Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Memories and Newsreels and Cricket Scoring


Dorothy Nixon scores Cricket at the Royal Selangor Club in 1952, captured in a March of Time TV program about the Malayan Emergency and posted on YouTube. Dorothy is my grandmother and the subject of my eplay Looking for Mrs. Peel.  She was also head librarian at the Kuala Lumpur Book Club from the 1930's to the 1960's.



When I first discovered that there existed a 1953 March of Time about the Malayan Emergency it was so frustrating. I wasn't able to find a video tape of this television program anywhere.

 Lucky for me someone, eventually,  posted the same video on YouTube.


 The title he gave the YouTube video is Kuala Lumpur 1952...Cricket whilst fighting goes on.


Malaya Cricket Video  on YouTube. So see for yourself.

The bit with Dorothy is in the last minute of the 7 minute video.

The M of T voice over says "Dorothy Nixon is a fixture at the Club."

It's ironic. The bit talks about how the Royal Selangor Club has opened up to non-Europeans, yet I know, from talking to a former rubber planter, that my grandmother was the only woman allowed into that section of the club.

My grandmother was  the "Grand Dame of Cricket" in Malaya in the 1950's. For a while, they were giving out a Dorothy Nixon trophy. I read this in the Malaya Straits Times, in their archives.

My late Aunt Denise visited the Royal Selangor Club that decade and she saw mother's score books, meticulously rendered, apparently.

I have this still of Dorothy and the team from 1947 or so, before this March of Time.


 I was born in December of 1954. I wonder if my father, Peter,  saw this 1953 March of Time  on the television? (Did we even have a TV then? I remember a  machine with a tiny tiny screen.)  

If he did he never mentioned it.  The film would have shocked him, I think.  He hadn't seen his mother since the Depression years, when she had travelled steerage from Malaya to England, where he and his sister were attending school.

He once told me a story of her wanting to come to Oxford to see him after WWII but he declined, giving the excuse that there was no place for her to stay.  (He told me this in old age when he was suffering from Alzheimer's, so who knows if it is true.)

The next time he would see his mother for certain was in 1967 the year of my eplay Looking For Mrs. Peel. 



Here's a Wikipedia cricket score book. (A friend of mine recently visited Kuala Lumpur and she tried to sneak into the Royal Selangor Club for me, but did not succeed.) 


Scoring cricket is complicated, or so a certain Mrs. Hague of Montreal, also a Child of the Raj,  told me. Mrs. Hague, whose father died in Changi, where my grandmother also ended up during the war, learned to score cricket at her English school and then, later,  became the scorer for Singapore. My grandmother must have learned the skill at her Quaker Co-Educational School in North Yorkshire. She became the official scorer for Selangor State.

My brother, in the late 1960's, when the Montreal Expos launched, taught me how to score baseball. It's  not hard at all.


So 15 years later this tiny  'girlish-looking' woman (who survived the infamous Double Tenth torture incident at Changi in 1943) came to visit us on our very ordinary maple-lined street in Montreal and what did I see? A wizened old crone, always with a cigarette in one hand and often with a tumbler of gin in the other, and always frowning. (A friend of made fun of her frown.) It's all written up in my true story Looking for Mrs. Peel

No photographs remain of my grandmother in Montreal on her visit in 1967, but many images are emblazoned on my brain. No, "Granny" did not enjoy herself cooped in our duplex,  in a strange city, with loud, unruly teens all around her. (Typical of Colonial Brits of her era, she hadn't raised her own children.) Indeed, it must have reminded her, somewhat,  of Changi Prison!

My grandmother went from here (Teesdale, Durham) to Kuala Lumpur in, the 60's. The still, below, is from another Malaya video posted by the same guy who posted the Communist Emergency one.

Actually, Dorothy's father was an intinerent Primitive Methodist preacher, who moved every two years to a new town. In 1912,  he was in Helmsley, Yorkshire.

Malaya, to my grandmother, must have seemed just another posting, in 1921, as she took a boat to Malaya in late December,  to make a life with her new husband, Robert, a rubber planter, and native of Helmsley, Yorkshire.  My father would be born the next October!

 Dorothy would stay in Malaya all her life, dying in 1977 in her rooms at the Majestic Hotel, surrounded by her precious books.

In the interim, Dorothy would give birth to three children, one of whom is still alive, party with sultans on the padang in front of the Selangor Club and entertain legendary British officials in her humble bungalow.

In the 30's, she got bored and started working at the Kuala Lumpur Book Club, a lending library, beside the Selangor Club, that provided planters living in the boonies with literature, of both high and low quality.

In 1943, Dorothy was elected  Women's Commandant at Changi Prison, then, soon after, accused of spying by the Japanese Kempei Tai and put in solitary confinement where she was tortured for 5 months.


Many post-Edwardian types were contemptuous of these Colonial wives or "Corporate Wives" as they were sometimes called.

 Author/spy Giles Playfair (who seemed to admire my grandmother in his 1944 book Singapore Goes off the Air) wrote that these women lorded it over servants and attended illustrious parties when - if they had stayed at home- they would have been "sweeping out a four bedroom cottage."

Below: a page from my grandmother's 'memoirs' I used to write Looking for Mrs. Peel.


My Aunt Denise told me my grandmother didn't think too highly of this Gilles Playfair, either,whom she met during the fiery Fall of Singapore in 1941.

I personally like his writing style.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Suffragettes Across the 20th Century

This is an image, captured off YouTube of the 1975 BBC Masterpiece Theatre mini-series, Shoulder to Shoulder. I didn't see it. I was in college and didn't own a TV.

