Viv Gardner
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Defending the body, defending the self
Women performers and the law in the ‘long’ Edwardian period

In the period leading up to the First World War, British women increasingly used the courts as a platform to challenge their lower legal, social and political status in Edwardian society, most notably in the defences mounted by militant suffragists at the Old Bailey in May 1912. In a different way, women performers – frequently backed by their commercial managers and publicists – were using the courts to argue for self-determination and control, particularly of their public image. This chapter explores the social, legal and commercial context of a range of libel cases – some successful, others not – brought by women performers.

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Stage women, 1900–50

Female theatre workers and professional practice

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