Jean Aylwin, the Lady Harry Lauder #Edwardian Actress

Like many of her contemporaries on the Edwardian stage, Jean Aylwin progressed from provincial theatre to fame as a “Gaiety Girl.”  Born in Hawick in 1885 and educated in Edinburgh, she later became a fashion icon and was entertained by men of means.  She was an excellent singer earning the title of, “The Lady Harry Lauder.”

It was touring in the play “The Red Coat” in 1904 which brought her to England and she made her debut as principal in “The Spring Chicken,” two years later.  By 1907 she had joined George Edwards’ Gaiety Theatre and in 1909 she was the only British actress in the play “Our Miss Gibbs” when it opened in New York.

In 1913 Jean married Colonel Alfie Rawlinson of the Intelligence Corps, but this did not stop her touring Scotland and the north-east of England with productions of “A Careless Lassie.”  She was highly praised in the local papers, the Dundee Evening Telegraph saying, “Miss Aylwin is a clever actress and her gaiety is quite infectious.”  Fashion designers loved to dress her and she inspired a lace dress copied by many.  She starred in two films, "Winning a Widow" in 1910 and "The Greatest Wish in the World" in 1918, in which she played Mother Superior.

In 1923 she rented a flat opposite the Chelsea Theatre where she was playing “Polly.”  When her husband Col. Rawlinson discovered her there with the composer Hubert Bath, he began divorce proceedings.  Miss Aylwin announced her intention to leave the stage and travel to India to work with the Wesleyan Missionary Society, but this did not prevent the high-profile scandal of the divorce evidence.  On her return to Britain she became a radio broadcaster with a programme of "Scotch Tales and Songs" for the BBC.  She died in Kent in 1964.

You can read more about The Gaiety Girls here


  1. What a fascinating story, Liz. I've never heard of her but feel I should have.

  2. They had such amazing hair in those days!