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’, in which Romola Garai plays Kate.
To discover more about the entirety of Kate’s life – her upbringing, her involvement with the suffrage movement, her marriage, her London flats, her life in a Buckinghamshire hamlet, her love of the theatre, her times as an actress, her efforts as a writer, her life on the Home Front during two world wars, her involvement with politics – and her view of the world from the 1890s until October 1958 – download the e-book – £4.99 – from iTunes – : http://bit.ly/PSeBKPFITVal. or £4.99 from Amazon.
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. For the previous few weeks Kate’s fiancé, John Collins, had been renting a room in another house in Claverton Street but he has now left for the West Country, to take up a position with a touring repertory company. Kate is feeling rather bereft.
Thursday July 30th 1914
The holiday that I have longed for – from the point of view of rest but know that I shall not enjoy from the point of view of enjoyment – has come at last. It is years since I have had a holiday free from some anxiety that I can’t believe in this one much.
Up at 7. Breakfast at 8 and my man came for the luggage and got a Taxi and I left here at 9.30 – parting from the Misses Heffer in great friendliness. At Victoria it was a pandemonium. I don’t know what was the matter with the station – it couldn’t be all the holiday traffic, but I had to fight to get a Porter and to get my luggage put in the train – and we were 20 minutes late in reaching Worthing.
The journey seemed short as I had bought no end of papers to read of the Crisis – it is becoming too awfully serious for words. Home politics are clean out of it at this moment – everyone’s interest is fixed further afield. Fancy a European War at this period of our so-called civilization.
Mother met me at Worthing station looking most depressed – oh dear I am so tired of it. Agnes not well to start with. I arranged with a porter to bring my things and walked up with Mother to 10 Milton Street. ‘Dear love’ raced up the road – he was ever so pleased. Agnes does not look well. Mother is going to Wooburn on Wednesday so I am to have her room to save 2 moves. We had lunch and sat and talked. Tea at 4 then I unpacked a little bit – it’s an awful muddle being in anyone else’s room. The three of us then took a walk, supper and bed. I feel utterly tired and depressed.
Well, as Kate guessed – she – and the rest of Britain – had not picked the right year if they wanted a quiet summer holiday untroubled by anxiety. The pandemonium at Victoria was an indication that, with the crisis in Europe mounting, people had found a sudden necessity to travel. Holiday makers from the Continent , of whom Kate had mentioned a couple of weeks ago that there appeared to be many more in London than usual, were cutting short their stay in Britain and returning home.
Kate had been born in 1878 and during her lifetime had known a Europe in the main at peace. I don’t think there was a mention in her 1913 diary of the troubles in the distant Balkans – she had been far too caught up in the suffrage struggle at home. In the days when the Fryes were still prosperous she had spent long, languid holidays at spas in Germany and Austria – how difficult it must have been to contemplate – at least initially -that the people she had met there were likely now to be ‘the enemy’. The war that had involved her generation had been fought in far-off South Africa – a rather more suitably exotic stage on which to mount the clash of arms.
In the meantime it was back to the gloom of family life – such of it as remained – in rented rooms in Worthing. The ‘holiday’ element merely meant that for a month or so Kate didn’t have to go into the Office each day – or canvass for ‘Votes for Women’ around London. She obviously wasn’t expecting much in the way of pleasure – but at least would be with ‘Dear love’ – aka as ‘Mickie -, her beloved Pomeranian.