Originally published in Votes for Women, 29 Jan 1911, Jim’s Leg is a comedy of reversed sex roles. This device is a familiar one, most often enacted in the political realm in fantasy pieces where women are in control of the machinery of government and men struggle for respect and representation, such as Mary Cholmondeley’s Votes for Men or Alison Garland’s The Better Half. In Jim’s Leg the role reversal is anchored in believable social reality as the speaker recounts how her husband’s losing his leg in an accident with a motor bus has been the best thing to happen to her. Whereas before he used to belittle her work in the home, go out drinking and come home and hit her, now, having had to stay home and look after the children while she did his job as a bottle washer, he has gained an immediate appreciation of what’s involved and even converts to the belief that women should have the vote. While somewhat stereotypical in its representation of East End life, as an account of domestic grind it is vivid and believable. It also acknowledges the devaluation of women’s work outside the home – when the speaker takes over Jim’s bottle washing job, she is paid less than him for it – an issue on which the AFL was particularly active. This was largely due to their own experience as women in the acting profession, where pay was based on an individual’s standing as a performer rather than on gender bias, a situation that was highly unusual in the Edwardian workplace (though unemployment was high throughout the profession). The monologue recognizes the draining nature and thanklessness of domestic labour and childcare in a way which remains immediate and contemporary. A short radio version was aired on BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour in November 1999 as part of an item on the 90th anniversary of the AFL.
Roles: Male (0) , Female (1) , Neutral (0)