at the beginning of her career this 



74 WOMEN AND THE WORLD TODAY 

seemed a fortune. With pardonable pride, and one hundred 
and fifty pounds in the bank, she told her parents that in 
future she would not accept the allowance they had hitherto 
made her, but would be independent. Though she still 
spent much of her time at home, she herself met all personal 
expenses when travelling or working alone at Fowey, and 
rejoiced in the incomparable sense of freedom it brought 
her. 

She began working on another novel while waiting for 
the publication of The Loving Spirit in 1931. I'll Never be 
Young Again came out in 1932, and The Progress of Julius 
the following year. In July, 1932, she married Major 
Frederick Browning, now General Sir Frederick Browning 
who, in 1947, was appointed Comptroller and Treasurer of 
the then Princess Elizabeth's Household. (He is now 
Treasurer to H.R.H. the Duke of Edinburgh.) Daphne du 
Maurier's first three novels had not made a great deal of 
money, but enough to maintain her independence, and she 
has continued to maintain it throughout her marriage. 

Her first best-seller was not a novel. In November, 1934, 
was published Gerald, a Portrait, the biography of her father. 
A second impression was issued the same month, and a third 
in December; the ninth appeared in 1942. Three years after 
the publication of Gerald came The du Mauriers, a longer 
and equally charming account of the lives of the earlier 
du Mauriers in France and England, ending, where the book 
of Gerald began, with the marriage of his parents. Gerald 
gives a beautifully contrasted picture of the worlds before 
and after the Great War; The du Mauriers as romantic a 
story of the nineteenth century as some of those their 
descendant Daphne has written of her Cornish manors and 
the smugglers in their hidden caves. 

Even as a child she had spun her tales of fantasy. Loving 
old houses and their legends and ghosts, she imagined her- 
self as the characters of historical days when the ghosts 
themselves were young (what is a century or two in the life 



DAPHNE DU MAURIER 75 

of a ghost?) in that glorious world a child weaves for itself 
and calls " pretending ". 

One of the most grimly exciting of her smuggling stories, 
Jamaica Inn, was published between the biographies; 
Rebecca, her greatest success, followed them Rebecca, that 
paragon of a first wife, the spirit of her virtues and social 
triumphs haunting the house and the steps of her humble 
successor, dogging the master of the great house of Mander- 
ley until the day when a body is found at the bottom of the 
bay and the story of Rebecca in all her cold-blooded selfish- 
ness is told. 

Rebecca, Jamaica Inn, Hungry Hill and Frenchman's 
Creek have all been filmed and Rebecca adapted also for the 
stage. The War play, The Years Between, was later filmed 
with Valerie Hobson and Michael Redgrave in the lead; 
and her latest success, September Tide, brought the late 
Gertrude Lawrence back to the stage for months at the 
Aldwych Theatre. 

The playwright Daphne does not go to her own First 
Nights as she went to her father's, but she does attend 
rehearsals. Only the publisher may suggest alterations to 
a novel, but with a play the manager, producer and star 
all like to have their say : so does an author when she sees 
her work torn between rival factions. Fortunately, the 
authoress of Rebecca, being the daughter of an actor- 
manager, knows when to retire peacefully but it is not 
always easy. 

Her films being sold outright, she has no share in their 
production or casting. Allowing for the fact that the screen 
is a different medium, the tendency of producers to " adapt " 
out of all recognition with little left except the title and 
characters' names (and not always those) is sometimes little 
short of heartbreaking to their creator. Jamaica Inn was 
thus mercilessly dealt with. 

Believing that it is bad policy to leave the novel she is 
working on for more than a few days, Daphne du Maurier 



76 WOMEN AND THE WORLD TODAY 

works systematically, going out to her hut in the garden 
at 10. 15 a.m. After lunch she takes a walk to let the Cornish 
breezes refresh her mind, then works again until 7.30 in the 
evening. After that, back to the house, supper and bed. 
Keeping to this timetable and concentrating on the work in 
hand, she generally completes a novel in three months of 
actual writing. For probably a year before this, however, 
she has woven and re-woven the story in her mind until 
the jigsaw pieces slip into place and the pattern is complete. 
Then she "becomes" the chief character, thinking and 
re-acting as he or she would, until that man or woman is 
a living and familiar creature. As Sir Gerald used to 
" think himself into his parts " when rehearsing them, she 
confesses that perhaps her method is a flashback to his. 

She lives in Cornwall in a house which has featured in three 
of her novels : Rebecca though Manderley itself was much 
larger The King's General and My Cousin Rachel. My 
Cousin Rachel was made into a film with Richard Burton, 
one of our foremost young actors, playing opposite to Olivia 
de Havilland. 

Daphne du Maurier's latest publications are a short novel, 
entitled The Apple Tree, and several long stories. 

Though an author's reward in money is far less nowa- 
days Daphne du Maurier admits that most of her earnings 
go towards school fees and the upkeep of her home there 
is still no greater personal satisfaction than that of the 
creative artist at the end of a hard day's work. Her grand- 
father discovered the same truth for himself when he left 
his Paris studio and the gay distractions of his friends to 
work the harder along the road which led to Trilby so many 
years ago. 



MAUREEN GARDNER 

Athlete 

IN THE great Empire Stadium at Wembley in north 
London, before tens of thousands of people, His Majesty 
the King is conducted to a tribune of honour. The vast 
concourse stands. The flags of fifty nations ride proudly 
against the summer sky as the massed bands and choirs 
sweep into the National Anthem. Then, with salutes and 
dipping flags, the athletes of the world march past, bearing 
their shields and banners. 

The President of the Organising Committee makes a 
short speech of welcome, and in a few sentences His Majesty 
declares open the Olympic Games. London is host to the 
sporting world. The trumpets sound, the guns boom, and 
the Olympic flag is run up the mast. Into the sky, like a 
scattering cloud, wheel a thousand pigeons, fluttering their 
wings of good will, and far below a thousand voices soar 
into song. 

An Englishman bearing the Union Jack steps forward 
to the foot of the tribune, the nations gather round, he 
pronounces the oath, and the athletes raise their right 
arms and share the chorus : 

" We swear that we will take part in the Olympic Games in 
loyal competition, respecting the regulations which govern them 
and desirous of participating in them in the true spirit of 
sportsmanship for the honour of our country and for the glory 
of sport." 

The athletes march out of the stadium and the Olympic 
Games begin. 

77 



78 WOMEN AND THE WORLD TODAY 

In its bowl burns the Olympic Flame lit by the last of a 
relay of runners who have carried across Europe, from the 
Grecian village of Olympia, a torch fired from sunkindled 
logs. The Flame will burn throughout the Games, a legacy 
of the ancient days, until the President of the International 
Committee calls upon " the youth of every country to 
assemble in four years' time ". 

Among the youth of England who assembled at Wembley 
for the fourteenth Olympiad in 1948, in the presence of 
the late King George VI, was nineteen-year-old Maureen 
Gardner. 

Born at Oxford on i2th November, 1928, she began to 
learn ballet dancing at five years old. When fifteen she 
travelled to London every day to continue training under 
Madame Judith Espinosa. They were long days, for years 
of hard work go into the making of a ballerina even the 
immortal Pavlova had lessons to the end of her life. 

Maureen passed the Royal Academy of Dancing's 
advanced examination while still fifteen years old and was 
accepted as a potential member of the International Ballet 
Company, but the following year illness struck her so 
severely that the doctors ordered her to give up all idea 
of becoming a professional ballet dancer. It was a bitter 
disappointment, after years of unremitting work and with 
her first goal within reach. However, what the Covent 
Garden Royal Opera House lost, the Women's Amateur 
Athletic Association gained. Maureen started a ballet 
school in Oxford where she could teach, and also, on her 
father's advice, took up athletics. 

In 1945 she joined the Oxford Ladies' Athletics Club 
and the track took the place of the " barre ". Now she 
trained to run instead of to leap and point and pirouette 
it came as naturally. In the same year she won the Oxford 
Club's hundred-yards championship. She had found a new 
metier. 

The following year Maureen entered for the National 



MAUREEN GARDNER 79 

hundred-metres championship at the White City (a hundred 
metres is just over one hundred and nine yards) and won 
in 12.6 seconds A fortnight later, to her surprise and 
delight, she was chosen to represent Britain in the European 
championships at Oslo : the disappointment of a year ago 
was compensated. In the hundred metres she finished fifth. 

In February 1947 the Amateur Athletic Association 
appointed as their chief national coach a young man from 
the staff of Loughborough College, a man of dynamic 
personality and burning enthusiasm for his job. Within 
the next few years Geoffrey Dyson addressed over seventy- 
five thousand people, including forty thousand school 
teachers, stressing the need for specialisation, coaching and 
the will to win, and pleading for the extension of training 
facilities for athletics. 

His immediate task in 1947, however, was to coach at 
Oxford University for six weeks. On the track he met 
Maureen Gardner. It did not take him long to come to the 
conclusion that, well as she could sprint, she would make 
an even better hurdler. If she would try hurdling he would 
coach her. She agreed; it meant more hard work, but she 
was used to that. 

Within three months Maureen was ready for her first 
hurdling competition, the Southern Championships and she 
won the eighty metres in the record time of twelve seconds. 
This was only the beginning, however. Before six months 
had passed she had broken the British record four times, 
clocking 11.5 seconds in the eighty-metres hurdles, first at 
Chiswick in the National Championships, later in Paris, at 
Luxembourg and at Motspur Park all in one week. This 
was her first year of hurdling. It promised well for 1948 
Olympic year. With great determination Maureen began 
to train for the great Games, while continuing to run her 
own ballet school. 

This time London was to offer her hospitality to the 
amateur athletes of the world, five thousand of them from 



8o WOMEN AND THE WORLD TODAY 

fifty-three nations. Some people said that post-war London 
could not bear the burden so soon after the second conflict 
in twenty-five years, but Lord Burghley, Chairman of the 
Organising Committee, President of the Amateur Athletic 
Association, and one of the greatest hurdlers of all time 
he took part in three Olympiads pointed out that ravaged 
Belgium had managed well enough in 1920 and he saw no 
reason why England should not do so now. We had shared 
wounds and rationing in war; we could share the latter in 
a happier contest. 

The Games were opened by the late King on the afternoon 
of Thursday, 29th July, in brilliant sunshine. Over all soared 
the Olympic Flag, plain white with the symbol of the Games 
upon it five interlacing rings in blue, yellow, black, green 
and red, representing the unity of the five continents of 
America, Asia, Africa, Europe and Australasia. Beneath 
the rings was the Olympic motto " Citius, Atius, 
Fortius " Latin for " More quickly, more highly, more 
strongly ", the aim of every athlete. 

There was no money to be won, only medals and diplomas, 
and the names of the winners to be inscribed on the walls 
of the stadium. Each victory was announced by the hoist- 
ing of the flag of the winner's country and the playing of 
part of its national anthem. 

Five thousand took part in that crowded, exciting fort- 
night. Maureen Gardner had been training all the winter; 
so had Mrs. Fanny Blankers-Koen from Holland. 

Maureen broke the world record for the eighty-metres 
hurdles, clocking 1 1.2 seconds (repeating an earlier perform- 
ance at Oxford) and again in the final, to be beaten in the 
same time by Fanny Blankers-Koen. This was the only 
world record broken by either men or women in the Track 
and Field Athletic section of the Games. To be matched 
against the greatest woman athlete the world has ever known 
was ill luck and high honour. To prove it if it needed 
proof six thousand, two hundred and fifty-seven people 



MAUREEN GARDNER 8 1 

voted Maureen fourth in the 1948 ballot for the Sportsman 
or woman of the year, the first time a woman had been 
among the twelve finalists. To be defeated only by Denis 
Compton, Freddie Mills and Stanley Matthews was no less 
an honour. 

In September Maureen married her coach, Geoffrey 
Dyson, and the following July their son Timothy was born, 
so for a while training had to give way to the responsibilities 
of domesticity, but before the end of 1950 she was back at 
light exercises, which were intensified gradually throughout 
the winter. 

Returning to competition was not easy, and Maureen was 
more than a little nervous. She won the first race, but lost 
the second through falling, the second time only that she 
had been beaten in England. She continued training hard 
while sometimes Timothy sat in his cot by the side of the 
track and waved encouragement, probably surprised to find 
that Mother could cover the ground even more quickly that 
he with his best crawl stroke ! 

Before he was a year old Maureen Gardner had won 
back her national title. She fell second to Mrs. Blankers- 
Koen in the European Championships of 1950, but won 
again in France later in the year. 

The next Olympic Games were to be held at Helsinki, 
Finland, in 1952, and Maureen looked upon them as her 
goal, for her ambition was to win the eighty-metres hurdles 
for Britain; but the claims of her young family intervened. 
Her daughter was born in March of that year, and Maureen 
announced some months before that she was retiring from 
athletics for good. 

Throughout her career Maureen Gardner brought great 
honour to British sport, and with her colleagues, Sylvia 
Cheeseman, Dorothy Odam (now Mrs. Tyler, who had 
the unlucky lot of finishing 2nd in the High Jump in the 
Olympic Games at Berlin in 1936 and Wembley in 1948, 
although on both occasions clearing the same height as the 



82 WOMEN AND THE WORLD TODAY 

winner), Dorothy Manley (now Mrs. Hall) and others, in- 
cluding Valerie Ball (whose husband is Christopher C. Winn, 
England rugby internationalist) and, who, in September, 
1952, set up the world record for women in the 880 yards, 
she gives the lie to the belief still held by many men that a 
woman athlete cannot be a slim, pretty, graceful figure both 
on and off the track. 

The Olympic Games provide a unique opportunity for the 
youth of the world though there is no age limit to meet 
in a contest without bloodshed, in which war and profit have 
no part, and the difference in language is no barrier to the 
establishment of friendships which must surely help the 
foundation of peace among all those who meet " for the 
honour of their country and for the glory of sport ". 



CAROLINE HASLETT, D.B.E., J.P., Companion I.E.E. 
Electrical Engineer 

MANY a father has said to his daughter, " You ought to 
have been a boy/' but the assertion has rarely been called 
forth by a young girl's liking "to tinker in a work- 
shop ", nor supplemented with, " You'd have made a good 
engineer." 

The young girl pointed out that she could learn, but her 
father added, " What would be the use? Engineering isn't 
the job for a girl." 

Caroline Haslett was born in the Sussex village of Three 
Bridges in 1895, and brought up in a home run on such 
strictly religious principles that not even a flower might 
be picked on Sunday. Her father, an engineer, lived up to 
those principles in his daily life, and her mother, though 
her convictions were a little less rigid, filled her spare time 
with charitable works, the organisation of which proved that 
she had powers deserving a wider field. Caroline showed 
early that she had inherited them. 

In spite of the strictness Caroline and her brother and 
two younger sisters grew up in a very happy atmosphere, 
and frequently worked off their energy and high spirits on 
long tramps which, planned by Caroline, became hunting 
expeditions likely to encounter anything from big game to 
Indian braves. She read all the books she could lay her 
hands on, from the colonial adventures of Henty to the 
historical romances of Ainsworth, and, her imagination 
stimulated, nothing could quell her eager curiosity about 
life and all that therein was. 

83 



84 WOMEN AND THE WORLD TODAY 

Her upbringing gave her what is every child's birthright 
security and a sound sense of values, but the ladylike 
accomplishments required of her at school bored her 
intolerably. She could concentrate only on subjects which 
held her interest and answered her insatiable, "Why?" 
When the rime came for her to leave she had developed no 
inclination towards any career except " tinkering in a work- 
shop ". But she was a girl, and girls did not dirty their hands 
with tools and oil and grease. 

"Why?" demanded her common sense. 

Why shouldn't women take up engineering as a career 
if they wanted to? They had had to fight once to become 
nurses, to enter the medical profession, but they had won 
their fight. Could Caroline Haslett deal the first blow 
towards destroying the prejudice against women in 
overalls? 

She began to equip herself for the battle front by taking 
a secretarial course, then the post of typist at the London 
office of a firm of engineers and boiler makers. She lived 
at a business women's club, walked to save fares and made 
her clothes last as long as possible, but her wages were only 
ten shillings a week, and, though they were supplemented 
by her parents, there was little to spare at the end of each 
week. 

The future seemed to promise very little. The older 
women at the club, long resident, resigned to their static 
and featureless lives, came to symbolise for her the decline in 
her own vitality and will power unavoidable if she remained 
in these surroundings. With another girl she found rooms 
in St. John's Wood and thus escaped into humble but 
glorious independence. Except for a rare visit to the theatre, 
her only entertainment was reading. In her spare time she 
began to study engineering books. 

It was scarcely likely that a young woman, acutely aware 
of the limitations still imposed upon her sex, should not 
support the great movement for women's suffrage. Under 



CAROLINE HASLETT 85 

the inspiration of men and women whose views she shared, 
and who were prepared to endure insult and hardship, even 
risk to life itself, for the cause of equality in citizenship, 
she threw all her enthusiasm into it. She marched, carried 
banners, attended meetings, chalked slogans on the pave- 
ment outside the House of Commons, and wished she could 
give up her job and devote her entire energies to the 
organisation. But she was not yet of age, her father con- 
sidered the movement to be the work of the devil, and both 
he and her mother refused to have anything more to do 
with her if she landed herself in Holloway Gaol. 

She explained these views to Mrs. Pankhurst, who 
sympathised and told her to wait until she was twenty-one, 
when she would have the right to direct her own life. 
Before then, however, a greater war had broken out, and 
the suffragettes declared a truce. 

Boilers were in greater demand than ever and she had 
by this time learnt a lot about them. One day she asked 
the managing director if she might be released in order to 
go to college for technical training. He replied that the firm 
could teach her all she needed to know and, anyhow, she 
would probably soon leave to get married, so there was noth- 
ing for her to worry her head about. Some time later she took 
the opportunity of showing the firm that she knew a great 
deal already. 

She was alone in the office one day when an urgent order 
arrived from abroad. Instead of forwarding it to the works 
in Scotland, she decided to avoid the delay and deal with 
it herself. Having worked out the estimate, she sealed the 
envelope with unsteady fingers. Boilers may not be 
romantic neither was scrubbing floors in a barrack hospital 
at Scutari but the turning point of a career, no matter 
what the circumstances, is not lightly passed. 

The estimate being found correct in every detail, her 
astonished firm decided, after all, that here was material for 
the training and despatched her to the boiler works at Annan. 



86 WOMEN AND THE WORLD TODAY 

It was not an easy life. The bitter winds of Scotland 
offered no warmer welcome than some of the old hands who 
expected her to shy at getting down to the dirty jobs. They 
came round, however, when they realised that she was in 
earnest, but having to cycle or walk several miles to work 
in the dark of winter mornings came near to sapping her 
resolution. 

After the Armistice was signed she returned to London 
with five years' experience behind her, the promise of a 
good salary, and her own outlook immeasurably widened. 
The world had opened some of its doors to women. They 
who had filled men's places during the war did not intend 
to step back obediently into the narrow confines of 
domesticity. Even though guns and shells were no longer 
needed, women had proved their ability to handle machinery. 
Caroline Haslett decided that she wanted to take a degree 
in engineering. 

One day in 1919, however, a colleague a man of anti- 
feminist views showed her an advertisement for the post 
of secretary to the newly formed Women's Engineering 
Society, led by the wife of Sir Charles Parsons, who 
developed the steam turbine. Without much hope she sent 
in her application, and got the job. Her parents could 
scarcely believe that she had deliberately given up an excel- 
lent position with a good salary in order to sit in a small 
office in Dover Street with a filing cabinet, typewriter, 
paper, pencils, and the capital sum of one pound at her 
disposal. 

Her first task was to write and edit a quarterly magazine 
called the Woman Engineer. Expenses were high, sub- 
scriptions slow in coming in, and the secretary's wages 
frequently had to wait upon the arrival of a cheque. 
But her belief in the work, and love of it, far outweighed 
these tribulations. Moreover, she could foresee the de- 
velopment of her own contribution to the progress of 
emancipation. Women now had the vote, more and more 



CAROLINE HASLETT 87 

professions were being opened to them, but the great career 
of housewifery and home-making was still bogged down into 
monotonous drudgery through lack of labour-saving 
appliances. For centuries kitchen walls had looked 
indifferently upon the waste of women's time, energy and 
intelligence. 

The number of enthusiasts who shared her views gradually 
increased, and in 1924 she founded, and became director of, 
the Electrical Association for Women. Its funds were no 
more plentiful than those of the Women's Engineering 
Society. 

One day in November, 1925, she hired a hall near her 
office and gave women a demonstration of electrical equip- 
ment which would halve their working hours. Many 
people thought she was wasting her time. When she asked 
leading electrical industrialists for money, they laughed and 
pointed out that they were not going to let her waste that 
as well. 

She took the chance of making the Association more 
widely known by inviting the Duchess of York (now the 
Queen Mother) to speak at the opening meeting of a con- 
ference on women in science, industry and commerce, 
approved by the organisers of the British Empire Exhibition 
at Wembley. To convince the heads of the electrical 
industry of the conference's enormous success, she sent 
them the bill for the fifteen hundred guests at the luncheon 
held during its first day ! 

Running the Woman Engineer and later, The Electrical 
Age, also a quarterly, gave Caroline Haslett considerable 
experience of the anxieties of an editor. She remembers 
with gratitude how the director of the Air League of the 
British Empire (one of whose offices the Engineering Society 
rented) helped her to read proofs and assemble the first 
number of The Woman Engineer. He was one of the many 
men whose co-operation and comradeship completely 
refuted for her the idea that men and women could not work 



88 WOMEN AND THE WORLD TODAY 

together in harmony with common aims, and without 
patronage and obstructiveness. 

One of the presidents of the Society was the late Amy 
Johnson, whose record-breaking flights during the nineteen- 
thirties thrilled the world, and who, still flying, died 
gallandy on active service in the war. 

The Electrical Association for Women now has its head 
office in Grosvenor Place with Caroline Haslett still its 
director. It has a hundred-and-thirty branches and over 
ten thousand members, three thousand of whom hold its 
certificate for proficiency in electrical housecraft. The 
director is a member of the British Electricity Authority, 
and early in 1953 became the first woman chairman of the 
British Electrical Development Association. 

Not long after the war Caroline Haslett was asked by the 
late Queen Mary to take Princess Elizabeth on a tour of 
factories and power stations, and it gave her especial pride 
to escort the young daughter of the former Duchess of York 
whose co-operation had spurred the progress of the Electrical 
Association in its early days. 

Apart from many technical committees, her interests 
cover an astonishingly wide field. She is a member of the 
Court of Governors of the London School of Economics 
and Political Science, of the Council of Queen Elizabeth 
College, of the Governing Body of Bedford College for 
Women, of Crawley New Town Development Corporation. 
She was President of the British Federation of Business and 
Professional Women until the autumn of 1950, and when, 
in July of the same year, the Fifth Triennial Congress of 
the International Federation of Business and Professional 
Women was held in London, she became its first British 
President. 

In 1947 she was made a Dame Commander of the British 
Empire, and in 1950 appointed a Justice of the Peace of the 
County of London. 
Dame Caroline has travelled over half the world to serve 



CAROLINE HASLETT 89 

her profession and the cause in which she believes. 
Her home, still in St. John's Wood, has an all-electric kitchen 
which she planned herself, but she is no fonder of house- 
work than she ever was. One of the busiest women in the 
country, she has little leisure, but she enjoys reading and 
the theatre, gardening and driving, likes the feminine touch 
of flowers in her rooms and offices and loves both the 
country and the sea. 

She who must have made and listened to hundreds of 
speeches considers that the finest test of clear-thinking is to 
be able to marshal one's facts in the right order, and express 
them concisely without hesitation. 

Dame Caroline does not like to have it thought remark- 
able when she is the only woman on a committee. She has 
long had the reputation of getting her own wav by knowing 
exactly what she wants, and being charming to her 
colleagues who can help her to get it. She maintains that, 
if a woman knows her job thoroughly, she can avoid the 
unforgivable pitfalls of, on the one hand, aggressiveness 
(which she has described as the reaction to centuries of 
dependence upon men) and, on the other, the exaggeration 
of femininity as a cloak for incompetence. 

