Inez Bensusan (1871-1967) the eldest of ten children, she was born in Sydney, Australia into a wealthy Jewish family, eight of whom survived. She appears to have wanted to act from her youth, staging recitals and entertainments for the community. Sometime after 1893 she emigrated to Britain, travelling via South Africa. Best known for her work as journalist, writer and campaigner for women’s suffrage, she was active in Australia and New Zealand Women Voters and the Jewish League for Women’s Suffrage, serving on its Executive Committee. Most centrally she made a vital contribution to the work of the AFL, developing and running the Play Department and working in conjunction with the WWSL to encourage and commission women to write plays in support of women’s suffrage. Bensusan also performed with and was on the Council of the Play Actors. Later, she ventured into film, writing and starring in True Womanhood (1911), playing a starving woman sweatshop worker, saved from the workhouse by a suffragette fairy godmother (it also featured Decima Moore and Auriol Lee). In 1913, Bensusan went on to set up the Women’s Theatre, launched at the Coronet Theatre that December, which aimed to establish a permanent season of work dealing with women’s issues. She played the grandmother in Israel Zangwill’s The Melting Pot (Court, 1914) and in 1916 produced and performed in Jennie (Mrs Herbert D.) Cohen’s The Lonely Festival as part of an All Jewish Matinee.
During the Great War she worked with the first Women’s Theatre Company to perform for the Army of Occupation in Cologne and then with the British Rhine Army Dramatic Company for three and a half years. She later converted to Christian Science and became active in the Women’s Institute and on issues of child welfare. She maintained her involvement in small-scale and experimental companies serving on the committee of The 1930s Players and, as late as 1951, appearing in a House of Arts Drama Circle triple-bill, at Chiswick Town Hall.
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