P33-34 Boudoir Breezes
“Dress drains our cellar dry,
And keeps our larder lean; puts out our fires,
And introduces hunger, frost and woe,
Where peace and hospitality might reign.” – Cowper.
I think it can truthfully be said that this year’s Academy is a women’s Academy. Not only are there dozens of works by women hung, but the outstanding picture of the year is by a lady.
Mrs. Dod Procter’s sensational picture “Morning” has been purchased by the owners of a big daily newspaper for the Nation. These people were anxious that this picture should not leave England. Before it finally rests in the Tate Gallery in London, “Morning” is to be lent to a number of provincial art galleries in different parts of England. Thus, not only does Mrs. Dod Procter have the honour of her work hanging on the “line,” but she has also the satisfaction of selling the picture on the second day of the Exhibition.
Although Mrs. Procter is still young this is not her first taste of success. In 1925 she sent in “The Model,” which was immediately accepted. So fine was her touch on this work, and so sure the handling of the subject, that “The Model” made all the other pictures in the vicinity look trivial and insincere by comparison.
Mrs. Procter lives in Newlyn, Cornwall, where she and her husband have a very charming place.
Another woman artist who has achieved a striking success is Nellie M. Hepburn Edmunds. Her portrait of “Virginia” is exceptionally good, and quite deserves the place it has in the Academy.
Miss Flora Lion has made a record for her sex by having no less than three portraits accepted this year. When one realises that there are thousands of works from artists all over the British Isles for the Committee to select from, Miss Lion’s achievement is all the more remarkable.
Not very long ago -just prior to Mr. Churchill presenting his Budget- Colonel Applin, the Conservative Member for Enfield, asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he would consider a tax on women’s hats. Now I call this a very fine suggestion, and I am sure all fair-minded women will agree that they cannot expect all the privileges and none of the responsibilities. Hats are the spice of life with the majority of ladies, and I feel sure a graduated tax of, say, a penny on a 5/11 hat to ten shillings on a £10 10s. 0d. model would willingly be paid. According to Colonel Applin, there are 50,000,000 hats sold every year, which at the low estimate of 5/- per hat would bring in £1,250,000.
It is curious to note that all women have a favourite portion of apparel upon which they spend more, than a fair proportion. One girl will buy three or four pairs of expensive shoes at a time, another will invest in quantities of fine underlinen, and yet a third will have a smart house frock for each day of the week. But I think hats could safely be given as the general weakness of our sex. Many women hold that a new hat will carry off a somewhat passe ensemble, whereas I always feel that a new hat simply draws attention to any other defect in one’s toilette.
I have seen it stated in the press, time and again, especially since the “flapper vote” question, that girls do very little towards paying a share of the country’s taxes. I don’t think this is just. Not only are the younger generation never without a cigarette, but there is a popularity of wines and cocktails among the flappers which occasionally astonishes elderly uncles. Girls buy French scents and powders and frocks from Paris, all of which have a heavy duty on them. Girls keep dogs, motors, guns, telephones and wireless, and the more fortunate among us keep men servants and pay for crests on note paper. Quite apart from these “luxury” taxes, there are thousands of women in England who pay income tax, and thousands more who contribute towards their borough rates.
Nor is this all. It may not be generally known (certainly the information astonished me) that a married woman with a paying business, or independent means, has to support her husband, even when she can prove that he has wasted not only his own substance, but hers also! A case came before the Sunderland magistrates recently, where a wife was sued and later ordered to pay £1 a week towards the support of her husband, who was in a Poor Law hospital. It was stated during the hearing that this lady had two businesses in the town and could well afford to pay. On Mrs. –‘s behalf it was said that she and her husband separated, and she gave him £500. He agreed to go to the Near East, but instead he came back, stopped at a local hotel, went through all his wife’s money, and then, owing to illness, had to go into an institution. I call this a very hard case, for the lady had behaved generously, and now she has either to bear the disgrace of her husband being in a local institution (with the added insult of paying £52 per annum to keep him there), or she has to order his release and keep him in her own home. It is obvious that the man would be useless in her business, and it is galling for her to keep him in idleness while she works hard.
As far as I can see the position would be exactly the same if the lady obtained an official separation, and as far as I am aware, one cannot divorce a husband merely because he has become chargeable to the rates. Besides, the lady’s religion or principles may not permit of a divorce. I don’t doubt that there are many similar cases up and down England. Indeed, I always hold that if one looks at a case fairly, it will be found that the majority of us are doing our share, even if only indirectly.