No conference, no committee meeting, no gathering of 
men and women was ever held which was not enriched by 
that supreme quality of womanhood graciousness. 

In her fight to wipe out the needless drudgery of house- 
work and thus give women more time to make intelligent 
use of their energy, Dame Caroline Haslett has not only set 
a splendid example, but has offered her sex its greatest 
opportunity of developing that quality. 



EILEEN JOYCE 
Concert Pianist 

A HUSH falls over the crowded hall as a girl in a green 
dress glides to the piano and begins to play Chopin. The 
notes fall from her fingers like larksong from an invisible 
sky, like water trilling over the smoothed stones of a 
shallow stream, like the murmur of the first waves pouting 
on a foam-flecked shore. 

Back across the years and the miles a ragged child ran 
wild in the backwoods of Tasmania. She had been born 
in a tent in poverty. Her Irish father, prospecting for gold 
on the mainland, was away for long periods, and rimes 
were hard for his waiting family. She had no schooling in 
her early childhood, and for music all she heard was the 
song of the waterfalls, the bell bird and the mountain 
thrush until one day Daniel, a friendly bushman living a 
hermit's life in the hills, gave her a mouth organ. She went 
to see him often after that, she and her pet kangaroo, Twink, 
and she would play to him. 

" You have music born in you," he said, but only he 
appreciated it in those days. 

While she was still very young her father sent for his 
family to join him in Australia and, much as she wanted 
to see him again, she dreaded the parting with Daniel and 
Twink. But the good-natured Daniel made a collar for Twink 
(much against T wink's better judgment) so that she could 
take him with her, and he himself offered to help her mother 
by accompanying them part of the way. They crossed to 
Melbourne and here Eileen saw for the first time shops and 

90 



EILEEN JOYCE 91 

bungalows and gardens and well-dressed people and, in a 
shop window, a strange thing called a piano. Daniel 
explained that it had to be played, not blown. 

They sailed along the southern coast of Australia and 
from here a carrier took them in his creaking wagon across 
the bush of Kunninnoppin where the railway began. The 
Australian countryside seemed flat after their Tasmanian 
mountains, but the flowers were beautiful, and Daniel 
pointed out the scarlet kangaroo paw, the native fuchsia and 
the pink everlasting daisies, and a fiery shrub called Flame 
Grevillea which grew round the minefields and seemed to 
have stolen the exclusive gold for itself. 

At night they camped by a good fire and heard the dingo 
baying in the bush and saw droves of startled kangaroos. 
They went on through the Mallee scrub where the leaves 
were matted overhead like a great umbrella, and came at 
last to Kunninnoppin. Here Daniel had to say goodbye. 
Nearly in tears the child promised to learn to read and write 
so that they could exchange letters, and to learn new tunes 
on her mouth organ. Both of these she did. 

They settled in tents near Coolgardie and Eileen trudged 
three miles to a school she did not like. For two years life 
was hard, the hopes of finding gold sank low and the family 
at length went on to Boulder City. Here they lived in a 
shack which at least had a roof and floorboards. Twink 
had a shed in the garden and the miners brought titbits 
to help Eileen to feed him. 

Her next experience of school was a happier one. The 
school was a convent and the Sisters were kind. One day, 
across the garden, Eileen heard music coming from a window 
of the house where the Sisters lived. Someone was playing 
a piano. She crept up and peeped in, listening, enchanted. 
She could not tell the Sister who questioned her why she 
had come she only knew that the music drew her and held 
her spellbound. She did tell her, however, about her mouth 
organ and how she wished she could learn to play the 



92 WOMEN AND THE WORLD TODAY 

piano . . . but music lessons were sixpence extra and there 
were no sixpences to spare at home. 

The following Saturday she went with her mother to her 
uncle's hotel in the city. There was a piano in one of the 
big rooms if she cared to try it, her uncle said. It was a 
shabby, decrepit object, its keys chipped and beer stained, but 
the child pressed one of them down almost with reverence. 
Her mother played a five-finger-exercise for her and the 
notes creaked, but it was enough for Eileen. Somehow she 
must get that sixpence. 

She stole back that evening to the hotel, but hesitantly, 
for it was crowded and the men were lounging on the steps 
outside. She had Twink with her and the men laughed 
good-naturedly enough at both of them, and when she dared 
to play her mouth organ they joined in and sang. One of 
them threw her a penny, then another. It was a pity her 
uncle came out then to see what the noise was about because 
she did not like to go on playing in front of him. But she 
had two pennies towards that sixpence. 

She earned another by fetching potatoes for Mrs. Swift, 
an old lady whose house she passed on the way to school, 
and three more by playing to the miners who gathered under 
a tree on the outskirts of the town for a smoke in the evening. 
She had earned her sixpence. 

She tore back to school next day but it was too near the 
end of term to start music lessons. She would have to wait 
until the next. She would have cheered up a little when 
she heard that a famous pianist was coming to play in 
Boulder City, but it cost sixpence to hear him and she could 
not sacrifice the precious one she had earned. Mrs. Swift 
came to her rescue, and the old lady sighed a little when 
she saw what delight could be bought for a few pence. Eileen 
went back with magic in her eyes to tell her about the 
recital. 

She began her music lessons with Sister Augustine on the 
first day of the new term, and the Sister soon realised 



EILEEN JOYCE 93 

that here was no ordinary pupil. Eileen practised on her 
uncle's piano and, old as it was, made such progress that 
he not only promised her the sixpence for next term's 
lessons but sent her the piano for a present on her 
birthday. 

After two terms she sat, not for the Preliminary 
Examination as Sister Augustine naturally expected, but 
for the Intermediate. She passed with honours, and the 
priest who examined her wrote at once to the Loreto Convent 
at Perth to tell them that this brilliance must not be wasted. 
The Mother Convent offered to take her, but where was 
the money for the four-hundred-mile journey to be found? 
Where? 

The miners of Boulder City did not forget the little girl 
who had played her mouth organ to them on the hotel steps, 
and for many nights their gambled winnings went to swell 
the fund for Eileen. Old Mrs. Swift, dying suddenly, left 
in her will fifty pounds " For Eileen Joyce's music ". 

In ill-fitting clothes, an unaccustomed hat upon her head, 
and shoes imprisoning her feet, the child left the freedom 
of home and tried to fit into the ordered pattern of school 
life. It was not easy at first, for she was not used to being 
bound by rules. She lived for her music lessons, fearing 
that when her schooldays ended they, too, must end. 

The Convent overlooked the beautiful Swan River and 
though, to her schoolfellows' disgust, she showed little 
prowess at games, she won the Junior Trophy for swimming. 
She was happier after that, feeling one of them, but still 
music was all that mattered. 

One day Percy Grainger, the folklore pianist, came to 
play to them. When Sister Augustine begged him to hear 
her prize pupil he sighed patiently, thinking of the many 
doting mothers and proud teachers who had asked him to 
listen to these prodigies who seldom merited their pride. 
But this was no spoilt daughter. He heard her play and 
described her as " the most transcendentally gifted child I 



94 WOMEN AND THE WORLD TODAY 

have ever heard ". She must be trained. But, as always, 
where was the money to be found? 

Eileen's high hopes fell a little as time passed; then the 
great Wilhelm Backhaus came to Perth, and to Loreto 
to hear her play. He was on his feet as soon as she had 
finished. 

" I have heard nothing like it for twenty years," he cried. 
" She must go to Leipzig." 

Sister Augustine was hesitant; the family was very poor. 
It was easy to say she must be trained, she must go to Leipzig, 
but how? 

A few weeks later the " Eileen Joyce Fund " was opened 
in Perth. The news spread like a bush fire. Coolgardie, 
Boulder City, Perth, Australia rose in support of the child 
genius who belonged to them. The amount rose six, seven, 
eight, nine hundred pounds. Eileen herself gave perform- 
ances and a farewell concert at Loreto, at which she played 
her gratitude to all who had helped her so generously 
Liebestraume No. 3, McDowell's To a Wild Rose. On her 
last night Leipzig seemed at once a long way away and 
terrifyingly near. 

Her schoolfellows saw her off, waving from the shore. 
They gave her a music case and some sweets and wished 
her luck, but as the ship began to move and Australia and 
home and friends and the kind Sisters of Loreto slipped 
further away from her, she saw them all in a blur of memory 
and tears. 

Someone said, " That's the prodigy, Eileen Joyce we 
shall hear of her again." 

Just at that moment she did not care. Never again would 
she race barefoot through the bush, her chestnut hair wild 
in the wind. Now it was Leipzig and the Conservatorium 
and music and, who knew? Fame? 

In her first letter home she wrote that a kind friend had 
met her in England and taken her for a drive through 
London. She had seen the Palace where the King lived. 



EILEEN JOYCE 95 

and the Albert Hall where she would play one day. Then 
there was fog " They have them in England." 

In Leipzig she lived in a tall house where there were no 
children and the grown-ups were not friendly, but she liked 
the city with its narrow streets and high old houses. At the 
Conservatoire she made friends with Norma, an American 
girl studying singing, who could remember how lonely she 
had been as a first-year student. 

Eileen's hands shook when she had her first lesson with 
her teacher, Max Pauer. The room was full of students 
who played in turn and who all seemed brilliantly ahead 
of her. Pauer heard her play, gave her work to study and 
dismissed her without comment, but some of the students 
remarked on her extreme youth and she felt bewildered and 
alone. Only when Norma took her to her favourite caf6 
nearby and introduced her to her friend David, and an Irish 
boy named Patrick, did she begin to cheer up. Others came 
in and sat with them, and the talk was all of music and 
teachers and concerts. Soon she began to feel one of them 
she was a student of Leipzig. 

She made friends with Patrick and he helped her to find 
her classrooms and showed her where she could practise. 
They went to concerts together at the Gewandhaus and sat 
in the cheap seats. 

Pauer was full of encouragement and she worked until 
Norma commented on her pale face and insisted on her 
coming with them to the woods at Rosenthal, where the 
first snow shone in the clear cold sun, and they snowballed 
one another. She learnt to skate and to love the thrill of 
tobogganing, and gradually the roses came back to her 
cheeks. 

Mysteries which had long bewildered her began to 
unfold orchestration, counterpoint, the concerto and she 
felt that she was making progress. After Norma left to 
study in Italy Eileen was cheered a little by the return of 
Patrick, and the two took to walking for miles on Sundays. 



96 WOMEN AND THE WORLD TODAY 

Then severe pain in her foot sent her to hospital for a 
month for an operation and rest. Back at work she slaved 
to make up all she had lost. 

Her money was coming to an end although she saved every 
penny she could. She economised unwisely on meals until 
her nerves were so taut that one day she met the anger of 
her teacher and gave herself up to despair. She would have 
to go home. 

Rushing to a concert held towards the end of the session, 
she found the doors closed for the first movement and sat 
on the steps with her head on her hands, shabby, untidy and 
desperately unhappy. It was here that Mrs. Andreae spoke 
to her Mrs. Andreae, who was to prove that miracles can 
still happen. 

Mr. and Mrs. Andreae had come from New Zealand, and 
this first inspired their friendship for the lonely Australian 
student. They talked to her of her life at Leipzig and came 
to the conclusion that something must be done to prevent 
the waste of Eileen Joyce at the end of her two years' session. 

They not only made themselves responsible for her to 
continue her studies but arranged for her transfer to another 
teacher at the Conservatoire, and also to leave the boarding 
house for a private family. From Teichmuller she received 
a sympathetic understanding, and her new hostess kept a 
kindly eye on her welfare and working hours. 

Thus happy, Eileen made splendid progress and Teich- 
muller was delighted with her first public performance. He 
was proud of her and confident of her ultimate success in the 
world of music. The crowded weeks at Leipzig ended, and 
she left for England, where the Andreaes awaited her. She 
^stayed with them for a delightful summer, playing to her 
heart's content the beautiful Bliithner piano in the music 
room, and disturbed only by the cuckoo's incessant render- 
ing of his meagre repertoire. 

In a maize-coloured flowing dress she gave her first recital 
at Norwich and proved that she was ready for London. 



EILEEN JOYCE 97 

Albert Coates heard her play and handed her over to Sir 
Henry Wood. She was dazed by the latter's proposal that 
should take part in a promenade concert at the Queen's 
Hall. Throughout the following weeks of practising, 
rehearsing and being fitted at her dressmaker's, she was 
alternately anxious and elated. 

The great night came. Under the magic guidance of Sir 
Henry's conducting she played Prokofieff's Third Concerto. 
A moment's silence, then the applause broke out for the new 
young concert pianist whose professional career had begun. 

The long climb to the top allowed no slackening. 
Promenade concerts, provincial recitals, gramophone 
recordings her repertoire and her audiences, seen and 
unseen, grew. She continued her intensive classical training 
under Tobias Matthay and Schnabel, but she refused to make 
any concession to the long-established tradition that no 
British artist could make good in Europe without the 
fashionable glamour of a continental name. Australia had 
sent Eileen Joyce to Leipzig, London had applauded her 
d6but, Eileen Joyce she would remain. The fight might be 
longer and harder in consquence, but the success the greater 
still. 

The prophet at the quayside proved right Australia did 
see more of her in 1937 when she made a return tour of her 
homeland in triumph. The outbreak of war cut out her 
plans to visit America. After taking part in J. B. Priestley's 
Musical Manifesto Concert, which saved the London 
Philharmonic Orchestra from extinction, she toured the 
blitzed cities of Britain with the Orchestra for months. 

War brought her double tragedy. Her husband, whom 
she married in 1938, was killed on a minesweeper in 1942 
when their son was three years old. She herself was so 
severely attacked by sciatica that she lay for a long time 
in plaster and was warned that she must always be on her 
guard against rheumatism. 

Because she must not get overheated she changes her dress 



98 WOMEN AND THE WORLD TODAY 

in the intervals during a concert, choosing the colour which 
she considers harmonises with the music she is to play 
green for Chopin, lilac for Liszt, black for Bach, red and 
gold for Schumann. 

The coming of fame did not, she found, make life easier. 
A small repertoire no longer met the requirements of the 
vast, unseen audience of radio and recordings, and her own 
standard became more and more exacting. Moreover, the 
audience increased by millions when she recorded the sound 
track of the films, The Seventh Veil, Brief Encounter, Men 
of Two Worlds and Quartet. She appeared personally in 
Girl in a Million, Trent's Last Case and Battle for Music, 
a documentary recounting the struggle for survival of the 
London Philharmonic Orchestra. 

To play with the greatest orchestras in Europe under 
world-famous conductors, to achieve a repertoire which 
includes sixty concertos, demanded a curriculum of practising 
which left little time for life outside the world of music. She 
toured the Continent again after the War, and in 1947 was 
the first British artist for more than a decade to give concerts 
with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra in Berlin, where 
an eminent German critic classed her with Clara Schumann, 
Sophie Mentner and Teresa Careno. 

In 1948 Eileen Joyce toured Australia, and, in November 
of that year, appeared at the Albert Hall, London, for the 
eighteenth rime since the first of January a record 
unequalled by any other soloist. Since then she has toured 
South Africa, Jugoslavia, Belgium, Holland and Scandinavia. 
In 1952 she gave more than eighty concerts throughout the 
British Isles, as well as making an extensive tour of South 
America and Brazil. 

In recent years she has taken up yet another instrument 
of which she is passionately fond, the harpsichord, and her 
success at a recent concert at the Royal Festival Hall brought 
forth the comment that she might well play an important 
part in converting the public to the instrument. 



EILEEN JOYCE 99 

The story of her childhood has been beautifully told by 
Clare Abrahall in Prelude, now a best-seller, translated into 
several languages and put into Braille. It was dramatised 
for the radio here, in Australia, New Zealand, Holland, 
South Africa, Norway and Sweden, and filmed by Sir 
Michael Balcon, who sent a special unit to Australia, under 
the title, Wherever She Goes. The press comments on the 
film were as glowing as the reviews of the book. Probably 
no other pianist enjoys the distinction of having a 
biographical film made during her lifetime. As Eileen Joyce 
was the one mainly responsible for bringing classical music 
to the screen, it was richly deserved. 

Her own experience of hardship and tragedy determined 
her never to refuse, unless unavoidably, any performance 
for charity, particularly at hospitals and for sick children. 
She enjoys now the luxury she has earned beautiful clothes 
and jewels, flowers and fans and exquisite perfume; riding 
and walking in the Park and, for relaxation, life on her 
farm if milking cows with professional rhythm can be 
called relaxation and the practice of archery. 

Demanding perfection in musical performance, she 
remains her own sternest critic with the possible exception 
of her son who, coming into the room one day when she 
was practising the heavier passages which have to penetrate 
the orchestra in the second Brahms Concerto, looked her up 
and down and remarked, " It's a bit loud, isn't it? " 

Nevertheless, the greatest conductors in the world hold 
her in the highest esteem, and music lovers in Britain, which 
she regards as her musical home, look upon her as one of the 
most beloved of artists. 

Wherever great music is loved and people gather to hear 
it, the crowded hall is hushed and the audience waits for 
what an old lady, having faith in an unknown ragged child 
with magic in her hands, once left fifty pounds for Eileen 
Joyce's music. 



LAURA KNIGHT, D.B.E., R.A., Hon. LL.D., Hon. D.Litt. 

Painter 

IN THE shadow of Nottingham Castle, squat upon its high 
rock, two girls lived in rooms cut in the rock itself. The door 
opened on the street, the naked rock lurked behind the canvas 
which hung from battens to hide it. In summer the lead 
roof turned the upper room, a large studio, into an oven; 
in winter fungus grew on anything left on the lower floor. 
But this " cave " in the city of Robin Hood and Goose Fair 
w r as the first place in which the younger of the sisters painted 
on her own after leaving the Art School. 

It is not easy to make such a start \\ithout direction, and 
a living had to be made by these penniless orphans 

Laura Johnson, born m the Derbyshire to\vn of Long 
Eaton, lived most of her childhood in Nottingham. She was 
the youngest of three sisters. Their mother, early widowed, 
brought them up fiercely determined that they should be 
independent. She was an artist and an art teacher herself, 
and deeply thankful that her youngest daughter had 
inherited her talent, talent which at all costs should not be 
thwarted as her own had been. 

Those costs were high. Not in money there was seldom 
enough of that but in early experience of hardship, hunger 
and death. The girls shared all knowledge of the family 
difficulties. They had none of the sheltered lives of their 
mother's pupils, to whom paint was nothing more than a 
plaything. 

When twelve years old Laura went to St. Quentin, where 
her great-uncle and -aunt offered to have her educated in the 
French language and send her later to study art in Paris. 

100 



LAURA KNIGHT IOI 

Her sisters were already training to become school teachers, 
but drawing was Laura's first love and at that time, to her, 
a general education seemed in comparison to be of little 
consequence, though her people were distressed on this 
account. 

At the French School where she \\ent as a boarder the 
girls made fun of her English clothes, and the mistress in 
her dormitory reprimanded her for washing more than her 
hands and face. To do more than this with other girls 
present was immodest. 

Soon after she left for France Laura lost her eldest sister 
in the influenza epidemic which s\vcpt the country and 
included the Duke of Clarence among its victims. The 
following spring her uncle's lace factory in Nottingham 
failed, and Laura, beginning to recover from the shock of 
her sister's death and to like the school she had hated at first, 
\\as suddenly called back home Her grandmother was not 
expected to live No goodbyes were said to the school but 
she was not to return The family news \\as worse and they 
had to move to a smaller house. 

Two days after her return to Nottingham Laura was 
enrolled as an artisan student at the School of Art, which 
meant that she did not have to pay any fees, but attendance 
from half past nine in the morning until half past nine at 
night was essential. She went straight into the Life Class 
for the human head it was not considered seemly for a 
woman to draw from the nude. 

She was severely criticised for drawing too boldly, but she 
could only continue in the way that was natural to her. 
Harold Knight, then the School's star pupil, helped her a 
great deal by the example of his powerful draughtsmanship, 
and the Life master, Wilson Foster, who had recently come 
to the School after years of study in Paris and Antwerp, 
lifted the standard of work done in his classes to a level 
hitherto unknown in that School. He was an exceptionally 
good teacher. 



LAURA KNIGHT, D.B.E., R.A., Hon. LL.D., Hon. D.Litt. 

Painter 

IN THE shadow of Nottingham Castle, squat upon its high 
rock, two girls lived in rooms cut in the rock itself. The door 
opened on the street, the naked rock lurked behind the canvas 
which hung from battens to hide it. In summer the lead 
roof turned the upper room, a large studio, into an oven; 
in winter fungus grew on anything left on the lower floor. 
But this " cave " in the city of Robin Hood and Goose Fair 
was the first place in which the younger of the sisters painted 
on her own after leaving the Art School. 

It is not easy to make such a start without direction, and 
a living had to be made by these penniless orphans. 

Laura Johnson, born in the Derbyshire town of Long 
Eaton, lived most of her childhood in Nottingham. She was 
the youngest of three sisters. Their mother, early widowed, 
brought them up fiercely determined that they should be 
independent. She was an artist and an art teacher herself, 
and deeply thankful that her youngest daughter had 
inherited her talent, talent which at all costs should not be 
thwarted as her own had been. 

Those costs were high. Not in money there was seldom 
enough of that but in early experience of hardship, hunger 
and death. The girls shared all knowledge of the family 
difficulties. They had none of the sheltered lives of their 
mother's pupils, to whom paint was nothing more than a 
plaything. 

When twelve years old Laura went to St. Quentin, where 
her great-uncle and -aunt offered to have her educated in the 
French language and send her later to study an in Paris. 

100 



LAURA KNIGHT IOI 

Her sisters were already training to become school teachers, 
but drawing was Laura's first love and at that time, to her, 
a general education seemed in comparison to be of little 
consequence, though her people were distressed on this 
account. 

At the French School where she went as a boarder the 
girls made fun of her English clothes, and the mistress in 
her dormitory reprimanded her for washing more than her 
hands and face. To do more than this with other girls 
present was immodest. 

Soon after she left for France Laura lost her eldest sister 
in the influenza epidemic which swept the country and 
included the Duke of Clarence among its victims. The 
following spring her uncle's lace factory in Nottingham 
failed, and Laura, beginning to recover from the shock of 
her sister's death and to like the school she had hated at first, 
was suddenly called back home. Her grandmother was not 
expected to live. No goodbyes were said to the school but 
she was not to return. The family news was worse and they 
had to move to a smaller house. 

Two days after her return to Nottingham Laura was 
enrolled as an artisan student at the School of Art, which 
meant that she did not have to pay any fees, but attendance 
from half past nine in the morning until half past nine at 
night was essential. She went straight into the Life Class 
for the human head it was not considered seemly for a 
woman to draw from the nude. 

She was severely criticised for drawing too boldly, but she 
could only continue in the way that was natural to her. 
Harold Knight, then the School's star pupil, helped her a 
great deal by the example of his powerful draughtsmanship, 
and the Life master, Wilson Foster, who had recently come 
to the School after years of study in Paris and Antwerp, 
lifted the standard of work done in his classes to a level 
hitherto unknown in that School. He was an exceptionally 
good teacher. 



IO2 WOMEN AND THE WORLD TODAY 

Things were going a little better for the family now; dinner 
still consisted of soup made from bones, for they could not 
afford meat, but Mrs. Johnson was getting more pupils and 
they had a fourteen-year-old daily girl to help with the house- 
work for half-a-crown a week. Good fortune, however, did 
not stay long. Precedent to a more serious illness, Mrs. 
Johnson fell and broke her leg, and Laura had to cut down 
her studies and take over her mother's pupils. She was only 
fourteen. She put up her hair and tried to look twenty for 
the ordeal of teaching her former classmates of Brincliffe 
School, which stood next to the Boys' High School where 
Harold Knight had been a pupil. She had left only two 
years ago and the parents, unimpressed by the medals and 
prizes already won at the Art School, found fault with the 
authorities for engaging a mistress younger than their own 
girls. 

On market days she took a cheap ticket to Melton 
Mowbray to teach at private houses there, and on other 
days went to the big houses in and around Nottingham. In 
some instances the fees were cut lower and lower until it 
was not worth her while to go. The family could afford 
very few comforts, certainly not a nurse, for the mother 
who knew she had not long to live. Misery hung over the 
house. 

