Rebel Women

I do a lot of community theatre. My latest show is Rebel Women, a play about the Suffragette Movement in England about a hundred years ago. Its creator is Joan Bryans, Vancouver historian, playwright, actor, and director.

I have several roles, the most interesting being Mrs. Jessie Payne, an East London housewife, landlady to Sylvia Pankhurst, and hard worker. In this photo of a Suffragette deputation to visit Prime Minister Asquith in June 1914, she’s fourth from the left.

London Town Walks shares this information about this East Londoner:

Jessie Payne then told of her terrible life as a sweated worker; a cigarette packer in a factory where she had earned less than a shilling a day. Men had been allowed time for lunch but women were not, and had nowhere to eat so had to to consume their food in the lavatory. She emphasised trade unions would not tolerate such conditions. She went on to tell of her life with her mentally retarded daughter. Having a conscientious objection to her little girl being vaccinated she had gone to the local magistrate for an exemption order. He had laughed and informed her that in the eyes of the law she was not the parent. Only a father could apply. On another occasion her daughter, now an adult, became unmanageable to the point where Mr Payne had felt compelled to take her to the workhouse. When Jessie arrived there she found her daughter had been placed in a padded room. She had asked the doctor why and was informed that a mother had no voice in the matter. Only the father.

Come and see this show. It’s a piece of history.

We’re in Presentation House at 333 Chesterfield Avenue, North Vancouver from October 3 to 12 (preview on October 2) and in Metro Theatre from October 16 to November 1 (preview on October 15).

1 thought on “Rebel Women

  1. Jessie Payne was my great-grandfather’s niece, but they were so close in age they were like brother and sister. She and her sister (at the ages of 4 and 2) were taken in by their grandparents (William and Elizabeth Salmon), her mother (married recently to her late sister’s husband) being unable to provide adequately for them. We are very proud of Jessie and her fight for women’s suffrage. We have family photos of her (I think in the deputation photo she is second from the left), and it is lovely to hear that she is being portrayed in drama and recognised for her work and her caring for Sylvia Pankhurst – who for me, was the real hero in women’s fight for voting rights.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Captcha *