Sunday, October 31, 2010

Watching the Squaws.

Drawing of Squaw and Papoose from Canadian Magazine 1911. For some reason the date signed appears to be 1995 or 45... Weird.

Norman Nicholson, Flora Nicholson's father, was away working on the Transcontinental Railway in 1908-1912.

It was not an easy job for a 58 year old. Working on the railroad was dangerous, but he seldom wrote about that to his wife, because he did not want her to worry.

But as I wrote on the website, it was the extremes of heat and cold and the boredom that got to him the most. Margaret visited him in La Tuque in 1908, at the camp. She was impressed by the food. He later went to Cochran and Hearst, Ontario. He wrote Margaret and described the natives.

"We have a band of Indians located or camped across the River from Residency. There are some squaws all decked up in great shape bright red skirts with white blouses and fur boots with the small shawl over their head. You should see these squaws rowing a canoe or handling an ax. Two of them have small babies and they have them strapped to a board and carry them on their back with a strap across their forehead"

The Canadian Magazine had an article about life on the Transcontinental Railroad.

Here's an excerpt.

Driving Steel through Wilderness is the title of the piece.

It is one of the hallucinations of the human mind to imagine that the other fellow always has the easier job.The tendency to magnify the fburden of one’s own tasks is deep seated. That is why you find a divergency of opinion as to whose share in the work of building such a railway as the National Transcontinental has been the most onerous. Engineers sniff disdainfully at the part performed by the staff at headquarters. Contractors will sneer at the achievement s of the resident engineers. The navvy, if he takes time about it at all, will be convinced that he alone has actually worked.

Yet when it comes to the final analysis, it is doubtful if any one person or group of person has had to endure more genuine hardships than the men who located the road. One can cover the three or four hundred miles of completed track through northern Quebec and Ontario, comprised in the Cochrane district, with comparative comfort. It is even possible to go further and follow the grade for many miles on foot without any undue comfort. But what a journey that must have been before the hand of man had set itself to hew a path through the wilderness. Nor was it only the abundance of its rivers and lakes that rendered it difficult of passage. Above and beyond all this it was largely a water sogged waste. All though the woods, water was held in storage in soaking ground and springy muskeg. It is easy enough to be courageous when dry of foot and warmly clad but to struggle forward day in and day out through weeks and mouths with drenched shoes and damp clothing is truer test of endurance. This was the lot of the locating engineers.

Water is one of the great assets of this north country. It is the main element of contrast of scenery. Take away those brimming rivers that intersect the right of way at intervals of every few miles and a journey across the great clay belt would be more monotonous and almost stifling uniformity. To relieve this oppression, the rivers come as rifts in a cloudy sky. They cut deep into the forest growth and their valleys open up panoramas of great attractiveness. From the high steel bridges that span their current, one peeps into regions full of potentials for sport and exploration.

Very much like actual warfare has seen the building of the railway.
At the head of the engineering staff, stands the chief of engineers with his headquarters at the capital. Under him are the several district engineers, each of whom has charge of one or two districts. These districts are in turn divided into divisions and the divisions are subdivided into still smaller sections. Over a division, a divisional engineer takes charge, while resident engineers carry out the instructions of their superiors in the smaller subdivisions.

The rank and file are divided into gangs, corresponding to the companies in a regiment, while a camp may be considered as analogous to the regiment itself. As the work progresses, the camps are moved forward, carrying the attack over further and further into the enemy’s territory. There are in each camp officers and non commissioned variety, time keepers , pay masters, supply keepers,cooks an foremen, all of whom have particular duties to perform...

Nowadays the railroad builder is a pampered individual, living off the fat of the land within as easy reach of the big mail order house as the homesteader out West. Bereft of the many of the comforts of home, with no saloons or theatres within many hundreds of miles, your railroad navvy must be treated with no small consideration in the item of food. One may wonder at the plenty and variety that is placed before him at mealtime, but it must be regarded largely in the light of a bribe. He must be fed well to hold him and this the contractor recognizes. That is why one finds these hard worked navvies feasting abundantly on roast beef and port, steak and potatoes, beans, cabbage, tomatoes, corn, bread and rolls, pudding and pie, cookies and cakes, jam and preserves, crackers and cheese. All of these items of food are within the limits of the bill of fare at one meal. "

Norman Nicholson left behind a great deal of documentation about his job as timber inspector for the railway. It's on the website.

A Safe Place to Shop

Dupuis Freres Department Store, Montreal 1910 era

The Nicholsons of Flo in the City lived in a town of 2,500 and I've written about the prestigious position store-keepers held in the community. These were prominent and influential citizens. In Richmond, Quebec there was JC Sutherland, Bedard, Mr. Wales, etc. But the times they were a changin' and in the cities, the department stores were being established. London, Paris, New York, Chicago all had had them for a while. Flo visited a department store in Boston in 1908 and rode 'the moving stair.' She remarks on it in a letter on

The BBC recently ran a dramatization an Emile Zola book that takes place in one of Paris's first department stores. This book is a love story, but it describes how the department store owner tries to take over a city block (by putting the other shopkeepers out of business) but the young greedy guy is stymied by one obsinate old umbrella merchant. In this story, the owner of the store mentions that department stores are a safe place for women to shop. Yes, the cities were considered dangerous, especially for a woman alone. But now women had a respectable place to visit, alone, other than church. And so it happened that the female increasingly became the driving force of 2oth century consumerism. (By 1900, Carrie Derick described the home as no longer a center of production, but a center of consumption.)

Outside Simpson's, Queen Street. 1910 era. Women shoppers.... Give us a place to stand and a place to go... Here's an excerpt from the 1910 article.

"Canada has passed the "General Store" stage. There are now but a few memorials of the days when all the cities were towns; and all the towns were crossroads villages. More than thirty Canadian cities have a population of 10,0o0 or over; and of these, two are above 250,000 each. All these cities have stores which are in harmony with the size of the place; the larger cities have departmental stores.

From general stores to departmental stores is a far cry, but Canada has made it in a quarter century. The large wholesale and the large specialty store and the departmental store were as sure to come as the telephone, the electric street light and the electric street car.

The general manager of the departmental store must secure a capable and efficient head for each department, and each of these thirty or forty heads must be taught to work under one system without friction. The GM must secure an army of polite, well-dressed, patient and activc employees and infuse them with fidelity to his interests.

The success of the department store is self-evident. It gives low prices, convenience and ensures honest practice."

(Then the article describes the mail order business of Simpsons, not Eaton's.)

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Canada's First Woman Lawyer:Token or Role Model

In the 1910 era, magazines often ran stories about women in 'manly' positions: I've read one about a stockbroker, Superintendent of Education (Chicago), and about various pioneering women lawyers in various locales.

I just found an 1910 era article in the Canadian magazine, about Miss Mable French, who was the first woman lawyer in New Brunswick and BC.

As I've written before, it was commonly said in the era that, with respect to work, women had finally made it. That no profession was closed to them, as if ONE woman working in any given field meant that ANY WOMAN could easily enter the field.

The fact the Nicholson sisters all became teachers is a case in point: teaching was about the ONLY profession open to them as middle class women. And they had no choice but to work! And as I wrote in an earlier blog, they were begging for teachers in Quebec.
Anyway, these 'working women' articles tend to strike a similar tone. Remember, having a career in those days meant you gave up on love and, yes, sex and any intimate male companionship. Spinster City. The professional women interviewed were always asked to meditate on this Choice.

Mabel speaks:

"Of course," she went on more seriously,"it is quite obvious that a woman who is looking to marriage as a career (sic) wouldn't want to spend five years studying the law. It would seem like wasted effort. The average man, you know, is usually a bit afraid of the so-called clever woman. The average man prefers a woman who is charmingly ignorant of serious subjects."

The author replies: "It is frankly admitted on behalf of our sex, that our tastes frequently runs to what Wells calls "the little fluffy type fool. We are the vainer part of the race and our vanity takes subtle forms. We feel greatful to those ladies who are so ignorant that they think we are very wise and clever."

"I'll reward your frankness with equal frankness, " replies Miss French. "On behalf of my sex, I'll admit that any woman is ready to be talked to if the right man comes along. But on the other hand, if a woman has persevered and made her way in her chosen profession, I think she would meditate very seriously before leaving it. Having secured a position of economic independence, she might be very reluctant to forgo it. Certainly she would be more critical of her choice."

