DAME ETHEL SMYTH, British composer, born (d. 1944); There is nothing like a Dame, right? And Ethel Smyth had balls. Or if you really want to be accurate, she had ovaries (much stronger really; balls are so…so…exposed and tender, when you think about it). A composer of note and one of the foremost feminists of her day, she achieved even greater fame as the author of some seven volumes of explicitly candid memoirs.
She made no bones about being a Lesbian and did not tire of presenting herself as something of a female Don Juan. Dame Ethel had a positive talent for sexual intrigue and specialized in sleeping with the wives of men who wanted to sleep with her. She nursed a strong attraction to Virginia Woolf, who, both alarmed and amused, said it was “like being caught by a giant crab.” The two became friends but Smyth never succeeded in getting it on with her.
The fragile novelist was apparently her only major failure. She was also involved with Violet Trefusis and Winnaretta Singer, Princess Polignac, the Singer Sewing Machine heiress. By her own account, Dame Ethel was still going strong in the bedroom in her late 60s. It makes one wonder why, if there’s a “y” in “Smyth,” there isn’t one in her first name in place of the second “e.”