I'm thinking again about the Suffragettes and the Sixties. (After all, I have just finished writing Furies Cross the Mersey and Service and Disservice about the crazy  and slightly nefarious suffrage movement in 1910 era Canada.)

I mentioned in an earlier post that the  Danny Boyle opening ceremonies of the 2012 London Olympics, four years ago,  was thematically very similar to the British Pavilion at Expo 67, what with Churchill and the Beatles and Austen Mini and all the social history. Similar but different in one key respect. The British Pavilion at Expo 67 contained nothing about the suffragettes (as far as I can see).

Why not?

Well, for one, the suffragettes weren't big in 1967, despite the fact a giant rally was being planned for the next year.


I can't find much written about them in the newspapers of the time (archive-wise).

And Google Ngrams reveals the terms, woman suffrage, suffragist or suffragette, weren't evident in the books of the era.


My history book, Canada Then and Now, had nothing about the suffrage movement in Canada. Indeed, there wasn't one woman mentioned in the book.

(So no wonder I couldn't have told you when Canadian women got the vote, not 7 years ago when I embarked on my Nicholson Family project.)

If I saw anything about the suffragettes as a child, it was in a movie like Mary Poppins or The Great Race, where they are mocked or at least poked at for fun.




As for the British Pavilion, they were more interested in promoting women through the lens of Swinging London, their long-legged models and and mini-skirted hostesses, who apparently were the envy of the other national hostesses at Expo, some of whom took scissors to their uniforms to acquire the London Look.

(I clipped this from Expolounge.blogspot.ca)


Suffragettes in 1967 were making news for dying, mostly.


Suffragettes were old ladies with funny dress habits and smelly dead otter skins hanging in their closets.

Young people cannot envision that old people were once young themselves.

Any film footage we would have seen of suffragettes would have been on the small black and white TV screen and all jerky, making the protesters waving their big unwieldy placards look silly. They couldn't play the old silent films at the correct speed back then.  So the BBC program Shoulder To Shoulder would have been correcting this perception.

(As I have written, the British Suffragettes were very fashion conscious, partnering with Selfridges and promoting pretty clothes in their magazine Votes for Women.


The British Suffragettes were media savvy and they helped to shape their own legacy by immediately authoring their own books on their movement for posterity. Lots of these are now available on Archive.org.

I got this picture off archive.org.

I wonder what Edith Nicholson of the Nicholson Family Letters thought of the 60's Youth culture. (Edith was all for the militant suffragettes in her day... the brick throwing ones...quite scandalous for a prim and proper Presbyterian school teacher.)

Well, I can guess. She probably liked it.

She didn't think of herself as old (she told my husband) and she had spent part of her career associating closely with young college age women as the Assistant Warden at McGill's Royal Victoria College. (They apparently confided in her often and she sometimes felt sad for them, her 1930's letters show.)

Edith young in 1911, with fiance Charlie who died in fire

Edith Old in 1960 or so, with great nephew Blair.In the pearls.



With modern YouTube, there's no excuse not to learn about the Suffragettes.


Wednesday, August 10, 2016

A 1910 Hockey Match - as described by Frances Fenwick Williams




Frances Fenwick Williams was a Montreal journalist,author and suffragist who wrote a few novels including The Arch-Satirist, from 1910, the year the woman suffrage movement got going in the City. 

Fenwick Williams figures in my e-books Furies Cross the Mersey and Service and Disservice, about the Canadian suffragists and suffragettes.

This is a novel with too little plot and too much TELL and not enough SHOW, and little description of the city in that era, but the novel does contain a scene at a hockey game.  I'm not sure, but it may be one of the few early descriptions of the great Canadian game. The heroine of the story is being courted by a wealthy man, whom she likes but must reject due to a dark secret in her life. Here is the chapter entitled "A Hockey Match".



"The Montreal Arena is a building of considerable size, capable of accommodating many thousands. It has been the scene of many a revel; horses, prima donnas, vegetables, all have exhibited here at one time or another; from Calve, who raved vith indignation at the idea of singing in such a place, to Emperor, the finest horse in Canada, who made no objection, whatever. Only a hockey match,
however, can count positively on filling it from wall to wall.

To-night was the Wales-Conquerors match: and many a business man of mature years had sent his office boy days before to stand in Hne from nine to eleven on a bitter winter morning in order to procure tickets. Mrs. Hadwell had secured six seats and had organized a party to escort her American guests thither. 

She,however, had not accompanied them,frankly acknowledging the obvious fact that she was no sport." I do love to be fin-de-siecle,'' she had said. 

But, when it comes to hockey or pug dogs — well, I simply can't, that's all.'' Then she had told a plaintive tale of how, when a girl, she had been taken to a hockey match. Her escort had been an enthusiast of the most virulent type; and she had been obliged to feign a joy which she by no means felt. It was ghastly," she observed, ghastly.

There I sat, huddled in grandmother's sealskin which wasn't a bit becoming, and watched a lot of weird things dressed like circus clowns knocking a bit of rubber round a slippery rink. 

And all those poor misguided beings who had paid two, three and five dollars to see them do it yelled like mad whenever the rubber got taken down a little faster than usual — oh, you may laugh! but I can tell you that when one of those silly men whacked another silly man over the head when the umpire wasn't looking because the second ass had hit that absurd bit of rubber oftener than he, the first ass, had — why, I felt sorry to think that the human species to which I belonged was so devoid of sense. 

