Dr Naomi Paxton, BA, MDra, PhD

Job title

Knowledge Exchange Fellow


I’m a researcher, performer, and writer, trained at Goldsmiths College, University of London, and the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama (now the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland). Professional performance experience includes West End theatre, national and international touring, cabaret, magic, physical theatre, radio drama, and comedy. From 2002-2007, I spent five consecutive summers in Romania working in state run orphanages for special needs adolescents and developed a drama workshop programme that used puppetry and sound making to facilitate communication and creative work with non-verbal participants. 

My PhD research at the University of Manchester from 2011-2015 explored the work of the Actresses' Franchise League and the contribution of theatre professionals to the suffrage campaign. In 2013 I published a collection of suffrage plays with Bloomsbury that was launched at the National Theatre in an extended Platform performance called Suffragettes on Stage. I was an AHRC/BBC Radio 3 New Generation Thinker from 2014-15 and continue to speak regularly on BBC radio and television as well as in other media and at festivals and events. Recent appearances include BBC Radio 3’s Free Thinking and Essential Classics, BBC Radio 4’s Making History and Science Stories, BBC Parliament, BBC Two’s The Daily Politics, and interviews for podcasts including History Hit.

From 2015-16 I was Research Associate on the AHRC-funded applied theatre project Poor Theatres at the University of Manchester, before moving to the School of Advanced Study, University of London in 2016 as Cultural Engagement Fellow and London Hub Convenor for the Being Human Festival. From 2017-18 I was part of the AHRC-funded Vote 100 team at Parliament working on a project with the University of Lincoln and the University of Plymouth entitled What Difference Did the War Make? World War One and Votes for Women. As part of this project I curated an exhibition in Parliament, organised events in Lincoln, Plymouth and London, and contributed to numerous events and activities around the centenary of the 1918 Representation of the People Act. I was nominated for a 2018 Parliamentary Diversity and Inclusion Award for my work with the Vote 100 team.

In 2018 I published a second volume of suffrage plays with Bloomsbury, and a monograph Stage Rights! The Actresses’ Franchise League, Activism and Politics 1908-1958 with Manchester University Press.

Other Details

Research Areas

  • Performative propaganda in the women's suffrage movement
  • The involvement of theatre professionals in the suffrage movement
  • Networks of suffragist and feminist activists in the twentieth century 
  • Cultural histories of political and feminist theatre 
  • Actor training, especially physical theatre and movement based practices 
  • Applied theatre practice, especially puppetry with non-verbal and autistic spectrum participants ​

Key Publications

2019.   ‘Suffrage on the Edwardian Stage’ in Krista Cowman (ed) The Routledge Companion to British Women’s Suffrage. Forthcoming with Routledge,

2019.   ‘Suffragette Judy: Punch and Judy at Suffrage Fairs and Exhibitions in Edwardian London' in Alissa Mello, Claudia Orenstein, and Cariad Astles (eds) Women and Puppetry: Critical and Historical Investigations. Forthcoming with Routledge,

2018.   ‘Very much alive and kicking: the Actresses’ Franchise League from 1914-1928’ in Maggie B. Gale, Kate Dorney (eds) Stage Women: Female Theatre Workers, Professional Practice and Agency in the Early 20th Century. Forthcoming with Manchester University Press

                  2018.   The Methuen Drama Book of Suffrage Plays: Taking the Stage. London:                                              Bloomsbury                                       

2018.   Stage Rights! The Actresses’ Franchise League, Activism and Politics 1908-1958. Manchester: Manchester University Press

2018.   ‘Lady Beatrice Wright’ for Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford:  University Press,

2017.   ‘Actresses’ Franchise League’ for Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford: Oxford University Press

2017.   ‘Inez Bensusan’ for Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

2017.   Recoveries: Cicely Hamilton and Christopher St John – ‘How The Vote Was Won’ for Key Words: A Journal of Cultural Materialism, 15 (2017), pp. 94-96

2013.   The Methuen Drama Book of Suffrage Plays. London: Bloomsbury



I am an Associate Fellow of the School of Advanced Study, University of London, an Associate Artist of feminist production hub Scary Little Girls, and a mentor for Arts Emergency.

As curator: exhibition in Parliament entitled What Difference Did the War Make? World War One and Votes for Women on display in Portcullis House from January-March 2018 and remounted in Westminster Hall in November 2018. Exhibition at the National Theatre entitled Dramatic Progress: Votes for Women and the Edwardian Stage, which runs from October 2018 to January 2019.

Recent outreach and engagement: as a speaker and writer I have been part of events commemorating the centenary of partial female suffrage for organisations and institutions including the Barbican, BBC, Bristol Old Vic, Google Arts and Culture, the Great War Debate, the Museum of London, the National Archives, the National Army Museum, the National Theatre, the National Trust, Senate House Library, Women’s Library at LSE, and UK Parliament. Work at UK Parliament includes the creation of the Equaliteas game, contributing content to the ‘Back to the Ballot’ MOOC run by Royal Holloway, University of London and UK Parliament on the Future Learn platform, floor managing recordings of historic debates in the House of Commons chamber for the University of York’s Listening to the Commons project, commissioning a song from folk singer Louise Jordan based on documents in the Parliamentary Archives, and creating resources about the suffrage campaign for MPs to use in their constituencies.

As producer: Knickerbocker Glories (2010) and interactive performances for Leading Women (University of London, 2018) As co-producer with Scary Little Girls: Stage Rights! A Living Literature Walk (2013 and 2016); A Particular Theatre: Shakespeare, Suffragists and Soldiers (Being Human Festival, 2016); and Women and War: the West End and the Western Front (Being Human Festival, 2017). 

As writer for performance: Mrs Pancake for Stage Rights! A Living Literature Walk (2013), Constable Campbell for Women and War: the West End and the Western Front (2017), Anti-suffrage Waxworks for The Methuen Drama Book of Suffrage Plays: Taking the Stage (2018)

As MC: Living Proust and the belle époque (2017) Museums Showoff (2016 – present) Carry on Curating at the V&A (2017- present).

I still perform professionally, predominantly as comedy, magic, and variety character Ada Campe, and won the 2018 New Act of the Year Show (NATYS) and the 2018 Leicester Square Theatre Old Comedian of the Year competition. I’ve also contributed to two books about women in comedy, The What the Frock! Book of Funny Women (2015) and Stand Up & Sock It To Them Sister (2016).