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.
Saturday 18 July 1914
Very tired – and struck work. Up late. John in about 12 and both went out at 12.15. Bus to Charing Cross – lunch off salad at Eustace Miles.
Then we tried to get in ‘The Belle of New York’ on John’s card – no good – so we wandered about and eventually got in ‘The Palace’ to see the Revue ‘The Passing Show’. I was so glad as I wanted to see Elsie Janis. She is clever -something quite out of the way, the real thing in talent and a beautiful dancer. The revue was funny in parts but a mad sort of affair – Arthur Playfair and Basil Hallam.
We walked to Piccadilly coming out – had tea at Lyons and then by bus to Earls Court to the Spanish Exhibition. A much commoner affair than the White City – like a Fair in parts but we enjoyed it. Had a good dinner which made us feel better and did a few side shows. The Spanish singing and dancing in the Empress Hall was too awful – we were in fits. Stayed until just upon 12 – then a train to Victoria and walked down. Nearly one o’clock when I got in. I was very tired but not unhealthy – very different to last week and I had enjoyed the outing.
Eustace Miles’ Restaurant was the best-known vegetarian restaurant in London – see my post on the Eustace Miles Restaurant and Suffragettes. Incidentally Hallie Miles, Eustace’s wife, is one of the diarists who, with Kate, features in the forthcoming ITV series ‘The Great War: The People’s Story’. So, as we think of Kate and John eating their salad at this restaurant 100 years ago today, we can ponder on the gossamer strands of coincidence that intertwine to place them both in a television programme in 2014.
‘The Belle of New York’ had been all the rage in the late 1890s and in her late teens Kate had loved to dance routines from the show – especially if she had an admiring audience.
‘The Passing Show’ had opened in April at the Palace Theatre in Shaftesbury Avenue. It was while playing in it that American-born Elsie Janis (1889-1956) and Basil Hallam met and fell in love. However the War, now barely three weeks away, was soon to kill Hallam. In 1916, during the Battle of the Somme, he hurtled to his death from an observation balloon when his parachute failed. Elsie Janis worked throughout the War, entertaining British and American troops.
The Anglo-Spanish Exhibition was subtitled ‘Sunny Spain’. A newspaper reported that ‘Spanish music and song will be a feature of the open-air entertainments’ and that ‘In the Empress Hall will be found realistic reproductions of Spanish cities, Spanish cathedrals, Spanish villages and pleasure resorts’ This was the nearest Kate was ever to come to Spain. The Exhibition closed at midnight – so Kate and John had spent the whole evening there, staying until the very end.
All the articles on Woman and Her Sphere and are my copyright. An article may not be reproduced in any medium without my permission and full acknowledgement. You are welcome to cite or quote from an article provided you give full acknowledgement.