Kate Frye’s Diary: War: 5 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. For details of the TV series and its accompanying books see here.

For ITunes preview of the book see here.

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 – but has now begun her summer holiday, staying with her mother and sister in Worthing.

‘Wednesday 5th August 1914

Agnes in bed. I had slept in the dark hole and had a fearful night with the cats tramping in and out and fighting in the garden. I tidied Agnes and the doctor – Dr Hudson – came soon after 10. He didn’t say much but keep her in bed – no solid food – probably catarrh of the stomach and a chill – some inflammation. He was nice.

I had begun to think Mother would not have a comfortable journey to Wooburn as the government has taken over all railways and so many men are travelling to join their regiments – all reserves and Territorials called out – and she didn’t feel inclined to go with Agnes so seedy. I went up to the station to inquire and found as far as they knew trains were running fairly smoothly but they could not guarantee anything.

So I came back and she decided not to go – so Mick and I went off again to send a Telegram to Constance. They would not change a £5 note at the Post Office. Wrote some letters and then read all afternoon. A stroll in the evening – feeling utterly miserable. Heard again from John – has not had his orders yet but they must be on their way. England Mobilizing!!! What a thought. Could get to nothing that required concentration of thought – so greased Dear Love all the evening. A strange occupation with England going to War – but like life.’


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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