Friday, May 18, 2012

Everywoman and the Nicholsons of Richmond



I am in the process of writing Biology and Ambition, the story of Marion Nicholson's life as a teacher in 1908-1913 Montreal, the follow up to Threshold Girl about her younger sister Flora and Diary of a Confirmed Spinster about her older sister Flora.

In September 1912 Flora writes home that she has seen Everywoman at the Princess and been enchanted. She says it is the best thing she has ever seen. Everywoman is a popular 'morality'play making the rounds: it is a cake and eat it too morality play, preaching about the dangers of youth and beauty, while featuring many beautiful young actresses in gorgeous clingy clothing to gawk at.

It is a play aimed squarely at young women like Flora Nicholson, working in the City. 

It was made into a 1919 movie and then the story fell into obscurity, unlike say Peter Pan or the Wizard of Oz and other era books that have lived on through the century in many incarnations.

The theme of this play, where a young Everywoman decides to become an actress and becomes seduced by the bright lights of the city, and all its pleasures, including shallow men who use her, has of course lived on in many incarnations. Everywoman is a veiled warning about falling into prostitution, actresses being about one step above that. This is the age of the social evil, after all. Many people blamed the love of luxury for luring women into prostitution.

Biology and Ambition, unlike the earlier two parts of this digital trilogy to be called School Marms and Suffragettes as a complete book, is really a composite of letters, and era information. I believe I am going to put bits of  Everywoman in the story. I assume it is public domain.


Beauty, Youth conspire to undermine a young woman's future happiness in Everywoman. Actresses loved playing in this play. Adele Blood, '"the most beautiful blond on the stage' portrayed Beauty in the Montreal Production.

Everywoman warned of the pleasures of the city to young women who were experiencing the pleasures of the city, many for the first time. The play went out of favour unlike say, Pygmalion, written in 1912 for reasons pretty evident. The play contained pleasant enough poetry(and musical numbers too)  but how can a person preach against narcissism in a day and age where female narcissism is beginning to propel the economy, thanks to all the work available in the big city.