«Verfasserin Julia Lackermayer angestrebter akademischer Grad Magistra der Anglistik und Amerikanistik (Mag.phil) Wien, im Oktober 2008 ...»
Nonetheless, Mrs Hawthorn seems to have clear conceptions of what should be done. She expects her daughter to be treated in the same way that she was in her adolescence.252 Furthermore, Mrs Hawthorn attempts to influence her husband’s resolution. She urges him to go to the Jeffcotes immediately and emphasises what a fine chance it is that he and Mr Jeffcote have been good friends since their childhood. When Mr Hawthorn does not understand his wife’s intentions right away, she gets to the point in a quite blatant way: ‘[t]o get her wed, thou great stupid. We’re not going to be content with less’ (Hindle Wakes, I, 103). For her, a good marriage appears to be a goal of utmost importance. She even ponders on the possibility that Fanny tried to achieve an advantageous match, which would be the only acceptable excuse for her doings in the mother’s eyes. The thought of this option almost makes her seem proud of her daughter.253 She perceives marriage to be a practical institution first and foremost, in which the husband provides for financial security. Unlike Fanny, she does not yet belong to the generation of women who manage to earn their own living.254
Mrs Jeffcote, on the other hand, resembles the character of Mrs Forsyth in Houghton’s earlier play. Mrs Jeffcote is described as a woman who has ’adapted herself to the responsibilities and duties imposed by the possession of wealth’ (Hindle Wakes, I, 105). Besides, she is said to have a mild and good-natured temper, which is put to test in the second act, when she gets to know about her son’s doings. Moreover, she belongs to the same generation as Mrs Hawthorn, where the husband, in the words of Mr Jeffcote, still ‘wear[s] the breeches in [the] house’ (Hindle Wakes, II, 136). Mrs Jeffcote is also contrasted with Beatrice. The former is portrayed as a practical-minded, hard-working companion whereas the latter is at first described as a somewhat spoilt young lady.255 Beatrice, though, turns out to be a determined and upright character. Her remarks are witty and she seems to stand above the events. Furthermore, she points out certain double standards and even though she appears not to count herself among ‘these advanced women’ (Hindle Wakes, II, 155), her opinions are quite progressive. By asserting that she is in fact an old-fashioned woman,256 she can voice criticism without being immediately labelled an unreasonable member of the ‘shrieking sisterhood’. Her arguments, like Sidney’s in Independent Means, are logically structured; she takes up prejudices and uses them for her purposes. When Alan urges her to accept the differences between men and women in the context of sexual curiosity, for example, she replies that she can see them as ‘[m]en haven’t so much self control’ (Hindle Wakes, II, 155). Like other female characters before, she has her own beliefs of right and wrong, an inner moral compass that guides her.257 Initially, her – at times excessive – sense of morality tells her to sacrifice her future with Alan for her idea of integrity and righteousness.258 The younger generation is independent and does not obey blindly. Neither Fanny, nor Alan or Beatrice, take their parents’ orders without questioning them. It has become impossible for their fathers and mothers to make arrangements for their
children’s futures without consulting them.259 To all of the younger characters personal self-fulfillment appears to be more important than treasuring social conventions.
The fate of a woman who has obviously been involved in a liaison without being married is far less fatal in Houghton’s play than it was in The Dancing Girl.
Furthermore, it does not stand out as singular and deviant as Jeffcote tells Christopher – before he knows that his son is involved – not to take the matter ‘too much to heart. It’s not the first time a job like this has happened in Hindle, and it won’t be the last!’ (Hindle Wakes, I, 114). It could be argued that immorality is punished to some extent, although the characters who are most immediately affected get away unharmed. Fanny’s friend Mary, who helped to conceal the affair, is later found out to have drowned.260 Generally, male and female desires turn out not to be that different from each other after all. This is patently indicated by the fact that, in the third act, Fanny repeats Alan’s prior motive for their short liaison almost verbatim, namely that he was ‘just someone to have a bit of fun with. [He] was an amusement – a lark.’ (Hindle Wakes, III, 175).261 This appropriation of words previously uttered by a male character reminds of Rachel Arbuthnot’s closing words in A Woman of No Importance.262 The ground-breaking element here is that her frankness and sexual emancipation do not cause her any harm. Fanny, a character that would have previously been deemed a Fallen Woman, is now even praised for her exemplary behaviour.263 Moreover, the idea of getting a divorce appears to be less utopian and separation not to be uncommon at all.264 Cf. Hindle Wakes, III, 167.