And that great goat who stood at one end and tried to stop the thing from getting between two sticks! why did everyone think he was a hero when he managed to get his two big feet together in time to stop the rubber from getting through? 

I don't see anything very clever in putting your feet together and letting a rubber thing come bang against your toes, do you? ''But what's the use of talking! You must think it clever. You must! or why should you go? Where is the attraction? Do you like hearing those wild-looking men shouting insults at the men who don't play on their team? Does it amuse you to hear them snarling, 'Dirty Smith! Putimoff! Butcher Brown! Knockiseadoff, Robinson! '

 It is incomprehensible to me. I shall always remember Alice Mann's proud face as she watched her brother chasing round while the crowd hailed him by the dignified and endearing title of ' Dirty Mann/ I think that, if I had a brother and heard him called ' Dirty Mann ' in public, I should want to leave the city." 

Accordingly Mrs. Hadwell had stayed at home; but a merry and expectant party had met at Hadwell Heights and had driven to the Arena, where they sat now, awaiting the fray. It would be some time before this began, so the young strangers had time to look about them and comment on the various spectators. 

Ladies wrapped in costly furs sat side by side with shabbily dressed men, who, in spite of the printed reminder that smoke was forbidden, ejected a constant stream in the air, the while they hoarsely sang the merits of their favourite team and the demerits of the opposing one.

Small boys perched on the rafters, looking as though a finger touch would hurl them to instant destruction. If one of them did fall," inquired Bertie,with a shudder, " wouldn't he be instantly killed?"

"If he were lucky," returned her companion, a young McGill professor named Donovan, cheerfully. "Otherwise he might only injure himself for life. But you see, Miss Hadwell, none of them ever do fall. Not one boy has ever lost his hold, as far as I know. If one of them did get killed of course it would be stopped."

But don't they get awfully excited?" Excited ! They go mad. But they don't fall." 

"You see," interposed Gerald Amherst, "they never think about it. If one of them stopped clapping and wriggling and began to measure the space from his airy perch to the ice, below; and furthermore meditate on the consistency and solidity of the aforesaid ice and the probable fate of anyone whose head came in contact with it after a fall of seventy to a hundred feet — why, he would drop, that's all. They are occupied with more important matters, however; the merits of Smith as a goalkeeper, the demerits of Brown as a forward — they have no time to muse upon their latter end and the thin veil that lies between them and eternity."

 I'm glad they haven't; for my part I'm convinced that I shall have nightmare after seeing them. Is that your — what is the band playing for? Oh, is that the ViceRegal party? Dear me! what is every one rising for? Must I get up, too?" Her voice was drowned in the strains of the National Anthem which was howled enthusiastically by boxes and rafters, alike. 

As God save the King  died into silence the Governor-General bowed and took his seat; while his daughters gazed with interest about the Arena which they were visiting for the first time. " Observe his coat,'' said Mr. Donovan. "Feast your American eyes on it. That coat was bought by Lord Dufferin, and left by him to be worn by his successors. The sleeves are quite out of style by this time; but you see ' This is a man! ' What's your opinion of him, on the whole?" Why, I think — good gracious, what's that!"

A roar that shook the roof arose as the opposing teams emerged from the waiting room and skated upon the ice. The scarlet sweaters and caps of the Conquerors stained the crystal ice with daubs of blood: and the more sombre hues of the Wales showed with almost equal effect.

''Oh, are they beginning?'' cried Bertie in ecstasy. They were. The whistle blew and both sides skated to the centre to receive the customary warning. ''They both seem pretty cool," remarked Mr. Amherst. "No signs of nervousness that I can see." "Not a particle. Look! who has won the toss? The Conquerors? Hurrah! You must say ' Hurrah ! ' too, Mr. Hadwell, whenever anything nice happens to the Conquerors. It's no fun unless you choose a team."

 "Why is the Conquerors your team?" " Because — oh, because the captain's father was baptized by my grandfather, I believe. There is some such reason, but, for the moment, I forget just what it is. Any reason will do, you know; the point is that you must have a favourite team and shout whenever it scores and groan with indignation whenever the other team does. Do you see? ''I see. When am I to begin? and how am I to let the public know what I am groaning about? Oh, the public will know if you groan in the right place — that is, when the other team does well. Oh, look! there goes the puck!

'
It dashed across the ice, followed by a mass of skimming, pursuing forms; and, for the next few moments, silence reigned. Then a shout arose, ''Off-side!''

''Off-side" it was; and the indignant audience hurled insults impartially at both teams; no one seeming very sure as to which was " off-side," but each assuming that it could not be a member of his favourite team. The Conquerors lost to the Wales this time and the latter passed to one of his team who succeeded in sending
the puck flying toward the goal. Intense excitement reigned: would he succeed in getting the puck past the goal-keeper?

 No: the latter deftly turned it aside; and a roarof mingled delight and disappointment arose which made the American girl start and put her hands to her ears. Do they often make such a noise? she
asked, involuntarily.

I should think so, answered Donovan, staring. You don't mind it, do you? Oh, shame on you, Parton! what are you thinking about. Umpire? — don't mind me. Miss Hadwell, I'm just — Hurray! Bully for you. Marsh! oh, good work, old boy. You're the stuff! Push it along — Hurray!'' 

The puck had passed and the Conquerors had drawn first blood. In the first wild shriek that rose Bertie was conscious chiefly of one thing — everybody's mouth was wide open. No individual shriek could be distinguished, yet, judging from appearances, every one, from the Governor-General in his box to the smallest imp on the highest rafter, was shouting himself hoarse.

