Eliza Doolittle

A century has now passed since the writing of the world's most famous play about class, manners and social consciousness. To commemorate the centenary of George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion (1912), Westminster Community Reminiscence and Archives Group (WCRAG) and Westminster City Archives launched a project focusing on the play's strong links to Westminster and Covent Garden. The Pygmalion project and the Covent Garden Memories site have been funded through the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

In 1912 playwright George Bernard Shaw completed his new five-act comedy Pygmalion, introducing theatre-goers to the world of Eliza Doolittle, Professor Henry Higgins, Colonel Pickering and the boisterous street life of London's Covent Garden.  A century on, Pygmalion casts its spell undiminshed. Shaw's transformation satire continues to shine a spotlight on changing British attitudes to class, personal freedom, language and the position of women in society.

This section of the website explores the darker social realities behind Pygmalion and the tale of Eliza Armstrong from Charles Street, Lisson Grove, who was 'sold' to Pall Mall Gazette editor WT Stead for £5. What followed led to a national outcry and to a change in British law in 1885, with the age of consent raised from 13 to 16.

Also included are insights into Shaw's life, the pre-war Suffragette movement, London's Music Halls, language and the 1938 film adaptation of Pygmalion.

Page link: George Bernard Shaw
George Bernard Shaw
Life and works
Page link: Suffragettes
The struggle for women's rights in the era of Pygmalion
Page link: WT Stead
WT Stead
Press Crusader
Page link: Music Halls
Music Halls
London's traditional entertainment venues
Page link: The Film Pygmalion
The Film Pygmalion
The 1938 film adaptation of Shaw's play
Category link: London Language
London Language
The ever changing language of London