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Craig, Edith (1869–1947) By Cockin, Katharine M.

DOI: 10.4324/9781135000356-REM259-1
Published: 09/05/2016
Retrieved: 22 March 2019, from
https://www.rem.routledge.com/articles/craig-edith-1869-1947

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Abstract

Edith (“Edy”) Craig, lesbian theater director and women’s suffrage activist, directed numerous plays and historical pageants, making significant contributions to the Little Theatre Movement in interwar Britain. After an unofficial apprenticeship as an actor and costumier with her mother Ellen Terry (1847–1928) and Henry Irving (1838–1905) at the Lyceum Theatre, she found her niche as a director. From 1908 she directed many women’s suffrage plays and several mass processions before founding the Pioneer Players theater society in London in 1911. Her productions were always staged in a visually striking manner, and made judicious use of costume and lighting.

Craig was born in Hertfordshire in 1869 to actress Ellen Terry and architect and designer Edward Godwin. Her brother Edward Gordon Craig (1872–1960) achieved international acclaim for his innovative ideas about scene design and the art of the theater. From 1899, Craig lived with Christabel Marshall (c. 1878–1966), known as Christopher St. John, the author and music critic. In 1916 Clare Atwood (1866–1962), known as Tony, joined Craig and St. John in a lifelong ménage à trois at 31 Bedford Street, Covent Garden, London, and at Priest’s House near Ellen Terry’s farm, Smallhythe Place, Tenterden, Kent.

Edith (“Edy”) Craig, lesbian theater director and women’s suffrage activist, directed numerous plays and historical pageants, making significant contributions to the Little Theatre Movement in interwar Britain. After an unofficial apprenticeship as an actor and costumier with her mother Ellen Terry (1847–1928) and Henry Irving (1838–1905) at the Lyceum Theatre, she found her niche as a director. From 1908 she directed many women’s suffrage plays and several mass processions before founding the Pioneer Players theater society in London in 1911. Her productions were always staged in a visually striking manner, and made judicious use of costume and lighting.

Craig was born in Hertfordshire in 1869 to actress Ellen Terry and architect and designer Edward Godwin. Her brother Edward Gordon Craig (1872–1960) achieved international acclaim for his innovative ideas about scene design and the art of the theatre. From 1899 Craig lived with Christabel Marshall (c. 1878–1966), known as Christopher St. John, the author and music critic. In 1916 Clare Atwood (1866–1962), known as Tony, joined Craig and St. John in a lifelong ménage à trois at 31 Bedford Street, Covent Garden, London, and at Priest’s House near Ellen Terry’s farm, Smallhythe Place, Tenterden, Kent.

In addition to directing some of the most popular plays of the suffrage movement, including How the Vote Was Won (1909) and A Pageant of Great Women (1909), Craig staged many innovative productions for the Pioneer Players (1911–1925), including works by Hrotsvit, Susan Glaspell, Anton Chekhov, Nikolai Evreinov, Paul Claudel, Gerolamo Rovetta, Herman Sudermann, José Echegeray, Torahiko Khori, and Herman Heijermans. In the 1920s she directed productions for the Leeds Art Theatre and the Everyman Theatre, Hampstead, London. She also co-edited with Christopher St. John Ellen Terry’s Memoirs (1932), a revised version of The Story of My Life (1908). From 1929, Craig and her partners endeavored to establish Terry’s former home as a museum and a memorial to Terry.

Further Reading

  • Adlard, Eleanor (ed.) (1949) Edy: Recollections of Edith Craig. London: Frederick Muller.

  • Auerbach, Nina (1987) Ellen Terry: Player in Her Time. London: Phoenix.

  • Cockin, Katharine (1998) Edith Craig: Dramatic Lives. London: Cassell.

  • Craig, Edith (1907) “Producing a Play.” Munsey’s Magazine (June): 311–314.

  • Dymkowski, Christine (1992) “Entertaining Ideas: Edy Craig and the ‘Pioneer Players’.” The New Woman and Her Sisters: Feminism and Theatre 1850–1914, edited by Viv Gardner and Susan Rutherford. Hemet Hempstead: Harvester Wheatsheaf, pp. 221–233.

  • Craig, Edith Terry and Ellen A Guide to the Papers from Smallhythe Place, Database.

  • Gandolfi, Roberta (2003) La prima regista: Edith Craig. Rome: Bulzone Editore.

  • Holledge, Julie (1981) Innocent Flowers: Women in the Edwardian Theatre. London: Virago.

  • Holroyd, Michael (2008) A Strange Eventful History: The Dramatic Lives of Ellen Terry, Henry Irving and Their Remarkable Families. London: Chatto & Windus.

  • Melville, Joy (1987) Ellen and Edy. London: Pandora.

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09/05/2016

Article DOI

10.4324/9781135000356-REM259-1

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Citing this article:

Cockin, Katharine M. "Craig, Edith (1869–1947)." The Routledge Encyclopedia of Modernism. : Taylor and Francis, 2016. Date Accessed 22 Mar. 2019 https://www.rem.routledge.com/articles/craig-edith-1869-1947. doi:10.4324/9781135000356-REM259-1

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