Laura and her sister sat up with their mother until they 
had to pinch themselves to keep awake. Harold Knight 
was a good friend, and the knowledge that that friendship 
would one day deepen for him and Laura greatly comforted 
her mother. Mrs. Johnson was only forty when she died, 
and not many months later the girls had to face another 
prolonged strain during their grandmother's last illness, 
after which they had to find lodgings for themselves alone. 
Their ages then were only fifteen and seventeen. 

Their uncle in France allowed them five pounds a month, 
not knowing that half of it went in rent. They had one 
winter coat between them, their clothes were held together 



LAURA KNIGHT 103 

by darns, their toes came through their shoes. They lived 
for years on tea, bread and butter and porridge until their 
throats refused to swallow the latter. Holidays were 
unknown. They had to save every halfpenny they could to 
buy painting materials. Yet that same youth and spirit 
which had carried them through their Spartan childhood 
sustained them now, and they had an irrepressible faith 
that something good would happen tomorrow. On Saturdays 
Harold would come to tea bringing pork pie or sausages, 
and they all enjoyed the treat with books propped up in front 
of their plates. 

Her sister having no certificate as a teacher and no other 
qualifications for any job she was strong enough to take, 
Laura had to act breadwinner. Granted special exemption 
from the Art School classes, she gave private lessons, taught 
school teachers, and took classes between the afternoon and 
evening classes at the School. She sent drawings to 
publishers for illustrative work and entered various 
competitions in the Studio, but only once did she receive a 
prize. 

News came that she had been awarded the Princess of 
Wales's Scholarship in the National Competition at South 
Kensington twenty pounds a year for two years and a 
gold medal for a painting, besides several other medals and 
prizes. She sold the gold medal for five pounds ten shillings. 

Fortunately her constitution matched her faith in her- 
self, though she knew that the constant strain was affecting 
her work at the Art School and she was going backwards 
instead of forwards. Having decided to work on her own 
account, she and her sister searched for a studio and moved 
into Castle rooms, the " cave ". 

In 1896 she first tried composing pictures, but her first 
big one, Dressing Dolls four poor children putting their 
dolls to bed in soap boxes was rejected by the Academy, 
as were all the others she painted at that period. She 
remembers that the frame for the doll picture, six feet by 



IO4 WOMEN AND THE WORLD TODAY 

five, cost three pounds. Harold Knight had left the Art 
School at the same time as she. He went to Paris on a 
travelling scholarship and came home after ten months, 
penniless, but the richer for his experiences. 

The girls were in " low water " for the elder one was ill 
and the doctor's visits cost five shillings each. Although 
they had found a vegetarian restaurant nearby where they 
could get a plate of porridge for three-halfpence, and another 
of prunes for the same price, they could not always afford 
to go, and one of their own porridge diets had lasted rather 
longer than usual. Hearing of the illness, their aunt came 
back from France without telling them, and nearly broke 
her heart when she discovered how they had been living. 
She promptly replenished their larder and packed them off 
for a holiday. 

They went to Staithes, a village on the Yorkshire coast, 
where they made friends with the fisherfolk and, being 
properly fed, gloried in battling with the northern gales. 
Harold stayed at another cottage, and all around them sea, 
cliff, rock, hill and moor cried out to be painted. And not 
only the place but the people rough of tongue but warm 
of heart, their bodies thrashed by the storms, their muscles 
toughened by the austerity of their lives and the un- 
ending challenge of the sea, and their spirit uplifted by 
the majesty of its power were an inspiration in all their 
activities. 

Life among those who wrested their livelihood from the 
sea were not modified by the pastel tones of the drawing-room 
and the dinner table. It was an ecstasy, a sordid suffering, 
an unresting conflict with the great waters which took them 
from their homes and gave no promise of safe return. They 
were used to artists in Staithes and took them as a matter 
of course. Not even the children would touch an easel left 
temporarily unattended. 

Pupils were few and commissions non-existent but Laura 
was studying all the time and occasionally she sold a small 



LAURA KNIGHT 105 

water colour for two or three pounds, which helped to supply 
their simple wants. After several years at Staithes or at 
Roxby on the moors, her sister went to their aunt in France, 
and Laura to the Nottingham village of East Leake to be 
near Harold who had commissions in the city. 

It was in 1903 that the tide of fortune began to turn, but 
only for the moment. The first notification that she received 
from the Royal Academy to say that a picture of hers was 
hung now arrived. This particular work was one painted 
in Staithes. She had not enough money to go to London and 
when, a few days later, another letter came bearing the 
R. A. stamp, she anticipated the worst. The good news must 
have been a mistake. Instead, it was to say that the picture 
had been bought for twenty pounds by one of the Royal 
Academicians. 

They had no illusion of immediate fame and riches when 
she and Harold decided to get married. She made her 
wedding dress out of a linen sheet which had been part of 
her mother's trousseau, and they were married in June, 1903, 
at the old church of West Leake. During their week's 
honeymoon in London they went to the exhibition of Dutch 
pictures then being held at the Guildhall, and this aroused 
their keen interest in Holland and her art. They did not 
set up house anywhere for over ten years. 

After an autumn of wild weather and hard work in York- 
shire they went back to Nottingham, hoping to establish 
a connection, but they always returned worse off than before 
so they decided to make London their centre. They left 
Nottingham with fifteen pounds and ate humble pie in 
Bond Street where dealers shuffled their paintings like packs 
of cards, and only one gave them encouragement by show- 
ing belief in their work. By the time they got back to Roxby 
there was little of the fifteen pounds left, and one Sunday 
while out on the moors Harold gave a tramp their last half- 
crown. Fortunately their landlady trusted them and they 
were too hard up to worry about money. It ceased to matter. 



106 WOMEN AND THE WORLD TODAY 

One year when, as usual, they sent their pictures to the 
Academy and were completely without cash, they had to 
write to a friend for a loan of five pounds which paid for 
their Sunday trip from Whitby and a week's lodging in 
Chelsea. The money had come by the same post as their 
varnishing tickets. They arrived in London still wet to 
the skin, having been obliged to walk twelve miles in 
drenching rain across the moors before they reached Whitby 
station. Harold was met on the stairs of the Academy and 
told that his picture had been bought for the Brisbane Art 
Gallery by Frank Dicksee, R.A. 

As the hundred pounds, the price of Harold's picture, 
was not to be paid until the exhibition closed, their present 
difficulties were not overcome, but Laura treated herself to 
a new hat for one and six, and they came home with a 
shilling between them, a cold each and two hearts full of 
hope. 

The following year they paid their first visit to Holland 
and revelled in the masterpieces in her art galleries. They 
painted, sold pictures to pay for their next trip, and came 
to look upon Holland as their second home. 

Back again and, tired of the gauntness of a Yorkshire 
winter, they sought the sun of Cornwall. At first Newlyn 
seemed pale beside Staithes but they grew to love it. The 
social life which both of them had missed in their youth 
seemed to involve them suddenly and, although their pockets 
were often empty, they had much happiness in the work 
they found to do, and their association with the other young 
artists and students there. 

As time went on their pictures, particularly at the Royal 
Academy, drew attention, and fortune smiled, their sales 
increased and they could indulge in such extravagances as 
having three London models posing at once, laying in stocks 
of paint brushes and even wasting canvas in experiment of 
many kinds. 

Laura ordered a seven-feet-six-by-five-feet canvas on 



LAURA KNIGHT 107 

which to paint a picture of her model, Dolly Snell, wearing 
an emerald green dress of stiff silk with a wide skirt and 
short black velvet coat. A black hat pointing " The Green 
Feather " gave the picture its name. 

Having prepared the canvas overnight, Laura started 
work on it one morning at eight o'clock when, instead of 
the sun she had hoped for, the sky was grey, so she painted 
a grey scheme. The canvas bellied in the breeze and she 
had to push her palette against it to hold it still. They worked 
under a tremendous tension, taking black coffee every hour 
and only a five-minute rest at one o'clock for bread and 
cheese. As they stood the sun broke through, so she changed 
her mind and altered the whole effect to one of sunlight. 
By five thirty there was only half an hour's work to be done 
the following morning which was lucky for it was the 
middle of October and the rain soon came down. This 
picture is now in the National Gallery at Ottawa. 

Her husband did not approve of such hasty work and 
said that no picture necessarily gained in merit because it 
was painted in one day and, anyway, she could not write 
on it to say so. She has not seen the picture since for it 
has never been exhibited in England. 

Soon after this the Knights went to London and for the 
first time saw the Russian Ballet under Diaghileff, with 
Pavlova, Nijinski and Karsarvina, and Laura, although not 
allowed to go backstage to study as she wished, was given 
a pass into the house itself. 

The First World War came and put an end to her former 
success. In 1919 she and her husband settled at Hampstead 
and she was given freedom to work behind the scenes at 
the Coliseum where the Diaghileff Ballet formed part of 
the bill. She spent all and every day at either practice, 
rehearsal or performance. Lopokova, the great ballerina, 
whose dressing-room was for years Laura's studio, intro- 
duced her to the world-famous teacher, Cecchetti, who 
taught her all he could of ballet technique, pointing out to 



IO8 WOMEN AND THE WORLD TODAY 

her in his pupils any fault in line or balance, for nothing less 
than perfection would suit him, and Laura, during the years 
she spent in his school, developed an aptitude in drawing 
movement that she believed would have been otherwise 
impossible. 

Working from her ballet studies she painted many 
pictures including " Assembling on the Stage for Carnival " 
with Cecchetti, Karsarvina, Massine, Idjkowski, other great 
dancers and the corps de ballet the picture is now in 
Manchester Art Gallery and " Sylphides from the Wings ", 
now at Birmingham. 

One day she went to Olympia and sat in the cheap seats 
sketching. After that she could have been found in the 
stables or dressing-room, at practice or during performances, 
at any time of day or evening. Later, for a considerable 
number of years, she travelled the road with Carmo's Circus, 
and, in spite of much hardship, enjoyed the work, the life, 
and the association of the circus people with whom she 
lived. 

She went to rehearsals at the Birmingham Repertory 
Theatre and worked backstage in the many productions Sir 
Barry Jackson put on in London. 

Pavlova allowed her the freedom of her theatres and, 
between productions, she worked at the great dancer's house 
at Hampstead. Pavlova showed her the lake on which she 
had kept the swans she studied so closely for her immortal 
dance. Now, unfortunately, it was dry and the sides soiled 
by the smoke of London. 

While her husband was in America Laura received an 
invitation to an evening party at St. James's Palace, to be 
given by the then Duke and Duchess of York (later to become 
King George and Queen Elizabeth). Her taxi driver was 
so much impressed by the address that when she discovered 
halfway there that she had forgotten to replenish her purse 
and had only threepence with her, he refused to turn back 
but promised to call on her next day for the fare. 



LAURA KNIGHT 1 09 

After the party she walked to Hyde Park Corner and rode 
as near home as threepence would take her. 

When she joined her husband in America, they stayed 
with a doctor who took her to a children's hospital, where 
she decided to paint the little negro patients. She made 
many pictures of the babies asleep, and of grown-up darkies, 
the latter mostly done in the Johns Hopkins Hospital. 

During the Second World War she undertook many 
government commissions for War Records, painting 
portraits of W.A.A.F. officers who were decorated for their 
courage; painting in Royal Ordnance Factories and others, 
and on barrage balloon sites. At Mildenhall air field she 
painted "Take Off", the subject being the cockpit of a 
Stirling bomber with its crew at the moment of leaving the 
ground. She was sent to the Nuremberg Trials where she 
painted a picture of the prisoners in the dock. 

Before, during and since the last war she became familiar 
with gipsy camps, with gipsies in the hop fields and at race 
meetings. She has done a considerable amount of landscape 
painting as well as a certain amount of portraiture. 

In 1927 Laura Knight was elected an Associate of the Royal 
Academy, the second woman to receive the honour since 
1769, and in 1929 was made a Dame Commander of the 
British Empire. Two years later the University of St. 
Andrew's awarded her the honorary degree of Doctor of 
Law, and in 1936 the year her fascinating autobiography, 
Oil Paint and Grease Paint, was published she was elected 
a full member of the Academy. In 1951 Nottingham 
University granted her the honorary degree of Doctor of 
Literature. 

Commissioned by the Minister of Works, Sir David Eccles, 
to paint a Coronation Day picture, she watched the 
procession on 2nd June, 1953, from a seat on Carlton House 
Terrace, and made sketches of the great pageant as it passed 
by in the wind and rain. 

The pictures of Laura Knight who, " before she could 



JIO WOMEN AND THE WORLD TODAY 

speak or walk, drew ", and whose first sketch book was an 
old ledger, hang in art galleries in many parts of the world. 
She who can now command her price still loves the common 
touch of the life backstage, under the big top, on the road, 
among fisherfolk, and rates the beauty of an upturned leaf, 
silvered before the wind, above the high rewards of fame. 
Through the power of the artist, that sense which is 
deeper than an ordinary mortal's, she has given to the world 
the beauty her eyes have seen with a clearer vision than ours, 
and the world is a richer place for it. 



VERA LAUGHTON MATHEWS, D.B.E., M.B.E. 

Women's Services 
Adviser on Women's Affairs to the Gas Council 

VERA LAUGHTON MATHEWS's service to the Royal 
Navy began very early. As a child she and her brothers 
and sisters were allowed to suck halfpenny stamps on the 
envelopes containing notices of the Annual General Meet- 
ing of the Navy Records Society, for which their father 
paid them twopence a hundred. When a little older they 
were promoted to addressing the envelopes for a shilling 
a hundred. They also corrected the proofs of their father's 
books and earned a penny for each mistake they discovered. 
This was not profitable, however, for Professor Sir John 
Laughton, M.A., D.Litt., Litt.D., R.N., seldom missed so 
much as a comma. 

On rearing from the Navy he had become a naval 
historian, writing over a thousand lives of seamen, and with 
his friend, Admiral Sir Cyprian Bridge, founded the Navy 
Records Society. While he was working in his study the 
young Laughtons would tiptoe past the door, but having 
reached, so to speak, the lower deck (the nursery) their 
energy was given full sail, the table turned upside down and 
rigged with a sheet, and a very young Able Seaman would 
cry, " Now, me lads, we'll board 1" 

It was a very happy household for, although their father 
spent most of his time in his study (which contained the 
finest private library of naval history that had ever existed), 
their mother delighted in the company of young people and 
ran parties, dances and pantomimes for them. The children 
held jousts in the fields near their home, making their own 

in 



112 WOMEN AND THE WORLD TODAY 

armour and shields and " living " in their parts of the seven 
champions of Christendom long after the games were over. 

It was not surprising, then, that Vera Laughton should 
become the leader of the young women who were to uphold 
so splendidly the traditions of a Service which has kept so 
many dragons from the shores of England. 

She was educated at St. Andrew's Convent, in Belgium 
and at King's College. At twenty she threw herself whole- 
heartedly into the Woman Suffrage movement and became 
sub-editor of The Suffragette while the previous staff was 
in prison. The paper had to be printed in secret and those 
who sold it, including Vera Laughton, faced the indignity 
of being spat upon as they stood in the gutter. 

It took great courage to face social ostracism in their 
fight against injustice, but her contact with the Suffrage 
leaders, whom she described as among the most noble and 
selfless human beings she ever met, gave her a new confidence 
in herself. The outbreak of the First World War stemmed 
the activities of the campaign. Women's Services were not 
then dreamt of, but Vera Laughton went to the Admiralty 
and offered those of her pen, only to be told that no petticoats 
were wanted there. She went back to her journalism. 

She had a good post as sub-editor of The Ladies' Field but 
when, on apth November, 1917, the Times announced that 
a Women's Royal Naval Service was to be established, the 
editorial chair of that paper itself would not have kept her 
from ignoring the Admiralty notice that no applications 
should be made until further notice. She went at once to the 
temporary office of the W.R.N.S. 

There were eight who started on that first Officers' Course. 
At the end of the lectures the Assistant Director Personnel 
sent for Vera Laughton and asked her if she were prepared 
to accept a post of great responsibility. 

She did not go to sea but to the Crystal Palace, otherwise 
H.M.S Victory VI, the R.N.V.R. training depot, where she 
set about recruiting Wrens in her own way. The first batches 



VERA LAUGHTON MATHEWS 113 

were youngsters mostly of limited background and 
education, for by that time war work had already absorbed 
those of wider experience. Nevertheless, they all developed 
a great pride in being Wrens, and to Vera Laughton they 
were the Navy and her world. 

Their length of service was inevitably short in that first 
conflict. The Crystal Palace was the first depot to close after 
the Armistice, and before the end of 1919 the Service was 
completely demobilised; not even a skeleton reserve was 
retained. The Wrens had, however, proved themselves 
capable of maintaining the high standard of duty common 
to the Royal Navy, and had broken through the barrier reef 
of prejudice against women's invasion of a territory hitherto 
exclusively male. 

Vera Laughton was awarded the M.B.E. for her work. 

In 1920 the Association of Wrens was formed, and be- 
came a link between Service friends now parted. Vera 
Laughton was elected to the first Council and became Chair- 
man of the London branch, also editor of The Wren. The 
ex- Wrens met members of the corresponding Old Comrades' 
Associations of the W.A.A.C. and W.R.A.F., and the editor, 
always a keen sportswoman, organised inter-Service sports. 
A dinner was held after every annual meeting. 

Vera Laughton returned to her full-time professional 
journalism and, among other posts, held that of first editor 
of Lady Rhondda's weekly, Time and Tide. 

In 1922 the Council decided to affiliate to the Girl Guides 
Association. This gave the ex- Wrens a greater objective 
than the recalling of " old times " that of handing on their 
knowledge and experience. The new nautical branch of the 
Girl Guides became Sea Guides (later Sea Rangers) and all 
the early companies were led by former members of the 
W.R.N.S. Vera Laughton's was the second, and she named 
it Wren. 

Marriage took her temporarily away and in April, 1924, 
she sailed to Japan to marry Mr. Gordon Mathews and begin 



114 WOMEN AND THE WORLD TODAY 

what was to be an ideally happy partnership. Their first child, 
a future Wren, was born in Tokyo. While in Japan Mrs. 
Laughton Mathews was appointed Girl Guide Commis- 
sioner for the International Companies, and herself ran 
weekly meetings in Tokyo and Yokohama, though the latter 
was a two-hour journey away. 

When they left Japan for the last time, Mr. and Mrs. 
Laughton Mathews decided to throw their savings into 
a glorious three months' holiday, returning via America and 
Canada. It gave them such a treasure-house of memories, 
containing such variety as surf bathing in Hawaii and a visit 
to Dead Horse Gulch on the old Klondike Trail, that it was 
beyond price. 

After the arrival of her elder son in 1928 Mrs. Laughton 
Mathews took over the leadership of Sea Ranger Ship 
Golden Hind, the first Sea Ranger Crew, and a few years 
later became chairman, or rather, County Coxwain, of all 
the Sea Ranger Companies. She continued her interest in 
the Women's Movement and spoke at many meetings in 
its cause, grateful for her Guiding having lessened her 
nervousness on the platform. In 1932 she became chairman 
of St. Joan's Social and Political Alliance (in suffragette days 
called the Catholic Women's Suffrage Society), spoke for 
deputations and before Select Committees of the Houses of 
Parliament. She represented the Alliance of the League of 
Nations Assembly in 1935, the year of the Abyssinian 
betrayal, and attended other great International Congresses. 

The shadows of war deepened. Early in 1939 the 
Government issued a booklet announcing that fifteen 
hundred women would be wanted for service in the Royal 
Navy, and anyone interested could apply to the Admiralty. 
Mrs. Laughton Mathews was summoned there for a con- 
ference on 22nd February, and soon afterwards was offered 
the appointment of Director of the W.R.N.S. 

According to the official letter she was responsible for the 
recruitment, efficiency, welfare and discipline of the Wrens, 



VERA LAUGHTON MATHEWS 115 

and her duties included all matters concerning entry, pro- 
motion, accommodation, medical attendance, pay, 
allowances, travelling expenses, leave of absence and 
retirement or discharge of members of the Service. The 
Directorship was to be no sinecure. Miss Angela Good- 
enough, Chief Woman Officer at the Admiralty, was 
appointed Deputy at the same time. 

Within a month a printed booklet had been sent to each 
of the thousands of applicants. Superintendents were 
appointed for Portsmouth, Plymouth, Chatham and Rosyth, 
and, leaving them to get on with own recruiting, the Director 
and her Deputy got to work at the Admiralty. No 
instructions had been given to prepare for anything but a 
Service which would work on voluntary lines in peace time. 
There was no headquarters staff and they had to rely on 
the help of volunteers who, though willing, were not trained 
office workers. Inevitably the preparations during those 
last months of peace were quite inadequate for a war-time 
Service. 

There is no room here to tell the story of the building 
of the W.R.N.S. The Director has done that herself in her 
book, Blue Tapestry, every page of which is a tribute to 
the Service she loved and led. Enough to say that not the 
least of her labours was the tearing down to the last shred of 
the still prevailing prejudice against women in active service. 

From the Director to the newest Wren, all wanted to be 
a real part of the Royal Navy. The Navy could not do 
without them, yet there was opposition in many quarters. 
The attitude of one captain would be " Hands off my ship ! " 
Another would treat the Wrens as " delicate young ladies ". 
There were sarcastic enquiries whether their drilling would 
make them better typists. Yet other officers frankly 
admitted that the mere sight of smartly dressed, well-behaved 
young women about the place sent up the whole morale of 
a depot. 

There is a story treasured from the First World War of 



Il6 WOMEN AND THE WORLD TODAY 

die old Chief Petty Officer in charge of the cooks, who 
declared, " Of all the 'orrible things that 'ave 'appened in 
this 'orrible war, the 'orriblest is these women comin' 'ere." 
But he would not part with his Wren cooks at the last. In 
the Second World War, during the Plymouth blitz one Wren 
cook produced meals for a hundred people, using open fire- 
places after the gas had failed. In Portsmouth, with everyone 
working flat out and at a terrific tension as D-Day 
approached, the Wrens carried on even though they were 
utterly exhausted. 

In every single branch of the Service the Wrens came 
to earn the highest praise. And not only for skill, efficiency, 
intelligence and leadership, but for coolness and bravery 
under fire. On one occasion when six German aircraft had 
sunk a collier off Dartmouth, two young Wrens who were 
manning a naval launch on their own went at once to the 
rescue, helped the crew to safety and gave the injured first- 
aid. 

The Director's daughter, Elvira, joined the Service at the 
minimum age of seventeen-and-a-half, and was known solely 
as Mathews. Her mother received the news of her promotion 
while staying with the then Commander-in-Chief, Mediter- 
ranean, Admiral Sir John Cunningham, who had just been 
awarded the G.C.B. in the New Year Honours List, and 
told him proudly : " Sir, I have much more important news. 
My daughter's a Leading Wren." 

Once four captured German generals set eyes on a boat 
manned by Wrens and were amazed. One of the crew, 
writing afterwards, said : " It must be interesting to know 
whether they thought, ' What wonderful women the British 
produce I ' or ' The British Navy must be on its last legs 
to have to resort to girls I ' " By the end of the War most of 
die diehards had come to believe the first half of the remark. 
Admiral Sir Denis Boyd summed up their praise : " There 
is nothing that the Wrens have touched that has not been 
done as well as it would have been done by men." 



VERA LAUGHTON MATHEWS 117 

The W.R.N.S. turned out not only Wrens, it turned out 
citizens. It proved that women can work harmoniously 
among themselves, that they can work in a team, in authority 
and under authority, and can keep their secrets. A thousand- 
fold it increased women's confidence in themselves and in 
their sex. The Association of Wrens now has branches all 
over the country and abroad, and the W.R.N.S. is established 
as a permanent feature of the Royal Navy. 

The woman who was so proudly its war rime head was 
awarded the C.B.E. in 1942 and the D.B.E. in 1945. She 
earned and received far more. Executive ability, however 
great (and she has it in full measure), can be a dry and dusty 
thing on its own. It was her humanity, her humour, her 
supreme confidence in them which welded together 
thousands of women into one unit, inspired by her example 
not only to do their job but to love it, and to look back upon 
what it gave them as one of the dearest memories of their 
lives the comradeship of a Service. 

