You might have read my blog post about the Actresses' Franchise League and their conversation with a manager of the Empress Rooms in London in 1914...
If you haven't then please do by clicking here!
I took advantage of the newly opened Newsroom at the British Library to look up the original story in the Daily News... hoping that it might be possible to find which member of the AFL had drawn the sketches... and discovered that Votes for Women had put a rather positive spin on the end of the story,
one which I had believed and then blogged about.
I didn't discover the name of the artist, but as it turns out those sketches deserve a little more attention.
As you can see, in both The Enfranchised Waiter and The Voteless One the figures are carrying trays - round trays.
So what? Well, it was the round trays that were at the
heart of the manager's argument:
"Anyone can carry an ordinary tray in the ordinary way, but only a trained waiter can carry a small round tray on the palm of his hand and on a level with his nose."
The Daily News reported that the manager had given
"disturbing details of the crockery that would be smashed and the tea that would be spilt if the suffragist actresses were allowed to attempt the feat."
Apparently if the trays had not been round, and instead "ordinary" it would not have been a problem for women to carry them. But round trays? Impossible!
The Committee of the AFL scoffed at this statement -
as Votes for Women cheerfully reported - although the WSPU's paper didn't inform readers about the phenomena of the specifically male skill of carrying round trays and when writing about the success of the evening subsequently didn't reveal that in fact the manager had not relented...
For the Daily News reported after the Tea Dance had taken place that the management of the Empress Rooms had refused to let the actresses handle the trays despite the negative publicity and that male waiters were in attendance at the event.
They apparently "balanced their trays beautifully, and tip-toed their tortuous way between the Tango dancers without even clinking a cup."
It was great to find the source material for the story -
but a shock to find the reason - or not - behind the decision and that reason had not triumphed as Votes for Women had implied!
The light touch of the drawings is both charming and pointed and the anecdote amusing but perhaps, in hindsight and in truth, served as an unwelcome glimpse of the seemingly arbitrary prejudice the actresses would face as working women in assisting the war effort just six months later.
Having been researching the League's work after 1914 I've been shocked to discover not only how much they did but also how much their work was ignored and dismissed by both the Government and many of the organisations and institutions they were trying to help.
But that's another story.
I thought it was important to update this one for the time being!
Thoughts, reflections, bits of research