Accustomed as we are to slatings in the press I really do think a number of women will draw the line at the onslaught Mr. St. John Ervine has made upon our sex as a whole. It is the most determined attack and, as the old ladies say, “quite uncalled for.”
Mr. St. John Ervine was speaking at the London School of Economics. and the debate was “Are women fit companions for men?” Mr. Ervine said : [quoted verbatim from 1927 publication] “The great decline in English good manners which everyone must notice, coincides exactly in point of time with the enfranchisement of women. No man would have dreamt of smoking in a theatre until woman began it. The cocktail habit is also largely due to women. The tea drinking habit has been almost abolished by the cocktail swilling habit, which is largely feminine.
“The great days of the English theatre were when women were neither in the audience nor on the stage. The moment women were admitted the theatre began to decline and indecency became rampant. The excuse for the admission of women was that culture would increase. Look at the type of play in theatres which are crowded with women and then ask yourself where the culture is. Tragedy was abolished from the theatre when women came in because they wanted things at which they could giggle and munch chocolates.
“It is notorious among theatrical people that the more immoral the play the more women crowd to see it. That in itself is an indication that women are not fit to walk about in the same world as men. A man never trades on his sex, and when women are prepared to enter the mess we call life without any sex appeal then women will become fit for the society of men.”
Now, an attack like this almost paralyses one and the best thing to do is have a good laugh. If I didn’t know that Mr. St. John Ervine was a dramatic critic and a writer of repute, I should have put his speech down to the vapourings of some love-sick swain, jilted by a girl, or the abuse of a blasé old man. Mr. Ervine’s statements are so perfectly absurd and so manifestly untrue that I hardly know where to start. However, it is always a good scheme to begin at the beginning. It appears we began smoking in the theatres; well, what if we did—men smoked everywhere else for generations before we did. And if the theatre was free from that detestable blue haze I am sure it was only because smoking was prohibited there.
Tea drinking is by no means on the wane, and for one woman who quaffs a cocktail there must be twenty to order tea. Cocktail drinking is certainly not confined to women as a habit. A few of the flappers, I know, indulge, but generally speaking. girls don’t drink. Mr. Ervine attributes the downfall of the English theatre to the introduction of women into the audience and on to the stage. He says we have encouraged indecency and that we crowd to see anything immoral. I should like to point out that the majority of plays running in England at this moment are written by men and censored by another man. Also that, as there are more women than men in London, audiences will always be composed mainly of women. If Mr. Ervine enters a church he will find that women largely predominate there too—about forty to one.
If it were true that we like immoral plays we would not be fit to walk among pigs, but as all plays are first reviewed and censored by one of Mr. Ervine’s sex they, too, must approve of indecency. By way of a useful example we have the new play running in London at present. It is called “The Man Responsible”, and at one time the Lord Chamberlain refused a licence for it. Whether he has weakened, or had the offensive bits deleted I couldn’t say, but the censor now permits it to be shown to all and sundry. In the olden days (Mr. Ervine calls them the great days of the English theatre) all the players were males; men took men’s part and boys took women’s. And the audience were men. This was because the whole show was not considered fit for women. To be a “play-actor,” or “gipsy,” as they were called, was a dreadful thing, and only the lowest of the low were on the stage.
According to Mr. Ervine, we have abolished tragedy altogether from the theatre. This is both natural and sensible. Why anyone should pay out good money for a stall to review a whole lot of complicated problems, which only tend to make life seem worse than it really is, baffles me. I like to be amused and to drive away dull care when I go to an entertainment, and I presume other women are the same. There is quite enough tragedy in real life without inventing anything further for the stage. And I do really think that some men “trade on their sex”, especially since the war. Many of them know their value and I am constantly reading articles on the trying times hostesses have in getting men to turn up at their parties. They do trade on the shortage, and have to be positively tempted to any functions.
Girls who give dances and entertain a lot tell me it is a dog’s life getting enough men to sav they will come. There are all sorts of girls with all sorts of tempers and temperaments. but I do feel that the majority will be astonished at Mr. Ervine’s lapse. There is no other word for it. At the very best he can only be judging a whole sex by a few rather poor specimens. But as I said before, treat the outburst as a joke and have a really good laugh; it is cheaper than going to the theatre.