I just love the surprises that can come out of the most uniform looking boxes of material. Just the other day I was cataloguing a box filled with minutes books from the London Unit of the NUWT. Down at the bottom of the box was this innocuous looking brown paper parcel –
The label on the front states ”Sauce… and the Gander!’, a one-act propaganda play, written by a member and given to the Union for the benefit of the Old Guard Fund’.
‘Propaganda play’ immediately made me suspect it might be very worthy but more than slightly dull, however I really enjoyed reading it! And read it I did, yes I know, that in terms of the volume of cataloguing I should have just skimmed it, but I’m a very fast reader and once I’d started I just had to find out what happened!
The play is about the Bull family and the family help Mrs Higgins. It sets out the family relations through a series of funny chats and encounters. We hear about the problems Mrs Higgins had with her husband spending all the wages on alcohol, until she stopped feeding him and he got into line! The unequal family power relations are made clear and we find out that Mr Bull is a bit of a bully and thinks he is in charge. Mrs Bull is very non-confrontational and a bit of a doormat really.. or so we think! The premise is that Mr Bull received a letter from his lawyer stating he was sole inheritor of his Aunt Priscilla’s estate. She was very rich so he is expecting to inherit a lot, he uses this expectation to lord it over everyone else, dictating what his children will be able to do and planning a trip to America, on his own, leaving his wife and children behind. The lawyer comes to the house, asks the whole family to gather in the living room and tells them it’s all a mistake. Aunt Priscilla had changed her will and mistakenly the wrong one has been read b the clerk sending out the letter. In actual fact she left everything to Mrs Bull (with a generous bequest to Mrs Higgins) as she felt the women more worthy of the money – Aunt Priscilla had been a feminist and member of the suffrage movement. So Mrs Bull puts Mr Bull in his place and decides to head off to America herself, with her children, leaving Mr Bull at home in the care of Mrs Higgins. The implication is that Mrs Higgins will get Mr Bull into line and treating his wife as an equal, even if he still doesn’t believe in it.
The play was written by a Miss R. Aldred, an NUWT member from the East Ham branch. She donated the play to the NUWT to be used by local NUWT drama groups to promote the cause of equality. The parcel also contains the correspondence regarding this arrangements.