Ps. How I Met Your Mother had a show along the same theme this week. The show asked, why do men like women who 'talk like little girls.' I once knew a woman (a beauty)who often talked in baby talk at 25, and she had a PhD! In mathematics. And she had scores of boyfriends.

Domesticity. Who Really Wants it?

Fou Fou takes a break. (Besides, it is getting cold.)

Justify Full
I'm about finished Nella Last in the 1950's, and I greatly enjoyed it, as I did the other two Nella Last books. I identified more with Nella in this volume, too, because in the 1950's Nella was an empty nester.

It's hard for me as a boomer to identify with the blitz or austerity. But being 55 with two sons out of the house...

And as it happened, my own 25 year old showed up for a short time, just as Nella's son, Cliff showed up.

And I had a similar mixed experience, because 25 year old boys, whoops, men, war-veterans or not, gay or not, behave the same towards their moms and don't like being back at home, for any length of time.

In the Nicholon letters, Marion, my husband's grandmother, describes how antsy her brother Herb gets when he is visiting Tighsolas. That's 1907. Nella Last is 1955 and this is 2010. And so it goes.

My other son, who is going to uni in Ottawa, was back for a few days, but that's more typical.

So the two brothers did what young men, these days, do to unwind, they played some violent video game on the Big Screen TV and whooped and hollered and I went to bed, remembering HOW NOISY my home was when the kids were at home.(My husband works nights.)

An hour or so later, I had a knock at the door. My youngest son had a question. ( I was needed!) "Mom? What should I do? The cat has caught a mouse and he is playing with it in the living room?"

Well, I had no answer for him. "Ah, throw a bowl over it," was all I could come up with. So,he closed back the door.

Fou Fou had caught a mouse. At this time of the year we get a few furry invaders. Fou Fou had been my mother's cat. My mother died of bone cancer last year in September, and while she was in palliative care, her main fear seemed to be for her cats: who was to take them? She had Fou Fou, a large long haired yellow cat and Sookie, a tiny Burmese with serious sinus issues. So I took them in, despite the fact my eldest son is highly allergic to cats. (But he had moved out, remember?)

We have 3 dogs too, so the first month, Fou Fou, the "timid one" hid in the downstairs sitting room for a full month. 5 pound Sookie, undaunted by my pack of slobbering canines, came upstairs immediately and installed herself on the Satelite Receiver, where she has camped ever since.

These were apartment cats, and hadn't had their shots, so I did not let them go outside, not that they wanted to venture out. The window was all they were used to.

But this spring, Fou Fou started escaping out doors with the dogs. But with the slightest sound, a car or a neighbour's dog bark, he would madly scramble back towards the house and (with a crazed look in his dazzling emerald eyes) cling onto the screen (like a cartoon character) until I let him back in. Some days, I would escort him outside as he explored our large garden. Then one day, as I watched him from the terrace, I caught him stalking a chipmunk way back near the woodpile, just like an old pro. I said OH OH, and brought him to the vet, got him his shots and, from that moment on, he's been an outdoor cat.
Well, with in that first week, he stayed out all night. "That's it. He's dead," I fatalistically told my husband. But no, in the morning I looked out and there was Fou Fou, happily sleeping on a patio chair. He saw me, mewed, and brushed my ankle as he whisked in for his breakfast.

We've had a lovely summer and Fou Fou has spent most of it outside. Our large property is fenced in, but he's taken to squeezing under said barrier and exploring other gardens in our area. (I've seen him crossing the street half a kilometer away.)

He's taken to the outdoors like a fish to water... or a feline to the forest.

My husband and I attribute this late-life transformation to the fact that he was acclimatized to the outdoors as a tiny kitten - and obviously taught to hunt by his mother.
(In 2000, my own mother and I rescued him from my father's country home. A neighbour had given the kitten to my dad, not realizing my Dad had advanced Alzheimer's. Fou Fou was sick and close to death as he met us at the porch steps, and about 3 months old.)

My mother took him in at my insistence. (I was emotional over my father's illness.)My son was at home in 2000, so I couldn't keep a cat,myself.

So there you go. The wisdom is that cats do better indoors, that they are safer too. And for ten years Fou Fou seemed to be proof of this. He was a shy but friendly cat who experienced life from a two bedroom 8th floor apartment in West End Montreal, with occasional outings in the hallway.

And now he is a bona fide outdoor cat, living in a rural suburb, in danger of being run over by a car, or poisoned by whatever, or beaten by an irate neighbour as he pisses in the petunia bed, but he clearly LOVES it. (I can't keep him indoors.)The other day he coughed up something on the front stoop that looked like a pheasant's neck.

Domestication. Does any living creature really like it?

In the 1910's it was the wisdom that women (well, middle class women) thrived in small spaces, mentally and physically, that a home and male protection (and children) was all a woman wanted. But then came the "restless" women with their odd ideas, wanting to have it all, and, with it, this widespread misconception that a woman in the 1910 era had the opportunity to do whatever she wanted, enter whatever field she wanted, If she wanted, but of course, few women wanted THAT. It wasn't natural... Then came the war, the roaring twenties and the suffrage, finally, but no men left to marry; the thirties and the Depression; the forties, war again; (liberating women again) then the 50's, where women were re-domesticated but with a difference, they could finally spend, Spend SPEND. And then the 60's.... when once again we wanted it all. And now, in 2010, perhaps it IS finally true, women can enter most any field they want (except high tech or movie directing) and work AND marry and have kids, if they choose. (And they can burn out too, because they still do the lioness's share of the homemaking, for some reason.)
Yes, I know a woman won Best Director last year, but that's like in 1910, when they said ANY WOMAN could become a lawyer, because ONE woman had ..see my next blog. (Digression: 10 of the most exhilarating hours I have ever spent was when I got to be a floor manager at a live television event (a charity event). I loved it. People remarked on how good I was at it, what a natural I was. But there wasn't a chance in hell I could get into that field, although I was working for a radio/television station. Because of union rules and gender discrimination. I also remember loving working as a PA on live TV news, back when it wasn't automated. (A job most PA's hated.)

Yes, I've almost finished reading Nella Last's 1950's, where a woman who deserved much better was confined to a small space, emotionally and physically, with only her cats for comfort and only her words to set her free, with occasional trips out to Conosten Lake for good behavior and I meditate on it all. (I am doubly intrigued as my father grew up in Carlisle, close by. My grandmother, a British expat who made friends with Sultans in Malaya, was born in Teesdale, Durham.) It's an old story, the war was a perilous time for everyone in England, but it did give some women some freedom, for a short time. (Except for my grandmother, who was interned in a POW camp in Singapore, but that's another story.

Above: Part of Fou Fou's new territory. Below. The 8th floor apartment he lived in for 10 years.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Canada's "First" Woman Painter

Maternity by Mary Riter Hamilton. This painting at the Montreal Art Society Exhibition in Montreal in 1910 causes Edith Nicholson to faint in my free ebook Diary of a Confirmed Spinster

The Canadian Magazine of 1912 had an article about a 'famous' Canadian impressionist painter, Mary Riter Hamilton.

Apparently, in November 1911, she exhibited at the Toronto Exhibition and was an instant hit. It didn't hurt that Her Royal Highness, the Duchess of Connaught, who was in the news a lot at that time, purchased 3 of her paintings.

Born in Ontario, Mrs. Hamilton had just returned from 8 years study in Europe. She had only taken up her art seriously after the death of her husband.

So she was a rich widow, it seems. (Widows in those days were the only women who could really do what they wanted. Marion Nicholson, when widowed in 1927, refused to remarry and became a union activist.)

Apparently, a painting (or more) of hers had been accepted at the Paris Salon, I guess the same Salon where Cezanne's submissions were rejected, because according to some critics, his paintings looked like they were painted by monkeys playing with their poop.

I'd never heard of Mary Riter Hamilton. A scan of the Internet, reveals that she did some pretty stuff, but that she is most famous for her WWI paintings.

One Internet site wonders aloud why she has been forgotten. Yes, she was deriviative, copying the style of her time, but not on the cutting edge. No daring. But so what? the site says. Why can't pictures be judged on their own merit? Why must great artists be innovators?

I disagree. It's easy to copy. An artist should be slightly ahead of his or her time, I feel, to be important. A shaman. And shamans shock with their work, they also struggle because few people recognize it for what it is. If a work of art doesn't shock us out of our complacency, what good is it? In the article, Mrs. Hamilton is quoted as saying that she avoids painting the "freakish, the sensual, the sensational." Too bad for her. (Of course, later on she paints scenes from the trenches, pretty horrible, one might say.)