Slowly the excitement subsided; slowly the spectators sank back into the seats which they had vacated; and, after a minute or two of preparation, the game recommenced. Never tell me again that the English are a cold race, Bertie remarked solemnly as the party took their seats in Mrs. Hadwell's carriage at the close of the evening.

I have read of such things, but I never expected to see them in Canada. I could go to a hockey match every night in the week. It's grand! And, Mr. Donovan, if the Wales had won — as I thought at one time they would — I believe I should have cried myself to sleep. Oh, you needn't laugh! I mean it."

The First Library in Asia?




A documentary about the Kuala Lumpur Book Club, made on my dining room table in real time.


A side-bar to Colonial history, the Kuala Lumpur Book Club has gone down in history as a purveyor of sleazy literature to thrill starved planters' wives, but it was much more and my grandmother was the secretary/librarian for a long, long  time.


The beginning of Looking for Mrs. Peel available on Amazon in Kindle. 





INTRODUCTION:

"All Things are Connected" Chief Seattle

The year 1967 has been described as The Last Good Year, by Canadian historian Pierre Berton,  also as The Year That Changed Cinema, by Time Magazine, as well as the Best Year Ever in Pop Music by, well, just about everyone.

In and around Anglo Montreal, that memorable year, radio was the communications medium of choice for young people. Kids listened to the likes of Buddy Gee on CKGM, Dave Boxer on CFCF and CFOX's Charles P Rodney Chandler on their chintzy transistor radios and kept track of the respective weekly hit lists.

One of the most popular new DJ's was an import, a former British merchant marine sailor named Roger Scott also on CFOX. In late May of 1967 Scott aired 'pirated' tapes of the Beatle's Sargeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Album, before it was officially released. My older brother was mightily impressed.

In the US it was the Summer of Love and the Summer of Race Riots -two facts I couldn't ignore because my British father preferred getting his news from American Walter Cronkite, on the CBS television station WCAX Montpelier Vermont - and as was the norm, we had but one black and white tv.

But these same heady Expo months were also a time of tension in the Middle East with Six Day War where we came close to nuclear war ….again... and 'the tipping point' for Vietnam and a time when decisions were made that 'signaled the end of Britain's' imperial adventure'.*
According to Historian Matthew Jones, in 1967 the British wanted to pull out of 'East of Suez'(Singapore, Malaysia and the Middle East) entirely. While school children from Victoria to Gander were learning the words to CA NA DA, Bobby  Gimby's  giddy centennial year signature song , the Americans were putting pressure on the British to stay. President Lyndon Johnson even bribed them, offering to back the pound sterling and "solve all your financial problems."* So, if Lyndon Baines Johnson appeared to carry the weight of the world on his shoulders, as he rode that long long escalator up past the kitschy photographs of Marilyn Monroe and Humphrey Bogart in the American Pavilion at Expo 67 on his official visit, that's because he did. (* Matthew Jones' Decision Delayed Historical Review.)

Malaysia, the 15th country to sign up for the World's Fair - in July '64 (plot 3320 Ste Helene's Island) didn't have a pavilion in the end. They had pulled out; perhaps because Singapore had been expelled from the Malaysian Federation in 1965 ( to quell the unrest between the Chinese and the Malays) and couldn't come up with the money. Tunku Abdul Rahman Malaysia's first PM had visited the Expo site in '64.

One wonders what Bobby Gimby felt about all this: the so called Pied Piper of Canada, a former CBC musician and bandleader, and a Canadian cultural icon, is reported to have composed them an unofficial anthem, Malaysia Forever, and earned his whimsical moniker, on a visit to Singapore in '62.

The song itself is steeped in mystery; no former colonial or expert in Malaysian studies I have reached has ever heard of it. Negara Ku has been Malaya's (Malaysia's) national anthem since 1957.


Looking For Mrs. Peel:  A Play (All Rights Reserved 2010 Dorothy Nixon)

with new information on the Double Tenth Incident at Changi Prison (Civilian Internment Camp) during WWII. Based on a true story. Dialogue by people is recreated by me, generated from my -or my grandmother's -point of view and is speculative and not intended to cast anyone in a bad light.
Based on a true story, as they say, or a 're-imagining of a mostly true story with some fictional elements based on historical memory and record, personal memory and family myth.'

"The keynote of this whole case can be epitomized in two words: Unspeakable horror. Horror, stark and naked permeates every corner and angle of this case from beginning to end....Opening speech for the prosecution. Double Tenth Trial as reported in Malaya Straits Times."

A Tale of Simple "Worth" or the Gypsy's Warning

"Cross my hand with silver pretty lady, if you'd see,
What the future holds in store for you and how soon you will be free,
Cross my hand with silver (if you have none don't be shy)
I'll take it out in food or booze (or Gordon's Special dry)
Just cross my hand with silver or call at Cell Fifteen
With any simple offering, (be sure you are not seen)
No cumshaw ever comes amiss but if you have it handy
The fates show true benevolence if first well laced with brandy,
The lines engraved upon your palm are clear as mud to me,
There's fame and food and fortune and a journey on the sea
But a lurking danger threatens and a white-haired lady frowns, (It isn't Eve or Nella and it isn't Mrs. Chowns.)
Fate draws a veil across the name, but one thing's plain to see,
The danger is averted if you put your shirt on me."

Scene One : Nixon Living Room. Montreal,  November  1967

SOUND: Television, (Murdersville episode of The Avengers TV Series) someone being dunked in water and crunch of eating.

