Kate Frye’s Diary: The Lead-Up To War: 31 July 1914

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.

KateAs 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.

Kate has just begun her summer holiday – staying with her mother and sister in their rented rooms in Worthing.

Friday July 31st 1914

Up late – felt very weary. Mother very upset and twitchy. Her depression is because we had had letters from the Lawyer about the old man’s affairs and it seems years ago he borrowed £500 from Aunt Agnes and since 1911 has paid no interest. It’s too appalling – no wonder she is upset. Surely we know the worst now – can there be any more of these horrors. It does indeed make life miserable. We could never hope to pay it off – and considering we are living on Aunt Agnes’ bounty what would be the good.

Mickie and I went and sat on the beach 11 to 1. Writing all the afternoon. Agnes and I out in the evening. Quite cool.

Frederick Frye, Kate’s father, had died four months ago. During his lifetime, even when he had lost his business and the family homes, he refused to discuss  financial affairs with his womenfolk. His wife and elder daughter were probably temperamentally unsuited to dealing with such matters, but Kate would have very much preferred to have known what was going on. As it was, ever since about 1900, they had been admonished to cut back on spending on dresses and on outings to the theatre – but had no awareness whatsoever of the dreadful state of the family finances. The fact that Frye had borrowed money from her sister – and had long ago abandoned all pretence of even paying interest on it – clearly was an appalling blow to Kate’s mother. It says a great deal for Agnes Gilbey’s generosity that they only found out about the loan from their lawyer. Aunt Agnes herself  had never mentioned it and had, indeed, offered her sister, Jenny Frye, a generous allowance when she was left destitute after her husband’s death.

This family gloom eclipsed for today any mention of the war situation in Kate’s diary. ‘Mickie’, her little dog, and ‘writing’ (I wonder what it was she was writing?) offered the only consolations.

See also Campaigning for the Vote: Kate Parry Frye’s Suffrage Diary.


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.


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