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.
Monday 20th July 1914
Woke up at 6 and thought of John and then went to sleep again. Called at 8. Breakfast at 9 and then slept on until 10.30 when I realised I had not breakfasted – so got up and recooked the egg and dressed and went out at 2 o’clock. Had some lunch and did some shopping – in at 3.30 – had a rest and went to sleep again.
Tea at 6 – and then off to Peckham for the open-air meeting. Self in Chair and Mrs Kerr as speaker. We finished at 10.15. Home soon after 11. We did not have quite such a big crowd as usual. I was bitterly tired.
Well, life certainly does seem dreary for Kate without John.
As yet Kate, who was a keen reader of newspapers, has not commented on events in Europe or in Ireland- and nor does she mention details of the increasingly militant WSPU campaign. For instance, on 14 July an attempt was made to burn down Cocken House, owned by Lord Durham, on 15 July the Secretary for Scotland was attacked with a dog whip, on this very Monday suffragettes interrupted a service in Perth Cathedral protesting against forcible feeding of suffragettes in Perth Prison, and on 17 July a WSPU member had attacked Thomas Carlyle’s portrait in the National Portrait Gallery (see my post about the current NPG exhibition commemorating this here). It was against this background that the New Constitutional Society for Women’s Suffrage continued with its strategy of holding open-air meetings in the hope of converting the inhabitants of south London to the idea of ‘Votes for Women’.
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