British man on TV: (sx water) You could spare yourself this Mrs. Peel. (sx splash) You know what we want (sx splash) Who knows you are here?

Martha: Dorothy , dépeches-toi,  come say goodbye to your grandmother. This is your last chance to see her. She’s leaving for the airport very early tomorrow morning

Dorothy : (sound  of crinkling of cellophane bag, crunch of crackerjacks being chewed)

Martha: And, adjust the rabbit ears on the TV for Heaven’s sake!  All that interference.  Mrs. Peel's face is covered in snow!


MUSIC: Red Rubber Ball. The Cyrkle 1966 

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

1911 Family Life, Canadian Middle Class: A Letter


Excerpt from the Nicholson Family Letters


Dufferin Street,
June 6, 1911

Dear Norman,

Your letter with your address just recd this evening so I thought I must write at once.
Seems such a long time since you left.

I also recd a letter from North Bay and one also from Cochrane. You certainly have done very well about writing, only I was longing for the address.

I came home the Sunday after you left, came out on the late train. Edith and Flora had retired but they were not long in coming to the door.

It had been a very hot day in Montreal but when I got here it had rained and was quite cool which was a pleasant change.

Came up in the bus.

I stayed with Marion all the time in Montreal (Boarding House on Tower) and only stayed at the Cleveland's the day you left. Dr. C. said he had not seen you for such a long time.

I am very glad that you are to be on the rails (and not 50 miles into the bush). Hope you will like the Scotchman better than the last (supervisor, an Englishman). You will because he is Canadian.

I have figured the distance.. over seven hundred miles.

Still, I see this letter recd tonight is stamped Cochrane the 5th was not long in coming that distance, the delay was East of Cochrane.

I have not heard from Herb since you left. I am looking for a letter in two days as he would likely write Sunday.

Although, he missed writing one Sunday.

I wrote him after you left, but you better write and send him your add. Anything I get will mail to you.

I have not heard from Marion since I came home. I think she will come to Richmond as soon as school closes.

I got the cheque for 10.95 from your man. Edith took it to the ET Bank and had it cashed so we will be all right for a while. I also got receipt for money sent for Westminster and Presbyterian. (Magazines, both Presbyterian.)

Sorry you forgot the mirror. The other things I will mail you at once.

The weather has been cool here just as you have it there.

Evenings we are glad to sit in the kitchen. The days are fine to wash so we have got our washing and ironing done.

We could not get a man to cut the lawn last week so Edith, Flora and myself thought we would try it on a nice cool day. We mangled the front but could not attempt the back.

Charlie Moore did the back lawn Saturday and is to do the front tomorrow night. He has promised to do it once a week in the evening as he works in the Boston and Last Factory. (With Grand Trunk Railway the major employer in Richmond.)

We really were too tired, we will not try it again. I don't think.

Tonight Flora and I went up to Bella's (Sister, Isabella Hill, around the corner on prestigious College Street). Edith walked down to the mail. Clayton (Isabella's husband) took us down to the mail in his auto, then brought us home. It is running fine now.

He was out in Kingsbury Sunday. William left Monday on his trip out West. He has a ticket on the CPR. He came down to bid us goodbye, did not know you had gone till he came to the house. Seemed disappointed; he really seemed so lonesome going. Too bad he was going alone. I told I wish you were going with him. I gave him Herb's add (ress).

Montgomery (next door neighbour) is working at his house (renovations). Says he has all the men he wants now. Skinners (other next door neighbours) are having the same pleasure in their auto. Going all the time. Earnest and wife left Monday for Montreal. We had them in for tea. Saturday eve then we went over and played cards until near Sunday morning.

They took Edith to South Durham one day last week, stayed for tea there. They all seemed to enjoy our tea as they are all fond of my home made fresh bread.

Now I am glad that you are particular about your diet and that you are feeling well. I trust you will take good care of yourself around and about the trains.

Tell me how you like this work.

Flora is keeping very well. She comes home every afternoon at 3 o'clock studies for a change and stays out on the veranda. The vines have filled in so we can sit there the whole afternoon.

Our Church sale is Wednesday and Thursday so they will be by about that this week. Edith is feeling well and is getting with the housework all right...Later….

Miss Denton called me to go down to the hall at 9 am. I thought Edith would finish this letter and send it on. Sorry it was delayed. The great crowd that was expected did not turn out. We are going back this afternoon will tell you how much we make.

Had a letter from Marion said she got your letter.

Hoping to hear from you again very soon,

With much love Margaret.

Town life for women in Richmond, Quebec, in the 1910 era, consists of walks to the mail, afternoon teas, both given and received, and a long list of daily household chores, if you weren't lucky enough to have a servant. (Margaret was a gifted homemaker who won prizes for her baking and crafts at the local fairs. Indeed, the family genealogy has this fact written after her name.)

There are also card parties and church socials. And church, of course. A person could go twice a day if she wished.

Daughter Edith, 27, is back at home from her teaching job in the city. She has been employed for two years at French Methodist Institute in toney Westmount. Edith has no diploma and works for a small wage of $250 a year. Flora, the youngest daughter at 19, is in the crunch year at St. Francis College, a distinguished local institution, which, until 1900, had been affiliated with McGill University. Flora must pass her exams if she is to be accepted at Macdonald Teachers College and earn a diploma and a decent living as a teacher. The problem, she freezes from nerves at exam time.

