About 18 months ago, I joined a group at Glasgow Women’s Library called Drama Queens. We met at lunchtime or in the early evening and read plays from the library’s collection. One of those was A Pageant of Great Women, written by Cicely Hamilton in 1909, in which Prejudice puts the case against women’s suffrage and Woman rebuts his arguments with examples of great women from history. Now GWL is putting on its own version on 7th March (the eve of International Women’s Day), revised and updated with historic Scottish women. I’m proud to be representing Isabella Elder in this March of Women.
The day itself will merit its own post, but there has been an enormous amount happening in the meantime. Workshops, for example: research / writing workshops to create lines for “our” women and craft workshops to make banners, sashes and rosettes (being hopelessly ham-fisted I’ve opted out of this bit). A lecture (below, left) by Katharine Cockin, Professor of English at the University of Hull and author of Edith Craig (1869-1947): Dramatic Lives – Edith was the director of the original performance. Katharine explained that suffrage supporters in the arts were encouraged to use their expertise, resources and contacts to help spread the word, and in the period 1905-14 many women wrote a play, a poem or a short story, for the first time. Pageants and public spectacles had very specific meanings at that time, and I also found Linda Fleming’s article in Women’s History Scotland helpful in understanding that.
We had a Christmas party at which I did a bit of play-reading with Dr Anna Birch of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (above, right). Anna is March of Women’s Director – she has already directed A Pageant of Great Women, in Hull in 2011 so we are in experienced hands. The third photo above shows rehearsals beginning. These will culminate in a dress rehearsal on Friday 6th: we’ve all had to find white clothing which has not necessarily been easy!
Finally, I spent a very cold couple of hours last Friday in Glasgow Necropolis, where Isabella Elder is buried, being filmed talking about why I chose her. Some of that might make it into the documentary which is being made about the event. I’d like to say come and see us next Saturday, but the pageant is a sell-out. However, you can join us at 2pm outside GWL’s doors as we process to Glasgow Green (details via link in first paragraph). And if you can’t do anything else, please keep your fingers crossed for a dry day!