Kate Frye’s Diary: The Lead-Up To War: 2 August 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.

Sunday August 2nd 1914

Not out all day as furious wind, everything jangling and banging. I felt seedy and got up late. Agnes too was very queer – says she knows she is going to be ill. Read and dozed in the afternoon and did some writing in the evening.

Germany has declared war against Russia for interfering against Austria over Servia – and against France!!! Goodness alone knows why unless this is what she has been preparing for and planning for years. England must be drawn in – I don’t see in honour what else we can do. John may be called to a Fort at any minute. Oh the whole idea frightens me.

John Collins

John Collins

John Collins, had been involved with the army all his life, despite being the most un-warlike of men. The Collins family had long  been leading members of Knaresborough (Yorkshire) society. John’s father, however, had been a younger son, had not inherited any family wealth and had gone into the army, becoming a colonel.  In 1900, after a brief spell as a student at Cambridge, John had served out in South Africa as a private  with the Yeomanry Field Hospital, Bearers Company during the Boer War.  Ever since returning he had worked in the theatre while continuing as a member of, first, a Volunteer brigade and then as an assiduous member of the Territorial Army. His theatrical career had been punctuated by length periods spent at training camps – on Salisbury Plain and at coastal forts such as Shoeburyness. So we can see why the thought of war caused Kate a particular fear.

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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