Who were Edith Craig and Christopher St John?

Edy, Chris and Clare at Smallhythe Place

Actress, producer and designer, Edith Craig (1869-1947) was a suffragette and socialist, and later director of the feminist Pioneer Players. Her partner, Christopher St John (1871-1960), born Christabel Marshall, was a feminist playwright, suffragette, and author. Before her activist career, St John was secretary to the young Winston Churchill, and his fiercely anti-suffrage mother, Lady Randolph Churchill.

Theatrical statements

In 1909 Edith Craig devised A Pageant of Great Women with the dramatist and actor, Cicely Hamilton. The spectacle showcased historical heroines including Sappho, Jane Austen, Elizabeth Fry, and Joan of Arc. At the climax, the character ‘Woman’ addressed men everywhere: ‘I stand/For the clear right to hold my life my own’ and ‘This you must know:/The world is mine, as yours’.

For the 1909 ‘Green White and Gold Fair’, Craig co-designed reconstructed prison cells so visitors could see the conditions in which suffragettes (and others) were being kept. Also in 1909, Christopher St John wrote the pro-suffrage play How The Vote Was Won, which Craig directed and appeared in.

Craig also designed the 18th June 1910 suffrage procession entitled ‘From Prison to Citizenship’ which took place under the aegis of the Women's Social & Political Union (WSPU) and the Women's Freedom League.

Hardcore campaigners

In 1909, Christopher St John was brought before the police court, having been arrested on the 18th February 1909 for obstructing the police outside the House of Commons. In the same year, she joined a WSPU deputation to the House of Commons, and was arrested for setting fire to a postbox.

In May 1910, Craig toured Scotland and Wales speaking and fundraising for women’s suffrage. She also sold the Votes for Women newspaper in the streets of London, saying 'I love it. But I'm always getting moved on’.

Progressive partnership

After Craig's death in March, 1947, St John recalled: ‘Different as were our antecedents, our characters, our temperaments, our talents, we belonged to the same world, the artist's world. That established a camaraderie which was perfectly easy, unguarded and spontaneous.'

" Plays have done such a lot for the Suffrage. They get hold of nice, frivolous people who would die sooner than go in cold blood to meetings. But they watch the plays, and get interested, and then we can rope them in for meetings."
- Edith Craig
The seventeenth century Barn Theatre at Smallhythe Place

Smallhythe Place  

Both Edith and Christopher lived at Smallhythe Place with another woman, Clare Atwood, in a ménage à trois. The house was a haven for suffrage activists and many items relating to other actress-activists can be found there.