The Times of Laura Grey
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Another poem in the anthology is by Emily Wilding Davison. Below her given name she added in brackets her stage and suffragette name — Laura Grey. It was the name she used when arrested. Like some other women — particularly of the middle class — she did not want her real name to appear in the papers in order not to embarrass her family. At the time the Lyceum was renowned for staging the best pantomimes in London. Bloomsbury then had a rather louche reputation.
However it was not long before she moved to the flat in Jermyn Street, close to the bright lights of Piccadilly. However neither husband or child was living with her and I feel that here, too, is a story of quiet desperation waiting to be uncovered. There is no indication in the inquest report of the other shows in which Laura Grey was engaged although there must have been at least one or two because the Lyceum was described as the first. As such she represented all that was meretricious and sleazy in the eyes of right-thinking people. Pantomime Girl , a novel by Annie Louise Daniells published in ,did not allow the central figure a happy ending — even if she was not actually forced, unlike poor Laura Grey, to suffer the ultimate wages of sin.
For not only did Laura Grey die, but she died pregnant. How much further could a young middle-class woman fall? The effect was quite clear. She leaves her home, her sister, her mother, for a garret in order to earn her own living and probably devote herself to this cause. She is next on the stage as a pantomime girl. Next we find her in the company of men frequenting night clubs and taking money from them. There is no more about the suffragist movement.
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The girl seems to have been absolutely degraded, and from then her whole history is one of drink, drugs, immorality, and death from her own hand. The jury duly returned a verdict of suicide during temporary insanity. However, this is just what Lavender Guthrie had anticipated. I am simply very, very tired of things in general.
The doctors, however, had not found Lavender suffering from any delusions that warranted restraint. Was she receiving money from men, as the Coroner suggested — or assumed? In which case it appears a rather generous letter. They were all doubtless of a transient nature and have vanished leaving no discernible trace. We had a long chat and she seemed quite cheerful. She was tall and slim, with a very fine forehead. At one time she had been a militant suffragette.
If Laura Grey was in the Cafe Royal the night before she died, that fact was not mentioned at the inquest.
Indeed there was a suggestion in the press that she may have taken the veronal on the Friday night and lain undiscovered all weekend until Mrs Spicer arrived on Monday morning. Her unassailable spirit thrust deliberately through the worst of life has shone splendidly for me and I wrote this poem which I send to you now.. But there were many others who were moved in a different direction.
Suffrage Stories: ‘Laura Grey’: Suffragettes, Sex-Poison And Suicide
For this he laid the blame firmly on the leaders of the WSPU. All the newspapers were awash with letters about the case. And you will have no difficulty in guessing who these were.
For their part, the WSPU put its own particular spin on the sad story, declaring that Laura Grey had long left their ranks and it was because she was no longer a suffragette that she had fallen in with the wrong sort of people. Why were the names of the men which whom she had associated — particularly the father of the child she was expecting — not publicised? With the great change that British society was about to undergo, the birth of baby to yet another unmarried young woman might have felt of little less consequence in general, although doubtless still fraught in the particular.
This strikes me as the saddest sentence in a long, sad letter.
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If Mrs Baillie Guthrie had wanted only grandchildren of which she could be proud, she was to be disappointed. Kate had clipped it and neatly folded it and I doubt anybody else had looked at it until I opened it out last week. I have checked and, although she was in London at the time, Kate makes no mention of the case of Laura Grey in her diary — but it had obviously not gone unremarked. An Illustrated Historical Study.
So, the very hunger-strike medal that in was in the Jermyn Street room as poor Lavender Guthrie took her overdose of veronal, was taken away by the police and then held up to such contempt and ridicule by the Coroner, is, a century later, the prized and treasured possession of a dedicated collector of suffragette memorabilia.
This entry was posted on July 30, , 4: You can follow any responses to this entry through RSS 2. You can leave a response , or trackback from your own site. Excellent piece of work — thank you. I was looking for material on Anna Wickham -second rate poet but interesting subject matter — and stumbled on this. Senator from California, was president of the board of supervisors; she witnessed the aftermath and announced the tragedy to the press, and rose to the position of mayor of San Francisco as a result of the assassination.
I remember the time vividly. The murder also inspired the creation of an odd and controversial work of art by one of my favorite Bay Area artists, sculptor Robert Arneson who received his Master of Fine Arts degree from my alma mater, Mills College. Arneson was asked to change the work and refused, nor would he consent to have the sculpture displayed with the pedestal art hidden. He returned the commission he had been paid for the piece and resold the sculpture.
It is powerful and arresting, singularly disturbing and unlike any official commemorative sculpture I have ever seen.
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What makes Milk worth such attention and even adulation is of course not the nature of his death but the powerful story of his life and what he did with it during his 48 short years. The quality of biographical films is often limited by the fact that they are usually conceived of as propaganda of some sort and are meant to elicit certain strong feelings from the audience.
The best among them may feel stilted or fake at times but may still provide opportunities for actors to make a deep impact on us by presenting audience-manipulating lines of emotionally fraught dialog and fake scenarios built on half-truths with a candor, vulnerability and freshness that transcends the stale, set-up quality of the stories that comprise the film.
Harvey Milk spent only a few short years in San Francisco, but during that time he proved himself to be a masterful manipulator of the media and an inspirational force against anti-gay bigotry.