Monday, November 29, 2010

Writers Write (I guess)

I've been so busy working on Flo in the City that I've neglected Looking for Mrs. Peel, the book.

I wrote the play about my grandmother, also Dorothy Nixon, who was tortured in the Double Tenth Incident at Changi POW Camp during WWII after doing a great deal of research.

A Canadian publisher said they'd love to see the book in narrative prose version, but I haven't gotten around to it.

And now I see that Number 3 on the bestsellers list is a book about a man who survived torture in a Japanese Prisoner of War Camp. "Unbroken: A WWII story of survival, resilience and redemption, by Laura Hillenbrand.

Hmm. My story is about survival and resilience, but not of redemption.. I don't think. Maybe.

The woman who wrote Seabiscuit wrote this Unbroken book.

Weak-minded and Degenerate Women

Mrs. Pankhurst arrested in May 1913.

The May 1, 1913 Montreal Witness pretty well sums up Flo in the City, my novel in progess about a girl coming of age in the 1910 era, based on the letters of

It has an account of the raid on the WSPU offices in London. The headline says the raid is an attempt to 'destroy the fabric' of the WSPU. (How perfect!) The newswire report out of London calls the raid 'decisive' and the suffragette movement as 'a menace' and the suffragettes as 'inciting the weak-minded and degenerate to crime.'
In her memoirs, published the next near, Emmeline Pankhurst writes: the front page of The Sufffragette, instead of the usual cartoon, bore the single word in boldfaced type:"RAID." Our headquarters, I may say in passing, stayed closed for 48 hours.

In this same Montreal Witness is a large announcement for the 20th anniversary meeting of the Montreal Council of Women, the meeting I have blogged about extensively.

Proof Edith saw it. The meeting was held in the Lecture Hall of St. James Methodist and the Witness was to print out a daily schedule.
That's where Edith saw Mrs. Philip Snowden talk. She wrote in a letter home that she "she is not militant and for this I am very sorry."

And this despite the way the militants were described in the paper. Edith was not weak-minded or degenerate, and she was for the militant suffragettes!


Also in the Witness, an announcement that the President of Dominion Textiles was returning from a trip in Europe... Also many job ads for teachers (but with qualifications) with the biggest box blurting PRINCIPALS WANTED. This is the year Marion was turned down for the vice-principalship of her elementary school because she was a woman. (The ad didn't say Men Only Need Apply, but everyone likely knew.)
Also: fashion tip of the week: How ribbons can bonny up a spring bonnet. Also a pattern for a corset cover.
(Also an article saying that steel prices had rebounded because the threat of war had lessened. See! They knew a war was imminent.

Also an article about how 1/4 of the Montreal Population changed living quarters each May 1, based on an estimate that the average family had five members and that ONLY families were tenants. Ha! (Marion and Flo and two friends shared an apartment on Hutchison since September, but moved out in May to some place called The Mansions on Guy.)

Yes, all the themes of Tighsolas and Flo in the City in one place.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

High Park, Low Park,

Last weekend my son's girlfriend and I visited New York and discovered the beauty of Central Park, for the first time.

It was a fine autumn day, the Sunday, which helped. But, despite the fact a bazillion movies have been filmed there, we really didn't understand how perfectly pretty, how well planned the place was, until we saw it for ourselves.

It's no secret. Central Park has long been considered a national treasure, which makes me certain Margaret Nicholson took a carriage ride through it in 1902, when she visited the city.

Frederick Law Olmsted, the Park's legendary designer, died in 1903, and his obits tell the story of how much Central Park was valued, even back then, as an oasis from the bustle of the city.

Peek-a-boo. My son's girlfriend took these pictures. She found Central Park too beautiful.

An article in the NY Times says "Nearly a half a century later Central Park remains a nearly faultless work of art and one of the chief boasts of Manhattan."

The granite outcroppings of the park are one of its beauties: and apparently that granite (with shallow top soil) was why the land was turned into a park in the first place. It wasn't good for building. It was also a difficult place to put a park, but Olsted, a creative genius, rose to the challenge.

The same article says "The popular success of Central Park is so great that it is the one public possession we have, excepting perhaps the Old City Hall, that has come to be held sacred."

Skating in Central Park November 20th. Why don't we have a rink like this. There's Beaver Lake, but it's seasonal. We're Canadian, after all.

As it happens, Olmsted also designed Mount Royal Park in Montreal in 1872. Montreal does not treat Mount Royal like anything sacred. It just is there. Sure, many citizens do use the place, especially in the summer, but not nearly as many as should. As a young adult, I would go cross-country skiing there, and spend my time falling down. You see, Mount Royal is a vast but much less ornamental park than Central park, up on a tall hill.

So you look down on the city and the skyscapers, and not up, like in Central Park. And it's more accessible by car than by foot. (Rue Camilien Houde winds through it. That's the Mayor who fired my grandfather in 1930.)

