Why tell Gert Harding's story?
In 1913, at the age of 23, a plucky Canadian farm girl from Welsford, New Brunswick sailed to London with her sister's family. Soon after arriving, she sat on the upper level of a double decker bus and witnessed a poster parade of women protesting for the right to vote. "This struck a chord in me that I never knew I had."
Within days Gert disobeyed her family and shunned convention to join this radical organization, the Militant Suffragettes of Great Britain. It sanctioned violence -- but to property only -- to push for its cause. In fact, they were instructed 'not to harm so much as a canary in a cage'.
Gert's first mission was to scout a tourist attraction to see if it could be bombed without hurting anyone. (It couldn't.) Next, during a raging thunderstorm, she staged a midnight attack on rare orchids at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, which organizers knew would force the complacent public to pay attention to the cause. Then Gert worked on the underground newspaper, eventually becoming its editor.
Impressed by Harding’s daring and resourcefulness, the commanders of the organization asked her to head up a secret bodyguard assigned to protect their leader from constant re-arrest by Scotland Yard. Gert interviewed and then led 30 women, trained in juijitsu. During dangerous encounters and stealthy missions they braved broken bones and beatings. But Gert and her comrades also celebrated the joy of outwitting Scotland Yard.
Wearing disguises that would impress Sherlock Holmes, Harding lived the life of an outlaw. She rubbed charcoal on her cheeks and slipped through the back alleys of London. She and her bodyguard outwitted and humiliated Scotland Yard detectives, often thwarting their attempts to arrest Mrs Emmeline Pankhurst, their leader.
Why a musical?
While picturing the escapades of Gert and her militant pals, we realized that this story screams musical: Gert running through dark alleys at night to avoid detection, smearing soot on her face instead of makeup; her daring attack on rare orchids at Kew Gardens; fisticuffs between long-skirted ladies and Scotland Yard thugs. And all of this protest was so that I, and half the population of Canada and the UK, could vote.
It's time for Canadians to celebrate their own heroine:
Just ahead of the law.
Well ahead of her time.
You could say the militant Suffragettes' campaign blows all the others out of the water… with a bomb, but for a good cause.
With All Her Might follows the personal journey of one young Canadian as she tries to balance family, friends and romance through the violent militant suffrage campaign.
Gert Harding is proud to be singled out to organize and lead a secret bodyguard of 30 committed women, trained in juijitsu. During dangerous encounters and stealthy missions, they brave broken bones and beatings. While their brawn failed them, Gert’s brains did not, and the bodyguard of women, armed with Indian rubber clubs, often outwitted dozens of Scotland Yard detectives in clever and humourous ways, allowing their leader to remain free.
Unlike other groups, the militant Suffragettes don't stop at breaking traditions by breaking the peace; they break windows and eventually bomb and burn empty buildings in order to get the politicians to listen. In response, Scotland Yard uses truncheons, hoping to break their spirits, by breaking their bones.
And why as a musical?
As I wrote the biography, I pictured this compelling story as a movie: Gert running through dark alleys at night to avoid detection, smearing soot on her face instead of makeup; her attack on rare orchids at Kew Gardens; fisticuffs between long-skirted ladies and Scotland Yard thugs. And all of this protest was so that I, and half the population of Canada and the UK, could vote.
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