That's why Mary Riter Hamilton isn't a 'great artist' but Emily Carr is. In 1912, Carr was in Paris, and she returned to apply her newly learned expressionist techniques on native people in B.C.


Mary Riter Hamilton. Nice Dress! Nice hat!

Anyway, Flora Nicholson, of my Flo in the City novel, went on to become an amateur painter. I have three of her works in my house. One is a tall sketch in pastel, I think, of an embattled fir tree.

So, I may have to introduce Mary Riter Hamilton into my story. She apparently exhibited in Montreal, too. Hmm. And I'll use this picture. (I just noticed: It shows a baby breastfeeding).I bet it did 'shock' in the old days: I know people today who are shocked at the sight of a baby nursing at his her mother's breast. This was painted in 1906. Did she not think her subject "sensual"?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Canadian Identity - By the Book

This is a page from Up and Away, the first volume of the Canadian Reading Development Series of textbooks used in Protestant Canadian Schools across Canada from the post WWII period until the early seventies.

What a better way to inculcate 'Canadian values' in children across the land: have them read the same stories. This volume has nice poetry (a lot of Walter de la Mare, an American, who I came to love as a child) and lots and lots of animal stories. The Canada it portrayed was a rural Canada and the children from other lands it described still lived in other lands - and not on my Montreal street. The Mountie picture above introduces that section. (Doesn't the image make Canada seem so much better than the other countries?)

I found an article from a 1912 Canadian Magazine criticizing the New Ontario Reader, published by T. Eaton and Company. (It was on the Quebec list of approved Textbooks.)

The author, Arnold Haultain, thought the New Ontario Reader did a fine job of promoting ethical values through the literature it offered: 'courage, honour, obedience, kindness, love of country, implicit veracity, high resolve'. But any good literature, indeed, all high art promotes these values, he writes.

His problem was with the selections, themselves: they were modern, for the most part, by untested authors, most still alive. The compilers of the New Ontario Reader hadn't waited for posterity's verdict on these selections and he did not approve.

But that was not his principle objection: he didn't like that all the selections being 'high art' and not practical pieces, aimed at down to earth boys and girls, who might grow up to work the land.

This high falutin' literary stuff was not of any use to a farmer - and, this man felt, just like J.W. Robertson, that Ontario needed more farmers, or at least, fewer children to foresake the family farm for the town or city.

A girly story from Up and Away, my textbook.

In Quebec and Ontario schools in 1910 they still used Royal Crown Readers. I happen to have a copy of the Fourth Book, aimed at older kids. Mr. Haultin may have approved, for it contains a hodgepodge of stories, one about Sowing Seeds, one on Bananas, one on an Ostrich Farm, one on the Cotton Trade, the Sloth, Bird Houses, Muscle, the Life of the Fly (Well, it's British, so EMPIRE.) It strikes me of more interest to males than the stories from the Canadian Reading Development Series. Oh, it also had a story called A Nation of Soldiers, about Sparta, where the young women 'were as brave as the men' and trained in similar martial arts.

Well, I guess textbooks had their place in shaping Canadian values during the 20th century, especially History Textbooks, giving that sense of "National Purpose" J. C. Sutherland wrote about in the article I quoted in a recent blog.

Mother Margaret Nicholson's patriotic fervour came from some place and it wasn't likely from her kin, who were Old Country and spoke Gaelic.

By the time my sons, Margaret's great great grandsons, went to school, in the 1990's, there were no textbooks to speak of. It was a French Immersion program and the teacher made do by cobbling together loose sheets of this and that. But by that time there was a thriving children's literature industry. We bought hundreds of books for our boys, a few of which they actually read. For the most part, these were stories of very high calibre.... or not, like the books based on Television Series, like Goosebumps..I myself, made a point of buying Canadian books, (The Hockey Sweater!) but the people who ran the book fairs at my kids' school really didn't care if the books they sold en masse were by Canadian or American authors, good or bad. They just wanted to earn money for the school.

So, I don't know what being Canadian means to my sons. Well it means they can go and work in BC or Halifax, if they wish. They pull for Canada's hockey team, big time, like most everyone else at World Meets. But that's it. They like Jay Barushel, but more because he's a Montrealer.

But the media they garburate is mostly American, but often scripted by Canadians. Go figure.

Read my ebook about the Montreal Sufragettes Furies Cross the Mersey.

Refining the Cruder Elements of Canadian Society

Granary on the Montreal Harbour, 1912. These ugly buildings have been part and parcel of the Montreal landscape in the 20th century. Wheat was being shipped overseas. In the 1912's, they didn't only refine flour, they refined people too. New Immigrants. In an article in the Canadian magazine, this process is described. You didn't use mills, you used schools, and churches.

The article, titled The Refining Process, by George Chipman, opens by describing a typical post celebration scene in the immigrant quarters: drunken men is sheds, on sidewalks and in ditches, men and women walking wounded with chunks bitten out their ears, faces gashed, with bandages of all sorts and colours... Therefore, "the patriotic people of Winnipeg are on the defensive in endeavoring to educate and 'Canadianize' the new immigrants."

"More foreign homes are being reached by the schools than by any other medium. Several thousand children from foreign homes meet together with children from Canadian homes and soon the common language of all is Anglo Saxon. The foreign children are quick to pick up the English words and soon they are more proficient in English than the parents.

Winnipeg Kindergarten Kids. Hebrews, Germans, Poles. Ruthenians,Hungarians, Bohemians, Russians,Roumanians, Icelanders, Swedes, Danes, Norwegians and Syrians. The Jewish adults flock to the night schools. Juvenile offenders are not treated like hardened criminals, but dealt with in a special juvenile court "that can do immeasurable good for the younger generation."

In addition to the ordinary work of the schools, the boys have the advantage of the manual training work above grade four, and this has a splendid disciplinary effect upon them and has the tendency towards usefulness. Military training has become an important feature of training at the public schools of Winnipeg, preparing them to take a full share in the work of the community and country to which they belong.

The girls receive regular lessons in sewing and cooking. If they can go home and improve the manner of living, provide better food and clothing from the same material, raise the moral tone of the home, the great task is already half accomplished.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Chicken and Egg, Suffrage and Education

J C Sutherland sells his Drug, Book and Stationery business to A J Bedard, upon his promotion to Superintendant of Protestant Schools In Quebec.

A 1913 issue of the Canadian Magazine has an article by J. C. Sutherland, Superintendant of Protestant Schools in Quebec, called A National Purpose in Education. 1913 was also the year Mr. Robertson and his Royal Commission came out with its recommendations for reforming Canadian schools. Of course, education in Canada is a Provincial concern.

J. C. Sutherland was a Richmond merchant and a former Secretary of St. Francis Academy, the high school the Nicholson children attended. His attitude toward education reflected (or influenced) the general attitude in Richmond, Quebec at the time.

In the 1910 era in Canada, with respect to education, there was the city problem and the country problem. Sutherland addresses the rural problem in his article. His style is simple and direct -one of the reasons he went on to an illustrious career. Knowing Sutherland likely helped Marion in her rise in the Teachers Union.

In his article Sutherland says that Canada, unlike Germany, Denmark and Japan, does not have a great national purpose in education. He believes this is especially important in order to train farmers in scientific principles for efficient production. Farmers in Denmark, he says, often have degrees in the chemistry or physics. (I didn't know that:My sister in law comes from Danish farmers and she describes a very 'rustic' childhood in the 40's.)

The problem: trained teachers of any calibre prefer to work in the cities. In Canada, and especially in Quebec, he says there is a serious lack of good teachers in rural schools. In Quebec, he writes, 25 percent of the rural teachers are new to their trade each year. (Marion and Edith only spent one year teaching in a rural school.) The one great remedy for the hopeless rural school situation is school consolidation which would improve the quality of schools and attract better teachers.

Here are some excerpts that are relevant to my story Threshold Girl on Amazon Kindle, about a young girl coming of age in the 1910 era based on the Nicholson Family Letters.

"Now that the great majority by far of the elementary teachers of this continent are women, the question of keeping up a supply of the trained is more difficult than ever. It is a difficulty in the older provinces, quite as much as in Alberta and Saskatchewan, where new schools are being opened daily. A large percentage of teachers marry, and consequently give up the profession. Others, where salaries are low, either make their way into other work or move to those parts of the country where the salaries oare better...Nowhere is the supply (for teacher) equal to the demand; all over rural Canada one may find backward educational conditions, due primarily to insufficient salary or to unattractiveness in the physical conditions or to both...