‘FANNY. If Mary hadn’t been drowned you’d never have found out about it. I’d never have opened my mouth, and Alan knows that.
MRS HAWTHORN. Well, Mary’s got her reward, poor lass!
CHRISTOPHER. There’s more in this than chance, it seems to me.
MRS. HAWTHORN. The ways of the Lord are mysterious and wonderful. We can’t pretend to understand them. He used Mary as an instrument for His purpose’ (Hindle Wakes, III, 163).
‘Fanny was just an amusement – a lark. I thought of her as a girl to have a bit of fun with’ (Hindle Wakes, II, 152).
Mrs Arbuthnot refers to Lord Illingworth, her former lover, as ‘no one. No one in particular. A man of no importance’ (Woman of No Importance, IV, 83).
‘ALAN. I can’t make you out rightly, Fanny, but you’re a damn good sort, and I wish there were more like you!’ (Hindle Wakes, III, 176).
Cf. Hindle Wakes, II, 136.
- 108 Double standards certainly still exist, but they are predominantly upheld by the older generation. For Jeffcote and Hawthorn it is immediately clear that Fanny ought to marry the first man she has been together with. Alan, however, would have been allowed to do as he pleases as long as his doings do not mingle with his father’s business.265 After Mrs Jeffcote has learned that her son has compromised a girl, and before she knows who that girl is, she blames the young woman and not her son for the unfortunate situation.266 At first, Alan’s honour seems inviolable whereas the girl, despite Mr Jeffcote’s assurance that she is a ‘straight’ one, is considered to be a person of easy virtue. Therefore, Mrs Jeffcote maintains that ‘[w]hoever she is, if she’s not going above going away for the week-end with a man, she can’t be fit to marry our son’ (Hindle Wakes, II, 131). To her, Fanny’s motives for going away with Alan can only be explained either by her wickedness or by her deceitfulness.267 Mrs Jeffcote’s double standards do not stop at gender differences, but also concern class issues. She thinks that Hawthorn’s daughter is socially beneath her son, even though her own husband started his fortune from the same humble beginnings.268 Quite ironically, therefore, she once states that she is ‘not cut out for a hypocrite’ (Hindle Wakes, II, 137). More irony comes into play when Beatrice’s father is told the story. Unintentionally, he gives away that he spent the weekend with a woman at the seaside as well, but is quite appalled when he hears that Alan acted in precisely the same way.269 His attitude towards the whole business is that Beatrice is not to hear any of it, as he believes that a fiancée or wife does not need to know everything about her (future) husband’s past.
Moreover, Sir Timothy Farrar is quite surprised to find out that Mr Jeffcote did not have any female acquaintances before getting married. Such a fact seems dubious and exceptional to him, hence, he tells the mill owner that he ‘always thought there was summat queer about [him]’ (Hindle Wakes, II, 141). Then, Sir Timothy also suggests that Fanny should be given money to settle the incident.
Beatrice is quick to point out prevalent double standards. When Alan asks for her forgiveness, she does not only remark on the different treatment of male and
female frailties, but also hints at an equality of male and female desires:
Beatrice’s utterances show that not only social but also sexual differences begin to blur. Moreover, Chothia argues that the way the plot is structured makes the audience realise that it is not immune to double standards either. By way of the repeated emphasis on personal responsibility and propriety, the audience expects Fanny to marry the mill-owner’s son until the scene when Fanny voices her opinion.270 The first performance of Hindle Wakes caused some stir among the London audience and reviewers. Houghton all of a sudden became a widely discussed playwright in England271 and, overall, the play was received enthusiastically.272 The quite revolutionary feminist tone of the play hit the nerves of the time. J.T.
