April 2, 2009

April 2, 1919: Mary Praised or Patronized?

During their first year at the College of William and Mary, the women students had their ups and downs with their male counterparts. While some welcomed them, others were not as generous welcoming the women students. On April 2, 1919, The Flat Hat ran a front page article about the women's performances of two one-act plays: "Three Pills in a Bottle" and "A Flower of Yeddo." In the article, the author praised the women's collective acting abilities by writing "the plays were...pleasantly entertaining from rise to fall of curtain."

While the overall tone of the article is pleasant, one could read some of the words as a bit patronizing to the actors. At one point, the author wrote that "if...the girlish features of the amateur smiled behind the make up of the actor, it was not for boredom." Would a comparable description of the features of the actors or their non-professional status have been made about male actors? The plays' sets were also described as "simple but lovely."

At the end of the article, the author mentioned that the performance was to raise money for the war fund. Though peace was declared in November 1918, the impact of World War I and efforts on the home front had continued. This mention of the nature of these performances raises the question in my mind if this review of the performances would have been printed so prominently if it had been purely for entertainment and not also connected to the war effort?

Though the review of the women's performances of the two one-act plays may appear to be complimentary, I have to wonder if there is a patronizing tone to the review. But don't let my skepticism sway your interpretation. I have linked the original article above, click on it, and read it for yourself. Then, if you feel inclined, comment on this entry with your interpretation. We would be interested to hear our readers' interpretation.

This post was composed by Jordan Ecker.

For additional information about the first women students at the College of William and Mary see: When Mary Entered with her Brother William: Women at the College of William and Mary, 1918-1945 by Laura F. Parrish; "The Petticoat Invasion": Women at the College of William and Mary, 1918-1945; The Martha Barksdale Papers; and the Women at the College of William and Mary page on the Special Collections Research Center Wiki.


Anonymous said...

Well, I now know that apostrophe abuse goes back at least ninety years ("Girl's Present Splendid Play").

Amy C. Schindler said...

Some things are indeed timeless. :)