Lena Ashwell (
28 September 1872- 13 March 1957) was a British actressand manager, known as the first to organize large-scale entertainment for troops at the front, which she did during World War I.
Born Lena Margaret Pocock on the "Wellesley" while anchored in the
River Tyne, she was the daughter of Commander Pocockand the sister of Roger Pocock, founder of the Legion of Frontiersmen. She grew up in Canada, and studied music in both Lausanneand at the Royal Academy of Musicin London. Her voice however was insufficient for performance and she took up acting instead. In 1891, she debuted in "The Pharisee", and in 1895 she appeared in "King Arthur", by J. Comyns Carr, with Ellen Terryand Sir Henry Irving. She went on to appear in a number of Shakespeare productions, in " Quo Vadis" (1900), and as the lead in " Mrs Dane's Defence" (1900) and " Leah Kleschna" (1905).
Beginning in 1906, she took up theatre management, initially at the
Savoy Theatre, then in 1907 she established her own theatre known as the Kingsway. She married the royal obstetrician Henry Simpsonin 1908. In 1915, she began to organize companies of actors to travel to France and perform; by the end of the war there were 25 of them.
* Lena Ashwell, "Myself a Player" (London: Michael Joseph Ltd., 1936)
* Maggie Barbara Gale and Vivien Gardner, "Auto/biography and Identity: Women, Theatre and Performance", Manchester University Press, 2004, ISBN 0719063329. pp. 99-124 [http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=cZNnUYc4_-kC&pg=PA99&lpg=PA99&dq=Lena+Ashwell+and+Auto+/+biographical&source=web&ots=ewTlKpJ2Nz&sig=g4XkfcFoufievJaJXHiLryDr_RE&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=1&ct=result" Lena Ashwell and Auto/biographical negotiations of the Professional Self"]
* [http://www.collectorspost.com/cgi-bin/ShopLoader.cgi?Actors/lena_ashwell.html Collectors Post bio of Ashwell, with pictures]
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