The Nicholsons live in a posh area of town, which explains why both neighbours - as well as the brother in law - have brand new automobiles. Motorcars in 1911 could cost as much as a house ($2,000 range) and you couldn't get them on credit. But they were definitely, the "in" thing, especially in towns like Richmond, especially with middle class men. And everyone seemed to enjoy car rides, men and women alike. The Nicholsons are in no position to buy an automobile. Their financial situation is extremely precarious. Well, they are broke, basically, and 'house poor' as they owe a large mortgage on Tighsolas, their charming brick Queen Anne style home, built in 1896, the year Wilfrid Laurier and the Liberals came to power, by Norman for 2,718.00.

In 1909, when Margaret first learns that her neighbour is looking to buy a 'motor' as they called them, she writes to her husband "Mr Montgomery is going to buy an auto. Nothing but will satisfy him now. He is going to sell his horse. Mrs. Montgomery doesn't want to buy one. Too bad he is so foolish." In 1911, brother-in-law Clayton Hill's new auto is breaking down a lot, which amuses Margaret greatly.

The Clevelands are family friends who live on Lorne, east of McGill University. Mr. is a dentist so referred to as Dr. C.. The Clevelands are are the descendants of a handful of pioneering families in Richmond County of the Eastern Townships.

These Clevelands are wealthy enough to have a live in maid, a young English woman, newly arrived from the UK. The 1911 census reveals that most people on Lorne had maids. Still, there was a serious servant problem in 1910 in Canada, which was worrying the upper crust and forcing the middle class to increasingly make-do.
The 1911 Census reveals that only two families living in the Nicholson's Richmond neighbourhood have a live-in maid. (Not the Hills or Montgomerys or Skinners. And certainly not the Nicholsons.) But in 1901, according to that Census, virtually everyone on the street had a live-in domestic, including the Nicholsons. (Maggie Mclean, age 58)
Something changed between 1901 and 1911 - and it is affecting the Nicholsons.

Monday, August 8, 2016

When Canada's Suffrage Movement Split in Two - and Changed WWI History

A full page pictorial about the Canadian delegation in the Washington DC 1913 Suffrage parade in the Toronto World, Mrs. Flora Macdonald Denison's newspaper.


Beware the Ides of March, Mrs. Denison.

Well, it was a day or two before said date, in 1914, that a certain event occurred, an important one in Canada history, but an event  that hasn't gone down in the history books, like, say, Julius Caesar's murder.

It was the date the Maternal (constitutional) suffragists of Canada led by Constance Hamilton of Toronto took over from the Equal Rights ("militant") suffragists, led by Augusta Stowe-Gullen and Flora Macdonald Denison.

And it happened  in Toronto.

I have written a book, Service and Disservice, about the iffy involvement of the Canadian suffragists in the 1917 Conscription Crisis.


Service and Disservice is the follow up to Furies Cross the Mersey, my book about the British Invasion of Militant suffragettes to Canada in 1912/13.


I tried to imagine how Flora McD and Constance Hamilton might explain this bit of history to us, if they were brought back to life.

This ebook is from a first-person point of view.

I mean, what else do you do when you write history? You bring people back to life, right?


The Toronto Globe has the clearest explanation of this mid-March coup 100 years ago.

Here is a summary: The Canadian Suffrage Association was chartered in 1912 (but it was an organization started decades before by Emily Howard Stowe).

The CSA was a member of the august National Council of Women, a sea-to-sea umbrella group of women's organizations.

The Toronto Suffrage Leaders

In turn, the CSA had it own member organizations, suffrage organizations from around the country.

However, who they were and how many was a bit of a mystery, even back then.

Two of these member organizations were in Toronto. There was the Toronto Equal Franchise League led by Mrs. Constance Hamilton, a Yorkshire-born society lady who had lived around the world and in the Canadian West, and the Toronto Suffrage Society, run by Dr. Augusta Stowe-Gullen, and Flora McD Dension and Dr. Margaret Gordon.

Flora Macdonald Denison, a working journalist, seamstress and self-supporting working woman, was President of the C.S.A.

The Toronto Equal Franchise League was more Rosedale Society - and brand new.

It's no secret, Denison admitted it herself, the CSA executive kind of resented  these upstart suffragists, who were richer and of the maternal (social reform) variety.

What Denison resented most, I think, is that these 'society women' (as they were called)  felt they had a right to take over the Canadian suffrage movement, "with just a few weeks suffrage experience' by virture of their social position and all the good social reform work they had done before jumping onto the woman suffrage bandwagon.

So, in mid-March, 1914 the Toronto Equal Franchise League demanded that the C.S.A. hold an annual general meeting where officers could be voted upon and the Constitution ratified. They also demanded to see a treasurer's report and list of member organizations.

Denison, instead, kicked these women out of her organization. They had no right to tell her what to do, she said in the Press.

Some Toronto papers characterized the split as between 'militant' and 'non-miliant' factions of the suffrage movement. As Denison pointed out in a speech, the CSA hadn't exercised any militancy at all.

Inez Milholland, NY lawyer, led the parade in robes on a white horse carrying the colours of the WSPU, Mrs. Pankhurst's Women's Social and Political Union.


They hadn't mounted one solitary march.

The closest they came to  any militancy was by attending a huge parade in Washington, in March 1913. Many leading Toronto Suffragists were in the Canadian delegation, including Mrs. Constance Hamilton.

(Mrs. Hamilton had to walk behind Denison and Stowe-Gullen in Washington and she didn't get to speak like the others,so maybe her pride was hurt. Maybe this was the last straw for her.)

The CSA had only pursued their suffrage goals through (boring) constitutional means, like letter writing.

