Place: Smallhythe Place1
Cicely Hamilton was a feminist actress, writer and playwright. She co-founded the Women Writers’ Suffrage League and was a vigorous campaigner for women’s suffrage. She was a close friend of the Smallhythe Trio – Edy Craig, Christopher St John and Clare ‘Tony’ Atwood.
Hamilton and Christopher St John co wrote the popular suffrage plays, How the Vote Was Won and Pot and Kettle. Edy Craig conceived the idea for The Pageant of Great Women, considered one of the most important suffrage propaganda productions, and convinced Hamilton to write the script (Edy produced and directed). Hamilton also wrote the words to the suffrage anthem, _ The March of the Women_(to music by the English composer, Ethel Smyth).
Hamilton wrote, ‘My personal revolt was feminist rather than suffragist; what I chiefly rebelled against was the dependence implied in the idea of ‘destined’ marriage, ‘destined’ motherhood – the identification of success with marriage, of failure with spinsterhood, the artificial concentration of the hopes of girlhood on sexual attraction and maternity.’ 2
Like her fellow writer Christopher St John, Cicely Hamilton began to have ‘doubts about unquestioning participating in political campaigns and unthinking obedience to political theatres’3 (such as those organised by the main suffrage society the Women’s Social and Political Union). Both women remained dedicated to the cause of women’s suffrage and feminism, though in thinking about global politics throughout the 1930s Hamilton wrote, ‘it was in contact with the politics of pre-war days that I first began to realise its ugly moral possibilities’.4
Hamilton spent many holidays in Kent with the Trio – sometimes staying for months at a time – and occasionally used the remoteness of Smallhythe as an excuse to decline speaking engagements. She wrote to a friend, ‘[We are] three miles from a light railway which eventually takes you to the South-Eastern. It takes four hours or so to do the fifty or sixty miles from London.’ 5
Adlard, E., ed. Edy: Recollections of Edith Craig. Frederick Muller Ltd., 1948.
Whitelaw, L., The Life and Rebellious Times of Cicely Hamilton. The Women’s Press, 1990.