In 1972, the 150th anniversary of Olmsted's birth, they held a huge fete in Central Park, but Montreal did nothing to mark the date. That's because the level of environmental consciousness is higher in the US, wrote Dane Lanken in the Gazette.

But Montreal has never been much of a 'park place,' even though it has the mountain and Parc Lafontaine. The city has a very poor green space per capita ratio.

In 1910, during the Tigsholas era, Frederick Law Olmstead Jr. recommended that many parks be created in Montreal, near all public facilities.

I must learn more about this. Perhaps he was invited to speak by the City Improvement League. It was well understood that lack of green spaces was a problem in the inner city. Indeed, people believed that parks, gardens and such were restorative, even rehabilitative.

Google News Archives, however, has removed the date search parameters from their engine. Hmm.

View from the Look Out in Montreal. I took this in 2005.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Family and Home, one and the same thing.

The Nicholsons on the porch of Tighsolas, circa 1912.

In the 1914 book The Family and Society by a Dr. John Gillette, it is written that the second key purpose of the family unit is to tie people to the land. (The first is to procreate and to prevent promiscuity.) Property and family are one and the same, in the mind of this man, it seems. (Then it follows that poor people in cities and transient people were considered 'lacking in family values' just because they owned no home, no land. Hmm.)

So no wonder the Nicholsons held onto Tighsolas, their charming home in Richmond, despite the fact it was a brick albatross around their necks, preventing them for being nimble enough to 'get ahead' in changing times.

This 1914 book does not pretend to be treading new territory; indeed, the author says he is summarizing previous material, in 'scientific' fashion, laying out the facts. It was published, in the UK, one year after the Royal Commission on Technical Training and Industrial Education published their findings, and, frankly, it feels as if the Commissioners and Gillette were of one mind.
Although he briefly mentions other kinds of antropological and biologic units, Gillette dismisses them as primitive, inefficient, or promoting 'promiscuity' (incest, venereal disease) and not as viable alternatives to the traditional family unit.

Dr. Gillette sees the family unit as being the 'original social unit' and claims that the larger society grew out of this smaller one. Of course, this belief isn't so much scientific as biblical. This belief is child-like and primitive, but, hey, plenty of people still adhere to it today.

However, the good professor does make one modern-sounding concession, that the family unit should "realize the maximum satisfaction of the individual members, without injuring the interests of the greater community." That is hard to argue with, even for liberals like me. When I think of this phrase, the recent movie The Kids are Alright comes to mind.

Anyway, here's a relevant excerpt with respect to Flo in the City, my novel in progress about a girl coming of age in the 1910 era based on the letters of :

"That there may be no doubt that the family is the incubator of social members, it is expedient to pass in review its early institutional features. First it possesses a division of labour which is necessary to its existence and which trains the young for that of the larger community.

Between man and wife, this obtains principally. The husband is the bread-winner, the wife the home-maker. As the offspring develop they are introduced to certain duties in the household economy.

The boys build fires, get fuel, bring water (Editor: sic..since in most societies the girls did this) and care for certain smaller matters that the father formerly looked after. If the family is on the farm, certain kind of light work fall to the boy, caring for cattle, hogs and poultry are essential features. Unfortunately, in the cities there is little for the boy to do and he consequently misses an important part of his training and development. But in many cases the boys gravitate toward the father's occupation and begin to work for him early in life.

The girls likewise assist the mother in the household occupation as they get old enough and the technique of housekeeping and child care is acquired through them.

Not only do the children get an idea of the division of labour, but learn to cooperate, to bear and share responsibilty (Editor: seems like a contradiction) and what is of greater importance, they get a discipline, a habit for industry which is necessary for productive citizenship.."

Writing in 1914, this author seems to be suffering from the same nostalgia 'for the rural life' as were so many influential people, like the Royal Commissioners. But from what I have read, the farmers in Edwardian times actually had the MOST egalitarian homes, with men doing women's duties and women doing men's, whatever worked. Children were allowed their say at table, too, because they actively contributed to the well-being of the family.

It was industrialization that bred this harsh division of labour thing: Still, you can see where modern ideas about the sanctity of the family unit have come from. In the intro to this book, the family is said to be self-sufficing, ie. able to take care of itself, if it's a good God-fearing one.

But the Nicholsons were this kind of family - in spades, and STILL, they relied on 'connections' to survive. Without their connections they would have been lost. That's why Norman paid a fortune in Masonic dues, even if he couldn't really afford the layout. Their close family, in 1910, did not help them that much. They feuded with them. Friends or distant family were more helpful.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Summing up Suffrage: Nicholson style

Suffragette rally, Hyde Park 1910. International Contingent. Were there Canadians represented. Not sure, but I don't think so.

