Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts



First Advisor

Noreen Barnes


In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries the members of the woman’s suffrage movement in the United States and Britain looked to soften their hard masculine image given to them by the press and to increase participation in the cause. They found that by including theatrical performances and benefits at meetings, and hosting tea socials afterwards, they could motivate many women to join without alienating or threatening men. This study looks at how tea socials and theatrical performances were used subversively to recruit new members, to debate ideas, and to disseminate information about the cause. Playwrights wrote plays that examined the questions and issues surrounding this movement, and upstart, female-operated theatre groups and social clubs presented these plays to the public, allowing the debate to reach a wider audience. Actresses themselves joined clubs to increase their presence in society, to help out other actresses, and to find political agency.


© The Author

Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

May 2009