Miss Laura Wallis Mills

Laura MillsLaura Campbell Wallis Mills, 31, (1902-1987) was an actress, printer, advertising representative, and the daughter of the famous cartoonist Arthur Wallis Mills.  From the evidence available, it would seem that her successful acting career came to an end around 1924 after which she moved into the world of advertising. Laura celebrated her 31st birthday a week before the dinner.

puzzle-piece2-50We need an image – for now,  in lieu of her picture, here is the cartoon “Leaving the Theatre” by her father Arthur, perhaps inspired by Laura. All contributions are welcome!

Seated Beside

By the time of the dinner Laura was moving into advertising, her career on the move, and will  have known both Marion Lyon or Eleanor Glidewell, who had also written a play. And Winifred Mayo was also an actress. Laura’s mother was very good friends with Marion, and Laura’s father’s cartoons featured in Punch where Marion was Advertising Director.[1] Edith Warner-Allen was also a keen theatre-goer, so Laura had something in common with almost everyone on the table.

What’s On Her Mind?

With her advertising career just developing, this was an opportunity to make new contacts, if that were necessary, and to discuss the world of the theatre. By 1939, in fact, she would be working in the advertising department of Marion Lyon‘s Punch magazine, so perhaps being at the table helped develop her career plans.

Laura’s Story So Far

Laura was born on 16th March 1902 in Ealing to Ethel Maud Greig, (born in India on 6th November 1874) and artist Arthur Wallis Mills (son of a gamekeeper). The family home was in Walberswick, Suffolk – near Orford where Laura died in 1987.[2] Perhaps her father’s work was part of the link with Lady Rhondda: his 1910 Punch cartoon “The Suffragette that New Jiu-Jitsu. The Arrest” is a classic and celebrates Mrs Pankhurst’s fearsome Bodyguard led by “Kitty” Marshall. Perhaps his “Leaving the Theatre” for The Black and White Illustrated Budget was inspired by his daughter?[3]

There are press reports of Laura’s acting career between 1921 and 1924 but after that fell below the radar.[4]

In January the young 18 year old actress may well have met up with the 52 year old fellow thespian Miss Winifred Mayo, the frequently imprisoned suffragette on Table 18, when they were both performing with the the Play Actors at the Comedy Theatre, for two nights, the 16th and 17th, in “a Morality in Three Scenes, by H. Hamilton Fyfe, entitled: “The Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory“, in the parts of Anna and Miss Arn respectively.[5]  

According to the Illustrated London News of 9th April 1921, in ‘Young Ladies get their Medals’ “Laura Wallis Mills was well worth her piece of silver for her touching, beautiful rendering of the girl who in Malleson’s playlet studied for the stage of necessity and saw the others soaring with the medals while her breast remained sad and unadorned”.  She had played that part in RADA’s student performances in March 1921, winning the Silver Medal, the Bronze Medal on that going to one Miss Flora Robson (the Gold to Miss Joan Swinstead).[6]


Laura played Diana Rossiter in Horace Annesley Vachell’s Count “X” at the Garrick in April 1921, the Illustrated London News lauding her as “an attractive newcomer … of the kind that is wanted”.[7] [8]

The Stage of 18th January 1923 reported that she had left a role of The Good Fairy to take up Shakespearean work.[9] In March 1923 she was with the touring company of Harold V. Neilson , in a Shakespearean Festival of plays, including a week at the New Theatre Oxford.[10] In April 1923 she played Miss Huddle in Arthur W. Pinero’s The Gay Lord Quex, at His Majesty’s.

puzzle-piece2-50What does Laura do between 1924 and 1933? A Puzzle solved!

From thereon, apart from a performance in February 1924 in Folkestone Pleasure Gardens, the trail ran cold in terms of the stage.[11] Indeed until recent new research, Laura’s career was a genuine Puzzle, but she has now surfaced in the annals of the London and National Society for Women’s Service, presided over by Dame Millicent Garrett Fawcett. At least ten other dinner guests were also members of the Society: Theodora Bosanquet, Winifred Cullis, Josephine Collier, Myra Curtis, the Hon. Mrs. Franklin, Cicely Hamilton, Hilda Martindale, Laura Wallis Mills, Hélène Reynard, and Lady Rhondda.  Also members of the Society were The Lady Camrose (not at the dinner but wife of dinner speaker Lord Camrose), possibly the Mrs. Crosfield, and Mrs. G.F Watts of Table 23. In the 1930 Junior membership list of the Society Miss L Wallis Mills was listed as a Printer. In the 1931 report it was noted that Miss L Wallis Mills “devotes herself to advertising”. In 1932 she was still listed as a Printer but in 1933 this changed to Advertising representative.[12]

In 1930 she was living with her parents at Holly Bush House, Hammersmith. In 1933 and 1934 she was living at 75 Albert Road, NW8, probably Prince Albert Road alongside the Park, now rebuilt. It would seem that was a women’s hostel, several actresses being there at the time, a future lawyer and others – in total 12 single women resident plus one man and his wife.

What Laura Did Next

Laura continued in advertising, continuing to be listed  in the LNSWS Annual Reports and in appeared in the 1939 ‘Who’s Who in Press Publicity and Printing’ as a member of the Council of the Design & Industries Association, and by then working with the Advertisement Department of Punch, in other words with Table Guest Marion Lyon.

In 1936 the Gazette reported her as a freeholder of land in Suffolk, whilst giving a London address of 14 Dorset Square London NW1. In 1939 she was living with her parents at their home in Debden, Suffolk. Her mother was incapacitated at the time and died that year. Her father was retired by 1939 and died in 1940. So she may have been a family carer for a while.

However Laura never left the stage, in the sense that in the years after her parents died she was an active  WI audiences on subjects ranging from “Mrs Beeton, her life and history”, to “Leisure and Pleasure”, describing the WI House at Olympia, briefing her audience on WI Resolutions, lightening the mood by reading out the winning limericks in a WI competition, and on one occasion invited to speak on the Art of Public Speaking. [13]  Ever the entertainer.  Laura died in Suffolk on 1st November 1987 at the age of 85.


[1] With many thanks to Dinner Puzzle contributor Helen Walasek for that little nugget, helping strengthen the link between the Wallis Mills and  Raven-Hill families.

[2] Mills, Arthur Wallis, Suffolk Painters accessed 17.1.2018

[3] Arthur Wallis Mills Wikipedia accessed 12.1.2019

[4] J.P. Wearing, The London Stage 1920-1929: A Calendar of Productions, Performers, and Personnel, 2nd Edition, Lanham, Maryland, USA, Rowman and Littlefield, p91

[5] The Stage, 20.1.1921

[6] The Times 23.3.1921 p8

[7] J.P. Wearing, The London Stage 1920-1929: A Calendar of Productions, Performers, and Personnel, 2nd Edition, Lanham, Maryland, USA, Rowman and Littlefield, p91

[8] Illustrated London News, 7.5.1921

[9] The Stage, 18.1.1923

[10] The Banbury Guardian, 1.3.1923 p5

[11] Folkestone, Hythe, Sandgate & Cheriton Herald, 2.2.1924

[12] Thank you to Lizzie Broadbent, researcher and Dinner Puzzle contributor, for alerting me to the Annual Reports of the London and National Society for Women’s Service, digitally available from the Women’s Library at the LSE, and most recently pointing out that Laura was working with Marion Lyon’s Punch by 1939.

[13] Diss Express reports between 1944 and 1958.


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