Lena Ashwell - Actress, Patriot, Pioneer
Published by University of Hertfordshire Press
For Ellen Terry, actress-manager Lena Ashwell (1869-1957) was "a passionate voice"
From her first appearance on stage in 1891 to the end of her life, Ashwell was determined to make the theatre accessible and relevant to everyone, prompting G.B. Shaw to describe her as possessing an " ... awakeningly truthful mind as well as an engaging personality"
An inspiring and strong woman in a rapidly changing world, she was crucial both for the advancement of women in the English theatre and for the formation of the National Theatre
She presented 'new drama' at the Kingsway and Savoy Theatres and was active in the Actresses' Franchise League as well as being committed to the British Drama League
From the outbreak of World War 1 she initiated and raised money for thousands of concert-party troop entertainments at the Front
And when peace was declared, her Lena Ashwell Players set about taking regular theatre performances into local communities throughout London and beyond
Long before educational drama and public subsidy for the arts were realities, she engaged local authorities in the provision of facilities and support for her work
But although she wrote four books about her work, until now her achievements have been largely unsung
Margaret Leask's book, however, skilfully presents Ashwell in the historical and cultural contexts in which she worked and which she helped to transform
Immaculately researched, abundantly illustrated and lucidly written, this biography is the first book-length treatment of its subject and will be the definitive account for many years to come
Edith Craig and the Theatres of Art
Votes for Women and Other Plays