Another incentive to modern countries in general during the last half century has been the extension of the suffrage. It has been recognized that every man who exercises the right of a vote should have sufficient education to follow intelligently in the newspapers the political issues of the day. Those who opposed suffrage were also for a time opposed to the extension of education to all classes of the people. The minority who are still doubtful of the benefits of general education may be regarded as a very small one in Canada. Ontario's first large workable act dates from 1846. The records show that there were many people opposed to the principle of public schools and to the idea of being taxed for the education of other people's children, but the broader public spirit today, of which the province in proud, was rapidly developed."

Hmm. Sutherland is talking about MAN suffrage here, or, I suppose he is being coy, as some Scandinavian countries already had universal suffrage. Finland anyway. He states that universal suffrage naturally leads to universal education, when, with respect to woman suffrage, the opposite is claimed, that the education of women lead to women demanding and getting the vote.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Fire of Genius

The Lauriers. Library and Archives Canada Image.

This snippet is from Maclean's 1911 "the Four Lauriers" an essay that claims that there are at least four sides to the Laurier personality: the Laurier in 'hostile' Ontario; the Laurier in Quebec; the Laurier in Parliament; and the Laurier in his private office. This part is the Quebec part: Laurier would lose the election that year. In my novel Flo in the City, I have Margaret see him at the 1908 Tercentenary. She did attend, but was more interested in the Prince, I think.

The second Laurier that claims attention is the Laurier in Quebec. He has all those other heroes of that hero worshipping province , Lafontaine, Cartier, Mercier, Champlain, beaten a mile. Leaving the navy and individual politics out of the question, he unites all qualities the French demand of their public men, grace, distinction, eloquence and stage presence. He is a man to turn and look at in any company in the world. He might be taken for a great poet, a great actor, a great statesman. And any guess would be a good one, for he needs to be all three in his business. At all events, it is Quebec’s boast that you couldn’t mistake him for a little man anywhere. He is greater than the clergy; greater than that mauvais sujet Henri Bourassa; greater even than Quebec, for he thinks in half continents and Quebec thinks only for herself.

His name is music in the Quebec believer’s ear, for after all is said and done it is a French name and honor to Laurier is honor to the race. Envious people say that what Laurier gets in Quebec is divine homage such as the ancient Romans paid their emperors...

Sir Wilfrid himself is not without a sense of his own value with his own people. Being twitted once by a platform opponent, he quoted the words of a French philosopher, who, when asked what he thought of himself, replied “Very little when I judge; very much when I compare.”

Sir Wilfrid loves his Quebec and his Quebec loves him. And of all places in it he loves most its quaint old capital city, which was the beginning of Canada. The reason Sir Wilfrid loves Quebec is because it is soaked in history. Every foot of it is sacred ground; every inch of it teems with sentiment. The world is ruled by sentiment and there is no place in the world where sentiment is better conserved and oftener used than in Quebec. Politicians have to grasp this point at the start or they don’t go far – in Quebec. In Ontario they call it rhetoric and sniff at it, in Quebec they speak of it as the fire of genius and warm themselves at it. Sir Wilfrid is a great orator of the kind Quebec likes. Critics say that his English is better than his French – and that may be.

Marriage Then and Now

Richmond Quebec today. In 1910, the place was bustling.

If I didn't have Mrs. Coy, I'd have to invent her. Mrs. Coy is the friend (probably a relation) who lived in Framingham Massachusetts in the 1910 era and who had no daughters, only a sad-sack son and an ailing husband.

I have three letters from her in the period, all rather pathetic, as she is complaining about how hard her life is, cleaning up after these men.

Of course, she is likely venting, so it's a bit unfair to say her life was miserable 24-7,but I'm inclined to believe it was.

Mrs. Coy wants to marry off her son, Chester, - and she'd like it to be a Nicholson girl. "Chester's The Man these days," Marion writes.She thinks Margaret is so lucky to have three daughters to help her around the house. And, no doubt, she is, although the Nicholson Saga, the fodder for Flo in the City, reveals she does not have it easy.

I found a 1911 article in Maclean's about Kill Joys in Marriage. The title is deceptive, as the article is about the 'abusive' husband, the kind of husband who feels that as long as he is supporting his family and 'not hitting his wife', he is being a 'good' husband.

Odd article, since men's magazines learned a long time ago to avoid relationship articles, and articles that scold husbands for their thoughtless ways, well, you'd never see one in Esquire, I imagine. (Television, since the 50's, tended to provide this kind of instruction to men using Ralph Cramden and George Jetson and Archie Bunker as conduits.)

Anyway, the article says nothing new: be kind, attentive and thoughtful to your wife. Empathize with her life (realize the bubbly young girl you married is still inside there somewhere) and take her out places and buy her things.


Norman Nicholson of Tighsolas was broke in 1910 but he did give his wife what he could, kind words.. and in spades. Margaret Nicholson had a good husband - and in return she stroked his ego when times got hard. (I do get the impression that she liked him to be away, it gave her more freedom.)

This particular Maclean's article says nothing about sex (but it was a most prudish time) and it is very easy on the distaff side, as they liked to say back then (only making a passing reference to the bitchy wife) because it was widely believed -at that time- that women were born homemakers and if given a good and happy home any woman would thrive.

There is one paragraph that stands out, at least to me. It discusses how hard it is for women to be confined in a home all day (while the man goes out in the world and has such 'variety' in his life.) True, and hence we have the miserable (at least in her letters) Mrs. Coy.

But in 1910, at least in the towns, middle class women tended to have a thriving social life, as the Nicholson letters at reveal. In 1910, Margaret still had 'her day at home.' And if you had no company, you could always go to church, twice or three times a day, if you wanted to, and hear all 'the local news'.

Some things change and some things stay the same. There are some dynamics of marriage that remain constant through time -as the great literature proves.

Sticking two human beings in a room for 20 years and having them depend on each other, will lead to similar behaviors, similar frustrations, in Ovid's Greece or in Neil Simon's New York City. I hate to be single, but traditional marriage tends to kill joy.

The social context does change however. Today, middle class women don't have to rely on their husbands for financial support (to the extent as they did in yesteryear) and as Margaret did in 1910 which led to her great frustration, (although finances are still a major pressure in marriage) but they do have to live together in a confined space and they do rely on each other for emotional support - more than ever.
In today's world, we live almost entirely privatized existences. We have little extended family around us (as in the past) and we hardly know our neighbours. Our social life consists of going to the cinema and sitting in a room with strangers and leaving, or going to a restaurant and kibbitzing with the waitress or sitting on the telephone for 2 hours to fix a mistake in a telephone bill and talking to "Joe" in Bangalore.
For the most part...And in most marriages, from what I see, it's women who have outside interests and friends, if they are older and have the time. Men tend to be reclusive outside of work. So look who is frustrated now.

The new technologies have allowed this to happen. As long as we can pay our bills, as long as we have a job, we don't need anyone else. (So the unemployed today are especially isolated.) But that puts more pressure on the man/woman (or woman/woman or man/man) married relationship than ever.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Canadian Food Purity 1910

I've written a lot about the PURE FOOD Movement in the US in the first decade of the 20th century, and how virtually every new food or household product claimed, in its advertisements, to be pure, Ivory Soap being just one of these many products.
And I've written about a Dr. Wiley and his fight in the US against the patent medicine people, many of whom ran off to Canada to keep in business.

An article from Macleans in 1912 about Food Standards quotes Wiley as saying `he will continue to work until the whole family of preservatives and colorants are in the boneyard.`

So Dr. Wiley was well known even in Canada even if his laws did not much matter in this country, except with respect to exports.

This Maclean's article claims we have our own Dr. Wiley, a Dr. A. McGill of the Food Standards branch of Inland Revenue.

Like Dr. Wiley, McGill is concerned with patent medicines, their more dangerous ingredients as well as their outlandish claims. And like Dr. Wiley, McGill is concerned about soft drinks, but not so much the additives, but the fact some are spiked with alcohol. But he's not a temperance type: he is also concerned that alcoholic beverages are often watered down. And he is concerned with milk, not so much with respect to contamination, which is a huge problem in Montreal. He is concerned with quality control. Milk in Canada, he says, must contain at least 3 and a quarter percent milk fat (it was rich back then).

