Monday, February 20, 2012

Someone Must Wash the Dishes: An Anti-Suffrage Satire

Performance of the Century: A lost suffragist’s satire celebrates its centennial and popular revival

One hundred years ago, a now-forgotten Progressive named Marie Jenney Howe penned a no-longer-forgotten playlet for the drama group of the New York City Woman Suffrage Party. A century later—in this fraught election year—Howe’s “An Anti-Suffrage Monologue” celebrates its 200th performance. Revived as Someone Must Wash the Dishes: An Anti-Suffrage Satire, the “Monologue” has been performed from Texas to Connecticut, Delaware to Wisconsin—exclusively by Michèle LaRue, a professional actress who specializes in earlier American works.

Labeled “wicked” by New York critic Roy Sander and “side-splitting” by Cape May’s Star and Wave, Someone Must Wash the Dishes: An Anti-Suffrage Satire was conceived and directed by the late Warren Kliewer. Dishes began touring in celebration of the 75th anniversary of the passage of the 19th amendment for Woman Suffrage, under the banner of The East Lynne Company, founded by Kliewer to revive earlier American plays and literature. LaRue continues to tour Dishes under the aegis of the Cape May – based East Lynne Theater Company.

In 1912—eight years before Woman Suffrage finally was achieved—many females still opposed getting the vote. They cited obstacles ranging from unsavory polling places to their own small brains and “delicate nervous organization.” In her “Monologue,” Howe gleefully deflated these arguments, deftly wielding her keen knowledge of the issues and her good-natured but perceptive wit to expose the Antis’ illogic. Today most of those arguments sound ludicrous, but LaRue’s own post-performance lecture puts them in historical context, inviting lively audience discussion.

“It’s so hard to choose a favorite line,” says LaRue, clearly still enchanted by the material and her character. “I think of her as a cheerleader for The Cause; she can’t imagine anyone not being Anti. She dotes on her husband and reveres his every word: his opinions go in one ear … and out her mouth, without stumbling on grey matter. At one point, she proudly puts opposite arguments in couplets, helpfully explaining to her audience that ‘If you don’t like one, you can take the other!’ ”

LaRue tours Someone Must Wash the Dishes: An Anti-Suffrage Satire throughout Women’s History Month—in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Illinois. Subsequent bookings include Massachusetts and Texas.

For performance schedule or bookings, contact Michèle LaRue at 201-863-6436 or

(Photo by Ken Smith of Quiet Heart Images)

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