Dame Vera Laughton Mathews has carried her executive 
ability into another sphere since the War. She is a member 
of the South Eastern Gas Board and Adviser on Women's 
Affairs to the central body, the Gas Council, holding the 
distinction of being the first woman in gas management in 
this country. She is also Chairman of the Women's Gas 
Federation. 

Yet surely her greatest hour of pride came on the day of 
the Victory Parade, 8th June, 1946, when from the Royal 
Stand she watched the Wrens march by, and that pride was 
shared by everyone who, in war or peace, feels that lift of 
the heart at the simple knowledge that the Navy's here. 



DORIS LANGLEY MOORE 

Fashion Specialist 

IT ALL began because a bride chose to decorate the walls 
of her new home with Empire fashion plates that she had 
had framed. Out of what became her hobby grew the 
Museum of Costume which is an establishment almost 
unique in the world a working museum where students 
of dressmaking can study the structure of clothes from the 
inside as well as the outside, and where, in specially intimate 
surroundings, designers can do their own research from a 
large but compact library of books and prints. 

Doris Langley Moore grew up in South Africa, where 
her father was editor of the Sunday Times and, being 
tremendously interested in the theatre, held the post of 
Consulting Producer of the African Theatres Trust. He 
was also a most ardent collector, and his collection of books 
now forms part of the Johannesburg Public Library, his 
theatre material has been added to the city's Museum, and 
his ten thousand gramophone records taken over by the 
South African Broadcasting Corporation. 

It was not unnatural that his daughter, often attending 
performances and rehearsals, should share his love of the 
theatre and develop the collecting instinct she had inherited. 
Her interest in stage dress led to that in historical 
costume. 

When she was eighteen, Doris Langley Moore came to 
England and began to study classical languages in 
anticipation of a career in which they would be useful. In 
London she paid many visits to the costume and textile 

118 



DORIS LANGLEY MOORE 119 

section of the Victoria and Albert Museum, and when her 
father joined her from South Africa they made a grand 
tour of the Museums together. 

In 1926 she married and while in London on her honey- 
moon began, though without intention, the foundation of 
her great costume collection. Buying furniture for her 
Yorkshire home, she selected the Empire fashion plates to 
cover the bare places of the walls. They looked so attractive 
that she bought some more. Then her collector's instinct 
took over from her domestic preference. She bought plates 
wherever she could find them and began to study in order 
to date and classify them. 

Two years later she spent Christmas with her mother-in- 
law, whose country house was large enough to act as a store 
for family treasures and who, when charades took their 
place as part of the seasonal festivities, brought out a 
quantity of Victorian costumes. 

If waists as such had no part in the shapeless contraptions 
that were fashionable in the 19208, Mrs. Langley Moore 
has destroyed the myth that eighteen-inch ones, so beloved 
of the Victorian novelists, ever existed at all. Nevertheless, 
one of the Victorian dresses was so slender that her mother- 
in-law declared no modern girl could get into it. Mrs. 
Langley Moore proved her wrong and was promptly made 
a present of the dress. Not long afterwards she bought 
in an antique shop a fine lilac damask evening dress which 
she intended to alter and wear herself, but the material was 
so beautiful that she could not bring herself to do it. Within 
a month or two she had bought another. The collection had 
come into being. 

It was writing, however, which was primarily her career. 
In the year of her marriage she had published a verse 
translation of the twenty-nine odes of Anacreon, the great 
Greek poet; in 1928, The Technique of the Love Affair 
a considerable success on both sides of the Atlantic and still 
in print; and in 1929, Pandora's Letter Box, a Discourse on 



12O WOMEN AND THE WORLD TODAY 

Fashionable Life, and, though the latter's main theme was 
not dress, she was back to costume again. 

The collection grew. Its first home was a cupboard on 
the landing, then it overflowed into the spare room wardrobe. 
In time it drove its owner out of her house into a larger 
one and it was able to spread itself over the whole of the top 
floor, to her great delight. The outbreak of war, however, 
made both space and collecting an almost prohibitive luxury, 
and in the early years Mrs. Moore left Harrogate for London. 
Luckily she was able to store the costumes in two large 
attics at a farmhouse in Berkshire. There was no heating 
in it, which was good for the fabrics but merciless on her 
freezing fingers as she unpacked and repacked in careful 
precaution against moth. 

Meanwhile she continued writing. The blitz of 1940 
destroyed the publishers' quarters of Paternoster Row, 
Amen Corner and Ave Maria Lane at one terrible blow, 
and on the night of 2gth December alone between six and 
ten million books were estimated to have been lost. While 
the publishing business reeled under this almost mortal 
wound, Mrs. Moore wrote film scripts for several studios. 
One was the commentator's role in the film the late Leslie 
Howard directed of the A.T.S. (now the Women's Royal 
Army Corps, called The Gentle Sex, and Mrs. Moore believes 
that she wrote the last words he ever spoke on the screen. 

In her ballet, The Quest, Margot Fonteyn and Robert 
Helpmann danced the leading roles, and Moira Shearer her 
first solo as " Pride ". She had a play accepted by Firth 
Shephard, but even yet it has not reached production, a fate 
which overtakes so much work done for both stage and 
screen at all times that she considers it has little but 
disillusionment to offer except to a few unusually fortunate. 

It was a great relief when her publishers recovered enough 
to issue her book, The Vulgar Heart, the typescript of which 
had been lost in the blitz and reconstructed from a rough 
copy. Her fourth novel, Not at Home, was published in 



DORIS LANGLEY MOORE 121 

1948, and her fifth, All Done by Kindness, in 1951. This 
made its appearance in America in 1953 with marked 
success. 

All this, in addition to two books on housekeeping and 
entertaining, a biography of the writer, E. Nesbit, editing 
a cookery book, translating from the French a life of the 
ballet dancer, Carlotta Grisi, and contributing a chapter to 
Margaret Flower's book on collecting jewellery, makes a 
staunch claim to a very high standard of versatility, but 
Mrs. Moore herself considers the latter the greatest possible 
handicap to a career. 

By 1946 she was able to bring her collection to London, 
but it needed a prolonged battle to find room to keep it 
together. Meanwhile it had become more valuable because 
the War had encouraged many people to remedy shortages 
of material by using fabrics in old costumes, and some West 
End stores bought them to make into cushions. Mrs. Moore 
found herself in the role of rescuer and bought many 
specimens which she could not reasonably afford. 

Having by this time discovered the great scarcity of 
satisfactory books on costume, since so many authors had 
merely quoted from other authors without verifying their 
statements, she determined to write one based entirely on 
original research work and quoting no writers except those 
who were dealing with fashions of their own time. 

The Woman in Fashion was illustrated by Felix Fonteyn, 
Margot Fonteyn's brother; while besides Margot Fonteyn 
herself, ten other ballerinas and many famous actresses, 
including Beatrice Lillie, Ruth Draper and Vivien Leigh, 
posed for photographs. In December, 1950, the Queen (now 
Queen Elizabeth the Queen mother) and Princess Margaret 
went to a display of the costumes on living models, and again 
such celebrities as Edith Evans, Margaret Leighton, Joy 
Nichols and Frances Day took part. 

Mrs. Moore's knowledge of die difficulties of designers 
trying to gather accurate material for stage and film 



122 WOMEN AND THE WORLD TODAY 

productions proved the final spur to the plan to establish 
a museum of costume. It was not to be merely four-walls- 
lined-with-glass-cases, but a collection which would be an 
indispensable guide to students, designers, artists, actresses, 
historians everyone needing accurate information either at 
short notice or for prolonged study. 

The hobby of the young bride had led to developments 
unforeseen. Raising money in post-war days is always a 
constant anxiety, and though the Arts Council of Great 
Britain now pays for the actual maintenance of the 
collection, Mrs. Moore herself and other volunteers are 
largely responsible for the support of the West End premises 
where it is housed. 

The care of the clothes themselves, the examination of 
specimens sent by post, the constant vigilance so that no 
treasure shall be missed in an antique shop, the daily 
correspondence, the upkeep of the library each in itself 
is nearly a whole-time job. 

New specimens are sent from every source. Some, 
accompanied by a letter in an uneducated hand, have proved 
to be finds indeed; others from ancestral families have been 
so often subjected to rough treatment at the hands of 
youngsters dressing up that they are beyond repair. There 
are some historical items which have been worn by famous 
people, including Queen Victoria, but not all celebrities' 
clothes are found worthy of addition, and at the Museum 
of Costume the fabric and style and taste are of greater 
importance than the reflected glory of a name. Notable 
exceptions are numerous dresses by Christian Dior and 
others presented by Margot Fonteyn, whom Mrs. Moore 
considers the most elegant woman in England today, and 
who has a very high reputation abroad, especially in Paris, 
for her taste. 

All Mrs. Moore's collection has gone to the Museum 
hundreds of dresses and cloaks from the eighteenth century 
(very few older fabrics have survived), bonnets and boots, 



DORIS LANGLEY MOORE 123 

underwear and night clothes, gloves and veils and scarves 
and shawls, stockings and parasols, fans and umbrellas, laces 
and muffs and tippets, riding habits and babies' clothes 
even the servants' clothes which are, in general, much rarer 
than fashionable ones. Modern items are included, and the 
" two-way stretch " contrasts with the eighteenth-century 
corset. 

In the matter of measurements Mrs. Moore has proved 
that there is little difference between the inches of the 
Victorian maid and those of the twentieth-century sports 
girl. After taping hundreds of waists she concludes that 
we should have to draw in only a little to achieve Victorian 
measurements, about which young ladies were inclined to 
indulge in a good deal of wishful thinking. 

Because financial support is inadequate the Museum of 
Costume still functions behind locked doors. Nevertheless, 
it has been functioning. When those doors are opened it 
will take a very proud place among the treasure houses of 
London. Only the Gallery of English Costume in 
Manchester is comparable. Paris has as yet nothing like it, 
though the city is trying to establish one. America, how- 
ever, has some fine Museums of Costumes, for there is a 
wide appreciation of the value of costume study to designers 
and manufacturers there. 

In the spring of 1953 Mrs. Langley Moore toured America, 
lecturing and exhibiting costumes, and was very proud of 
being entrusted with some valuable Coronation exhibits 
by the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret. 

Mrs. Moore has just had two more books published 
Pleasure : a Guide Book, which is an extended essay on the 
art of enjoyment; and The Child in Fashion, a sequel to 
The Woman in Fashion, and illustrated with pictures of 
children wearing costumes out of her collection. 

With publishers' contracts to be filled, programmes 
arranged for television, commentaries to be written, and 
the thousand-and-one details of the Museum attended to, 



124 WOMEN AND THE WORLD TODAY 

Mrs. Langley Moore works from 9.30 a.m. to 1 1 p.m. every 
day of the week. If her hobby has grown beyond all 
anticipation, and she looks forward to being able one day 
to concentrate solely on her writing, she has, nevertheless, 
given London a new magic lamp which can open a 
fascinating Aladdin's Cave for young and old for all time. 



KAY MURPHY, B.A. 

Business Executive 

TO translate " Salut d' Amour" as "Salute the Army" 
may not have been the most auspicious beginning to a 
career in teaching languages, but after all, another Austra- 
lian who achieved greatness in his profession, began as 
humbly by batting in his own back garden with the laundry 
door for the wicket. 

Kay Murphy was born at Dapto, about forty miles from 
Sydney, with teaching in her blood. Her father was a head 
master, her maternal grandfather one of the first Inspectors 
of Schools appointed in New South Wales in the days when 
he had to travel through the ' bush ' by horse and buggy. 
Her mother taught her French, her father Latin and die 
English of the great poets. 

It was her father who fired her imagination, and on their 
frequent walks together in the early morning he would talk 
to her of poetry. At night he taught her to recognise the stars, 
and one frosty winter night, as they stood in the moonlight 
by Lake Illawarra, his telling of the story of King Arthur 
and his sword was so vivid, and the scene so perfectly in 
keeping, that the " arm, clothed in white samite, mystic, 
wonderful ", seemed to rise from the water before them and 
grasp Excalibur. Under his teaching even long-dead Latin 
came to life. 

Early awakened to the beauty of language, Kay Murphy 
had read all Dickens before she was nine years old, though 
she admits she had a struggle to get through The Pickwick 
Papers. 

She was educated at Wollongong High School, some miles 

125 



126 WOMEN AND THE WORLD TODAY 

from Dapto, where she began to read French seriously. 
About this time changes were taking place in the method 
of teaching French. Hector Melville, her teacher, was 
introducing phonetics, and stressing the importance of 
pronunciation and intonation. 

Kay already knew that her own ambition was to become 
a teacher. By scholarships she went to Sydney Teachers' 
Training College and Sydney University, where she 
specialised in French and later graduated, gaining her B.A. 
degree. 

While she was here a young professor, E. J. Waterhouse, 
returned from France, where the revolutionary movement 
of the phonetic approach to the study of languages had been 
thriving under Paul Passy, father of international phonetics. 
Professor Waterhouse, Professor Tilly and Professor Daniel 
Jones, all of whom were to become world-famous in the 
science of phonetics, were among his students. 

The direct method of teaching was also gaining popularity. 
This superseded the old translation method of classical style, 
laid stress on correct pronunciation and on teaching in the 
foreign language itself, with a minimum of translation into 
English. 

The Professors succeeded in passing on their enthusiasm 
to the students in Australia, among them Kay Murphy, and 
she was one of the small band of teachers in Australian 
Secondary Schools who first put into practice phonetics and 
the direct method of teaching French. 

She soon discovered, however, that enthusiasm was not 
everything. Stalwart young Australians, six feet tall, found 
it amusing to be taught by a woman, especially one who was 
five feet nothing, and were not easily disciplined. They 
made fun of the phrases which could easily be put into 
action, such as " J'ouvre la porte," and their uses of the pocket 
mirrors their teacher had provided for them to observe the 
position of the glottis while speaking, were not always 
scientific. 



KAY MURPHY 127 

Nevertheless, she did not give up. In fact, the boys them- 
selves eventually formed their own committee to maintain 
order, and progress rapidly increased. Kay was not sorry, 
however, to transfer to another school at the end of the year, 
and she took good care to establish discipline there before 
introducing her direct technique. 

Much as she now enjoyed her work, the urge to travel 
was deepening in her. To see Paris had long become her 
dearest wish, and she made up her mind to go on to Europe 
after gaining some business experience in America. 

Before leaving Australia she learnt to type on a hired 
machine, knowing that this elementary training might be 
useful in getting a job. It was not long before she proved 
the wisdom of this precaution. America preferred to employ 
her own citizens rather than those of other nationalities, 
and New York High Schools would not accept her on their 
staffs. 

Turning to commerce, she took a post with the publishing 
house of McGraw Hill. It was here that she first became 
interested in advertising, particularly direct mail advertising. 

But life was not all work. New York offered music, art, 
literature and drama of the highest international quality, 
and she was thrilled to meet many of the visiting celebrities. 
Contact with famous authors aroused her own literary 
ambitions and she began to write in her spare time, only 
to discover that her idiom was not American. She decided to 
move on to England. 

She did not imagine, however, that English publishers 
and editors were waiting for her contributions any more 
eagerly than American ones had been, and she knew that 
she must find a more reliable means of making a living. 
That, too, was far from easy. Unemployment was wide- 
spread in England in the nineteen-twenties, and American 
business experience was not regarded as a qualification for 
senior posts in British firms, especially if the applicant were 
a woman. 



128 WOMEN AND THE WORLD TODAY 

'Realising that she would, so to speak, have to begin at 
the beginning again, she set herself to learn shorthand. She 
mastered the theory and worked up a reasonable speed 
within a few weeks, but when she came to read back her 
own notes, she found she could not decipher more than 
half of them. 

Funds were running out and the immediate future did 
not look very promising. A reply to an earlier letter of 
application raised her hopes a little by asking her to call 
for an interview. She did not know that the managing 
director of this firm had told his assistant manager that 
" he wanted this man, K. M. Murphy, but not as a short- 
hand-typist ", " his " American business experience having 
suggested that " he " was worthy of higher responsibilities. 

The managing director was considerably surprised when 
K. M. Murphy turned out to be a young woman. However, 
to his lasting credit, he did not dismiss her without a hearing. 
He was Jacques Roston, founder of the Linguaphone 
Institute, then introducing his revolutionary method of 
learning languages. 

When Kay Murphy heard the Linguaphone records and 
read the illustrated textbooks belonging to the course, she 
knew at once that here was something teachers and students 
of languages had been waiting for for years. Her enthusiasm 
immediately responded to his. She was given the job and 
hurried off home to carry out her first instructions to 
announce the advent of this modern language aid to all 
teachers throughout Great Britain. 

She sent off her letters to the schools and, in response to 
her invitation to visit the Institute, so many London teachers 
of modern languages arrived on their next half-holiday 
that the offices in High Holborn could not accommodate 
them. 

That was the beginning of her life work. Courses in 
other languages were undertaken, and Kay Murphy directed 
her energies to extending the work of the Linguaphone 







VERA 

LAUGirr 

MATIIKWS 




NEAGTJR 







KAY MURPHY 129 

Institute as widely as possible. She became Company 
Secretary, and when, in 1936, through her influence, the 
Institute moved to Linguaphone House in Regent Street, 
she was made General Manager. By this time she had 
helped to establish Linguaphone Institutes in every capital 
in Europe. 

On the death of Jacques Roston she succeeded to his Chair 
as Life Director and General Manager, and today watches 
over the destinies of Linguaphone Institutes all over the 
world. 

She did not, however, neglect her interest in direct mail 
advertising. After serving on the Council of the British 
Direct Mail Advertising Association, she became its first 
woman chairman. Lectures on this subject take her to all 
parts of Great Britain, and in 1950, as British delegate, she 
attended the great International Conference of the Direct 
Mail Advertising Association of America in New York. 
The only woman speaker, she addressed over a thousand 
delegates on direct mail advertising in England. 

Since then she has been invited to lecture in Finland, 
Sweden and other European capitals, and to contribute 
articles to the Press on both advertising and languages. 

She was the first woman to become a member of the 
Incorporated Sales Managers' Association. In 1931 she 
attended her first I.S.M.A. conference, alone among four 
hundred leaders of industry. The latter insisted on her 
speaking. She admits frankly that she was nervous but 
hopes she did not show it. In any case, the four hundred 
applauded her speech to the echo. 

In 1952 she was elected the first woman Fellow of the 
Association, an honour she deeply appreciated. She is also 
a member of the Council of the Advertising Association, of 
the Education Committee of the Incorporated Sales 
Managers' Association, and of the Executive Committee 
of the Women's Advertising Club of London. 

Business, the Journal of Management in Industry, wrote 



130 WOMEN AND THE WORLD TODAY 

of her: "In her quiet, convincing manner, with great 
strength of personality, and yet great charm, Kay Murphy, 
B.A., is enthusiastic and sincere in her two great interests/' 

Those interests have brought her into contact with famous 
men and women throughout the world, among them H. G. 
Wells, who had predicted the coming of the language-record 
as the essential instrument in language-learning, in his book, 
New Worlds for Old. 

But her most exciting experience of all was her association 
with George Bernard Shaw. After a correspondence lasting 
two years she persuaded him to record his voice. When the 
records were being made the great G.B.S. remarked that 
" a little lady five foot high, all the way from Australia, had 
succeeded where other gramophone companies had failed ", 
and it was a proud day for Kay Murphy when she was able 
to place the original recordings, autographed in his 
characteristic handwriting, in the archives of the British 
Museum. 

She herself says, " I shall never forget my first meeting 
with Bernard Shaw in his home in Adelphi Terrace. His 
clear perception, the youthful zest of seventy-two, his 
inquiring mind, his close attention to the information I was 
able to give him about the special techniques of recording 
the speaking-voice, the way he listened to me a young 
woman in her twenties. In those meetings I learnt a great 
deal of the art of living from him a lesson and an example 
for which I owe him a debt of gratitude, and which I shall 
never forget. Remembering his example, I, in my turn, am 
eager to help and encourage young people." 

Reading her own life story we, in turn, realise how well 
Kay Murphy has learnt that lesson. 



ANNA NEAGLE, C.B.E. 
Film Actress 

VICTORIA, crowned Queen of England, drove back to the 
Palace and washed her dog. Anna Neagle, first lady of 
the British screen today, ran back home when she got her 
first job to tell her family she was to receive three pounds, 
four shillings a week in the chorus of Chariot's Revue. Later, 
she, too, washed her dog when playing the part of the young 
queen in the film of her reign. But much was to happen 
in the years between. 

Anna, then Marjorie Robertson, was born at Forest Gate, 
Essex. Her father, a Scot, was a captain in the Merchant 
Navy and she had two elder brothers to share her games 
and prevent her getting any exaggerated ideas about her 
ambition to become a dancer and actress. Her father did 
not approve of the stage but he allowed her to go to a danc- 
ing school in London at an early age. When, aged twelve, 
she was chosen to appear in a Christmas play, she was so 
delighted to receive his eagerly sought permission to accept 
the part that she stuck a label on her school attache case to 
show the world that Marjorie Robertson was a child actress 
and dancer already established. Father's leniency, however, 
did not extend so far as that and he removed the badge of 
office without ceremony. Marjorie departed as a boarder 
to St. Albans High School with no visible marks of 
distinction. 

Her schooldays, like her childhood, passed happily. She 
preferred games and dancing to lessons, though her keenness 
on history and English literature was to prove of immense 
value to her in her work of later years. 

'3' 



132 WOMEN AND THE WORLD TODAY 

She left St. Albans and went to a school for training 
dancing teachers, for her father was still not reconciled to 
her going on the stage. When, however, he had to retire 
from the Merchant Navy after a long illness, and it became 
necessary for Marjorie to contribute towards the upkeep of 
the home, he relented. Thankful to be rid of pupils who 
trod on her feet at ten shillings a time, she set off to look for 
work. 

At her first audition she was turned down flat. She soon 
realised that ambition and hope are far from being all that 
is necessary to set one on the road to fame, and that what- 
ever ability she did possess was to be severely handicapped 
by her old enemy, nervousness. When at last she managed 
to get into the chorus of Andre Chariot's Revue for 1925, 
she was told to look a little less like a funeral even if she 
felt like one. 

She had made a start but success was still a long way off. 
There were many times when she was out of work, and it 
was during one of these that she decided to try her luck on 
the screen. On a bitterly cold day of sleet and snow she 
waited for two hours at Cricklewood Studios to see producer 
Herbert Wilcox. He sympathised with her frozen state 
and regretted that he could do nothing more for her than 
ask her to leave her name and photograph with his secretary. 

She thanked him for his kindness but when she reached 
home wrote in her diary, " Saw Herbert Wilcox today about 
film work. Think I'll stick to the chorus." 

Even when the chance of work did come along she some- 
times failed to do justice to herself because of her lack of 
confidence. When she was offered the part of understudy 
to Clarice Hardwicke in Rose Marie she could only stammer 
that she did not feel she could manage it. She failed again 
when the late Sir Charles (then C.B.) Cochran asked her 
to understudy Jessie Matthews. This chance, however, did 
come again and she understudied Jessie later in This Year 
of Grace. 



ANNA NEAGLE 133 

As one of Mr. Cochran's Young Ladies she went to New 
York in Wake Up and Dream, but London was not waiting 
open-armed for her return. She braved the draughty halls 
of Cricklewood again and was given crowd work, until at 
last luck came her way. She was offered a part in The 
Chinese Bungalow, opposite Matheson Lang. The producer 
suggested that a change of name for Marjorie Robertson, 
chorus girl, might be more in keeping with the dignity of 
an actress partnered by an actor of his high reputation. 
Sitting in a Wardour Street cafe she decided to take her 
mother's maiden name, matched it with Anna, and 
thus became Anna Neagle. But she could not take on 
so easily the faith in herself which would have helped 
so much. 

In 1931 Anna toured with Jack Buchanan in Stand Up 
and Sing, and it was his encouragement which began to 
build up her self-confidence at last. When the show was 
put on in Town she saw her name in lights over the London 
Hippodrome, and tried to believe that the dream of every 
actress had come true for her. 

