Gilli Bush-Bailey
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Mabel Constanduros
Different voices, voicing difference
in Stage women, 1900–50

In 1946 Mabel Constanduros published her autobiography, Shreds and Patches, as an account of her journey from shy middle-class wife and mother to creating and realising her very public role as ‘Grandma Buggins’ for BBC radio. This chapter focuses not so much on the well-trodden path of the performer’s rise from suburban obscurity to fame, but rather on the less well documented network of influence that enabled performing women to train and tailor their professional work in the fast-changing industry of the early twentieth century. Training with Elsie Fogerty and developing her skills as a ‘diseuse’ on amateur and professional stages between the wars, Constanduros wrote and performed for radio, film and later television. As one of many women making their way in a professional structure that welcomed their practice, if not always their insistence on agency, Constanduros offers a more coherent model of professional ambition and practice than the self-deprecating title of her autobiography suggests.

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Stage women, 1900–50

Female theatre workers and professional practice


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