Ena Lamont Stewart was Scotland's first major female playwright. Since the 1980s there have been writers like Sharman MacDonald, Rona Munro and Liz Lochhead but, in the 1940s women playwrights barely existed in Scotland, or anywhere else. This general lack of interest in them was surely a major reason why Ena had so little of her work performed, despite having provided 2 outstanding plays for Unity Theatre, which greatly assisted the company's reputation and its box office.
Born 10 February 1912 in Glasgow, the daughter of a clergyman, she spent much of her life in the city and used to work as the librarian of Baillie's reference library. She married the Scottish actor, Jack Stewart, with who she had a son and they both joined Glasgow's MSU Repertory theatre in Rutherglen, who produced her first play DISTINGUISHED COMPANY in 1942.
Ena later commented in a programme note on her feelings about conventional drama of the time: "One evening in the winter of 1942 I went to the theatre. I came home in a mood of red-hot revolt against cocktail time, glamorous gowns and under-worked, about-to-be-deceived husbands. I asked myself what I wanted to see on stage and the answer was Life. Real life. Ordinary people."
In her next play, STARCHED APRONS, she used her own observations at the city's children's hospital, where she worked as a receptionist. She sent it to Glasgow Unity Theatre, where its production in 1945 proved tremendously popular. It was their first really successful play and toured to Edinburgh and to the Embassy Theatre, London. Ena was swiftly commissioned to write another work.
MEN SHOULD WEEP was written for and produced by Glasgow Unity Theatre in 1947 but it was 7:84's revival in the 1970s that brought great acclaim to the play and in 2005 it was hailed as one of the top 50 plays of the 20th Century.
Ena's other produced plays are KIND MILLY (Pitlochry Festival Theatre) and WALKIES TIME (Edinburgh Netherbow, Glasgow Strathclyde and Pitlochry Theatre and adapted for radio in 1975/6). There are other plays of hers which have not yet seen the light of day.
She was the founder member of the Scottish League of Dramatists and the Scottish Society of Playwrights. She died in March 2006.