Diana of Dobson's, by Cicely Hamilton, was one of the undoubted hits of British theatre in 1908, proving both a popular and a critical success. Mischievously subtitled ‘A Romantic Comedy in Four Acts’, the play made its audiences laugh at the same time as it made them think about theatrical convention, voyeurism, the ‘living-in’ system for shop employees, sweated labour and capitalism, homelessness and unemployment, double standards and the nature of marriage. The number of issues with which it engages may seem formidable but, as one reviewer wrote, Hamilton
Cicely Hamilton was born Cicely Hammill in 1872. One of four children of an army commander she was farmed out as an infant while her parents were abroad and, following education at private schools in England and Germany, briefly became a pupil teacher. Hamilton, whose father died when she was eighteen, was a passionate exponent of female self-sufficiency and an active member of the female suffrage movement. She joined the Women's Social and Political Union and the Actresses' Franchise League, and was a founder member of the Women Writers' Suffrage League.