Triumphant Women - A curator's take from behind the scenes
As the House Steward at Smallhythe Place I have had the privilege of becoming acquainted with a large collection of 19th and 20th Century theatrical memorabilia, as well as the personal possessions once belonging to the actress Ellen Terry and to her daughter Edy Craig.
Ellen Terry was a star of the Victorian stage and a celebrity from an early age. She moved in the most interesting circles counting artists, actors, writers and politicians amongst her friends. She kept programmes, letters, costumes, props, and anything she found interesting. After her death her daughter Edy created the Museum as a memorial to her mother and put on display many of the most interesting artefacts. The museum at Smallhythe remains much as Edy created it, but over the years the collection has revealed itself to be far more fascinating than either of these central figures might have imagined.
The theme across the Trust this year is Powerful Women and there is so much to say on this subject both about Ellen Terry the consummate Shakespearian actress and Edy Craig the theatrical activist. At Smallhythe Place it is simply a question of looking into the large archive to illustrate their stories. This year we will be showing the working scripts that Ellen wrote to lecture on Shakespeare’s Triumphant Women. They are written in large print to accommodate her failing eyesight and are covered in comments, annotations and ideas that express how she felt on the position of women at the time.
Edy Craig has her own archive here and from that we will be displaying a selection of the suffrage plays which she produced. Along with documents and photos, these exhibits throw light on the role she played both as a theatrical producer of political drama and as an active suffragette.
Smallhythe Place may be small, but the collection continues to enthral us and we look forward to sharing the stories of these two strong women with our visitors.