Maud Allan was a successful dancer on the West End stage in the early 20th century. She captivated audiences all around Europe with her confident and alluring performances. She also became involved in one of the most sensational trials of this period.
The National Archives holds records related to this moment in Allan’s life, including associated court records, Home Office files and correspondence around other unlicensed plays in this era.
At the heart of this trial was anxiety about lesbian relationships and the profile that this trial might give to such relationships between women. While same-sex relationships between women were never illegal, unlike homosexual acts between men, it was nevertheless socially unacceptable and attracted controversy. This trial is a window into the tensions and politics of the era.
Allan's early life
Maud Allan was born Ulla Maude Durrant in Canada around 1873. She left her home country and danced her way across Europe, including on the stages of London.
By 1906 she was attracting audiences in the headline role of a production of Salome, based on Oscar Wilde’s controversial play about the biblical figure. Salome was said to have danced before Herod with the head of John the Baptist on a silver plate. Allan quickly became renowned for her seductive dance based on this play.