Monday, November 14, 2016

Spotlight On...Cicely Hamilton

I’m so excited about my latest book purchase I just have to share it! I’ve just acquired a copy of Cicely Hamilton’s autobiography, Life Errant (London: J M Dent and Sons, 1935) so the latest Spotlight On is about Cicely Hamilton. 

Cicely Hamilton (1872–1952) is one of my writing heroines. She was a suffrage campaigner who joined the militant Women’s Social and Political Union founded by Mrs Pankhurst, and wrote the words for the WSPU anthem, The March of the Women, music by Ethel Smythe. Later critical of the dictatorial style of the Pankhursts, she left the WSPU to join the Women’s Freedom League, and edited their paper The Vote. In 1908 she founded the Women Writers’ Suffrage League and the Actresses’ Franchise League.

Cicely Hamilton's autobiography, Life Errant
She achieved success with her play Diana of Dobson’s in 1908, and went on to write a  number of suffrage plays with her friend Christopher St John (born Christabel Marshall, 1871–1960), including the comedies How the Vote Was Won and The Pot and the Kettle. In 1910 she wrote A Pageant of Great Women – I also own a copy of this rare text – which featured fifty two great women including Joan of Arc, Jane Austen, Angelica Kauffman, and Charlotte Corday. Cicely Hamilton herself played Christian Davies (1667–1739), who enlisted in the army as Christopher Welsh. Davies’s disguise was discovered by surgeons after she was wounded at the Battle of Ramillies.

The Pageant was performed around the country, including Bristol’s Prince's Theatre in 1910 and the Albert Hall, Swansea. Cicely Hamilton also wrote the book Marriage as a Trade (1909) criticising women’s limited economic choices which forced them into marriage for want of the skills or opportunity to do anything else.  

During the First World War, she worked for the Scottish Women’s Ambulance Unit, and then joined a touring theatrical company entertaining the troops. Many of her novels and plays deal with the issue of war and humanity’s capacity for violence, which she attributed to what she called the herd instinct, the “crowd-life” which overcame people’s “responsible individuality”. These included the novels William: an Englishman (1919), which has been republished by Persephone Books, and Theodore Savage (1922). Her 1926 play The Old Adam (also known as The Human Factor) explores the response of two warring nations when they acquire the technology to disarm one another’s weapons. You might expect this to be a cause for rejoicing, but Hamilton’s disillusionment takes the play in another direction entirely. Unable to use machines, men arm themselves with knives and clubs…     

In spire of her pessimism about the possibility of human progress, she continued to campaign for women’s equality. She was an editor of The Englishwoman, and worked on the feminist journal Time and Tide. She was active in the Six Point group in the 1920s, campaigning for better child protection laws, legislation to protect widows and their children, rights for unmarried mothers, equal guardianship of children, equal pay for teachers, and equal opportunities and pay in the civil service. 

One of the things Hamilton criticised the WSPU about was its obsession with dress and appearance, “its insistence on the feminine note”. In a witty tangle of gender identities, she once attended a fancy dress party dressed as George Eliot (Marian Evans), with her friend Christopher St John dressed as George Sand (Amantine-Lucile-Aurore Dupin) in male costume.

William an Englishman by Cicely Hamilton is available from Persephone Books 

Monday, November 7, 2016

Silver Sound 4 November 2016: Village People

Today’s guest was author Debbie Young. Debbie has written a number of author guidebooks, including Sell Your Books (SilverWood Books) and Opening Up to Indie Authors for the Alliance of Independent Authors (jointly with Dan Holloway). She has also published two collections of essays, both inspired by life in the Cotswold village of Hawkesbury Upton – All Part of the Charm: A Modern Memoir of Village Life and Young By Name.

In addition Debbie has published a number of short story collections, including the Christmas themed Stocking Fillers. She is now working on the first in a series of murder mystery novels set in an English village not unlike Hawkesbury Upton – except, of course, for the murders!

Debbie has also written the book Coming to Terms With Type 1 Diabetes to raise funds and awareness for the JDRF. JDRF is the largest charitable funder of research into a cure for the disease, which affects both her husband and her daughter.

Amongst her many activities, Debbie is the founder of the Hawkesbury Upton Literary Festival. All events are free and it’s a wonderful chance to enjoy a day in the village and listen to readings and talks. The next festival is on 22 April 2017. For more details see the HULF website.

Author Debbie Young at the BCfm Studio
National Memory Day Writing Competition - Debbie’s work is very much based in her local community, and it’s an excellent example of the advice often given to writers to “write what you know”. So if you feel inspired to have a go, or if you are already writing, you might be interested in the National Memory Day writing competition. National Memory Day is an annual celebration of poetry and creative writing for people affected by memory loss, and the first National Memory Day is 18 May 2017. The competition is for poems and short stories, and includes a Best Young Writer Award and Best Primary Carer Voice Award. For details see the National Memory Day website

Diabetes - If you would like more information or advice about diabetes you might find the following links useful:-

You can listen to the show here (10 to 11 am)

Silver Sound is broadcast by BCfm 93.2 fm between 10 am and mid day on Thursdays and Fridays. I’ll be back on the show between 10 and 11 am on 2 December 2016 with another fabulous guest!