I have a pet peeve when reading or working on plays: I hate reading a play that consists entirely of male characters.  Now, granted, there are plenty of great plays that are entirely made up of male characters (Glengarry Glen Ross comes to mind), but when I read these plays, I end up thinking about all the women actors I know (far more than of them  than male actors) who aren’t getting into the play.  When I write, I always like to ensure that there is at least one female presence in the script I create.

So, imagine my distress as I begin to work on my history play, and find that I cannot find a way to work a woman into the play.  The action of the  historic event in question (the Upper Canada Rebellion for those keeping track at home) was orchestrated and perpetrated by men.  Yes, most of those men had wives, but the wives themselves were not involved in the Rebellion at all. Additionally, there are no references in any of the historical documents I’ve looked at of any direct female involvement.

Of course, this is unsurprising.  The Victorian sensibilities of the time would not have allowed any of the men to permit a woman near this dangerous affair, but I’d love to be able to find some evidence of some direct female involvement.  Otherwise, adding something in feels both like an obvious fabrication and a betrayal of the actual events (which, I have previously indicated, I want to be careful with).

I think I have to accept the fact that the rebellion was a man’s affair, and that the woman, though loved by their husbands didn’t directly participate.  This does pain me somewhat, but there doesn’t seem to be anyway around it, that doesn’t involve adding participants that were simply not present.


  1. Women were likely not involved in the political decision making, but as we all know, there’s little in the way of concrete line between political and personal lives, especially with something as earth-shattering as a rebellion.

    I don’t know that much (anything) about Canadian History, but I did find this interesting tale involving a woman (Maria Smith Waits) who was integral in getting a stay of execution for her husband for his involvement in the UCR (but it may be too “after the fact” for your use).

    Just one an example, though. 🙂


    • Thanks for that, Jess. The period I’m dealing with is the months leading up to, and the rebellion itself. It deals with the direct participants, and the decisions they made. Sadly Maria Smith Waits is a little after the fact.
      I’d love to be able to fit in one of the wives, who, considering the men they were involved with, were exceptional women. But, it seems that when the exciting things were happening, the wives were left at home, to fret over their husbands. Which isn’t very exciting to watch.

  2. If it’s a pet peeve for you, strongly encourage gender-neutral casting when your play is produced… and work some of that into the writing.

    I was once the only male cast member in a full, otherwise traditional, production of The Crucible and had the pleasure of working with women who handled those roles better than many of the men I’ve seen playing those same male characters.

    You have the power, Mr. Playwright, to dismantle your distress.

  3. Teenagers Cornelia and Charlotte de Grassi, daughters of a British officer, Captain Phillipe de Grassi, helped during the rebellion in Toronto by spying on the rebels and reporting to the British military. There may or may not have been sex…

    Also, their family had a famous street, and eventually TV show, named after them.

    Yay. Womens.

  4. Pingback:Phil Rickaby » Blog Archive » Thank you, and Re-evaluating the project

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