Watts, Myrtle Eugenia ‘Jim’ (1909–1968) By Murphy, Emily Christina
Myrtle Eugenia Watts, known variously as Jim, Jean, or Gina, was a Canadian foreign correspondent for the Spanish Civil War, theatre artist in the Theatre of Action, and patron of Canadian leftist literary and theatre culture in the 1930s. In her short career, Watts had a significant impact on Canadian leftist modernist culture.
Jean Watts was born in Streetsville, Ontario to a wealthy family. By 1920, Watts’s family had moved to Toronto’s Annex neighbourhood, where Watts’s social and artistic circle would eventually include such prominent Canadian cultural figures as writers Dorothy Livesay and Stanley B. Ryerson, and theatre artists Toby Gordon Ryan and Oscar Ryan. Watts and Livesay would spend their adolescences as self-identified bluestockings, attending lectures by prominent feminist Emma Goldman, and reading the literary works of European and British modernists. Beginning in her early adulthood, Watts contributed significant resources to the Worker’s Theatre (later the Theatre of Action) and to the establishment of the leftist literary journal New Frontier (1936–1938), for which her husband Lon Lawson was editor. In early 1937, after the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, Watts took up a position with the Canadian Communist Party newspaper, the Daily Clarion (1936–1939), as a foreign correspondent stationed at the Blood Transfusion Unit outside Madrid.