This 1912 article mentions some canned goods that are diluted, not dangerous, just a waste of money, and suggests if housewives were as diligent as they once had been, few of them would be cheated out. Apparently, canned goods didn`t exist until the 1890's.

Dr. Wiley in the US, who got the 1908 Pure Food Act pushed through was a crusader. Our Dr. McGill appears to be the diligent civil servant.

Wiley ended up on the wrong side of history with respect to the preservative business: preservatives and colourants became huge business in the middle of the century as we all well know. Only lately have preservatives in food re-emerged as a potential health issue. So we now have "natural foods" and "organic foods" etc.

If Dr. Wiley of the US was aiming to stop the new preservative industry in its tracks, Canada's Dr. McGill was more circumspect. Salt, sugar, vinegar, he said, were old-fashioned time-tested preservatives that were also dangerous if over indulged in, so why condemn the new chemical preservatives. (This is a rather prescient remark, considering the huge amounts of sugar and salt in fast foods and convenience foods and the impact they are having on our health.)

Ivory Soap, like some other iconic 20th century brands, also succeeded in the 20th century due to advertising that was more visual than verbal, life-style oriented, aimed at making housewives feel better about their lives and their homes. This style was created at J. Walter Thompson.

I think Macleans has an article about the new and influential profession of advertising. I'll write about that next.

The Wonder Fluid: And I Don't Mean Wine

A 1910 car ride. This weekend we drove to Ogunquit in a Chevy Malibu (an average person's car -but so comfortable) so I could sit by Perkins' Cove, below, and sip wine.

The trip from our Montreal suburb takes 6 hours, omitting border wait times. We stop but once for a bathroom break, usually at a Macdonald's.

It is a comfortable trip, in our Malibu with the great heated seats on smooth highways, and the cost is just 40 dollars or so of gas for the car gets about 30 miles to the gallon on such roads.
When I was a child, in the 60's, we'd take the same trip in a cramped Austin Cambridge, stopping as often as possible for bathroom breaks and to stretch our legs at Mom and Pop diners with great home-made pies and beyond filthy bathrooms

Oqunquit is an artsy village that takes Hallowe'en seriously.

On the Saturday, we drove to Newton, Massachusetts, to see for ourselves where Dr. Henry Watters lived. Flo (of Flo in the City) visited him in 1908 and took a ride in a Stanley Steamer from Newton Centre to Wellesley, stopping at Framingham to see Mrs. Coy, who was all in a kerfluffle, because she was cleaning house and not in a state to receive guests. (The Stanley Steamer was invented by two Newton brothers.)

In the 1910 era there were steam, electric and gasoline driven cars. The Stanleys thought their cars would catch on, without advertising. (Clean! Powerful! Noisy) And electric cars (clean, not noisy, but less powerful) were being targetted in advertising at women drivers (kiss of death.) The gasoline car, (filthy and somewhat noisy but easy to work and the favorite on the 'glamorous' car racing circuit) caught on about 1910. See

Here are two snippets from 1910 era articles, the second article on gasoline is from Maclean's. The first from Busy Man's Magazine.

(As we drove to Maine, we listened to podcasts of the BBC's Radio 4 History of the World in 100 Objects series. One of the later episodes is about a Victorian Tea Pot. The narrator explains how the British appetite, in the 1700 and 1800's, for that most genteel of drinks, tea, caused social upheaval around the world. Everything we consume has consequences and it has always been thus. The trade in tea caused the Opium Wars in China and promoted huge migrations of Tamils and such to work on new tea plantations in Ceylon, etc. And just scan the news to see what human suffering our appetite for cars and gasoline has wrought.

Here are the 1910 articles:

It is a matter of common knowledge that there are in use in the United States at the present time more than 300,000 automobiles and the demand still seems almost unlimited. When the additional 300,000 to be made this year are included, it will be seen that at the close of 1910 one person out of every 150 in the country will have an automobile, or one family out of every forty or fifty. Obviously, the number of families capable of maintaining an automobile is comparatively limited, although the average is brought up by those who are able to support two or more. One family out of twenty seems about the ultimate limit, even considering the utmost possibilities of the 500 dollar car.

The population of the country is increasing pretty rapidly, but not in proportion of keep pace with the automobile product.

When the million and a half mark (of sales) has been reached, this will imply the owning of a car on every farm of even moderate size and by most of the salaried workers in the country.

“Gasoline: The Wonder Fluid"

In the year 1910, the total production of the world was three hundred and thirty five million barrels of forty-two gallons each. Of the total, two hundred and sixteen million barrels were produced in the United States. Those three hundred and thirty five million barrels, each less than four feet in height, if they could be strung end to end, would reach from the earth to the moon, besides winding two or three times around that satellite.

As for the gasoline, that amounts to eight per cent of the crude oil. The world’s gasoline production for the year 1910 was one billion one hundred and twenty five million gallons. It is hard to realize that enormous power lies in such an amount of gasoline. The output for 1910 would send a touring car forty-five thousand times the distance that lies between the earth and the moon.

And yet there is not gasoline enough. If the supply were several times as great, the age of steam would pass away like morning mist before the new age of gasoline. Gasoline would run the railroads, the ocean liners, the factories, everything. It would become the world conqueror, and perhaps it will if the oil prospectors are lucky enough.

PS. The 100th 'artefact' in the BBC Radio Four's History of the World in 100 Objects was just unveiled (unmuted?) and it is a solar panel, that uses 5 hours of sunlight to make 100 hours of light, that is cheap and once paid for doesn't cost anything to run, that can be used to empower sun-rich Sub Sahara and South Asian communities, especially the women within these poorer than poor communities, and allow them 'to join the global conversation' powering cell phones and computers. The episode invokes Edison, as well. Of course, this episode wasn't history, it was prediction. And new technologies seldom have the (happy or sad) consequences people (optimists or pessimists) predict.

Hmm. A new invention that takes us back to the beginning. But no one makes money on it, so it is the opposite of a consumer product...

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Newton Massachusetts

Dr. Watters' house in Newton. The one Flo and May visited in 1908. And later Edith and Marion in 1912.

We whizzed down to Newton and took a look around - and had lunch in a place frequented by mostly young people.

Lots of Universities in the area.

And visited the Historical Society and took this picture of a poster of Norumbega Park, where Flo and Marion visited. The poster looks 20's ish. I am convinced now that this image of Marion is on the Charles. So that is likely Dr. Henry. That would be 1912.

Dr.Henry Watters

A turn of the century view. Well, the bungalows weren't there, just the shoreline.

My husband and I are staying in and bed breakfast in Ogunquit, Maine, the Rockmere,
Newton Massachusetts is but two hours away, but my husband isn't inclined to drive down.

I am.

I have an urge to see if the house (and surgery) of Dr. Henry Watters is there. Google Earth Street view shows nothing.

I've been writing a lot about the Medical Profession in the 1900 era, so I guess this would be good background, for Henry is am important character in my Flo in the City story.

He was a fine, caring, and thoughtful man. He likely made a great doctor, and his empathy with his female cousins,Flo, Marion, Edith and Mae, suggests he likely was empathetic with is female patients, unlike most era doctors.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Musings on Matisse and 1911 and Me

The Centurians, a program about the 100 most influential artworks of the 20th century is running on BBC 7. I just heard the one about Matisse's Red Studio (Atelier Rouge) and A.S. Byatt, the novelist, said it was the best example of a painting halfway between abstraction and realism.

It was painted in 1911, and although Les Demoiselles D'Avignon by Picasso is considered that iconic era painting (1907) this work is considered pivotal by many, it seems. Its influence was felt later on, in the forties, in the US.

Now, I love Matisse, but I don't remember thinking much of this one.

I have that Fish and Flowers one, and for years it was over my bed. I bought it when I was pregnant with my second, although I didn't yet know it. A friend suggested I bought it for its 'fertility' symbolism. (This print is in Harry Met Sally, in Sally's apartment.)

About 18 years later, I bought the book Dance to the End of Love, that combined Leonard Cohen's lyrics with Matisse images. I had this fantasy that my husband saw it in the store and thought "Gee, that would be perfect for my wife " for our 20th anniversary." But the truth is, a thousand of these books could have fallen on his head and he wouldn't have thought to buy it for me.

And I also purchased a little Matisse, that I put on my Edwardian era bookshelf. I'm not sure if the piece of furniture belonged to the Nicholsons or some other relation of my husband's.
Anway, there's but one Matisse in the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. When I go to Paris in the spring I will surely see more of his work. MY Matisse with Ikea tulips and Woolworth's vase from my childhood home.