Under the directorship of Herbert Wilcox, she began 
filming again. First, Goodnight Vienna, made in only 
three weeks, and then Bitter Sweet, Nell Gwyn and Peg of 
Old Drury. She played Rosalind and Olivia in the Regent's 
Park open-air production of As You Like It and Twelfth 
Night; was the 1937 Peter Pan and, in the same year, Queen 
Victoria. The Forest of Arden, Never-Never-Land, nine- 
teenth-century London, Windsor and Balmoral ! Here was 
variety rich enough for any actress. 

Playing Queen Victoria was one of the outstanding ex- 
periences of Anna's career. There was so much in the long, 
crowded reign, however, that one film was not enough and, 
the following year, Sixty Glorious Years was made. 

Not only on the screen did Anna touch history. From 
both the Royal Family and complete strangers she received 
scores of Victorian souvenirs, some of which had actually 



134 WOMEN AND THE WORLD TODAY 

belonged to the Queen herself a calendar for 1897, a pair 
of fine silk stockings marked V.R. These treasures Anna 
keeps in a cabinet to themselves, a small storehouse of 
memories such as few can surely have. 

Hollywood claimed her for both music and drama 
Sunny, No, No, Nanette, and the story of Nurse Edith 
Cavell. Because of this last film, Anna and her director 
were put on the Black List by the Nazis : when Hitler won 
they would have to pay for reminding the world of British 
heroism. Star and director, unperturbed, were no less proud 
for having done so. 

When war broke out they stayed on for a few months to 
complete the musical, Irene, then early in 1940 flew home, 
only to leave soon after on a strenuous tour of Canada with 
a stage show put on for the Air Cadet Plan. A coast-to-coast 
journey in a country where, to cover twelve hundred miles 
in forty-eight hours is a weekend trip, cannot help but be 
exhausting, but the tour was a great success and they both 
enjoyed the experience and the friends they made. 

They returned home more soberly in convoy with the 
whole of Britain's bacon ration for a month. At that stage 
it was not at its most savoury, and the exhilarating air of 
the Rockies seemed a long way away. 

In 1943 Anna and her director were married, and thus 
cemented a partnership already happy in its career. 

During the War they began the " West End " cycle of 
films which have proved such a popular success I Live in 
Grosvenor Square, Piccadilly Incident, The Courtneys of 
Curzon Street, Spring in Park Lane, Maytime in May fair 
the last three light-hearted pieces of escapism further en- 
livened by the debonair charm and wit of Michael Wilding, 
and calculated to remind a war-torn world that romance 
will live as long as laughter. Between Spring in Park Lane 
and Maytime in May fair, Anna, without her " London 
partner ", played a four-character role in Elizabeth of Lady- 
mead. The film was made in Technicolour and covered 



ANNA NEAGLE 135 

four different periods of history from the Victorian era 
onwards. 

After the light-heartedness of May time came the courage 
of Odette. 

Mrs. Odette Churchill described herself as " an ordinary 
woman ". As such, in the hazardous guise of an agent in 
the French Resistance Movement, she expected no reward 
for her service and was as fully aware of the risks she ran 
as Edith Cavell had been. When Herbert Wilcox decided 
to make the film of a still-living heroine, Anna, with her 
usual integrity, went to see the real Odette and talked over 
the part with her. Knowing that heroics would have been 
an insult to the " ordinary " woman whose extraordinary 
courage in the face of Nazi torture made us feel humble at 
the mention of her name, Anna played " Odette " with the 
utmost sincerity. Nothing less would do honour to the 
George Cross the real Odette held. 

At the premiere in June, 1950, both the real and the film 
Odette curtsied to the then King and Queen. 

Three years earlier Anna had spoken the narration for 
the film of the wedding of the then Princess Elizabeth and 
Prince Philip, and sat beside the late Queen Mary at its 
private showing. 

Familiar as great occasions have become, Anna has never 
wholly lost her nervousness. The three-pounds-four- 
shillings-a-week days may have gone long since, but not 
the capacity to be thrilled by each new success, be it a 
presentation at a royal command performance or the 
winning of the film public's award for the actress of the 
year. 

She has balanced the glamour of fame, fortune, and the 
inevitable artificiality of much of film making with the sanity 
of normal, happy home life. Her house, named Hartfield 
after that in her favourite novel, Jane Austin's Emma, is 
of only moderate size, standing in an old-fashioned terraced 
garden in the quiet countryside, tranquilly indifferent to 



136 WOMEN AND THE WORLD TODAY 

its proximity to a film studio. It has a staff of two and its 
mistress tidies her own room and makes her bed. 

Even home and the countryside, however, do not always 
mean relaxation, for there are scripts to study in the even- 
ing and, Anna now being as associate producer, every aspect 
of film problems to be discussed on long walks. 

Anna and Michael Wilding were together again in The 
Lady with a Lamp, the story of Florence Nightingale, and 
Derby Day, a light-hearted reminder of the "London" 
cycle. 

In the 1951 New Year's Honours List Herbert Wilcox 
received the C.B.E., and the following year Anna was 
awarded the same decoration. If to have given great pleasure 
to millions of people is to deserve honours, then Anna 
Neagle and her husband indeed deserve theirs. 

Appropriately for Coronation year Anna came back to 
the stage in a new musical show called The Glorious Days, 
at the Palace Theatre, London. It was described as a modern 
play with interpolations of music, dancing and ceremonial, 
covering the period of Charles II and Nell Gwyn, the 
Victorian court, and a kaleidoscopic impression of the last 
forty years, all of which certainly called for Anna's versa- 
tility. She had four leading men to play opposite her. 

It is given to a few people to be successful and happy in 
both private life and career, particularly when that career 
has been built up among the false values which colour so 
much of the world of stage and screen, the flattery of crowds, 
the waywardness of public favour, and the unpredictable 
judgments of critics. 

Fortified by the harmony of her own background, Anna 
Neagle has retained among the artificiality her innate good 
manners and kindliness, both as natural as the wind across 
die hills and as welcome as the sun at morning. 



JOY NICHOLS 

Radio and Variety Artist 

AUSTRALIA has a reputation for sending us stars of 
various kinds. Sometimes they take the air, sometimes they 
hit a ball through it for six. No matter which, they contrive 
to do it with extraordinary skill and success. Bradman has 
carried his bat for the last time at Lord's but we still have 
Eileen Joyce to play the piano for us, Peter Dawson to sing, 
Bill Kerr to prophesy our melancholy doom and Joy 
Nichols to delight us both on the stage and on the air. 

Tall, slim and fair, Joy was born in Sydney twenty-five 
years ago with, one might say, a script in her hand. At 
seven she broadcast as Tiny Tim in Dickens's Christmas 
Carol and proudly earned ten-and-sixpence by saying " God 
bless us, everyone." Her next role was more typical of 
her astonishing vitality than that of the little cripple boy 
could ever be she played " goalie " for the local boys' foot- 
ball team at the age of ten. Even then she believed in 
variety. 

In her more serious moments, however, she considered 
becoming a teacher and began to study, but she found time 
to take part in the Australian Broadcasting Commission's 
Children's Sessions on Sundays, and to act as Children's 
News Editor every week-night on a commercial radio station. 
In this role she had to interview visiting celebrities, mean- 
while proving that her agile feet were unmistakably set upon 
the road towards becoming one herself. 

When she was fifteen she received an offer to appear in 
a stage presentation given at a big Sydney film theatre. She 
accepted and promptly abandoned decimals and the dates 



138 WOMEN AND THE WORLD TODAY 

of battles long ago. Instead she helped the progress of those 
being fought in the early 19405 by singing at War Loan 
rallies. 

Radio, however, was her first love and she was glad to 
be given a three-year contract to star in The Youth Show, 
in which all the performers were aged twenty-one or under. 
She commered the show and her own weekly four-minute 
act (shades of Kerr of Wagga Wagga ! ) ranged from drama 
to broad comedy. It was the stiffest test her versatility had 
yet received and of invaluable experience. 

That, however, was not all. She toured the Australian 
Tivoli circuit, singing and dancing and taking part in an 
act. To leave her free for this the Youth Shows often had 
to be recorded ahead. For twelve months after this she 
was resident entertainer at the Prince Edward Theatre, 
Sydney, changing her act every six weeks as the film changed. 
She was already a long way from Pythagoras and the exploits 
of Captain Cook. 

Her last year in Australia was 1946, and one of high success 
in three different roles. She made her first film, took her 
first straight character part on the legitimate stage, and had 
her own radio show. The film, Southern Cross, was made 
by an American company and told the story of Charles 
Kingsford Smith, the Australian airman. Joy played second 
lead, an American girl. 

In the play she was the impudent little Bessy Watty who 
nearly ruined the career of the young Welsh miner in Emlyn 
Williams's The Corn is Green. The radio show, " Jackcroo 
Joy ", could be nothing else but Australian. It was on the 
air for only fifteen minutes at a time but it w r as such a success 
that she recorded fifty-two programmes ahead before she 
left the country. In addition she recorded half as many of 
" The Joy Nichols Show ", a series held for future broadcasts. 

She came to England. Her compatriot, whom she had 
known well down under, was to join her later, Dick Bentley 
from Melbourne. B.B.C. producer Charles Maxwell listened 



JOY NICHOLS 139 

to her " Youth Show " records and when Bonar Colleano, 
compere of " Navy Mixture ", left to make a film in Italy, 
Joy took his place. She had her own act in the show and 
carried on until the series ended in December, 1947. 

She went next to the King's Theatre, Glasgow, in Jack 
Hylton's revival of Follow the Girls. In the middle of the 
run she rushed over to Germany with Bob Hope to entertain 
American Forces. 

Then, in the spring of 1948, came a new radio show. The 
only person in the team who was already well known to 
British audiences was Dick Bentley, who had compered 
" Beginners, Please " and " Show Time ". Jimmy Edwards, 
sounding older than his twenty-eight years, had played in 
revue on the stage. Wallas Eaton, both straight and revue 
actor, had still to make his name. 

Charles Maxwell, given his head to produce a show with 
an almost unknown team, knew that he was taking a gamble. 
The show had sophistication and burlesque, broad gags and 
lighter quips, quick changes in voice and character, and was 
topical and polished in its humour. The start was shaky, 
the early course uncertain, but the team ran excellently in 
quadruple harness and the gamble came off. The first 
series ran for twenty-nine weeks. 

We, the listeners, came to know the T.I.F.H. team, and 
the " Take It From Here " half-hour took its honoured place 
beside those still held dear in memory, " Itma " and " Band 
Wagon ". The bubbling vitality of Joy, the glorious 
pomposity of Jimmie contrasting with Dick's endearing 
whimsicality, made Joy-Dick-and-Jimmy a perfectly 
balanced team and an inseparable combination. 

Who could believe that Jimmy is a professor of mathe- 
matics of Cambridge University? (And yet, didn't the 
author of Alice in Wonderland earn the same distinction 
at Oxford ') Is there anything Joy cannot do with her voice? 
Is there anyone who would have Dick older than his twenty- 
three summers? Or anyone who cannot believe that " Wol " 



I4O WOMEN AND THE WORLD TODAY 

with his solemn incongruities does not bring with him either 
the dust of " the buildings " or the mud of the plough? 

With a listening public of ten million " Take It From 
Here " was voted the best radio show of the year, 1949. At 
Grosvenor House, Park Lane, Charles Maxwell received, 
on behalf of the team, the Silver Microphone which now 
stands proudly in the foyer of Broadcasting House. 

But back to Joy. She fulfilled a life ambition when, in 
1948, she appeared at that Mecca of the variety world, the 
Palladium. When " Take It From Here " went off the air 
for its customary summer holiday, Joy toured the provinces 
until it came back in October. In 1949 she had a second 
season at the Palladium lasting six weeks. The day after 
it ended she was married in London and was glad to leave 
the harassing excitement of show business for a while and 
spend her honeymoon in Capri. 

She did not escape for long. As if coming of age, getting 
married and appearing at the Palladium were not enough 
to mark the year with highlights, Joy was awarded the 
highest honour a variety artist can receive to be chosen 
for the Royal Command Performance held each November. 

Long hours of rehearsal, meal times thrown completely 
out of joint, a rising tension, flowers and draperies round 
the Royal Box, dress rehearsal will it ever end? And yet 
its end means that the great moment is almost here. 
Dressing, making-up, knowing that on the other side of the 
great curtain the auditorium is filling with evening dress 
and jewels, and that soon the National Anthem will greet 
Their Majesties ! The applause dies and waits, the curtain 
climbs, and one is deeply thankful not to be the first to face 
that vast audience " cold " and to have to lift it to the living 
warmth of humour. 

So-and-so is on. The ordeal has begun. The laughter 
breaks and the audience settles down. Applause rewards 
the end of the first turn and one almost wishes one had been 
on, after all, and it was all over. The next turn, and the 



JOY NICHOLS 141 

next . . . and soon, terrifyingly soon it seems, the call boy's 
voice " Miss Nichols, please." 

The great tunnel of the auditorium is before her. It looks 
dark and big enough to swallow her but she must look as 
if she doesn't care. She sings, she jokes, the audience laughs 
and is with her. . . . 

Back in the dressing-room with the applause still ringing 
in her ears, she tries to realise that it is over except for the 
finale. Does one ever forget it? The King leans forward 
to say something to the Queen who smiles back. They, too, 
have enjoyed it. It is a night to remember to the end of 
one's life. 

Joy will certainly remember her first Command 
Performance. She spent the next two days having a bilious 
attack 1 

The " Take It From Here " team contributed to the gaiety 
of Festival year in the revue, " Take It From Us ", at the 
Adelphi Theatre. 

Joy admits that her hobbies are ice skating, horse riding, 
cycling and reading. She does not explain how, with 
additional demands upon her for television and recording, 
she has found time to pursue them. 

In 1952 she left the cast of " Take It From Here " for a 
few weeks, and her daughter, Roberta, was born in March. 
The show was rested as usual during the summer and re- 
sumed its fun in the winter, Joy also appearing in the 
Hippodrome revue, Wonderful Time, with Jon Pertwee, the 
radio " postman ". 

In July, 1953, she sailed for home with her husband and 
baby, whom her mother had never seen. Seven years is a 
long time to be away from one's homeland, especially when 
it is thousands of miles away, but, happily, there are rumours 
that we are not going to lose her for too long. Although 
England cannot expect to come first in her affections, she 
has been such a favourite here that we shall not willingly 
allow Australia to take Joy from us. 



FLORA ROBSON, C.B.E. 

Actress 

A LITTLE GIRL walked home alone after school feeling 
rather sad because she had had to stay late. Her father, 
keenly interested in all the arts, had already made up his 
mind that she was to be an actress. The age of five, however, 
is rather early to have one's future settled, and when it 
necessitates having to give up playtime and staying on 
after school hours to take extra classes in poetry, singing, 
dancing and piano playing, one is apt to resent its encroach- 
ment on the far more interesting present. 

Flora Robson w r as born in South Shields but her family 
moved to London in her early childhood. She was still 
only five years old when her father took her to the then 
His Majesty's Theatre in the Haymarket to see Sir Herbert 
Tree's production of Faust, with Henry Ainley and Marie 
Lohr in the leading roles. Young as she was, the atmosphere 
of the theatre caught her in its spell. 

Perched on the edge of her seat, her feet only just touch- 
ing the floor, Flora looked about her, absorbing the scene 
with the hunger of fascination the ornate Greek ceiling, 
climbing tiers of seats, the red sweep of curtain hiding the 
secret activity on the stage. She could see a thin embroidery 
of light at the curtain's hem, and sometimes a shadow 
crossed it as of someone passing it was like the cave of 
" Open Sesame ". People filed into their places in the stalls 
how could they look so sedate? and the orchestra tuned- 
up with immense casualness as if tonight's performance 
were no more important than any other. 

142 



FLORA ROBSON 143 

The overture ended with its customary flourish, the 
curtains lifted regally on spectacular drama, and a little girl 
held her breath. Long before the evening was over she 
was a convert to the stage. She wanted to be an actress. 

Flora Robson was educated at Palmer's Green High 
School, in north London, and, although she did no acting 
at school, took part in concerts, plays and recitals all over 
London at the Mansion House, at children's festivals, at 
clubs such as the Lyceum. 

When she was ten she played in Shakespeare at the Hay- 
market Theatre, almost opposite to Her Majesty's, where 
she had seen her first play. In spite of her youth she made 
such an impression on Edith Craig, Ellen Terry's daughter, 
that the latter remembered her years afterwards. 

On leaving school Flora became a pupil at the Royal 
Academy of Dramatic Art. Young, inexperienced and very 
nervous, she wondered if the great actresses whose portraits 
looked down from the walls of the Academy had ever 
suffered from stage fright in their own student days, or 
before the curtain went up on important " first-nights ". 
Among her contemporaries were Valerie Taylor, Hugh 
Williams and the late Colin Clive, the " Captain Stanhope " 
of Journey's End. 

Quick to learn, her hard work earned her the best parts. 
" Ophelia " was one of her favourites, and she scored 
a triumph as " Chloe Hornblower " in Galsworthy's The Skin 
Game. In the Academy's public performance of Maurice 
Maeterlinck's Sister Beatrice the story in verse of the 
famous mime play, The Miracle she took the part 
of the Nun when she returned, old and dying, to the 
sanctuary of the convent : her acting earned her the Bronze 
Medal. 

In November of the same year, 1921, came her debut in 
the West End. It was only a small part, that of the ghost 
of " Queen Margaret " in Clemence Dane's Will 
Shakespeare with one line : " My son was taken from me. 



144 WOMEN AND THE WORLD TODAY 

Tell my story," but it was the first of the many " royal " 
idles Flora Robson was to play during her career. 

She went on to Shakespeare himself with the Ben Greet 
Shakespearean Company, playing second and third leads, 
and then joined J. B. Pagan's Oxford Repertory Company, 
with John Gielgud, Richard Goulden and Tyrone Guthrie. 

When the season ended work was not easy to find. West 
End managers did not come to Oxford to look for their 
discoveries, and Flora was not good at interviews. She was 
then living at Welwyn Garden City, in Hertfordshire. The 
town was still in its infancy and the younger members of 
the community had to provide their own amusement. As 
young people nearly always do, they discovered a great deal 
of dramatic talent amongst themselves. Having a profes- 
sional actress near at hand, they were only too glad to 
develop it under her direction. 

They were not the only people to appreciate her 
capabilities, however. The American managers of the 
Shredded Wheat Company, whose factory had been built 
in Welwyn Garden City, offered her a well-paid post in the 
organising of entertainments for their employees. They 
had built a fine recreation hall with a perfect stage and up- 
to-date lighting, and for four years she ran clubs, organised 
dances, and produced plays and pantomimes for them (with 
all their children delightedly taking part in the latter as 
fairies). 

Although she had had no previous experience of welfare 
work she loved it, and the people loved her for all she did. 
In return, they taught her a great deal about human nature 
during those four years. 

Then one day Tyrone Guthrie* her colleague in the 
Oxford Repertory Company, now making his name as a 
producer, came to Welwyn to adjudicate a festival. They 
met, remembered their Oxford days and, when the talk 
turned naturally from the past to the future, he offered Flora 
an audition at the Cambridge Festival Theatre. 



FLORA ROBSON 145 

The previous four years suddenly faded a little. Memory, 
jostling her out of the rut of security, tossed her back upon 
the rough but exciting highway of the legitimate stage, with 
its pitfalls of disappointment, its ambushes of frustration 
and rebuffs, and its rare but shining moments upon the 
triumphant heights. 

She recalled long, slow, Sunday journeys on tour, chill 
lodgings and bleak dressing-rooms, shortened tempers when 
things did not go well at rehearsals, irregular meal-times, 
wearying searches for work at the close of a season or when 
the run of a play ended, the aching courage needed 
sometimes merely to hide one's feelings and act a 
part. . . . 

Here in Welwyn she could live in comfort; she liked the 
work and had done well in it. It was no light thing to be 
held in genuine affection in a position which frequently 
called for considerable reserves of tact. Moreover her 
salary was twice what it would be on the stage. The present 
promised security and a certain ease, the future offered 
eight weeks' work and precarious hope. But it offered, too, 
the comradeship of the world of the theatre, the splendour 
of great words, the chance of fame in an art which has the 
power to hold an audience in the thrall of silence, that 
silence which comes before the storm breaks at the end of a 
moving play and pays a tribute of homage to the actors 
therein. 

Four years 1 It was a long time to have deserted her first 
love. Flora made up her mind and went back to the stage. 
Fortified and encouraged by Guthrie's faith in her, she 
never looked back. 

She remained at Cambridge with Amner Hall's Com- 
pany for a year. Plays in London followed and in 1931 
she made her first appearance on the screen as the mother 
in the early version of Compton Mackenzie's Carnival. In 
1933 she took part in the stage production of All God's 
Chillun, then joined the Old Vic Company at Sadler's Wells 



146 WOMEN AND THE WORLD TODAY 

for a season, during which her roles included that of " Queen 
Katharine " in Henry VIII. The following year brought 
her two varied ones in Dodie Smith's Touch Wood, and 
Mary Read, the story of the woman pirate. 

Back to the screen in 1936, as "Queen Elizabeth" in 
A. E. W. Mason's Fire Over England, with Laurence 
Olivier and Vivien Leigh, Flora Robson won the Film 
Weekly award for the best performance of the year. Olivier 
was with her again in Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights, 
made in Hollywood two years later. 

Stage and screen successes kept her in America until 1943. 
On her return a variety of film roles demonstrated her 
extraordinary versatility : " Ftatateeta ", Cleopatra's at- 
tendant in Shaw's Caesar and Cleopatra; the Nanny in 
Daphne du Maurier's war story, The Years Between; 
" Sister Philippa " at the Himalayan Convent in Black 
Narcissus; Chairman of the Juvenile Court in Good Time 
Girl; " Countess Platen " in the tragedy of Sophia Dorothea, 
Queen of George I, and Count Koenigsmark, Saraband for 
Dead Lovers. 

In 1948 she returned to America in one of her favourite 
*61es, "Lady Macbeth", with Michael Redgrave's Com- 
pany, and again in 1950 as the convicted mother in Lesley 
Storm's Black Chiffon, playing the same role in the London 
production. 

Towards the end of 1951 she took the part of the mother 
in The Tall Headlines, the film of Audrey Erskine Lindop's 
novel of a middle-class family whose life is tragically dis- 
rupted by the elder son's execution for murder. 

The following New Year's Honours List included her 
award of the C.B.E. in recognition of her work on stage 
and screen. Later that year she played in Malta Story, the 
film of the Island's heroic stand in the Second World War. 
Early in 1953 she returned to the London stage in The 
Innocents, the play adapted from Henry James's famous 
ghost story, The Turn of the Screw, and produced at Her 



FLORA ROBSON 147 

Majesty's Theatre. Then she made the film of Romeo and 
Juliet in Italy. 

Such a life of activity does not leave much time for relaxa- 
tion. Flora Robson has a charming house in Buckingham- 
shire, however, to which she can retire during such intervals 
as do occur, with her old cook to look after her, and her 
pet boxer (appropriately named Fauna) to remind her that 
a run in the country is more important in her opinion than 
anything called an Oscar. 

Here she plays her favourite Chopin on the Bliithner 
piano she bought with the proceeds of the stage success, 
Poison Pen. Here she arranges the old silver and china 
it is her delight to collect whenever she has the chance to 
browse round antique shops. 

But work can seldom be put aside for long. If she is 
to portray an historical character she reads every 
autobiography on the subject that she can lay her hands 
on. So even after a day's gardening, while Fauna, with 
her three sisters of loving disposition but uncertain pedigree 
descendants of former favourite, wire-haired terrier Bart 
lie dreaming of the rabbits that got away, their mistress 
takes up the story of Elizabeth or Mary Tudor, Empress 
Elizabeth of Russia or Queen Katharine of England, and 
one of the most talented and gracious actresses who ever 
played on stage or screen, sits down to study her next 
" royal " role. 



MOIRA SHEARER 

Ballerina 

IF MOONLIGHT could be captured, brought to earth and 
shaped, blown upon by the wind and warmed by the hidden 
sun, it could not possess a more exquisite grace than the 
young dancer who has surely flown from Titania's court 
and settled upon the wide gold stage of Covent Garden. It 
is a great classical role Princess Aurora in The Sleeping 
Beauty and she is twenty. 

Thirteen years ealier she had danced her first solo 
thousands of miles away. 