One coup participant actually criticized the CSA for this, for being too stagnant. A case of damned if you do and damned if you don't.

It was true that Flora Macdonald Denison had visited Mrs. Pankhurst's suffragettes in England in August, 1913 and written about it, in vivid fashion, in her Toronto World column. (See a recent post.)

And, apparently, she had joined the WSPU herself. But it was no secret Flora MacD liked the Pankhursts. She had entertained Emmeline in her home on two previous occasions. Sylvia, too.

 (And Christabel would visit in November, 1914.)

One line in the Toronto Globe report makes me laugh: It appears the Toronto Suffrage Association (Stowe-Gullen's org) had had the audacity to hold a meeting in the summer of 1913, when the socialite ladies were out of town. LOL.

I guess that says it all.

As it happens, one year later, FATE had the audacity to start a World War when these uppercrust ladies were out of town, in August, 1914.

Constance Hamilton's new National Equal Franchise Union had no time to really get going; they had to postpone their first AGM from October to June, because the suffrage ladies of the country were busy trying to figure out how to conduct themselves during the war.

The NEFU meeting in June, 1915 was pretty low key and soon thereafter Constance Hamilton published a letter in the press saying she was putting aside suffrage affairs for Patriotic Work  until the end of the War.

Throughout the War, the NEFU  carried on in a helter skelter manner, random meetings, no minutes. This was ironic, considering their earlier criticism of Denison.

The pacifist C.S.A., under Dr. Margaret Gordon, worked diligently during the War to get the municipal vote for women across the country.

Flora's niece got to go too. 


Flora McD was moved upstairs at the CSA and became Honorary President. She also continued to be VP for the Toronto Suffrage Society.

But during the War Flora MacD had to find ways to keep herself afloat -  as no one would pay her to write. She sewed and washed dishes and turned back to her spiritualist roots at a retreat at Bon Echo, near Kingston, where she started a Walt Whitman club.

(For his particular reason her place in history has been devalued, I think.)

Denison's only son, Merrill, enlisted in the Army so, ironically, she got to vote in the 'fixed' 1917 Conscription election.  Borden passed a War Times Election Act just before said election, allowing only women with close male relations in the War to vote.

Constance Hamilton actually helped engineer this undemocratic War Times Election Act, using her position as President of the NEFU as her authority to speak for 'all Canadian women'.

And once the Act was passed, she loudly supported it in the Press and elsewhere, quashing any dissent in her NEFU.

She probably didn't get to vote herself as she had no children.

In 1919, Constance ran for Toronto City alderman (alderlady) and lost. She was described as someone with no profession. She ran again a year later and won, becoming Toronto's first female alder...person.

Neither the CSA nor the NEFU left behind any minutes, so there's no record there for historians to pick apart.

The Montreal Suffrage Association left behind their minutes, at Montreal City Hall, only proving (to me) that Constitutions and  minute books can be manipulated. But, that's another part of my story, the one about Carrie Derick, of Montreal, McGill Botany and Genetics Professor and President of the Montreal Suffrage Association between 1913 and 1919 and VP of the NEFU (supposedly).

Derick was an equal-rights suffragist (a Donalda, early McGill graduate) but her professional interests made her a much sought after authority on eugenics, so she had much in common with the social reform suffragists, who supported her efforts to care for and control the 'feeble-minded' and who also believed her when she stated that 50 percent of prostitutes were mentally defective.


Right from the start, September, 1914, Derick plunged the MSA into war work. "We have been asking for our rights. Now it is time to do our duty." After the war, Derick gave a speech in Toronto where she said all wars are about economics.

Murky Montreal History

Edward Beck, pictured above, didn't like my grandpapa, Jules Crepeau, Second Assistant City Clerk at Montreal City Hall in 1914.  He called him a grafter and set up up in an elegant bribery sting designed to make sure the Mederic Martin camp didn't win the Municipal Election. But they did anyway. Don't mess with the big guys. My grandfather was a little guy who was aligned and very useful to the Big Guys. He would end up Director of City Services in the 1920's. Beck possibly was just a pawn of industrialist Lorne McGibbon.


A year ago, I took a train and the subway (the tram!) into Montreal, Point St Charles, to watch a little outdoor play about Carrie Derick and her fellow Donaldas, female McGill graduates. In  1912  biologist Derick was awarded a courtesy post at McGill making her the first woman full professor ever in Canada.



I have written an interesting ebook about Derick (Furies Cross the Mersey) covering the same territory and a follow up novel, Service and Disservice, about the WWI years and the iffy involvement of the Canadian suffragists during the 1917 Conscription Crisis.

Both books are availabe in Amazon Kindle format.

This 'Canadian suffrage story' in not an easy one to tell. Even the polished scholars who have written about it tend to make errors in their papers.

You see, people didn't tell the truth back then, during the War, so it's doubly hard to figure out what really happened.

To make things worse, there's a Big Wig side-bar I'm attaching to this little feminist tale that is especially steeped in mystery and murk. It's the story of the controversial Montreal tramways contract.

 Mederic Martin, who was considered a joke candidate in 1914 would be Mayor until 1928 with a hiatus in 1922-24.(OOPS...I'm thinking Donald Trump.) One newspaper portrayed him as a baboon.

Cartoon of Montreal Star owner Hugh Graham as a chicken and Municipal aldermenas his eggs.

And the scandalous story involves my grandfather, who was Assistant City Clerk in 1913 - and the Montreal subway.