The Atelier Rouge is in the MOM in New York. And I'm going there in November, but to see a play. I don't think I have time to go to the MOM. Too bad.

The BBC panel said the nuances in the picture can't be captured in prints.

Mark Twain's Autobiography

Mark Twain in famous 1909 Edison Film.

I just ordered my copy of Mark Twain's autobiography, to be released November 15, 2010, 100 years after his death.

He must have thought a lot of himself to think that people, in 100 years, would be interested in reading about his life. :0

Well, the book is only No.3 on right now.

I love Mark Twain. On the CBS program Sunday Morning, a few days ago, it was said that he believed himself to be the most conspicious person on the planet.

Well, there are no references to Mark Twain in the 1908-1913 Nicholson Family Letters. One of Margaret's newspaper clippings from 1910 has a note about Twain being gravely ill. But she clipped it for the suffrage reference above.

I checked out the Montreal Gazette archives to see how many articles on Twain they had in the 1905-1910 period, other than reports on his illness and death.

And they had plenty. It seems Twain went to London in 1909 and surprised 'all the pretty shopgirls' on the street by walking about in a blue bathrobe. Later, he had a few words with Edward 7th, presumably he'd changed into proper attire by then.

Twain was also giving depositions at hearings about copyright. And his daughter, Clara, was trying to make it a singer - and claimed it was hard being the daughter of a genius.

I think the Nicholsons and Mark Twain had something in common though. They were both poor - and poor due to a house. If I recall my Twain history, he spent a fortune on this very weird house and lost a lot of money on it.

I have Edith Nicholson's copy of Middlemarch and a few Dicken's novels. But no Huckleberry Finn or my favorite, A Connecticut Yankee. I imagine Marion would have been a Twain fan. She had a wicked sense of humour. Well, all the Nicholson women did.

You know, I've already blogged about how most 1910 best sellers are forgotten. Except for Anne of Green Gables.

And most old stories became 'new' favorites due to fabulous film and or TV adaptations. The "Colin Firth" Pride and Prejudice comes to mind. Even ANNE was made into a wonderful TV mini series, remember?

But I can't think of a movie or tv adaptation of a Twain book that stands out. (The Connecticut Yankee with Danny Kaye....OOOH.) His work stuck around on its own merit. In many ways, Twain suits radio. He had a great ear, right? I wonder if BBC Radio 4 or 7 is going to run any old or new adaptations at the anniversary of his death. I'd bet on it.

Marvelous Skill of Hand

The Writing on the Wall: Lace and embroidery, likely done by Margaret Nicholson or her daughters. Amanda Vickery, in the History of Private Life, said women did embroidery to prove to their future husbands that they were ladies of leisure - and docile beings.

The Busy Man Magazine of 1910 had an article "Are We Losing our Ability to Work with the Hands" which is interesting in the context of Flo in the City. I have been writing about how technology deskills us and how Margaret Nicholson, born 1854, had many more homely skills than her daughters. But in 1913, when her family was in trouble financially, she lamented the fact that she 'couldn't earn her own living.' In 1913, they would promote the Manual Training Movement in the Schools, as a way to train the new immigrant for work, but not as a fine craftsman, as a factory labourer, although the initial intent might have been to create more fine craftsman, but 'ideals' and 'reality' clashed and reality won out.

Here's the article, which I have edited down.

"The man of to-day is inferior in certain points, to the savage who made the flint implements. It is safe to assume that Neolithic man was keener of sight and hearing and fleeter of foot than is the present inhabitant of these islands (England 1910). He surely, too, possessed greater powers of endurance.

And the process of decadence is still going on. The marvellous skill of hand, which was developed by our ancestors is being lost by degenerate descendants. Typewriters destroy fine calligraphy and sewing machines fine sewing. We are compelled to own that the human being is not showing signs of advancement but of decay.

The simple craftsman have all but disappeared. Spinning and weaving have vanished and with them have vanished the sensitiveness of the hands of millions of men and women in the country.

The knitting machine has destroyed the sensitiveness of the hand demanded by knitting. Embroidery has gone the same road. Lacemaking too. Even the shoemaker,who is all artist in his way, has gone the same road.

So it is with everything else. Paper making and book binding, as a means of hand culture, have practically ceased to exist. Wood engraving and line engraving have vanished.

It is not only with the finer uses of the hand that the machine has done its devastating work. There are a thousand and one machines that are taking the place of human muscle. These machines do not tend to improve the physical development of the man. "

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Curse of the Medical Profession

Young woman, Old woman. It is no wonder that women's problems weren't discussed in the era, when the medical profession treated them as below.

Diphtheria, typhoid, Pneumonia, La Grippe, the letters have mention of them all. There was nothing shameful about them. But women's problems. Ah.
I’ve written about the medicines advertised out there, from NADRUCO and from the patent medicine people, but the Canadian Medical Journal from the late 1800s is online, and I chose this bit: How to Treat Nerve Exhaustion. I suspected that this was a woman’s disease only, and my suspicions proved correct. As a woman's disease, the so called treatment was bound to illustrate era attitudes toward women.
I think it does.
A man named Dr. S. Weir is thanked for this info. He is a doctor to whom the Academy owes a large debt in cases which have previously been the ‘opprobrium’ of the profession. (Opprobrium means curse, shame, censure, I looked it up.)

He says nutrition, sleep, rest of body and mind, freedom from pain and an equable circulation are the goals of treatment. He begins treatment with a soft diet of iron, malt and skim milk and then, after a week, solid food in the form of 'fixed rations of wholesome food' are given with all the new milk the patient can drink ('and it is wonderful how much a delicate woman can dispose of ') The patient’s body is bathed every day by a nurse. (Editor:So the patient is babied.)

By these simple measures fat is rapidly made, sleep is induced and nerve pains allayed, and this works even in invalids who have been reduced to emaciation, and who have hitherto resisted every treatment, even a local one, for supposed or real uterine troubles. (sic)

'Seclusion is indispensible to remove her from injurious home environment and to keep mind free from care.'

Then 'her whims are pampered into unhealthy importance, her slightest caprice anticipated... She rules as an autocrat and from this position she must be dethroned.... Again seclusion puts the woman under the care of the physician only, and this is important for there are ‘no hard and fast rules’ of treatment. Each case stands by itself, each case is a study. (Editor: not much science here then. )

From then on, in my words, it is a battle of wills. 'Sometimes the physician soothes and sometimes he scolds. The treatment becames ‘ a strain for mastery, pitting brain agains brain.'

The woman is treated with massage and electricity, stimulating the nerves, promoting secretions and the peristaltic movement of bowels.

The subject in this particular case study had four treatments with electricity, but more 'for the moral effect than for hygienic purposes'. Nothing controls the heats and chills, the shivering and sweating and the nerve tingling and emotional explosions, so common at the change of life.'

Monday, October 18, 2010

And, Now, A Word about War

Franz Ferdinand Funeral.

I'm writing this Flo in the City novel, based on the letters of as a kind of rebuke of history as it is taught traditionally. You know, as if it is all about powerful men, wars and treaties.

Why can't fashion be a part of history as much as any other subject?

Why don't women count in history?

The Tighsolas years are 1908-1913, six years when the great changes happened in the Western World.

The Nicholsons of Richmond, as it happens, were experiencing their own saga at that time, so I have 300 family letters to use as fodder for my novel.

But it can't be forgotten that these are pre-war years. That in 1914, when Marion is married and about to drop her first child, and Flo is working at her school in Griffintown, and living with Marion and Hugh in Notre Dame de Grace. war breaks out.

You know, as I've always remembered it from History Class, WWI began because of the assassination of Franz Ferdinand... The pic above is from a little YouTube video about the Great War that suggests the same.

Yet, as I searched through era magazines, looking for articles about women's social history, housekeeping, courtship and the motion picture shows, etc. I found a number of articles that predicted a coming war. And I was surprised.

The following is from Maclean's, 1912 from La Revue. This article claims overpopulation is going to bring on a war. And this ties in with a key theme of Flo in the City: immigration to Canada. The article is called The Next Great War.

