Thursday, September 17, 2009

'Woman must hold her venturesome desires severely in check if she is to fulfil her natural functions.'

As a contribution to the (recently neglected) historical bycatch series, some enlightented commentaries on women that I found over the last couple of days in the pages of the ever-thoughtful Sunday Express.



Bath, Saturday.

Mr. A. W. Cuninghame, headmaster of Victoria College, Bath, in distributing the sports prizes at Duke-street High School, Bath, said in some girls’ schools the importance of athletics was exaggerated, and girls thought of nothing but sport.

‘The modern girl to-day is trying to do too much,’ he added. ‘Football, for instance, is not suited to girls. Their charm, balance and poise would all be lost and their dignity lowered by it.’

‘Girls,’ Mr. Cuninghame added, ‘are losing their former appreciation of chivalry. If a man to-day offered a woman his seat in a tram he would probably be told that she preferred to stand. That attitude does not respect courtesy and chivalry. I appeal to girls not to become mannish through too much athletics.’

Sunday Express, 1 October 1922, p. 7.

Why Women Love Getting “The Creeps”
By C. F. Burghes

A darkened stage. A sofa in the solitary bright spot near the footlights. On the sofa a pair of unsuspecting lovers. A door behind them opening slowly. A claw-like hand with ghostly, emaciated fingers feeling its way around the door-panel. In blissful ignorance of the horror about to befall them, they continue their affectionate prattle.

A woman’s voice from the pit, in a sibilant whisper: ‘I can’t bear it! Oh! I can’t bear it!’

This is an incident from ‘The Cat and the Canary,’ the latest dramatic thriller produced on the London stage.

Women, from the gallery to the stalls, clenched their hands while the shivers of apprehension ran down their backs as horror upon horror was piled up before their eyes. They laughed hysterically at every semi-comical moment, glad of the relief afforded their tortured nerves, and at the end applauded ecstatically.

No need to ask whether women like getting ‘the creeps.’ They revel in it.


Women love being thrilled, as men do, because they also possess a very strong streak of primitive curiosity and craving for adventure.

Man’s curiosity has a thousand appeasing outlets. He can expend it on exploration, on scientific discovery, on unlimited daring quests of mind and body. Woman must hold her venturesome desires severely in check if she is to fulfil her natural functions. But they will not be denied. They fasten on the unseen and the intangible. They revel in ghost stories, in superstitions of all kinds, in spiritualism, in a riot of thrills, the madder the merrier.

Every woman would prefer to live for an hour in danger than to vegetate for a lifetime in security.

The woman who, in an agony of pleasure, exclaimed at the play, ‘I can’t bear it!’ not only did, but enjoyed herself thoroughly during every moment of the dreadful experience.

When her primitive curiosity longs in vain for an object on which to expend itself, when she is bored and discontented, when she is nervy and nothing can appease her irritability, take your wife to the creepiest play or give her the most hair-raising book you can find.

Horror is a tonic too seldom prescribed for horror-loving woman.

Sunday Express, 3 November 1922, p. 6

‘Sex Stuff’ and the Cinema

No matter who pays the piper in film entertainment, it is Woman who calls the tune, and Woman is slowly but certainly bringing the business of film entertainment to a dead end, from which, at the moment, there seems to be no means of escape.

The difficulty can be quite simply stated. Since women form not less than 70 per cent of the five million people who daily attend this country’s 4,000 place of film exhibition, it follows that the film producer who wishes to be commercially successful must cater almost exclusively for women.

The plain fact to be faced is that what pleases the women is strong sex drama, highly spiced and seasoned, of the type that throws into the melting-pot of social controversy the ramshackle and shot-riddled institution called matrimony.


The titles of current and prospective films give a clear indication of what is going on. Among them I note: ‘What’s Wrong with Women?’ ‘What Women Love,’ ‘When a Woman Strikes,’ ‘Woman against Woman,’ ‘The Woman of Lies,’ ‘A Woman of Pleasure,’ ‘A Woman’s Man,’ ‘Women Men Forget,’ ‘Women Men Love,’ ‘The Wrong Woman,’ ‘Woman Who Walked Alone,’ and ‘Hail the Woman.’ The list, if extended to including such words as ‘Passion,’ ‘Marriage,’ ‘Divorce,’ ‘Wife,’ and ‘Husband,’ would fill a column.

It is not so much my business to comment on this striking social phenomenon as to call attention to its consequences. There are no fewer than 10,000 notable films, long and short, which cannot circulate to a commercially profitable extent because cinema programmes are freighted with this dreadful load of ‘sex stuff.’ ....

Sunday Express, 14 December 1922, p. 6.


mike "soulman" ovswinton said...

The Headmaster from Bath might have been the inspiration for Harry Enfield's "Women: Know your limits" sketch. (On youtube). In fact I hadn't realised until comparing the 2 just how realistic that sketch was.

Anonymous said...

No, no, no - the Headmaster from Bath had already seen the sketch, of course!

mikeovswinton said...

Or was "Mr A.W. Cunninghame" an early pseudonym used by Mr Harold Enfield? (I doubt it; my sister once worked with his dad, you know. True.)

mikeovswinton said...

Harold also did "Women. Don't lose your virtue", which might have scripted by whoever wrote the thing from the Express about Sex stuff.