Last week the press reported negative comments made by the leader of UKIP about working women who take time off to have families - challenged about his views on working mothers he said "I can't change biology"
This old-fashioned (to be kind) and backward (to be honest) view reminded me of some equally ridiculous and sexist discrimination towards working women - in this case actresses - almost exactly a century ago...
On 29th January 1914 the Actresses' Franchise League held a Tea Dance at the Empress Rooms in Kensington.
It was a fundraiser for the League and as well as
Tea and the Tango, there were all sorts of other entertainments, including palmistry.
Well-known actresses became waitresses for the occasion to serve the tables and thereby hangs a tale...
For [according to the Daily News] when the manager of the hall heard that women were to carry tea trays he declared it
to be impossible.
"Only a man waiter, he vowed, is capable of this feat."
The WSPU's newpaper Votes for Women was surprised: "Women? Going to the polling booth is an amateur feat in comparison! What will be the outcome of this little difference of opinion over "Trays for Women" we shall only know when we visit the Empress Rooms..."
On 23rd January 1914 Votes for Women reproduced two sketches, made by a member of the AFL after her interview with the manager of the Empress Rooms, "which are imaginary pictures of what that gentlemen evidently had in his mind when he thought of the expert waiter handing over his perfectly balanced tea tray to the lady who is - off the stage - only a very charming amateur."
As ever, views like the one expressed were ripe for mockery.
A week later, the paper reported that like "true Suffragists, the actresses' were undismayed by the dismal tales of refractory trays and falling crockery, and their clever member... has now sketched what one is used to with a waiter in attendance, and what may be expected from the actresses."
Of course the Tea Dance was a tremendous success -
the AFL report gave the numbers attending as over 200... and didn't give any indication that there had been any mishaps involving women and trays.
A relief - and surprise - for the manager of the Empress Rooms, I'm sure.
Thoughts, reflections, bits of research