Sociologists view with some alarm the enormous growth in population growth in different countries. The most prolific countries, Germany among the number, are fast becoming a common danger for the peace of the world. In the last century, Germany's population has trebled, yet her emigration has always been considerable. In the century, she provided the US with over six million immigrants, and in addition a goodly number of Germans have settled in other distant lands. At the same time, her economic prosperity hs been extraordinary. another source of danger for the the world. Not only is Germany obliged to allow large numbers of her population to emigrate, but under pain of ruin she is compelled at all costs to find markets for her surplus production.... Even in the United States, the plethora of people is felt. Hitherto the steppes of the Far West seemed to offer indefinitely work to the pioneers of civilization, but there are now indications that the space available for the ever increasing tide of humanity is giving out. Only this year, 100,000 farmers of the West emigrated to Canada, where there is still room and to spare. Comparing the density of population per square mile of various countries, we see that in Canada there are only two inhabitants to the square mile; in South America there are 7; in the US there are
30, in teh Philippines 69; in Germany 303; in Japan 315...War is standing at our doors and is, perhaps, only waiting for an opportune moment to break out.

Ambition and Abominable Shoes

A magazine called the National Monthly published a 1910 era article entitled The Characteristics of a Canadian Girl. This kind of article has long been a staple of magazines, I suspect it serves as a kind of instruction to young women. (I found another one in a 1900 era article in the Canadian Magazine. The fashion magazines of the era are full of such articles.) The term 'girl' always means a nubile young woman, not a child and not a matron, a maiden -and of a certain leisured class. There were no such "Characteristics of a Canadian Boy" articles. The articles that served as instruction to boys were the ubiquitous profiles of successful, even great, men, past and present. Role models. Young women had no role models in the public sphere, of course. Those 'manly' women who were out there were not,under any circumstance, to be emulated!

The words chosen to describe the women are very interesting, if you are in a mood to deconstruct them. Very carefully chosen, methinks. I reprinted in full the part about Montreal women. Hmm. Marion, Flo and Edith were much like French Canadians, for they loved dance, card parties and going to the theatre. (If this article has any truth to it.) But they didn't marry in their teens.

The Halifax girl is closer akin to the native Britisher, than other Canadian girls, except she is more independent. Why. Instead of having a governess she goes off to kindergarten and mingles with other girls. “As a consequence, more scope for the development of her ambition is allowed and thus her range of thought and enterprise is widened, making her in due time a far more interesting companion." The Haligonian lass is also "healthy and hearty" due to her interest in a range of "appropriate exercise" and also because she shuns tight-laced shoes and high heels and ‘other abominations which are as cruel manacles to the poor physical nature'... (Nan Enstad writes about how working class girls in the Textile Industry in New York chose to wear delicate heeled shoes (usually worn by rich women) instead of sensible shoes more suitable to their working lifestyle.
(This Montreal bit is typed verbatim.)

In the city of Montreal, is presented the spectacle of two nationalities, living side by side in practical harmony, though divided by differences of race (sic), religion and language. Out of the total population full three fourths are French (Editor: two thirds) but the English and Scotch people hold the bulk of the wealth, and in the social life of the city they present by far the most important figure and I make bold to assert that in no other city in the world have the girls freer scope for life of happiness, or usefulness, nor can a finer, more interesting type of girl be found.
(This guy writes like Jane Austen. Mr. Collins could be saying these things.)

While much that has been written concerning the girls of Halifax, is true of the girls of Montreal, and need not therefore be repeated, yet there are certain characteristics that must be noted. For one thing, the Montreal girl is not so subservient to the Old Country observances and traditions. She has more freedom of individual initiative and action, of which she takes full advantage, but not, as might be feared, so much in the direction of larger social liberty, as of less restricted personal action.

Matrimony seems to occupy a singularly unimportant corner of the minds of the majority of girls. Their time is so well occupied in the pursuit of intellectual, artistic and physical culture (for Delsarte is in vogue ..(Editor: he's a kind of precursor to Stanislavski) that the pursuit of a husband is quite relegated to the background. Notwithstanding, when the fitting opportunity comes, as it does in good time, they do not scorn it by any means, but settle into the domestic realm with all the more grace.

The young lady of the French quarter has almost invariably received her education in the sombre seclusion of a convent, consequently, when she emerges from this crysalis condition into the butterfly glory of social life, she goes in for gaiety of every kind, with a zest not so fully manifested by her English sister. The ballroom, the card party, and the theatre play a far more important part of her life and she does not give the same attention to the more improving forms of education.

She is a very charming person withal, as full of vivacity, as well bottled champagne, and frankly fond of masculine attentions. As a rule, she marries while in her teens, and finds in the nursery compensation for the delights of the dance....

The Toronto women is sweet and sensible and devoted to philanthropy and religion. The Prairie Girl is, well, from somewhere else in Canada, although the new environment may add a soupcon of breeziness to her behavior. The Victoria girl is more British, like the Haligonian, with an even more formal manner.

A Weird Solution to the Servant Problem.

Lady of Leisure No More. This 1912 article, originally from Technical World Magazine, (a guy's magazine) and written in a prescient television newsreel style by Bailey Millard, one of the best writers out there in 1910, is SO VERY WEIRD -and for so many reasons.

I blogged a while back about the recent movie The Joneses. Well, this IS the Joneses, circa 1912. Margaret Macleod Nicholson, of was middle class, but she didn't have any maids. Not in 1910. (She had had help while raising her family, probably live out help.) She did it all herself, with the help of her daughters. The idea that the new modern gadgets would SAVE households money is such nonsense. The fact is, the home had changed over, pre 1900, from being a center of production (like a factory) to a center of consumption. Remember, in 1913, the Royal Commission Technical Training and Industrial Education would recommend that women take domestic science courses, so that women destined to marry would be better homemakers and so that women who had to support themselves could become domestics. There was this idea that these new contraptions complicated housework, but they actually deskilled women.

Here's the article:

Down with drudgery. That is the slogan of the scientific housekeeper of the day. Science has for years aided the housewife, but it has not decreased her care, labour or expense. What she has lacked has been that economic conservation of energy and money which lately have been attained in the factory and the mill. The hiring of more nd more servants has not added to her ease, but rather to her discomfort. The problem however is not how to eliminate the housemaid, for she has eliminated herself. She has turned to the factory as a far more dignified (sic) and lucrative place of occupation, and the servants that remain in the home are on high pay, far higher than the average family can afford. So the real problem, is how to get along comfortably without hired help.

There is a brainy woman in Colonia New Jersey who is doing just this. What is more, along with the work required to maintain in spotless condition a house of sixteen rooms(double sic) and big ones at that, and the providing of meals for the family; she actually finds spare time in which to teach other women how they may keep house without servants. This woman is Mary Pattison, formerly President of the State Federation of Women’s Clubs of New Jersey. What Frederick W. Taylor, the father of industrial efficiency has done for the factory, Mrs. Pattison is doing for the home.

“Mrs. Pattison lives in a large country house set upon rising ground. She has few neighbours in the new hamlet of Colonia and plenty of elbow room, which such energetic women always need. Her broad-eaved cedar shingled house is flooded with sunshine from many mullioned windows. On the west is a two storey annex which is entirely devoted to the exhibition and demonstration of hundreds of wonderful labour saving devices and to this domestic experiment station, as it is called, three thousand women have come during the past year to learn how to keep house scientifically and without servants. This station is said to be operated under the auspices of the New Jersey Federation of Women, but Mrs. Pattison conducts the show, does most of the work and pays all the bills.

Verily, the Pattison annex is a wonderful shop. It opens the eyes of the housewife.

“Why it must be more fun to run a house the way you do it,” said one of Mrs. Pattison’s visitors, “than to go to the theatre.” And so it is, considering the bad plays one often sees on the stage. But there is nothing theatrical about Mrs. Pattison or her scheme of housekeeping (SIC SIC SIC). She has reduced preparation and serving of food to their lowest terms. The coffee is ground, the eggs are beaten and the ice cream frozen with a mere twist of the wrist – that is simply by pressing the button that starts the electric motor. The electric heating and cooking are done in the same economical way, expense being reduced by the use of fireless cookers. In this way the stoking of the stove, which occupies a quarter of the time of the cook, is dispensed with and the kitchen is comfortably cool instead of being hot and stuff.

Besides, Mrs. Pattison has discovered that coal is a modern extravagance. The model kitchen is a pretty tiny affair of small floor space and few footsteps. If the housekeeper wants a spoon, a toaster, strainer or a quart measure she doesn’t take a dozen steps to the closet drawer and back again. She simply reaches up to a convenient rack, hung with many useful implements and utensils and takes it down with a simple motion of the hand. If she wants a piece of meat, some eggs or butter from the refrigerator she puts her foot upon a button and lo, the ice chest, springing swiftly from the cellar is before her. The door flies open, she takes out what she desires, removes her foot from the button and down drops the refridgerator into the cellar where it belongs; for there it is cooler and the ice consumption is far less than it is on an upper floor.

