On 7 August 2014 ITV will publish an e-book, Kate Parry Frye: The Long Life of an Edwardian Actress and Suffragette. Based on her prodigious diary, this is my account of Kate Frye’s life and is a tie-in with the forthcoming ITV series ‘The Great War: The People’s Story’. For details of the TV series and its accompanying books see here.
As a lead-up to publication I thought I’d share with you some entries from Kate’s diary from the month before the outbreak of war. Through her day-to-day experience we can see how the war stole up on one Everywoman.
Kate was at this time 36 years old, living in a room at 49 Claverton Street in Pimlico and working in the Knightsbridge headquarters of the New Constitutional Society for Women’s Suffrage. It was now nine years since she had become engaged to (minor) actor John Collins. Her father died in March 1914 and her mother and sister, Agnes, now all but penniless, are living in rented rooms in Worthing. John has a room along Claverton Street, at number 11.
Friday July 10th 1914
Slept until 9. dressed after breakfast. Wrote letters at 11. A very hot day. Had letter from Kathie in answer to mine of good wishes – speaking in glowing terms of her engagement. I am glad she is happy.
John and I went out to lunch at Slaters. Then we both went to Office for the Banner and Leaflets. By bus to Hammersmith and train [to] Hounslow where we got rid of the rest of the thousand handbills. Had tea at 5.30.
To Broadway at 7.15 and the Lorry arrived at 7.30 and we decorated it, getting an enormous crowd of children round.
Then the speakers Mrs Kerr and Mr McKillop arrived and Mr Fox in the Chair. Miss Raynsford Jackson and Miss Arber came down to help with giving out notices. We had a huge crowd and ours was the first open air meeting ever held in Hounslow.
The people were a bit troublesome at first but came round wonderfully. We had a little passing trouble with tin trumpets and a gramophone but I managed to quell it and we really had a magnificent meeting.
John and I waited just to pay up and we came to Victoria by train from Heston Hounslow. Went into Rinaldo’s for supper. It would have been quite nice only there was the most awful drunken man there making a scene.
We walked down. Got in at 12 o’clock. A great relief to me to have the meeting over.
Here, on The Broadway, Kate organized Hounslow’s first ever open-air ‘Votes for Women’ meeting. Her main speakers were Mrs Barbara Kerr, whose sister, Louisa Raynsford Jackson, we have already met, and John McKillop. The latter had, until 1909, been secretary to the London School of Economics and its first (part-time) librarian – but was now secretary to an MP. His wife, Margaret, was a lecturer in chemistry in King’s College, London, Woman’s Department. Interruptions from tin trumpets and gramophones were par for the course. At least there weren’t any vegetable or firework throwers – such as Kate had had to contend with on previous occasions. Inquisitive children were a suffrage organizer’s constant companions.
Rinaldo’s was an Italian restaurant at 15 Wilton Road, just opposite Victoria Station. in his Gourmet Guide to London (1914), Lieut-Gen Nathaniel Newnham-Davies describes the interior of Rinaldo’s – ‘Its walls a pleasant grey with decorations in high relief on the upper part, and on the stained glass of the skylight are paintings of game and fruit. Baskets of ferns in the shape of boats hang from the roof and there are always bunches of roses on the tables.’ Before setting up his own restaurant Rinaldo had worked at the Savoy – and The Gourmet Guide reported, his restaurant attracted an aristocratic clientele. Alas that one drunk should have spoiled Kate’s pleasure. She had been entirely used to dining out in the best London restaurants in her younger days when her father appeared the epitome of prosperity – but that was now a vanished era.
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