On 24 October 1928 the Actresses' Franchise League was at a victory reception held by the Equal Political Rights Campaign Committee to celebrate the passing of the Representation of the People Act which allowed women the vote on the same terms as men. One of the most popular suffrage plays of the pre-war period, Cicely Hamilton and Christopher St John's How The Vote Was Won (1909), was performed by some of the original cast. Throughout the war years and the 1920s, the League had maintained its work with and for the suffrage societies and used its extensive networks in the theatre industry to run philanthropic and patriotic projects that furthered the cause of women's equality in society. In all, the Actresses' Franchise League spent only six of its fifty years as an organisation producing what has been known as 'suffrage theatre' – this chapter explores the League's work from the outbreak of war until that 1928 victory performance, focusing particularly on the role of actresses in the Women's Emergency Corps and British Women's Hospital Fund.
There are an extraordinary number of autobiographies written by British female theatre professionals working during the period. This generation of actresses and female performers were concerned, in part, with locating themselves in a public culture of self-affirmation and reflection. Their autobiographic writing evidences an awareness of the growing interest in their activities as public figures and practitioners, in a labour market where women were now becoming firmly professionalised. The chapter explores how their ‘autobiographic confessional histories’ can be read as a body of work, as cultural interventions that make an explicit contribution to our understandings of the development of professional theatre practice more generally, during the era.