This post builds on 2 previous blog posts surrounding women on the stage during World War One and Gender in Musical theatre.
In a blog post entitled ‘Gender differences on the stage in 1913’, i discussed how prior to the breakout of war, the theatre was not class specific and that all women were invited to audition, being judged on talent rather than social status. The theatre, however, did not pay women well with most earning next to nothing and with the majority expected to provide their own costumes for the play. Some women excelled in costume making such as Juliette Dika, a Parisian soprano (pictured above in June 1914) who became famous for the dresses that she made for herself. Despite women being badly paid in Musical theatre they were relied upon heavily by theatre companies during the war.
In the 18 months prior to the war women were pictured in 17 of the 41 articles for Musical Theatre in the Manchester Programme, men were pictured in 15 articles and 9 pictures featured both a man and a woman. This is fairly even, however once the war started the number of women appearing in the article’s pictures rose drastically whereas the number of men pictured remained fairly steady as you can see in the graph below.
Towards the end of the war (July 1917-Dec 1918) the number of articles for Musical theatre dipped so all 3 categories dropped below their average. Discounting this period the number of articles featuring men between January 1913 and July 1920 stayed between 15 and 19. Again discounting the period at the end of the war the number of articles featuring both a man and a woman in the picture stayed between 7 and 10. The number of women featured in the articles went from 17 in the pre-war period up to 43 in the first 18 months of the war. This number dipped slightly to 38 in the following 18 months and dropped to 21 in the final 18 months of the war. While the women pictured in the articles dipped in this period just as much as men the number of female featured articles was still not as low as it had been prior to the war. Even after the war the number of women pictured in the articles of the Programme remained higher than the number of men.
Whilst the number of women featured in the article’s pictures rose over the war period, the number of female titled plays decreased. By female titled i mean having a girls name in the title or the words ‘girl’, ‘mistress’, ‘princess’, ‘she’, ‘her’ etc. In the 18 months prior to the war 56% of the musical plays had female titles with the rest being gender neutral and none being male titled. In the first 18 months of the war these figures changed, with 46% being female titled and 2% being male titled in that one play was called ‘the chocolate soldier’. In the following 18 months the percent of female titled plays remained fairly steady at 43% with male titled plays rising to 5% and the final 18 months of war showed the most dramatic shift with female titled plays dropping to only 25% and male titled plays rising to 14%. In the 18 months after the war, male titled remained fairly steady at 11% but female titled plays again dropped to 16%.
If the articles featured more women due to there being less men then you would expect there to be less pictures of men, however the pictures of men in articles remained steady. If the Manchester Programme used women as a way of advertising, however, it would be because they thought that women were more likely to draw audiences. Why then were the producers and writers of plays titling them in a more gender neutral fashion as the war progressed. Could it be something as simple as them having differing opinions at this time?
by Katrina Ingram