Cicely Hamilton (1872-1952) was the daughter of an army officer, Denzill Hamill, and born in London. Her mother, Maude, died (or disappeared, Hamilton is evasive in her autobiography, Life Errant, 1935) when she was young and Cicely helped bring up and later support her younger brothers and sisters in foster-homes and boarding with relatives while their father served abroad. After a brief stint as a pupil-teacher, she became an actress, touring throughout the provinces, and began writing short popular fiction alongside acting and in 1906, her first play The Sixth Commandment was produced at Wyndham’s in London. It was followed by The Sergeant of Hussars, Play Actors, 1907. In 1908 her Diana of Dobson’s was produced by Lena Ashwell at the Kingsway Theatre. In the style of the “new drama” of Shaw, Granville-Barker, Galsworthy and others, it introduced themes later developed in her book, Marriage as Trade (1909), an important feminist analysis of the marriage market, combining realism and comedy in addressing problems of the economic subjugation and the denigration of single women, subjects. It was highly successful, enjoying a long run, extensive tours and a series of revivals. Hamilton put her public recognition to the service of the suffrage campaign, joining the WSPU and becoming a speaker at rallies and co-founding WWSL with Bessie Hatton and writing three classics of the suffrage campaign: the play How The Vote Was Won, with Chris St John, the words to her friend, Ethel Smyth’s anthem, “March of the Women” and A Pageant of Women (AFL, Scala, Nov 1909. Her later plays included numerous one-acts such as Mrs Vance (1907) and Just To Get Married (1910), and the unpublished The Pot and the Kettle (with St John, AFL, 1909), The Home Coming (1910) and The Cutting of the Knot (Glasgow Royal, 1911Constant Husband (1912), Lady Noggs (1913) and the same year Phyl, which enjoyed the distinction of being banned by the Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University[1]. At the start of the War, Hamilton joined the Scottish Women’s Hospitals Organisation as a hospital administrator and went on to establish concert parties and organise theatre performances for the troops. Her nativity play The Child in Flanders is set in the trenches. She continued writing after the War as a successful journalist, helping found the feminist magazine Time and Tide, with Rebecca West, Winifred Holtby and others, and novelist: William: an Englishman (1919) A Matter of Money, Full Stop which includes suffrage scenes). She also produced non-fiction works, including a history of the Old Vic with Lillian Baylis, an autobiography Her last plays, such as The Old Adam, focus on the devastation of war, and the indifference of women who tried to ignore its horrors. [1] For publication details see Croft, 2001 or Whitelaw
Back to Authors List