Now, when the Montreal Subway, ah Metro, opened in 1966, my brothers and I spent a lot of time riding it for fun.

It was a pretty, clean subway. It cost 10 cents to ride, I think.

Today, it's $3.25 I think.

The reason I have to put the story of the Montreal Tramways into my Suffrage and Conscription Story is that the Suffragists of the Montreal Council of Women got all caught up in that controversy

 Edward Beck, Editor of the Montreal Herald in 1913, got them involved by giving them a special suffrage insert in his newspaper, in return for their official condemnation of the Tramway Deal.

Beck simply hated the City Hall and this proposed 40 year Tramways Deal, because his former boss, Hugh Graham of the Montreal Star, standed to make millions from from the deal.

Or maybe Beck, like grandpapa, was just a pawn of industrialist Lorne McGibbon, a former partner of Hugh's who had had a falling out in 1912.

The Toronto newspapers say as much, that this is feud or vendetta between McGibbon (owner of the Herald until 1913) and Hugh Graham.

The papers describe McGibbon as a business man of many interests. I found only Rubber and Mining interests on the web.

And I also found a very interesting 1916 news report about this McGibbon giving a rousing recruiting speech, saying they must get the 500,000 men for Borden. (Canada only had 8 million people, imagine!)

McGibbon says in that speech that Montreal Companies are seriously thinking of hiring only ex-soldiers. So that would be an interesting insert into my story Service and Disservice, where the Social and Moral Reform Ladies are working so hard to raise money and roll bandages, but also very proud of how some young women are taking over men's jobs during the war.

A small character in Montreal history, but he figures big in my story Service and Disservice, maybe. (Later: Actually, the Internet records that McGibbon caught TB and used his money to fund a TB recovery hospital in Ste. Agathe, the famous one on the hill we passed on trips up north.. my parents always pointed it out.)

Opponents said this Tramways Deal was about some people making millions and then funnelling some of the ill gotten gains into the coffers of certain, see Liberal, political parties.

A few days before the Special Suffrage Issue of the Montreal Herald was published, in late November, 1913, with a greeting from  Christabel Pankhurst in Paris, Beck (McGibbon) published a full page rant against the Montreal Tramways Deal, in huge bold print!

The Tramway Company’s Brazen Demands! was the headline of the full-page editorial/rant in 16 or 18 point.

“It is well-known that the tramway company has City Hall under its thumb and it can work its sweet will with the people working there.”

It is known to have an alliance with a sector of the newspaper industry, stifling public opinion.

The President of the Tramway and several of his henchmen occupy seats in the Legislative Assembly and unblushingly vote away people’s rights.

Luckily, the Daily Mail and Toronto World, newspapers that were also against the big industrialists of the Laurier Era, printed long-winded explanations of the genesis of this controversial deal.

Apparently, it all started in 1910 when a company was launched to build a Montreal subway. Well, the Tramways people (Rodolphe Forget, one of my grandfather's relations) didn't want that.

They created a counter proposal about improving tramways in the City, but first they wanted a 40 year contract.

A certain Monsieur Robert, a MNA in Quebec, took control of the tramway company in 1912. Hugh Graham was aligned with him.

The funny part is, I only need to write a few paragraphs about the deal in the book, but even for a few paragraphs, I have to understand it.

That's because Beck caught my grandfather in a bribery sting in late March,1913, a few days before the April 1, 1914 municipal election, and the suffrage ladies of Montreal were VERY BIG into these municipal elections, because spinster and widows with property could vote.

Indeed, their interest in  the Woman Suffrage issue stemmed from one successful intervention in the 1910 Municipal Election.

That year, the  Social Reformer Ladies (both the English and the French)  worked hard to 'purify' City Hall in 1910 and now, in 1914, they English side hoped to do it again. They also passed a resolution condeming the Tramway Deal, not exactly a social reform issue.

The French Women (La Fédération St Jean Baptist and Mme Gerin Lajoie) bowed out of the 1914 election and I suspect the Tramway controversy is the reason why.

But, in 1914, no cigar, as they say.( After all, Martin was a tobacconist.) Mederic Martin got in as Mayor...Rodolphe Forget's candidate... and my grandfather survived his little embarrassment to be the very functionnaire who announced to the Press at City Hall late on April 2, 1914, that Monsieur Martin was the new Mayor of Montreal.

Sweet Revenge.

If was Honorable Perron's law firm that got my grandfather out of trouble and Perron also benefitted from the tramway deal.

And Rodolphe Forget's daughter, Thérèse Casgrain, would end up leading the charge for Woman Suffrage at the Provincial Level in Quebec. (Her 1970's bio didn't mention any of this. She married in 1917 and lunched with Sir Wilfrid.)

 My poor Grandmaman. She must have freaked out during that week! Maybe she kept herself busy making all those tourtieres. She did her own cooking and cleaning, even when they were very well off. Why they needed all that extra money, I don't know.

Emmeline Pankhurst and Carrie Derick. Possible the least idle ladies in history.



Mederic Martin would resent the meddling of the Montreal Council of Women or these "idle women" as he dared to call them in the Press. He had to publically apologize. These Protestant women were many things, but they were never idle.
Grandpapa Jules was no idler either. He had total recall memory, it appears. .He would rise to be Director of City Services and then be pushed out by Camilien Houde, over another controversial contract  flip by the Big Guys. La plus ca change. I wrote about it in Milk and Water.

P.S the William Fong bio of  McConnell touches on this Dictaphone affair, but doesn't pretend to understand it. The tramways deal is explained, but it takes pages and pages.