Moira Shearer King was born on iyth January, 1926, in 
Dunfermline. Her father, a civil engineer in the Colonial 
Service, was very musical, and her mother sang and played 
the violin. Her grandfather, an accomplished artist and 
musician, made his house a rendezvous for the music-lovers 
of the neighbourhood. The little girl was left in his care 
while her parents were away in Sierra Leone and, young as 
she was, her natural love of the artistic could not help but 
respond to the cultural atmosphere of her background. 

It was not, however, until she went with her parents to 
Ndola in Northern Rhodesia that she began to dance. Owing 
to the failure of some of the town's copper mines there was 
considerable distress among the miners, and a relief fund 
had been opened. To contribute to it a Mrs. Lacey started 
a dancing class, handing over her pupils' fees. Thus Moira 
made her first contact with classical ballet. 

Mrs. Lacey had been a pupil of the great Enrico Cecchitti, 
who had himself taught Pavlova, Karsavina and Nijinsky, 

148 



MOIRA SHEARER 149 

and the British dancers, Ninette de Valois and Marie 
Rambert. Being only six, Moira's lessons were of the most 
elementary, but she made enough impression upon her 
teacher for the latter to advise her parents to send her 
to a first-class ballet school when they returned to London. 

Her first public appearance was at a performance given 
by the pupils at the local theatre. Her father and the District 
Commissioner operated the curtains, and the audience sat 
on wooden benches. (How far from the crimson velvet of 
Govern Garden!) Her first dance was with five other 
children representing a ballet class, and her first solo a 
sword dance in a tartan kilt to the accompaniment of the 
bagpipes played by a piper of enthusiastic intention but 
faulty timing. In spite of this the local paper described her 
performance as exquisite and her dancing future something 
to be watched with very great interest. 

After a trek near the Belgian Congo the Kings returned 
to Scotland and Moira went to Bearsden Academy, where 
she found that she liked languages, literature and history, 
and hated arithmetic. Much as she enjoyed dancing she 
had as yet no particular urge towards the ballet. She almost 
made up her mind to become a pianist. Even when, during 
a holiday visit to London, she went to see the Ballet Russes, 
she was far more fascinated by the tiaras in the stalls than 
Leonide Massine in La Boutique Fantasque. How was 
she to know that, twelve years later she would be his partner 
in the " Can-Can " on that same stage? 

She continued her dancing lessons, however, and it was 
obvious where her talent lay. When she was ten her mother 
wrote to Serge Grigorieff, Regisseur of Colonel de Basil's 
Company, who advised her to go to Nicholas Legat, the 
great Russian teacher who had been the Tzar's Soloist in the 
Imperial Ballet. He, too, had taught Pavlova, Karsavina, 
Nijinsky and Michel Fokine. 

After the Revolution Legat and his wife came to England 
and later opened a school in London. His secretary told 



I JO WOMEN AND THE WORLD TODAY 

Mrs. King that, as the school had no beginners' class, Moira 
was too young to be accepted as a pupil, and recommended 
Miss Fairbairn's school of theatrical dancing. Here she had 
her usual lessons in the morning and dancing in the after- 
noon. Charity performances by the school helped to give 
Moira a sense of the theatre and within three months she 
was chosen with four other pupils to dance before an old 
friend of Legat at a house at Hampstead which was the 
meeting place of many distinguished Russian emigrees. 
Browned from head to foot, Moira took part in an Eastern 
dance. Her performance so much impressed Legat that he 
demanded to know why she was not one of his pupils. 

" This/' he declared, " is no beginner." 

In September, 1936, she joined his school, having her 
ordinary lessons in the morning and going to the five o'clock 
dancing class two or three times a week, and then every day. 
The classes were held over the studio of Frank Brangwyn, 
the famous artist, next door to what is now the Sadler's Wells 
Ballet School. The room was beautiful, with tall windows 
and a chandelier like a crystal fountain and, on the wall 
amongst hundreds of photographs and Legat's own wonder- 
ful drawings, the decorated programme of a performance 
given for the coronation of the Tzar in which Legat had 
taken part. 

On Russian Feast Days there would be a party after the 
dancing, and many famous dancers would come to watch 
the few students who had the honour of being chosen to 
perform in front of them. The occasion, the presence of 
such great ones, the very atmosphere of the room itself, was 
an inspiration to a young dancer. There was an exhilaration 
in the air which promised future triumphs. And not the 
least thrilling part of the evening was the wonderful supper 
when the dancing was over. 

Here Moira became absorbed in the finest tradition of 
the ballet, and she knew now that her ambition was to be- 
come a great ballerina. She knew, too, that it would mean 



MOIRA SHEARER 151 

years of hard work and unflagging concentration, for the 
ballet dancer can never relax or her muscles slacken, and no 
matter how high she has climbed in her art she never stops 
learning. A great dancer makes ballet look easy, but the 
withdrawal of a poised hand a second too soon may spoil her 
balance and timing, so tenuous, so delicate a thing 
is her art. 

The days of flight by pulleys and ropes used when dancers 
wore long heavy dresses are long since gone. The first great 
dancer, La Carmargo, professional at the Court of Louis XIV, 
was the first to shorten her skirt and wear the heelless shoe. 
The scandal caused by the former innovation was soon out- 
weighed by the delight of watching the new steps it allowed 
her to execute. Ballet began to fly on its own wings. 

Then came Marie Taglioni, the Italian, a dancer of amaz- 
ing lightness and possessing the gift shared only by Vestris 
and Nijinsky, the ability to remain in the air at the highest 
point before descending. She introduced the ballet dress as 
we know it today the white, tight-fitting bodice and full, 
calf-length " Sylphide " skirt, and the first slightly blocked 
ballet shoe. This did not enable her to dance " on point " 
as is done today the shoe was too flimsy but an occasional 
pose on the tip of the toe was possible and created a great 
sensation. 

The Imperial Russian Ballet, under the patronage of the 
Tzar himself, became the greatest school in the world. It 
had a company of two-hundred-and-fifty and its perform- 
ances grew in splendour. When certain dancers wished to 
break away and travel into Europe Serge Diaghileff formed 
his famous company, including Karsavina, Spessivtseva, 
Trefilova, Nijinsky, the young Massine and, for his first 
season, Pavlova, though she formed her own company imme- 
diately after this. 

Nowhere was ballet more popular then than in England, 
but the public had grown accustomed to the glamour of 
Russian syllables and were not yet ready to take notice of 



152 WOMEN AND THE WORLD TODAY 

the National Ballet being created by a young Irish dancer 
at the Sadler's Wells Theatre. 

Moira spent three happy years under Russian influence 
at Legat's, but after the outbreak of war her father did not 
think it wise for her to go to the east coast with the evacuated 
school. A few months later she joined the Sadler's Wells 
School run by Ninette de Valois. When Markova and 
Dolin, the original principals, left in 1935, their places were 
taken by Margot Fonteyn, then very young, and Robert 
Helpmann. With Constant Lambert as musical director, 
and Ninette de Valois and Frederick Ashton the chore- 
ographers, the young ballet grew in reputation and achieve- 
ment. 

While the bombing was at its height, however, Moira 
spent six months in Scotland, and though she continued 
practising as well as studying music and languages, she 
naturally felt that her career, after only six weeks with the 
School, had been rudely interrupted. 

Then came a wholly unexpected letter from Mona 
Inglesby, a former pupil of Legat, inviting her to join a 
company, the International Ballet, which she had assem- 
bled, as a soloist at five pounds a week. Overjoyed, Moira 
accepted. Five pounds or five shillings, it meant that she 
could learn again and go forward. It meant, too, long cold 
journeys under wartime conditions, but neither bombs nor 
blackout could dim the young company's enthusiasm. 

As the Guardian Swallow at the Gates of Heaven in 
Planetomania she received her first notice as a professional 
dancer in The Dancing Times. 

The Sadler's Wells Ballet Company was then giving 
regular seasons at the New Theatre, its war-time home, and 
Moira left the International Company to join it in the spring 
of 1942. She had had, and liked, her first experience of 
professional life. Within a week she was taking part in 
The Sleeping Princess. 

Soon after this she danced a solo in Les Sylphides and 



MOIRA SHEARER 1 53 

The Dancing Times praised her " lyrical interpretation ". 
Her first created role was as Pride in The Quest, based on 
Spenser's Faerie Queene. She was sixteen and climbing, 
and proud to belong to a company helping to establish ballet 
permanently in London. 

The illness of Margot Fonteyn gave Moira her first big 
classical role, as Odile in Les Lac des Cygnes Odile, the 
dark, evil counterpart of the delicate Odette, casting her 
triumphant spell over the fascinated court. She comes and 
is gone like a flash of black and gold. 

Very different but hauntingly lovely is Le Spectre de la 
Rose. It tells the story of a girl returning from her first 
ball. Tired but happy, she sinks into her chair and falls 
asleep, and from her hand slips the rose her partner gave 
her at the ball. The Spectre glides in through the window 
out of the shadowy moonlight, draws her from her chair, 
still sleeping, and to Weber's Invitation to the Waltz they 
dance again the remembered joys of the evening. Gently 
he glides her back to her chair, leaps through the window, 
and the enchantment is gone but the rose lies drooping 
at her feet. 

In spite of some success in this role she was greatly dis- 
appointed with her interpretation, and not until she had 
rehearsed and worked on it for many weeks with Alexis 
Rassine did the result come a little nearer her ideal. 

Rassine was her next partner, in Robert Helpmann's own 
ballet, The Miracle of the Gorbals, in which they played the 
Lovers, lifted by their happiness above the squalor of the 
surroundings; and the praise she received did not prevent 
her admitting that she would like to have been one of the 
less savoury characters propping up the fish bar ! 

Not all Hitler's flying bombs could prevent the " house 
full " notices outside the New Theatre. Blast struck it, 
rocked its stage, ripped down its scenery, but the dancing 
went on, a delicate defiance to the threat in the darkened 
skies. 



154 WOMEN AND THE WORLD TODAY 

Early in 1945, as the German armies rolled back, the com- 
pany toured Belgium and France, opening at Brussels in 
bitter weather. The theatre was unheated, the corridors 
stone-floored, the water in the dressing-rooms cold, and there 
was no light between seven in the morning and six in the 
evening owing to the fuel shortage. When the thaw came 
the pipes burst and the theatre was flooded, but not even 
then nor when, with the heating system in operation again 
and the sodden stalls beginning to steam, was the audience 
deterred. Both the theatre and the Brussels Opera House 
remained crowded. 

The four-hour journey from Brussels to Paris took fifteen 
hours. Moira slept on a luggage rack and, fast asleep, fell 
through on to one of her companions on the seat below. 
However, Paris in the spring was worth any kind of journey. 
Unscarred, it was breathing the air of victory and liberation, 
and the theatre was packed every night. They made a 
hurried trip to Versailles, where they danced in the tiny 
blue-and-silver theatre of Marie Antoinette; to the Opera; 
and to the studio of Olga Preobrajenskaya. Once a star of 
the Imperial Ballet, she was now seventy-five and still teach- 
ing, as were several other St. Petersburg ballerinas who had 
made their studios in Paris. The great days of Russia lived 
again through them. 

Reaction set in for Moira after the tour. For all her 
variety of parts she had not yet danced the great classical 
roles (except Odile in Le Lac des Cygnes) and only these 
would raise her to the rank of ballerina. In the autumn, 
however, came the news that the home of the Sadler's Wells 
Ballet for the next four years was to be the Royal Opera 
House, Covent Garden. English ballet would come into its 
own, and, with it Moira Shearer. 

To go through the stage door in Floral Street is to walk 
in the steps of history, for the great Opera House is filled 
with ghosts and memories. Redressed after its war-time 
shabbiness, its chandeliers gleaming like frozen stars, its 



MOIRA SHEARER 155 

carpets newly laid, it was prepared for the opening brilliance. 
Electricians worked above the stage as rehearsals went on. 

February 2Oth, 1946 : The King and Queen, Queen Mary, 
the Princesses, members of the Cabinet and Diplomatic 
Corps, distinguished visitors from abroad, uniforms and 
evening cloaks, and the lights glistening on tiaras like 
brackets of diamonds First Night. 

Margot Fonteyn is Princess Aurora in The Sleeping 
Beauty, Robert Helpmann the Prince, and Moira Shearer 
the Fairy of the Crystal Fountain, her cool beauty bringing 
its very spray to life. Ten days later she is Aurora. 

Knowing that it is one of the most difficult roles in ballet, 
she is thrilled with the honour, but the thought of the tech- 
nical difficulties makes her nervous as she looks at the dark 
tunnel of the auditorium and knows that in a few hours it 
will be filled with shadowy figures sitting in judgment on 
her. When the evening comes she dances like a white 
swallow, a lovely lyric in movement, and the audience 
acclaims her. 

A knee injury enforced two months' rest. She came back 
to learn that Pamela May, doubling Swanilda in Coppelia 
with Margot Fonteyn, had hurt her own knee and that she, 
Moira, must take over in two days' time. Margot Fonteyn 
danced on the first night with her consummate artistry; on 
the second, after two days' rehearsal and wearing clothes 
which had had to be altered because there was no time to 
make new ones, Moira Shearer knew that another important 
landmark in her career had arrived and she must prove her- 
self worthy of it. Her performance was described as one of 
the outstanding events of the season. 

When Michael Powell, the film director, offered her the 
star role in the film to be made of Hans Andersen's story, 
The Red Shoes, she turned it down. Ballet was Moira's 
first love : she could not share it. She went on dancing and, 
not until she learnt that Massine and Helpmann were to 
take part in the film, did she give way. 



156 WOMEN AND THE WORLD TODAY 

The season ended in June. Moira packed and flew to the 
Riviera where part of The Red Shoes was to be filmed. The 
rest of the company went off for their holiday; she had to 
get up every morning at four to start work at five o'clock, 
and carry on if necessary until seven in the evening. Then 
dinner and bed, and up again at four. There were, of course, 
a few hours of relaxation, and the stars looked very lovely 
over the Mediterranean. 

A week in the sun and under the scorching arc lights and 
she flew back to England to start work at Pinewood studios. 
She was so horrified at the first glimses of herself on the 
screen that she wanted to give up the role altogether, but 
was persuaded to stay when she learnt that most actresses 
had had the same experience and survived to see their films 
successful. Moreover, she found watching the " takes " of 
the dancing sequences an enormous help in correcting many 
faults which not even her teachers had been able to put 
right. 

It took six weeks to photograph the fourteen minutes 
of the actual Red Shoes ballet, but what enchanting minutes ! 
A few of the Covent Garden scenes were taken in the Garden 
itself in the early morning among the stalls and barrow boys. 
Meanwhile, rehearsals started for Massine's new ballet, 
Mamzelle Angot, and before The Red Shoes was completed 
Moira was working at both Pinewood and Covent Garden. 

In the following summer, 1948, she danced the ballet 
Giselle : the oldest in contemporary repertoire, the most 
emotionally exacting, the most dramatic in feeling and 
expression. Following in the line of the great dancers, from 
Grisi, Giselle's creator, through Pavlova, Spessivtseva, to 
Markova and Fonteyn of the present day, Moira Shearer 
realised one of her ambitions that July night towards the 
end of the season. The premiere of her film, five nights later 
was as great a success : The Red Shoes had the honour of 
being chosen to open the International Film Festival at 
Venice the following month. 



MOIRA SHEARER 157 

All the hullabaloo of publicity burst over her and she 
fled to Switzerland for peace and privacy, only to be asked 
for her autograph on the top of a mountain. 

She refused all film offers, went back to rehearsals and 
knew that her ambition to be a great ballerina came before 
any future hopes of becoming a straight actress. 

At Christmas she played Cinderella with Frederick 
Ashton and Robert Helpmann as the Ugly Sisters, and 
Michael Somes as the Prince, and in March paid a flying 
visit to Edinburgh to appear at a Gala Performance in honour 
of the then Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh, 
to whom she was presented at the end. 

The same month she made her first television appearance, 
with Alexis Rassine in Casse Noisette and Le Spectre de 
la Rose. 

After a visit to Florence the first appearance of English 
ballet in Italy and to Turkey, Moira Shearer returned home 
to announce her engagement to writer Ludovic Kennedy, 
son of Captain E. C. Kennedy of the Rawalpindi the 
passenger liner converted into an armed merchant cruiser 
w r hich faced the mighty Deutschland in the North Sea that 
November day in the first year of the war, and sank with 
her colours flying. Mr. Kennedy himself was a lieutenant in 
the R.N.V.R. and his first book, published when he was 
twenty, was called Sub-Lieutenant. Sharing his fiancee's 
love of the arts, he fully agreed that marriage should not 
hinder her career. 

In the autumn the Sadler's Wells Ballet Company made 
its first tour of America and Canada. So great was the 
anticipation of the visit that the Metropolitan Opera House, 
New York, was sold out two months before the Company's 
arrival. America was not disappointed. The critics were 
lyrical in their praise and the tour was a huge success. 

Moira and her fianc6 were married in February, 1950, in 
the Chapel of Hampton Court Palace, where Mr. Kennedy's 
mother has a grace-and-favour residence such as is granted 



158 WOMEN AND THE WORLD TODAY 

by the Queen to the relatives of those who have served her 
well. 

After taking part in the film of The Tales of Hoffman 
with the same team as that in The Red Shoes, Moira went 
with the Sadler's Wells Company on its second tour of 
America. Again it was an unqualified success; the ballet 
was described as dazzling and the cast flawless. 

The Company returned in February, 1951, after five 
months, but an operation for appendicitis kept Moira from 
dancing at the Opera House again until the summer. Then, 
after brief tours with the Company, she left in November 
for California, where she appeared in the Metro-Goldwyn- 
Mayer production, The Story of Three Loves. 

She came home the following May, and the birth of her 
daughter took her from both stage and screen for some time, 
but when, in February, 1953, she returned to the Opera 
House as a guest artist in Ashton's Symphonic Variations, 
and then in Giselle, the critics hailed her again as brilliant. 
Unfortunately, a strained tendon put her out of action in 
March, and it was some months before she was able to 
resume classes. 

Moira Shearer dances on, her ambition to be, not another 
Taglione, but great in her own right. 

The curtains part; an exquisitely pretty girl, with red-gold 
hair and the grace of wings in flight, glides on to the stage. 
She has the audience in thrall, she could put a girdle round 
the earth. She is Puck, she is Titania, she is ... Moira 
Shearer. 



JEAN SIMMONS 

Film Actress 

PERHAPS it was prophetic that a pretty, dark-haired girl 
of seventeen should play a small part in the film The Way 
to the Stars. It set her own feet on the ladder they were 
to climb so surely. 

She was born at Crouch End in north London, Jean 
Merilyn Simmons, youngest of a family of three sisters and 
one brother. They moved to Golders Green and Jean went 
to Orange Hill Girls' School near her home. Hoping to 
become a dancing teacher and open a school with her sister 
Edna, Jean joined the Aida Foster Theatrical School in 1944 
for one class a week, but the following year became a full- 
time pupil for education and drama as well. 

She had a natural charm and unusual personality even 
at a tender age, and although Jean did go on to take her 
Teachers' Diploma in both ballet and musical comedy 
dancing, Mrs. Foster was quick to recognise that her young 
pupil's talents were destined for a far wider stage. She took 
her to Weston Drury, the film director, to be interviewed 
for the part of Heidi, Margaret Lockwood's sister in Give 
Us the Moon. The interview was enough. She was chosen 
out of two hundred applicants and not even given a test. 

After her performance she was offered a contract by 
Gainsborough, but Mrs. Foster, knowing that there was 
plenty of time, advised her to turn it down. Too quick a 
climb might mean a loss of footing and Jean needed more 
experience before she was hurried to the heights. She 
played Sally in Mr. Emmanuel the following year, and in 
1944 Molly in Kiss the Bride Goodbye and the lead in the 

'59 



l6o WOMEN AND THE WORLD TODAY 

Gaumont British Screen Services film, Sports day. Being 
a keen horsewoman, swimmer, ice-skater and tennis player, 
it is hardly likely that she needed a test for that either. 

In 1945 Gabriel Pascal made his lavish production of 
George Bernard Shaw's play, Caesar and Cleopatra, with 
Claude Rains, Vivien Leigh and Stewart Granger in the 
leading roles. Jean, as one of Cleopatra's attendants, played 
the harp. She was still only sixteen. 

Then came The Way to the Stars. Terence Rattigan 
incidentally her favourite playwright wrote a moving 
story of British and American airmen stationed at an air- 
field somewhere in Britain. With beautiful performances 
by John Mills, Michael Redgrave and Rosamund John, and 
Douglass Montgomery as the American, the film was one 
of the achievements of the year. Not only the stars received 
notices of praise. At a dance and concert given at the 
station Jean, as an Irish colleen in a wide flared skirt and 
peasant blouse sang " Let Him Go, Let Him Tarry ". She 
herself did not tarry long. 

In 1946 David Lean directed the adaptation of Charles 
Dickens's novel, Great Expectations, and Jean was chosen 
to play Estella, as a girl, opposite Anthony Wager as the 
young Pip. Excellently as John Mills and Valerie Hobson 
played the grown-up Pip and Estella, it was the young 
actress who carried the candlestick through the gloomy 
corridors of her guardian's dark and shuttered house to the 
garden gate to admit the shyly awkward Pip with a 
haughty, " Come in, boy," who captured the critics' headlines. 

It was not an easy role. Estella was no pretty-pretty child 
pining away under the domination of the half -mad Miss 
Havisham. She was a scornful, self-possessed young woman 
with a highly developed sense of her own importance, and 
she had little mercy on the humble village boy from the 
blacksmith's forge. It was a part which could easily have 
been over-played but, though our sympathies were all with 
Pip, Estella compelled our admiration. With no disparage- 




M01RA SIIFARFR 








CLAKK 








JOY KICIKIIJJ4 



JEAN SIMMONS l6l 

ment intended of Valerie Hobson, one critic gave his 
opinion that Jean Simmons could have played the grown-up 
Estella on her head. 

Jean left all the haughtiness to Estella. She had none 
herself. The headlines of success were hard-earned and she 
had no illusion about their being easily maintained. What- 
ever glamour there is in film making, there is none in the 
working hours it demands. Jean had to leave home at six 
in the morning and was not back before nine in the evening, 
and for that reason alone took a flat, later, in the West End 
of London. 

In between films, having discovered how well she could 
wear her clothes, leading manufacturers sought her eagerly 
as a model. 

Like her last three films, however, her next two did not 
allow her to wear every-day dress. Hungry Hill, Daphne 
du Maurier's tale of an Irish family feud, belonged to the 
nineteenth century, and Black Narcissus, set in the 
Himalayas, told the story of the sisters of a convent who 
tried to set up a school and hospital high up in the mountains. 
In this Jean had nothing to say, but as Kanchi, the native 
girl with both eyes on Sabu in his robes scented with Black 
Narcissus, had no need of words. She made up for her 
silence, however, when Sabu gave her a well-deserved hiding, 
and her howls could have been heard half-way up Everest. 

After two more films, this time modern Uncle Silas and 
The Woman in the Hall came the greatest thrill of her 
career : Hamlet. With Sir Laurence Olivier directing and 
taking the lead, and Eileen Herlie as the Queen, Basil 
Sydney the King, and Normand Wooland as Horatius, the 
role of Ophelia was the most coveted one of the year. Every 
young actress dared to hope; hundreds were tested. Sir 
Laurence himself chose Jean. At the Film Festival at 
Venice in 1948 she was awarded a trophy as the best actress 
of the year for her performance as Ophelia. It was a great 
triumph and invaluable experience. 



JEAN SIMMONS l6l 

ment intended of Valerie Hobson, one critic gave his 
opinion that Jean Simmons could have played the grown-up 
Estella on her head. 

Jean left all the haughtiness to Estella. She had none 
herself. The headlines of success were hard-earned and she 
had no illusion about their being easily maintained. What- 
ever glamour there is in film making, there is none in the 
working hours it demands. Jean had to leave home at six 
in the morning and was not back before nine in the evening, 
and for that reason alone took a flat, later, in the West End 
of London. 

In between films, having discovered how well she could 
wear her clothes, leading manufacturers sought her eagerly 
as a model. 

