Photo: Nicole Twinam
EPISODE 5: A WOMAN’S WAR: A PROTEST
THE NURSE GOES TO THE TREE / SHE TAKES AN ENVELOPE /
6 February 1918.
The 6th letter: a woman’s war.
“I can’t stop while there are lives to be saved”! “Patriotism is not enough”! My life would be easier if there was no war. But I must have no hatred or bitterness towards anyone: to the leaders of these empires, the soldiers, the governments, the conscientious objectors, the protestors, the pacifists, the peace-makers. We all have a part to play and I have seen death so often it is not strange or fearful to me. Perhaps every man has a point at which he will bear arms to defend his land and his people.
“I can’t stop while there are lives to be saved”! 30,000 women marched in London demanding the right to serve. To serve what? 200,000 women volunteered in the first week of September just after war was declared. Volunteered for what? “I can’t stop while there are lives to be saved”!
The women in the munitions factories are making weapons and handling explosives. They are being poisoned by the toxic fumes of the sulphur! It is dangerous, noisy, and having worked twelve-hour shifts, six/seven days a week, they return home to fulfil their duties as mothers. And in so-doing they are also poisoning their children. Poisoning their children! The women are covered in chemicals and this is turning their skin and their hair yellow. They are jaundiced! No wonder everyone is calling them the canary girls: they are canary-bird yellow! Sometimes the shells actually explode in the factories and the women are injured. “I can’t stop while there are lives to be saved”!
Women will become liberated by this Great War. There are football matches at the munitions factories: yellow women playing yellow footballs! Women will openly smoke cigarettes and drink in public houses; openly use cosmetics; wear short skirts and cut their hair short! Women will even go to the cinema without a man. And the Land Girls, working on the farms, in the jobs that the men used to do before the war, will wear their trousers to town even when off duty. We will have Police women for the first time. Women. Will. Vote.
“All that a pacifist can undertake - but it is a very great deal - is to refuse to kill, injure or otherwise cause suffering to another human creature, and untiringly to order [his] their life by the rule of love though others may be captured by hate.” “I can’t stop while there are lives to be saved.” No more war!
THE BAGPIPES PLAY: ‘DRUMMERBOY’
Can't really believe this actually happened but one written response from one kid was: "I BELIEVED THE MAN WAS A WOMAN!"
Thus, one theatre emergency resolved...
Though there were flashes of internal crisis throughout as I didn't know whether I was impersonating: Hattie Jacques, Barbara Windsor, Bernard Bresslaw (in drag), Kenneth Williams or Charles Hawtrey...
THEATRE: THE LIFE!