Grein, the Sunday Times critic, for example, pointed out that ‘[Hindle Wakes] is of value in these days of the battle of the sexes. It heralds the movement of the future’ (Grein, quoted in Gaberthuel, 121). Furthermore, The Vote, a magazine of the women’s movement recommended a visit of the performance to its readership.273 In 1912, the play was not only staged in London, but also in Manchester, New York and Chicago, and had a run of more than 2000 performances on the whole.274 ‘The audience, taken off guard by the emphasis on marriage and personal responsibility, by the skill with which the various subterfuges are unmasked, and by the realism of the nicely differentiated responses and interactions of the other characters, discovers that it too has fallen into the trap of the double standard’ (Chothia, New Drama, 78).
Cf. Gaberthuel, 93.
Cf. Aston, 216.
Cf. Gaberthuel, 121.
Cf. Stilz, 143.
4.4.4. How the Vote Was Won
How the Vote Was Won, written by Cicely Hamilton and Christopher St John – a nom de plume for Christabel Marshal – was first performed at the Royalty Theatre in London in 1909, at a time when the vote for women was in fact far from being won. As a suffrage propaganda play, the main issue treated is the logical imperative of the female vote.
It is not surprising to note, therefore, that Cicely Hamilton was involved in the suffragist movement as a member of the Women Writers’ Suffrage League, which also published a previous version of the play as a pamphlet.275 Hamilton also wrote a feminist book called Marriage as a Trade, in which her argumentation for women’s suffrage, in the same way as in How the Vote Was Won, is based on economic reflections. Generally, a tendency can be detected that female playwrights of the Edwardian era often responded to contemporary political and cultural forces in their plays. Moreover, events were hosted by the Actress’ Franchise League that brought together theatre and politics. The works of actresses and female writers were performed – among them plays by Cicely Hamilton and Christopher St John - and political pro-suffrage speeches were held.276 The anti-suffrage line of reasoning that women do not need the vote because they are taken care of by men is picked up and made use of by the suffragist in this oneact-play. Their rationale, in one of the character’s words, is that
Their reasoning appears to be incontestably logical with the conclusion that anyone has to become aware of the inevitability of their cause sooner or later. In this context, Lis Whitelaw points out that ‘[t]he farcical plot is typical of Cicely’s talent for highlighting the absurdity of arguments by taking them to their logical, for men, extremely discomfiting conclusion’ (Whitelaw, 83). Consequently, Horace Cole, a clerk with a moderate income and the only male character of the Cf. Spender, 19.
For a further discussion of suffrage theatre, see: Carlson and Powell, 246ff.
- 111 play, suddenly sees himself confronted with a bunch of female relatives, who have given up their jobs and seek to be supported financially. In this connection, it should be mentioned that working women belonging to different strata of society appear to have become a matter of course in Hamilton’s and St John’s plays.
From the very beginning of the play, it is established that, in a quite utopian fashion, almost every working woman regardless of her social background seems to have allied with the women’s leagues. They have all begun to invade their male relatives’ houses in order to be looked after with the goal in mind that these men will soon be made to join the suffragists’ cause.277 And indeed, at the end of the play Horace Cole has turned into an ardent proponent of women’s right to vote. In a lengthy speech, which is only occasionally interrupted by the female characters’ acclamations, he summarises the suffragists’ arguments once again. His character is necessary to exemplify that even a rigid traditionalist must finally accept that it would be irrational to oppose the female vote any longer.
Naturally, How the Vote Was Won is filled with likeable New Woman characters.
Winifred, Horace’s sister-in-law, for example, is described as a ‘distinguished looking young woman with a cheerful, capable manner’ (Vote, 23). It is evident from the beginning that she is an actively involved member of the women’s movement. She does not only wear the colours of the NWSPU (the National Women's Social and Political Union), but also has ‘an emphatic diction which betrays the public speaker’ (Vote, 23).