Like her last three films, however, her next two did not 
allow her to wear every-day dress. Hungry Hill, Daphne 
du Maurier's tale of an Irish family feud, belonged to the 
nineteenth century, and Black Narcissus, set in the 
Himalayas, told the story of the sisters of a convent who 
tried to set up a school and hospital high up in the mountains. 
In this Jean had nothing to say, but as Kanchi, the native 
girl with both eyes on Sabu in his robes scented with Black 
Narcissus, had no need of words. She made up for her 
silence, however, when Sabu gave her a well-deserved hiding, 
and her howls could have been heard half-way up Everest. 

After two more films, this time modern Uncle Silas and 
The Woman in the Hall came the greatest thrill of her 
career : Hamlet. With Sir Laurence Olivier directing and 
taking the lead, and Eileen Herlie as the Queen, Basil 
Sydney the King, and Normand Wooland as Horatius, the 
role of Ophelia was the most coveted one of the year. Every 
young actress dared to hope; hundreds were tested. Sir 
Laurence himself chose Jean. At the Film Festival at 
Venice in 1948 she was awarded a trophy as the best actress 
of the year for her performance as Ophelia. It was a great 
triumph and invaluable experience. 



1 62 WOMEN AND THE WORLD TODAY 

Her youthful ambition was to travel round the world and 
meet different types of people in every country, and she has 
come near to fulfilling it in her personal appearance tours 
and filming episodes in many countries. She visited 
Australia and America during her location trip to Fiji to 
make the film of Stacpoole's famous story, The Blue 
Lagoon, with Donald Houston, the young Welsh actor, 
taking the opposite lead. She flew to Australia and on to 
Fiji in November, 1947, agreeable outposts during an 
English winter. 

When the necessary shooting at Fiji was completed (the 
film was actually finished at Pinewood) Jean went on to 
Honolulu, San Francisco and New York for a whirl of re- 
ceptions, parties and studio tours, to meet stars famous and 
fabulous long before she had left school. At the meeting 
of the Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Academy she re- 
ceived, on behalf of J. Arthur Rank productions, the award 
given to the film, Great Expectations, for the best art 
direction of its year. The haughty young Estella was 
completely lost in the young actress who looked upon her- 
self as very humble beside the established stars of long 
standing, and begged for their autographs as enthusiastically 
as any fan whose only contact with the film world is the 
cinema on Saturday night. 

The fascinating strangeness of it all was leavened by a 
touch of home. She called at Massachusetts to see her 
married sister Edna (they must have agreed that the days 
when they planned a dancing school together in London 
seemed a long way off) and then sailed home in the Queen 
Elizabeth. 

After making another film, Adam and Evelyne, Jean 
played her first stage role. The play, The Power of Darkness, 
opened at Manchester in February, 1949, and after a pro- 
vincial tour went to the Lyric Theatre in the West End. 
If it did not have a very successful run it was not the fault 
of the cast, which included Sonia Dresdel, Mary Clare, 



JEAN SIMMONS 163 

Stewart Granger and Frederick Valk. Jean took the part 
of a Russian peasant girl. She has said that she would like 
to play another stage role. 

In her next film, So Long at the Fair, she was an English 
girl visiting Paris for the Great Exhibition of 1889. Over- 
night, not only her brother Johnny, played by David 
Tomlinson, disappeared, but his room in the hotel and 
apparently every trace of his existence. The bewildered 
girl, stranded among a polite but hostile staff who plainly 
believed she was slightly out of her mind, was helped at 
last by a young English artist, Dirk Bogarde. Suspecting 
foul play, he searched for the " missing " room which had 
been boarded up during the night. Johnny, having been 
taken ill with the plague, had been removed to a convent 
hospital, and the manageress, mortally afraid of what effect 
honesty might have upon her takings just when the hotel 
was crammed with visitors, saw, in Johnny's omission to 
sign the register on arrival, her chance to deny his very 
existence. 

In September, 1948, Jean visited Norway, and in August, 
1949, toured Switzerland, Germany and Austria. At the 
Locarno Film Festival she saw her own film, Adam and 
Evelyne. This tour included four flights, four train journeys, 
a thousand miles by road, ten Press receptions, seven broad- 
casts and twelve personal appearances. It was a thrilling 
experience for a girl not yet twenty-one, yet nevertheless an 
ordeal. To be always on show, looking your best, giving 
the impression that what you are doing at the moment is 
the one thing in the world you want to do, and the person 
you are talking to the one person you want to meet (even 
though he is an incredible bore and you are dead tired and 
your head is spinning), is not easy. 

Interviewers can be quick to jump on what they imagine 
to be a slight on themselves, a double meaning can be read 
into reported words when shorn of their context, and the 
whole process of " being publicised " become a trial by jury. 



164 WOMEN AND THE WORLD TODAY 

The enthusiastic reception she received throughout the tour 
was a tribute, not only to her work, but to her unspoilt self. 

She made three more films in 1950, Trio, from Somerset 
Maugham's short stories, Cage of Gold with David Farrar 
as the villain of the piece, and The Clouded Yellow in which 
Trevor Howard proved her innocence in a murder case. 
Then in the autumn her engagement to Stewart Granger 
was announced. They were both in America and, after a 
flying visit home at Christmas, Jean returned for their 
wedding in January, 1951. 

On her coming of age, only a year before, Mr. J. Arthur 
Rank, to whom she was under contract, gave a party for 
the star of whom he was so justly proud. Jean has the 
freshness of youth without its gaucheness, she has the touch 
of dignity that gives distinction, the naturalness which not 
all the grooming of Hollywood will mould into a stereotyped 
sophistication, and we were sorry to learn that the rest of 
her contract was sold to R.K.O. Productions. 

While in America, Jean Simmons has made Angel Face, 
Young Bess (in which she played the young Elizabeth Tudor), 
Beautiful but Dangerous, Androcles and the Lion, The 
Robe, the adaptation of Lloyd Douglas's long Biblical novel, 
which has received wonderful reviews. 

It was announced in January, 1954, that Twentieth 
Century-Fox Studio had signed her on a five-year contract, 
starting in 1955, to make one film a year for that company, 
and also bought a two-film option on her services from 
Howard Welsch, an independent producer who last year 
bought the remainder of her contract to R.K.O. 

Jean and her husband live in a white, Spanish-type house 
with verandahs which look out over Los Angeles and the 
far sweep of the sea. Her friends and fans, in Britain as 
in America, wish her every happiness and success, but here 
at home we hope most earnestly that Hollywood will not 
wholly rob us of the young actress of whom Britain has such 
great expectations. 



DODIE SMITH 
Dramatist and Author 

IT WAS easy to call it " beginner's luck "; as easy as to say, 
" It'll be all right on the night/' but neither prophecy came 
true for Dodie Smith. 

When the curtain came down on the first night of her 
play it ended a nerve-racking experience and, she believed, 
all her hopes. A rowdy Bank Holiday gallery had cat-called 
and booed and jeered, and the more dignified reprimands 
from the stalls met with only louder derision. As if a First 
Night were not an anxious enough ordeal at best for an 
author, this had been a nightmare. 

In an atmosphere of ribaldry and indignation the play 
had dragged out twenty minutes longer than its time and 
to the author it had seemed like twenty years. She could 
have borne it if the play had failed honourably, desperately 
as she wanted it to succeed, but this was like being 
undeservedly pilloried. Surely the theatre owed her some- 
thing by now. 

The road to the West End had been a long one and the 
going often rough. Born near Manchester, Dodie was only 
eighteen months old when her father died. Her mother 
returned to her own family, who lived in an old house not 
far from the Manchester Ship Canal. Everyone grand- 
father and grandmother, three uncles and two aunts loved 
the theatre and took the little girl with them to see grown- 
up plays long before she could read. As she grew a little 
older her grandfather read Shakespeare to her, and one of 
her uncles, a keen amateur actor, rehearsed his pans with 

165 



1 66 WOMEN AND THE WORLD TODAY 

her until she was cue perfect. At nine she was reading 
Shaw. 

Growing up thus in an atmosphere, if not of the profes- 
sional stage, then of dramatic activity, Dodie Smith had 
every opportunity of becoming familiar with dramatic 
dialogue. Not to be outdone by the great, however, she 
wrote a forty-page play herself, still aged nine. Others 
followed of unspecified length but, in the author's own words, 
of progressive dullness. To gain more practical experience 
she followed her uncle into amateur theatricals. Her first 
role was that of the little boy in The Lyons Mail and, if 
The Lyons Mail were a long way behind the Lyric Theatre 
in the West End of London, she was at least driving in the 
right direction. 

On her mother's re-marriage they made their home in 
London, and Dodie went to St. Paul's Girls' School, where 
she discovered the old truth that, to be popular in a big 
school, one has to be good at games. She was much more 
interested in the theatre than games and her desk hid a pile 
of old programmes and photographs of actors and actresses 
she admired. 

When she left school it was a natural step to the Royal 
Academy of Dramatic Art. Here she wrote a screen play 
for which she was paid three pounds, ten shillings. One may 
always hope that a beginning, however modest, will lead to 
better things, but fifteen years were to pass before she earned 
any more money by writing. Unfortunately she did not 
make much more by acting. She was on the stage for seven 
years but she had to admit herself a failure. In her own 
words she was " the world's most sacked actress ". 

But Dodie loved the theatre no less and bore willingly the 
inevitable discomforts and heartbreaks of the life as long 
as she felt she could go on hoping, but hope and great liking 
cannot take the place of wages. The theatre, it seemed, 
did not want her. It had no room to spare for those who 
did not bring it credit. She took other jobs, she lived in 



DODIE SMITH 1 67 

one room, her bank balance perilously low. Genius and 
less than genius had survived in similar circumstances, over- 
come them and shed its brilliance upon the stage, but she 
could find not even a candle gleam to give. 

She got a job in a furnishing store in Tottenham Court 
Road. With innate honesty, and the courage of desperation, 
Dodie told the proprietor that she knew nothing about buy- 
ing toys and prints, but he believed that she could learn and 
promptly engaged her. It meant, at least, relief from hard- 
ship, and the days, being full, were less lonely, but she 
missed the make-believe of the life she had loved, that 
strange enchantment whose spell is like no other. She 
dreamed of the theatre as she had dreamed of it over her 
desk at school. It was another world. 

In 1929, however, she was given the opportunity of seeing 
something of this world. She went to the Leipzig Fair to 
buy toys for her firm and while abroad took a holiday in the 
Austrian Tyrol. Here, against the background of the 
crocus-covered mountain-sides, was born the idea for a play 
the story of an English schoolmistress, lonely and a little 
past her youth, who falls in love with the handsome young 
innkeeper, not knowing that he is married. The background 
was true to the Tyrol but the story was not autobiographical. 
Indeed, it was not written at all until six months after her 
return, and then only because a playwright friend for whom 
the story w r as intended did not want it after all, so she 
wrote it herself. 

The magic of the theatre woke again in her as she worked. 
She dared to hope that the play would be accepted. It must 
be a success. The theatre had taken much from her, it 
owed her something in return. She wrote and scrapped and 
re-wrote, read and re-read, imagined every scene staged before 
her, saw again the vivid little flowers growing on the far 
mountains the Austrians called them " the timeless 
flower " blooming in the " September spring ". 

Miraculously both Basil Dean and Nigel Playfair accepted 



1 68 WOMEN AND THE WORLD TODAY 

the play, Basil Dean first. Her firm gave her generous time 
off to attend rehearsals and watch Fay Compton and Francis 
Lederer playing the leading roles, but she still found it 
difficult to believe that it was her own play, that she would 
be the one to answer the calls of " Author " at the end of 
the first performance. (The author, according to the bills, 
was C. L. Antony.) 

It came that unforgettable night! Backstage a grotto 
of flowers competed with the perfume on women's evening 
dress. Telegrams streamed in. Good wishes poured over 
herself and the cast. Her friends had arranged a supper in 
celebration. Tonight's success was to end for good those 
days in a back room in Marylebone with bankruptcy one 
foot over the threshold. 

For once Londoners (or was there a leaven from further 
afield?) lost their generous humour. For a few moments of 
ill-natured levity they sank a woman's heart and hopes to 
the depths of humiliation. Did any of them, leaving " the 
gods " that night, give a thought to the possibility of having 
inflicted pain the pain which only a creative artist, watch- 
ing the mutilation of work which has cost much in toil and 
tears, can know? It was only a section of the audience, it 
was true, but one thorn in a bouquet of roses can draw blood. 
Somehow she got through that mockery of a celebration. 
She gave her flowers away. Her friends saw her home, try- 
ing to offer consolation, yet knowing that no word of theirs 
could lighten her despair. She had to face that alone. At 
long last sleep brought a few hours' rest. 

Waking renewed the nightmare, leaping back as she 
opened her eyes on the morning, like a blow upon her con- 
sciousness. There was no escape. Resigned to the know- 
ledge that, at least, nothing could be worse than last night, 
she opened the newspapers and read the critics' enthusiastic 
praise. She could not see very clearly, her hands were 
shaking, and her heart bumped unevenly. What tears she 
had left she shed in an overwhelming revulsion of incredu- 



DODIE SMITH 169 

lous relief. Autumn Crocus had triumphed, but she had to 
see the " house full " notices outside the Lyric Theatre in 
Shaftesbury Avenue before she was fully convinced. 

The play ran for a year. C. L. Antony, as the world knew 
her, settled down in a new flat to face the task of consolidating 
that success and giving the lie to those who called her a 
" one-play author ". 

Service, her second play, ran for six months; Touch Wood, 
her third, for seven; Call it a Day for fifteen. All were 
written under the pseudonym, but she remained Dodie 
Smith to those who knew her (the circle had widened con- 
siderably by this time) and when the theatre management 
put up her name in lights during the run of Call it a Day, 
C. L. Antony ceased to exist. Dodie Smith, the playwright 
who had never had a failure, came into her own. 

She acquired a country cottage and a car, and dropped in 
on her old firm once a week to see how they were getting 
on. She was not the sort to forget old friends. She knew 
people, ordinary people, and their problems which she her- 
self had faced, and she had no intention of losing the " feel " 
of them. Had not the sureness and sincerity of her touch 
brought her the success she now enjoyed? 

Not all her triumph, however, could wipe out the uncer- 
tain perils of the years that had gone before. Artistic suc- 
cess, after all, balances on the razor edge of public favour. 
When Autumn Crocus was produced in New York, Francis 
Lederer twice fell off the mountain side, once nearly landing 
in the orchestra, and both mishaps stirred the audience to 
inappropriate laughter. 

Being an experienced if not a successful actress, and 
knowing what violence can be done to a writer's work by 
those in command of its production, she made a point of 
being present at all the rehearsals from beginning to end, 
and making whatever suggestions she thought necessary 
through the producer. Her plays, Bonnet Over the 
Windmill and Dear Octopus, she co-directed. 



170 WOMEN AND THE WORLD TODAY 

Dear Octopus, hailed as her best play, was produced in 
September, 1938. One critic remarked that he could see no 
reason why it should ever stop running. It did take a second 
world war to halt its year-long run at the Queen's Theatre, 
and the play has since become the favourite of radio's Satur- 
day Night Theatre listeners, with Gladys Young playing 
the leading role as beautifully as did Marie Tempest on the 
stage. It has also been televised. 

The characters in this family gathering, at a small coun- 
try house in Essex for the parents' golden wedding, are 
drawn with so unerring a pen that most of us cannot help 
but be reminded by any one of them of someone we know 
Dora Randolph (mother, grandmother and great-grand- 
mother) who is always finding little jobs for everyone; 
Charles (father, etc., etc.), who considers his pre-occupation 
with home, children, dogs and friends and, in obedience to 
Dora, putting up shelves and taking them down again, worth 
while as the sum total of a man's happiness; Nicholas, the 
eldest son, unable to resist this assembly though he was not 
looking forward to it; the parents of the youngsters who take 
over the latter's paintboxes in the nursery; the daughter who 
is suddenly provoked by the interference of her sister-in-law 
into telling her that she has never liked her and never will 
but who, " having no capacity for sustained rage ", hurries 
off to make peace. 

Sentimental moments of reminiscence are spiced with a 
delicious dash of asperity. Grandmother, having grown old 
gracefully, can still look at the applied complexion of her 
contemporary, Aunt Belle, and utter a wholly pardonable 
" miaou ". And when Nicholas rises at dinner to pronounce 
Grand Toast, most of us, particularly those listening-in on 
Saturday night, can settle down in our armchairs a little 
further and sigh gratefully that it is Sunday tomorrow and 
we, too, can relax with the family, or get done one or two 
outstanding little jobs. It is a human and a greatly satis- 
fying play. 



DODIE SMITH 171 

Its author's next play, Lovers and Friends, already suc- 
cessful in New York, has not yet been put on here. Dodie 
Smith has been living in America for the past fourteen years 
and it was thex;e that she was married to her business 
manager. There, too, that she wrote her first novel, / Cap- 
ture the Castle. Thought out originally as a play, when she 
came to write it as a novel in 1941, she soon abandoned it; 
but took it up again in 1945 and put in three years' hard 
work to give us an enchanting story of a very hard-up 
family, the Mortmains, who live in a broken-down castle. 
Their existence is precarious and their methods of obtaining 
means slightly touched with the madness of the full moon. 
Perhaps it is not surprising that the Mortmains cherish a 
cat and a bull terrier, Abelard and Heloise (known as Ab 
and Hel), for their creator owns three well-loved Dalmatians, 
father, mother and son. 

Her post-war play, Letter from Paris, was adapted from 
Henry James's novel, The Reverberator, the story of an 
American family in Paris in the eighteen-seventies, and 
presented at Brighton Theatre Royal in August, 1952. It 
went to the Aldwych Theatre, London, in October with 
Brenda Bruce in the lead, but ran only a few weeks, the 
shortest West End run of any of her plays. 

Looking back Dodie Smith can see the usefulness of even 
those seven unsuccessful years she spent as an actress. They 
taught her stagecraft and continued the lessons of her child- 
hood in attuning her ears to dramatic dialogue. A play- 
wright-to-be, she insists, must see, think and read plays, fit 
into them the ordinary people met with in daily circum- 
stance, look behind their actions and their speaking to the 
thought that prompted both, to see them on his own private 
stage on which the curtain never falls. 

Good craftsmen make their work look easy. I Capture 
the Castle, its author was assured, wrote itself. On the con- 
trary, some of it was written twelve times. The greater 
credit is due to the writer whose words read smoothly, whose 



172 WOMEN AND THE WORLD TODAY 

characters live and whose incidents are not laboured, 
for having disguised the immensity of the unflagging 
effort which goes into the creating of literary and dramatic 
life. Adapted, after all, as a play, it began a short tour of 
the provinces in January, 1954, prior to West End 
production. Richard Greene and Virginia McKenna, the 
charming Wren of the film The Cruel Sea, play the 
American visitor and the young girl, Cassandra. 

Not everyone can portray the ordinary man and woman 
on the stage and make them warmly interesting. Dodie 
Smith has this gift in full measure, and the tentacles of 
love and laughter and a little sorrow have reached out to 
us for our infinite delight from the dear octopus of her 
humanity. 



NANCY SPAIN 
Writer 

VARIETY has coloured not only Nancy Spain's life but her 
ancestry. Her great-grandfather was Dr. Samuel Smiles, 
author of the famous book on Self Help, her great-aunt was 
Mrs. Beeton of the Cookery Book, and her soldier father 
contributed to Punch and other magazines. 

She was born at Newcastle in 1917 but went south to 
Roedean School on the cliffs at Brighton. After she left 
school she continued her prowess at games and played 
cricket, lacrosse and squash racquets for Northumberland, 
Durham and the North of England. Then she took to 
commercial travelling, selling games implements, and to 
free-lance journalism as a sports reporter, writing about the 
games themselves. 

In 1939, however, a greater contest took her far from the 
green pitches. After two months in the A.R.P., as it was 
then, she joined the W.R.N.S. as a lorry driver and was 
stationed at North Shields on the River Tyne. 

Her first " lorry " was an old laundry van, and any mem- 
ber of any Service who drove makeshifts in those early days 
of the war will appreciate its limitations. Its sides still bore 
the homely legend, FAMILY BAGWASH, but its wind- 
screen carried the prouder label, ROYAL NAVY. 

In it she carried trawler men, Lewis gunners, ratings on 
draft, supplies, mines, and even the shattered bodies of men 
blown up with their ships by the magnetic mine. Into the 
port came the great ships of every allied and neutral nation 
to be fed and clothed and healed. 



174 WOMEN AND THE WORLD TODAY 

Several months passed before the Wrens received their 
uniforms. When at last they arrived Nancy Spain, in spite 
of the slightly embarrassing experience of being taken for 
a nurse and invited to hurry to a maternity case, was proud 
of hers when she got it to fit and prouder still of a com- 
pliment. At the entrance to a cinema two small boys 
accosted her. 

" Lady sailor, take us in with yer." 

She asked for three ninepennies. 

" Oh ! " exclaimed the boys, " we only wanted four- 
pennies." 

She felt the flattery was worth one and six ! 

In June, 1940, while the River was empty of its little ships, 
the Wrens, unable to help in the miracle of Dunkirk, talked 
of transfers to the south. When the miracle was lifted to 
the skies Nancy Spain chose to spend her leave in London, 
and watched the cindrous glow above the burning East End 
London's own dockland and saw London shake the dust 
out of her hair the next day and get on with the job. They 
were great days, imperishable memories in the mind of a 
writer. 

A few months later she went in front of a Selection Board 
at Rosyth, was passed, and travelled south again one bitterly 
cold night the following January 1941 to begin her train- 
ing as a cadet at Greenwich. This completed, she was 
posted to a Fleet Air Arm Station in Scotland. 

In 1942 she was sent on an arduous lecture tour for the 
Service to try to double its numbers. During this period she 
wrote Thank You, Nelson, a lively account of her life as a 
lorry driver, for which Mrs. Vera Laughton Mathews, 
Director of the W.R.N.S., wrote the preface. The book was 
written as she travelled, in hotel bedrooms, Y.W.C.A.s and 
first-class railway carriages and, since it needed none of the 
inventiveness of fiction, the author did not find her concen- 
tration disturbed by the passing crowd. 

She accomplished her task for the Navy by January, 1943, 



NANCY SPAIN 175 

not without incurring bronchitis, however, and spent the 
next year as Officer in charge of Recruiting Applications, 
London Area, in the West End. 

She rose to the rank of Second Officer but in 1945 was 
invalided out with a pension. Nancy Spain was still in a 
Naval Hospital when she wrote her first detective story, 
Poison in Play, which was published in 1946. On leaving 
the Service she went to London with her gratuity, her pen- 
sion and the first advance of royalties on her book, to set 
up as a writer. During the next four years she published 
six detective novels and the charming biography of her 
great-aunt, Mrs. Beeton and her Husband. 

The novels, her most original work, required far more 
concentration than either Thank You, Nelson or the 
biography. The variety of their settings reflects that of the 
authoress's experience : in Death Before Wicket a pretty 
games mistress at a girls' school is murdered during a 
Fathers v. Girls cricket match; Death Goes on Skis at a 
winter sports resort; " R" in the Month features the hotel 
business, and Cinderella goes to the Morgue, theatre and 
pantomime. 

All these and two others, Murder, Bless It, and Poison 
for Teacher, as well as the biography of Mrs. Beeton, were 
written in three years. 

In 1950 Nancy Spain became editress of Books of Today, 
which every month reviewed the latest publications; and, 
until she left for America, contained a scintillating column 
by Hermione Gingold on " These I Have Loathed ". 

After a year with Books of Today Nancy resigned in 
order to become Literary Editor of Good Housekeeping, 
where she advised on fiction and wrote a monthly book 
feature. In March, 1953, she was appointed book critic to 
the Daily Express the only woman to hold such a post on 
a national daily paper and, owing to increasing feature 
work for it, she had to give up Good Housekeeping a few 
months later. 



176 WOMEN AND THE WORLD TODAY 

Her output of books continues. Out Damned Tot was 
published in 1951, Not Wanted on Voyage in 1952, and, in 
June, 1953, The Story of Eleanor " Teach " Tennant, coach 
to tennis champion, Maureen Connolly. A children's book, 
which she called The Tiger that wouldn't eat Meat, she 
illustrated herself. 