“Dining at the Pattison home is simplicity itself. You sit at a bare circular table, above the center of which is a round revolving waiter. Upon this waiter all the food has been placed in receptacles that insure the desired heat or cold. If you want the bread or the potatoes you simply turn the waiter, take down the dish, help yourself from it and replace it.

A pretty and really serviceable kind of paper plate is used at all save formal meals instead of china or porcelain, together with paper napkins, and if desired, paper cups and wooden fork and spoons. When the meal is over dishwashing consists of dropping dishes into the incinerator.This is simply an upright steel case chiefly used for the chemical reduction of garbage.

Now we shall go into the neat, sweet-smelling Pattison laundry and there we shall see any amazing array of washers, boilers, and wringers worked by electric motors. “All good” says Pattison, “but none any better than this simple hand device which, considering that you work it without artificial aid, is a wonder.” She holds up an implement that looks like a plumber’s plunger, a small funnel-shaped affair stuck on the end of a three foot stick. On examination the device is found to be a series of funnels within funnels, all of which work on the suction principle when the instrument is thrust down upon the wet clothes in the tube. The way the plunger cleanses chothes is marvellous. It is also very cheap and requires but a moderate expenditure of elbow grease.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Canada's Backward Suffrage Movement

With All Her Might: A book about Canadian Suffragette Gertrude Harding by Gretchen Wilson. Harding was born in New Brunswick but fought for suffrage in England.

I found an odd article about the Canadian Suffrage Movement (or the lack of same) in the Canadian Magazine 1913. The same year Edith Nicholson went to see Mrs. Ethel Snowden speak at the meeting of the National Council of Women in Montreal.

This article, by an Isabel Skelton, summarizes the movement in the US, Britain and world, while claiming that Canada is 'backword' in this regard.

In the US, claims Skelton, they have a history of equal rights movements and that is the reason for their active suffrage movement. In Britain, there are only 88 men for every hundred women, so they have many more working women than in Canada, and that is the reason for the active movement there.

In Canada, well, we are single minded homesteaders, she says, 'intensely on the make" so 'political and civic responsiblity does not loom large' in our minds. And Canadian Women already have many rights... For instance, female property owners can vote at the municiple level and at the school board level and that's what women care about, their immediate community and education... Our marriage and divorce laws do not discriminate in favour of men, she says. (Not exactly true.) For all these reasons, the suffrage movement is stalled here. Is comparatively inert. (That's how she put it.) It also doesn't help that were a huge diverse country, so it is hard to start a movement here.

On top of that, to plead for women's suffrage just hasn't been fashionable in Canada. Quite the opposite. The earliest proponents of woman suffrage in Canada turned off the leisure classes, with their 'freakish dress and mannish manners'.

Theoretically Canadian women believe they must 'be alive to problems pressing on us from without' and vaguely desire the suffrage to remedy things, but their practical needs are somehow not crying enough to make their demands imperative...

An interesting point of view: but tell that to Margaret Nicholson and her daughters, Marion, Edith and Flora (of my novel Flo in the City), who cut out pro suffrage articles from the Montreal Witness, a pro-suffrage newspaper.

It would make more sense if Ms. Skelton were explaining why there is 'no militant' movement in Canada, for that seems to be the case, but there is, without a doubt, a suffrage movement, of sorts, even if there are no marches and parades. (Oddly, in the US, the anti-suffragists are using the 'no one cares' argument in their editorials, but this woman appears to be pro-suffrage, or on the fence. She says in the future, when women enter the workplace in larger numbers and face the inevitable problems, the movement might get going in Canada.)

But I've found a lot of articles about the Restless Woman Issue in the Montreal Gazette of the 1910 era, many reports of men and women giving talks about suffrage, pro and con. (In Pierre Berton's Book, Marching as to War, he claims the Canadians Suffrage movement peaked in 1910.)

So, I dunno. I find it odd that, in this article, Canadians are described as the self-sufficient pioneers and Americans the socially-conscious, since the stereotype is quite the opposite today.

I have to wonder if all the 'cowboy' movies over the century have created this perception of the rugged American individualist..

(Or does it have to do with the greater power that the individual states enjoy compared to our provinces.)

Saturday, October 16, 2010

30 Rock Live

Actress Adele Blood, who starred in Everywoman in Montreal in 1911, and Flo and her classmates watched her.

I just watched the live 30 Rock on TV. My husband told me about it. We record three sitcoms, 30 Rock, How I Met Your Mother and Big Bang Theory. It's the glue of our 25 year old marriage. We watch these shows at noon, before my husband has to go to work at his TV station.

It's one of the few things we enjoy together. As you can tell from my blog, I listen to BBC Radio Four as a rule, and watch little TV. My husband has no interest in radio plays and Classic Serials.

I like all these shows, but 30 Rock and How I Met Your Mother, at their best, are my favorite.

Anyway, I watched the live 30 Rock on tape , which defeats the purpose, I guess. (I didn't know it was on last night, as I watched Mr Roberts on Turner Classic Movies, that is a movie with no plot and tonnes of great acting.)

This 30 Rock was one of the better written episodes. And it was excellent, with all the actors proving they were worthy.

You know, there's a bit in the French Lieutenants's Woman, where an actor who plays a servant is shown in the 'reality' part, playing the piano -for he is a gifted artist. Well, in this 30 Rock, the principals proved themselves worthy, but I thought that Maulik Pancholy, who plays a minor character, seemed as confident doing it live as the higher billed actors. So it goes.

And it was a bit of ' a play within a play' as it is a show ab0ut a live TV show.

This blog has nothing to do with Flo in the City, save that Flo in the City takes place in 1910, when the PHOTO PLAY or motion picture, taped, was taking over from the STAGE, live. And I have written an awful lot about that and how it changed the way we lived and even thought.

Anyway, next month I am going to New York with my son's girlfriend to watch a play, Mrs. Warren's Profession, and staying at a hotel, the Chatwal, near Rockefeller Center. I haven't been there since 1982, when I visited that building and, I admit, I had a strange feeling in that building. I knew I would go there again.

About time.

Photoplays, picture shows, silent dramas and movies.

Mary Pickford. From Commons WIkipedia.

This is also from Maclean's Review of Reviews 1911. No attribution.

Well, you learn something new everyday. I knew there was a famous magazine PHOTOPLAY, but I never realized that the term "photoplay" meant movie. As I've written before, they called the movies motion pictures or 5 and 10 cent picture shows in 1910, but I have a letter written by Edith in 1917 that says she is going to the movies and she has the movies in quotations "movies" which means it is a new term, at least to her.
I also have posted on my website, a bit from the 1910 New York Dramatic Mirror that claims that the motion picture is cutting into the theatre business, especially when it comes to the cheap seats, and so is another form of 1910 entertainment, automobile rides!!

"The moving picture show has come to stay. “The progress of the ‘silent drama’ has been on an unparalleled scale. “In fact,” writes Robert Grau in the Moving Picture Show and the Living Drama’ in the American Review of Reviews “some of the developments in this field in the last few months have utterly amazed the prominent theatrical managers and producers. As recently as two years ago, these gentlemen were inclined to regard the motion picture as a temporary fad; but when such offerings came as the Kinemacolor pictures of the English Coronation festivities, and it was observed that the public willingly paid regular theatre prices to see the wondrous spectacle, they marvelled. ( Editor: I wrote about this in a previous blog...Long Hot SUMMER 1911, I think)

One of the foremost of these, William Brady, thus expressed himself: “If the manufacturer of a photo-play can afford to spend 100,000 dollars for a single offering on screen, he has us beat many a mile, for that is just twice as much as it cost to produce Ben Hur, a play that has run 10 years.” ...In Hartford, New Haven and Bridgeport, three cities of the first grade, theatrically-speaking, the one theatre in each still remaining to the theatrical syndicate is no longer available to travelling companies. All three, on the same date, January 29, 1812, reverted to William Fox, the moving picture magnate.

The amazing thing about the motion picture industry, is that even the most expensive productions are seen for only one day in the 10 thousand or more picture theatres. The only exception to the rule being when the pictures are exhibited in Vaudeville Theatres, where they are shown for at least a week or longer. "