In addition to all this, she has broadcast in Women's 
Hour nearly every month since 1952, and contributed to the 
1953 Sunday morning programme, Home for the Day, a 
weekly talk called My Week, the only one of its kind in 
British broadcasting. 

Not surprisingly, her working hours last from half-past 
nine in the morning to half-past nine at night. Somehow 
she finds time, between working and sleeping, to travel and 
to go to the cinema and theatre. In truth, the writer recog- 
nises no closing hours, for the writer's mind never rests. 



BEATRICE WEBB 

Social Economist 

(I should like to state that most of my information on 
Beatrice Webb was obtained from her autobiography, MY 
APPRENTICESHIP, with brief references to OUR 
PARTNERSHIP by Mrs. Webb, and to BEATRICE 
WEBB by Margaret Cole. All these works were published 
by Longmans. P.C.) 

BEATRICE WEBB was the eighth of nine daughters, born 
in a Cotswold country house overlooking the valley of the 
Severn. Her grandfather, son of a Yorkshire draper, 
prospered and became a leading citizen of Manchester. His 
son, Richard Potter, was educated at Clifton and University 
College, London, and called to the Bar, but had no intention 
of practising. 

On the death of his father he inherited a moderate fortune 
and set off on a grand tour. In Italy he fell in love with 
and married the daughter of a Liverpool merchant, brought 
her to England and proposed to settle down to the life of 
the county on an estate in Hertfordshire. They were saved 
from what their daughter, Beatrice, once called " this 
deadening environment " by losing most of the fortune in 
the financial crisis of 1848. With a rapidly increasing family 
it was necessary for him to set about earning a livelihood. 

His father-in-law made him a director of the Great West- 
ern Railway, and a friend offered him a partnership in a 
timber business in Gloucester. Assured of an income from 
two sources, he went on with considerable success to develop 

177 



178 WOMEN AND THE WORLD TODAY 

financial interests on an international scale. Though often 
away from home he was, nevertheless, the centre of it, ador- 
ing his wife and daughters, laughing goodnaturedly at the 
unconventionality of the latter. 

Life was enjoyed on an ample and varied scale, moving 
from town to country houses among a wide circle of friends 
socially and politically important, yet at home there was 
no display of luxury. Mrs. Potter, less liberal and tolerant 
by nature than her husband, brought up her daughters to 
" feel poor ". She, who lost her only son in infancy, dis- 
liked women and did not approve of her daughters. She 
sat in her boudoir and gave orders as did her husband in his 
offices, and this consciousness of power, of belonging to the 
class which habitually gave orders but did not take them, 
was the dominating colour in the picture of life seen through 
the eyes of Beatrice. Labour was a commodity, not a class 
of human beings. 

A delicate child, Beatrice in her early years almost wholly 
lacked formal education. Her affection for her mother 
developed late and she was on intimate terms with only one 
of her sisters. Her active young mind, pining for an outlet, 
turned to the philospher, Herbert Spencer, a frequent 
visitor to the house. He was the only person who singled 
her out in childhood as worthy of being trained, and his 
influence directed her towards social economy. She read 
widely on philosophy, science and sociology, but she knew 
no mathematics and had little appreciation of art, poetry 
or drama, and, until later in life, of music. 

At eighteen, like her sisters, she " came out " and was 
attractive and intelligent enough to be known in society as 
" the brilliant Beatrice Potter ". But although she enjoyed 
much of the life, she saw through the magnificence the 
colossal waste and expenditure involved. Entertaining was 
an occupation which saw the consumption, not the produc- 
tion of commodities and services. 

The test for membership to the greatest of all social clubs, 



BEATRICE WEBB 179 

London society, was not, she discovered, birth, breeding, 
charm, money or intellectual gifts, but the " possession of 
some form of power over other people ". It was a world in 
which personal vanity with its false values was an 
occupational disease, in which those highly placed were 
shamelessly courted while in the limelight, and as abruptly 
dropped when no longer prominent. Her experience of it 
rendered her immune for ever from the flattery of those 
in high social positions, and she never ceased to dislike 
spending time and money on pursuits enforced by fashion 
and not choice. 

After her mother's death in 1882 she was the only 
daughter left at home, and for ten years she managed the 
house and acted as her father's secretary. As his hostess 
she met and talked with politicians and economists, breath- 
ing the gathering air of social reform. The world of labour 
was beginning to take shape. To get a close view of it her- 
self she went in 1883 to visit some relatives of her mother, 
weavers, living in Bacup. Here she learnt of the Co-operative 
Movement and saw for the first time how the poor lived. 

She began working in Soho for the Charity Organisation 
Society, whose aim was to prevent indiscriminate charity 
by careful investigation into the conditions of the deserving 
and undeserving poor. But the Society opposed the relief 
of poverty by legislation, such as the Old Age Pension, and 
" let loose the tragic truth that, wherever society is divided 
into a minority of Haves and a multitude of Have-nots, 
charity is twice cursed, it curseth him that gives and him 
that takes ". 

Beatrice took over rent collecting in a block of tenements 
near the docks, but in 1885 her father was stricken with 
paralysis and she had to give up her work to care for him. 
Unhappy in her enforced inactivity she kept up her study- 
ing by reading for three hours before breakfast. Her own 
ideas were crystallising and the writing of them naturally 
followed. When her sisters arranged to take over the 



l8o WOMEN AND THE WORLD TODAY 

nursing in turn she was free to go to London and help her 
cousin, Charles Booth, in his great " Enquiry into the Life 
and Labour of the People of London ", which was to expose 
the squalor and poverty behind the fine front of Victorian 
prosperity, and to act as a great spur to social thought and 
change. With a growing confidence Beatrice proved that 
her chosen career of social investigator was right. 

To investigate the sweating system she took work as a 
trouser-hand in an East End workshop. An interview with 
a factory inspector who refused information because Booth 
had not flattered him enough, determined her ever after to 
live up to the rule : " The personal element in work 
is contemptible." 

Giving evidence before a Select Committee of the House 
of Commons, she told them that sweated labour was to be 
found in every industry where there were no means of 
protecting the worker from the profit-maker's greed " the 
sweater is, in fact, the whole nation ". 

It was suggested that she make a study of women's labour 
in general, but she turned it down to write a history of the 
Co-operative Movement. She saw the latter as an effort 
" to organise industry from the consumption end, to place 
it from the start upon the basis of ' production for use ' in- 
stead of ' production for profit ' ". Wanting more informa- 
tion, she was recommended to go to Sidney Webb of the 
Fabian Society. 

They first met in January, 1 890, but when reading Fabian 
Essays she had earlier selected one by him as by far the 
most significant. Curiously enough, Sidney Webb had re- 
marked in his review of Booth's Survey that the only 
contributor with any literary talent was Miss Beatrice 
Potter. He gave her information in a handwriting as 
faultless as hers was illegible. His next gift was a book of 
Rossetti's poems. 

Sidney Webb's background was more humble than that 
of Beatrice. His mother, early orphaned, refusing to live 



BEATRICE WEBB l8l 

on her relatives, borrowed some money and opened a hair- 
dresser's shop in Cranbourn Street, off Leicester Square. It 
was so successful that she continued in business after her 
marriage. Mr. Webb, an accountant, was a man of wide 
intellectual interests, public spirited yet without ambition 
for himself. 

They sent their two sons abroad to learn languages. 
Sidney, wholly unskilled with his hands all his life, won 
rows of prizes and scholarships. He went to evening classes 
at London University, came out top in the Open Com- 
petitive Examination for the Civil Service, and eventually 
passed into the First Grade so brilliantly that he could have 
entered the Foreign Office, but chose the Colonial. Con- 
tinuing the study of law, history and economics, he obtained 
his LL.B. degree. 

His amazing memory served a mind which had become 
a storehouse of knowledge, and an equally astounding 
capacity for selecting relevant facts was matched by his 
ability to present them in precise words. A sense of humour 
warmed him, interest in all things mellowed his superb 
efficiency and his temper was seldom ruffled. Sidney, like 
Bentham, believed in " the greatest happiness for the greatest 
number " and that that could be achieved, not by 
revolutionary methods, but by the orderly process of 
development. 

A growing intellectual companionship between him and 
Beatrice deepened. They became engaged, but told only 
a few friends, among whom was George Bernard Shaw; 
Beatrice's father could not be told of her intention to marry 
a socialist. In January, 1892, Mr. Potter died, and six 
months later they were married. 

Marrying Sidney meant marrying into the Fabian 
Society though Beatrice did not become a member until 
later and giving up many of her friends. Charles Booth 
and his wife " dropped " her, Spencer no longer wanted her 
to be his literary executive, and her brothers-in-law 



1 82 WOMEN AND THE WORLD TODAY 

disapproved: she had stepped outside her social circle. 
Beatrice was human enough to be hurt a little, but not over- 
much; she gave up all use of her maiden name in her work 
and was henceforth Sidney's wife and collaborator. The 
great partnership had begun. 

They lived at 41, Grosvenor Road, conveniently near the 
offices of the L.C.C., and established a joint system of work- 
ing. After a trip to Canada in 1898 they turned their 
attention to public enducation. The Fabian Society having 
been left 10,000, the executive committee decided to put 
part of it to the founding of an institution for the study of 
political economy. From two rooms in the Adelphi grew 
the great London School of Economics. With the help of 
Lord Haldane, the Webbs succeeded in obtaining recogni- 
tion for the School as part of London University, and the 
study of economics as a science in which degrees could be 
granted. For many years Sidney Webb was the unpaid 
Professor of Public Administration at the School. 

In 1905 Beatrice came to the fore on her own merits as an 
appointed member of the Royal Commission on the Poor 
Law, the first enquiry to be made since the " New Poor 
Law " of 1 834. The Commission of that date held the 
view that poverty was a man's own fault and the result of 
his idleness, and riches the reward of diligence. Charles 
Booth's Enquiry had shown that 30 per cent of the people 
of London came under the Poor Law. The shadow of the 
workhouse hung over their lives. In 1905 unemployment 
was widespread and thousands had to ask for Poor 
Relief. 

Beatrice wished to report on the causes of destitution and 
give the remedies for them, but only three of the twenty 
members supported her. The Head of the Poor Law 
Division of the Local Government Board wanted to make 
the pauper inferior to the poorest labourer in work, 
deprived of personal reputation, freedom and the right to 
vote. This was too much even for the other fifteen members 



BEATRICE WEBB 183 

and it was agreed that the Poor Law must go. But Beatrice 
was pressing forward with investigations. Her knowledge, 
drive and intellectual grasp excelled that of all the other 
members. 

Some members of the Charity Organisation Society 
wanted to restrict medical relief to the destitute. Beatrice 
suddenly had the idea of making medical inspection and 
treatment compulsory for all sick people of treating sick- 
ness as an enemy of the country. With Sidney's help she 
went forward and he himself wrote out the Minority Report. 
With only four signatures it failed, but it was one of the 
great State Papers of the century and it brought Beatrice 
the distinction in 1909 of an honorary doctorate of 
Manchester University. 

The Majority Report recommended that the poor should 
be given State relief only when organised voluntary relief 
had proved insufficient a wholly inadequate reply to the 
problems it faced. The Minority had gone to the heart in 
recommending prevention rather than relief, but the 
Majority still preferred palliatives. The later report of the 
then Sir William Beveridge, stressing the need for full 
employment, minimum wages and State medical services, 
was thus set out thirty-five years before by Beatrice 
Webb. 

The Minority Report having failed (25,000 copies of it 
were sold by 1910), Sidney and Beatrice Webb decided to 
appeal to the country. In April, 1909, the National Com- 
mittee for the Break-up of the Poor Law was set up, and by 
December had 16,000 members. The campaign was directed 
on a grand scale, and the famous including Winston 
Churchill and Rupert Brooke and the unknown addressed 
both meetings and envelopes. It ran its own newspaper, 
The Crusade. The following year the Committee changed 
its name to The Prevention of Destitution. The Asquith 
Government, however, contained too many people who dis- 
liked tampering with old institutions and had no intention 



184 WOMEN AND THE WORLD TODAY 

of abolishing the Board of Guardians. But public opinion 
had been aroused. 

In 1911 came the Lloyd George Insurance Act. Insurance 
companies and the British Medical Association fought parts 
of it but it became law. It gave a great deal of relief but 
the Webbs still felt that it had been approached from the 
wrong angle, making no attempt at prevention. The Board 
of Guardians and the stigma of the Poor Law remained. The 
poor had to suffer hardship, hunger marches and the 
humiliation of the Means Test before the public conscience 
was finally roused. With the setting up in 1934 of 
what is now the Assistance Board, the Government 
accepted responsibility for the maintenance of the 
unemployed. 

The Crusade died, but Beatrice knew from prolonged 
experience during the last few r years that the great need 
now was for a strong Socialist party. She saw behind the 
prosperous elegance of the Edwardian age the festering 
slums, the wages which in some industries, such as the rail- 
ways, were so low that it was impossible for a man to earn 
a decent living. The cost of living had been rising since 
the Boer War, and Beatrice returned to England after a 
world tour with her husband, determined to create an 
independent Socialist Party. 

They were uneasy years and Beatrice, impatient as she 
was of all deviation from the point, was apt to assert herself 
too uncompromisingly for the feelings of others, and she 
faced some unpopularity. 

In place of The Crusade the Webbs founded The New 
Statesman as an independent journal to discuss Fabian 
principles. It still flourishes under the editorship 
of Kingsley Martin, and now includes short stories 
and articles on scientific and other subjects written by 
experts. 

After the war, that tragic interruption to progress, Sidney 
drafted the policy of the new Labour Party Labour and 



BEATRICE WEBB 185 

the New Social Order though his name was not published. 
It was as a miners' representative on the Sankey Commission 
to investigate the gross inefficiency of the mining industry 
that he established himself as a political personality. In 
1920 the Durham miners put him up as candidate for Sea- 
ham Harbour, and in 1922 he polled the amazing majority 
of 11,200. 

Beatrice worked hard and achieved the reputation that 
" our candidate's wife can answer questions better than any 
man ". In the first Labour Government her husband held 
the Cabinet rank of President of the Board of Trade : if 
his term was short-lived, it was, nevertheless, successful. 
He held his seat for Seaham Harbour for nine-and-a-half 
years and, though Beatrice did all she could as his political 
helpmate, she was beginning to feel her age and she found 
the noisy London of the period between the wars very 
trying. In 1923 they acquired Passfield Corner, the house 
in tiny Passfield village on the border of Surrey and Hamp- 
shire, which later became their permanent home. No. 41, 
scene of so much arduous writing, was handed to a colleague, 
and later Grosvenor Road itself came to be rechristened 
Millbank. 

During their long partnership the Webbs created what 
has become a reference library of sociological studies 
Beatrice's own History of the Co-operative Movement and 
her autobiography, My Apprenticeship, which is a magnifi- 
cent portrait of a social period as well as of her own mind; 
their joint histories of Trade Unionism, of Local Govern- 
ment, of the Poor Law, and others. A vast amount of 
research into these not, on the face of it, attractive subjects, 
was necessary to accomplish the work with admirable 
accuracy, though their " official " style has been described 
simply as " Webb ". 

In 1928 Sidney withdrew from politics, telling his con- 
stituants simply that Parliament was too much for him, but 
in 1929, with the second Labour Government in power 



1 86 WOMEN AND THE WORLD TODAY 

though, like the first, without a majority he was asked to 
take office as Secretary of State for the Colonies and to go 
to the House of Lords, where the hours would be shorter 
and the work wholly administrative. Entirely against his 
lifelong principles and solely in answer to public duty, he 
accepted. 

For the first time Beatrice refused to share that duty. 
She flatly refused to be called Lady Passfield, and neither 
Prime Minister nor society women could persuade her. She 
did her job as hostess with a good grace when it was neces- 
sary, but she had been born in society, knew, in her own 
mind, its distorted values and would not pander to its 
vanities again. 

In 1931 came the slump, the National Government and 
release for Sidney, and the following May he and Beatrice 
went off to see for themselves in Russia. They had prepared 
for this visit with their usual thoroughness. In sixty full 
days they saw much they admired and some things they 
doubted. An old fisherman whom they asked if he felt 
better off now than under the Tzar replied thoughtfully, 
" Life is pretty hard : but now you get what there is." Three 
years later the Webbs published their book, Soviet 
Communism. 

They lived quietly at Passfield, writing and reading. 
Their many friends were always welcome and Beatrice came 
to love a good gossip. In 1938 Sidney had a stroke and, 
though he rallied and recovered, the shock was severe on 
Beatrice. She was eighty and the world was again on the 
edge of war. On her birthday she, who cared nothing for 
personal recognition, received messages from all over the 
world. Her partnership with Sidney, who shared her public 
disinterestedness, had given her complete domestic happi- 
ness in a life which contained few of the usual personal 
details of women. Critical as she was, she bore no malice 
against those who had abused her. 

She died on 3oth April, 1943, and her name is carved on 



BEATRICE WEBB 187 

a simple stone in Passfield Wood. Sidney was awarded the 
Order of Merit with the assurance that it was in recognition 
of the great work of the parnership. The name of Beatrice 
Webb, indissolubly as it was linked with his, stands in its 
own right as one of the greatest of her generation. 



GLADYS YOUNG, O.B.E. 

Radio Actress 

"MISS YOUNG, will you play Mrs. Pendyce in The 

Country House? " 

" Miss Young, we should like you for the Headmistress in 

Madchen in Uniform.'" 

"Will you read the serial in Woman's Hour? " 

" I'm sorry it's such short notice, Miss Young, but Miss Exe 

is down with 'flu. Could you take over her part in Curtain 



A smile, a nod, and a harassed producer goes on his way 
a less-worried man. 

Never w r as a name more literally a household word than 
that of Gladys Young. Her quiet, gracious, friendly voice 
is known in almost every house in the land and as many 
abroad. It belongs to the family circle, to the tranquillity 
of the Sunday night serial, to the relaxation of the reading 
at twenty-to-three in Woman's Hour, and sometimes, since 
it is the voice of a most versatile actress, it startles us with 
an incredible sarcasm as bitter as an east wind. 

She was born in Newcastle but became, as one might say, 
a Londoner by adoption and love, for it has long been her 
home. Throughout an uneventfully happy childhood she 
cherished a love of the stage. No one then, of course, 
dreamed of Portland Place. 

Educated at Sutton High School, and later at Bonn, in 
Germany, her knowledge of the German language stood 
her in good stead in later years. Back home she joined an 
amateur dramatic club which included among its members 

1 88 



GLADYS YOUNG 189 

Mabel Constanduros, the late Leslie Howard and the late 
Cyril Nash. After three years with them she went on to 
the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art to train for the stage. 
In one year and two terms she won a scholarship, 
a silver and a gold medal, which promised well for 
the future. 

Then war broke out. For fifteen months she played in 
The Man Who Stayed at Home until, in 1916, she left the 
cast to marry. Her next role was very different but no less 
happy. With her sister she worked at a hacking stable in 
Bexhill, Sussex. They did the job thoroughly; there was no 
leaving the less-pleasant tasks to the regular stable boys 
while they exercised the horses on the downs, or took them 
along to patrons. They saddled and unsaddled, groomed, 
fed and watered their charges, cleaned their stables and 
enjoyed every minute of it. They loved the open air and 
the countryside and for a while it was good to leave the 
indoor life behind. War seemed much further away than 
a mere twenty miles of grey and guarded Channel. 

But the pleasant interlude came to an end and they went 
back to war-dimmed London. Gladys Young went to the 
War Office to make good use of her knowledge of German 
by examining candidates for censorship, and carried on with 
the job until the end of the war. After her son was born 
in London she spent the next few years in the country. 

By 1926, however, she was longing to get back to acting. 
Her old friend and colleague of the amateur dramatic club 
days, Mabel Constanduros later to be famous for her 
endearing Buggins family of three generations suggested 
an audition for the new medium of entertainment, broad- 
casting. 

The headquarters were then at Savoy Hill, for those were 
the days of the cat's whisker and the crystal set. Few of us 
could have realised then how great a part radio was to play 
in our leisure, how it would bring to our very firesides not 
only great music and drama and a new form of variety, 



190 WOMEN AND THE WORLD TODAY 

but the thrills of the whole sporting calendar, and the great 
occasions of history. 

Through it we shared in the Coronation of the late King, 
the Olympic Games, the wedding of the then heir to the 
throne, the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth, and many 
other brilliant, curious, and sometimes sad events which 
had formerly staged their pageantry in London alone were 
to come across the miles to us in humbler places. To 
the blind it was to be a light in the everlasting dark. 

Some artists were already making a name for themselves 
on the air, their voices becoming as familiar as our own 
though we had no idea what their faces looked like unless 
their photographs appeared in the Radio Times. Others 
were to follow, unknown as yet on any other stage, with the 
new brand of humour, the catch-phrase which was to become 
part of our vocabulary. Gladys Young did not know, when 
she passed her audition she took the part of a cockney 
character in a play about costers on Bank Holiday that she 
would ever be voted the best-loved actress of the radio year. 
Throughout the thirties she played many parts. During 
those uneasy years other names, too, rose to fame. Arthur 
Askey and Richard Murdoch climbed upon the Band 
Wagon every Wednesday night and shared their ride with 
millions of listeners the first great radio show of its kind. 
Then, when war broke over us again, the most beloved artist 
in radio history, the late Tommy Handley, with that gallery 
of dear immortals, the ITMA team, kept laughter alive for 
us and for the shadowed lands whose masters frowned on 
humour. By now a wireless set had long become an indispen- 
sable part of our pleasure. 

In 1939 Gladys Young joined the newly-formed B.B.C. 
Repertory Company which, after two months at Evesham, 
went to Manchester. The placid face of Broadcasting House 
hid the upheavals and uncertainties affecting its depleted 
and scattered staffs. Plays were rehearsed in a few hours, 
companies moved from one part of the country to another. 



GLADYS YOUNG 191 

In 1940 she went to Bristol and took part in the Children's 
Hour and Schools programmes, but after six months came 
back to London which, burned and bombed though it was, 
was home. 

War passed. The voices went out again from Broad- 
casting House, standing among its wounded neighbours, 
and that of Gladys Young had become as well known as the 
calm impartial courtesy of the announcers who no longer 
told us their names before reading the news. 

In 1946 she went temporarily to the screen, appearing in 
The Courtneys of Curzon Street with Anna Neagle and 
Michael Wilding. She found the stars and the director, 
Herbert Wilcox, wonderful people to work with, and 
thoroughly enjoyed the experience. 

Broadcasting, however, is her first love. Indeed, to most 
people she belongs to the radio. As the self-effacing Margery 
Pendyce, the possessively selfish Mrs. Mallinden, the ruth- 
less Headmistress of the German girls' school, the voice is 
unmistakably hers. She loves character parts and has played 
so many that one can imagine her taking on anybody from 
Boadicea to Mrs. Bennett. 

She finds making appeals a little nerve-wracking for so 
much depends upon their success. She has read several 
serials, both on the Home Service and Woman's Hour three 
of them by her sister, E. H. Young, entitled Miss Mole, 
William, and Chatterton Square. Three recent ones 
are A Room with a View, The Frenchman and the Lady, 
and Nothing is Safe. 

In both 1949 and 1950 Gladys Young was awarded the 
Silver Microphone for the best actress of the radio year, 
and in 1951 received the O.B.E. in the New Year's Honours 
List. A few months later she celebrated her silver jubilee 
in broadcasting, as Mrs. Fraser in a revival of St. John 
Ervine's play, The First Mrs. Fraser. She was chosen, yet 
again, as the actress of the year, for 1952. 

After, one might say, paying tribute to Wales in another 



192 WOMEN AND THE WORLD TODAY 

revival Emlyn Williams's The Corn is Green she went 
over to Ireland to play for Radio Eireann from Dublin. 

Just as youngsters far and wide listened night after night 
to the kindly voice which, recognising no barriers in the 
commonwealth of childhood, said, " Goodnight, children 
everywhere," so millions of listeners of all ages know and 
love the voice of Gladys Young. She has contributed much 
to the ideal of the B.B.C. and of free people the world over 
Nation shall speak Peace unto Nation. 




Z 
m 



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