In the preface to Pierre Berton's Marching as to War, about Canada's role in the Great War, he mentions the Canadian Suffrage Movement, but only in passing. It was temperance, he said, that pushed through woman suffrage. And he is right.

When I read that about 6 years ago, when I started researching the Tighsolas letters, I knew nothing about the suffrage movement, in Canada or elsewhere. I recall feeling disappointed about that statement.

"You mean, these early feminists were 'stuffy' old ladies?"

Boy, I didn't know the half of it.

I soon got a hold of the two books that exist on Canadian Suffrage, one of them an American's masters thesis written in 1940. However, these books did not enlighten me much.

There appears to be a real vacuum in this area of scholarship. Even the Canadian Social History Series doesn't have a book on suffrage.

I guess that's because it is commonly believed that there was no real suffrage movement in Canada except that Famous Four business - and that 'history' avoids the dark side of things.

That may explain why there is no bio of Carrie Derick, (except for another master's thesis that is next to impossible to track down. McGill has a copy).

Anyway, I have to decide what to do with all this women's rights info that I've uncovered, with respect to Flo in the City, a novel about a girl coming of age in 1910 Canada, based on the letters of http://www.tighsolas/.

Edith Nicholson is the one interested in suffrage. (She's the one who likely clipped all the items in the Nicholson collection.) Flo mentions suffrage once in a joke in a letter from Macdonald. Marion never mentions it. And it is Marion Nicholson who would have made a terrific suffragette organizer, with her drive and determination. Indeed, if Marion had wanted to start a movement in Montreal, she would have done it, no question!

But she was kept too busy trying to find a place to live.

Edith was a bit of a dreamer, so her interest in suffrage wasn't much of a threat.

So I think I will have Edith promote the positive side of the movement, and I'll have Marion dismiss it, by pointing out the dark side, by pointing out that the suffagettes mightn't have approved of her living in her own apartment with three other girls.

Still, I wonder if the militant suffragettes believed all they said: I wonder if they were saying whatever needed to be said to get women the vote. Did they believe that men were all whoring, drinking, money-grubbing degenerates, and that women would change the world and make it better with the vote or were they tapping into repressed female anger? They were politically savvy, after all.

Politicians today will say or do anything to win and regularly 'pander to their base' as it is called. Did the suffragettes do this too? I suspect so.

The liquor trade, the sex trade and the textile trade have been described in my research as anti-woman suffrage, for financial reasons; they joined forces with moralists and traditionalists, who didn't want women to get the vote, as they believed women would turn their backs on family, contributing to what was called "race suicide." (Politics makes strange bed-fellows.)

Anyway, I'm lucky I have Herb Nicholson for my story: he clearly did some gambling, whoring and drinking...not to mention stealing. And then I have Henry Watters for the other side. (I wonder if Henry was gay. He was so successful but didn't marry.)

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Votes for Women; Chastity for Men

Suffragettes getting in a scuffle from Emmeline Pankhurst's 1913 bio

Here's a weird one. I was listening to last week's Saturday Play on BBC Radio Four before it disappears for good. It was A Month in the Country. I looked that story up (because I had never heard of it) and saw that it was a 1987 movie with Colin Firth. So I went to to buy a DVD of it, but you can't. So I went to YouTube and found it there, in ten installments. A great copy, too. (Firth's character has a stammer, just like the King he plays in his soon to be released film. But he also has a kind of rooster hair-do and pencil moustache and try as I might, I couldn't see Mr. Darcy there.. well, only a flicker or two of those famous affectations.

What a great movie, tho, with some 'unrequited love'. But of course, because of Tighsolas, I am into WWI stories. I recently read Testament of Youth and the Juliet Nicolson book The Great Silence, about the post WWI period in England.

So, even before the Kenneth Branagh character discussed the shame of being an 'intact' survivor, I was already thinking the same thing.

Nicolson tells about the horrible disfigurements so many WWI veterans suffered - and how they became pariahs upon returning home. Branagh's character is also gay, it is suggested.

Nicolson also tells about the soldiers in WWI who were court-martialed for having gay sex, as was this character. (Perhaps.) She also tells of the boys who got their first sexual experience with prostitutes, women who just laid on their back and serviced soldier after soldier, until they were worn out and retired from 'action'.

Before the war, prostitution was the Great Social Evil, but during the war it was a kind of 'public service.'

I found this very odd pre-war piece, written by Christabel Pankhurst, on Plain Facts about a Great Evil,1913. She claims that giving women the vote will eliminate prostitution. Hmm. A 2005 survey in the UK claimed that the use of prostitutes had actually doubled in the previous decade. Go Figure.

"This book deals with what is commonly described as the Hidden Scourge, and is written with the intention that this scourge shall be hidden no longer, for if it were to remain hidden, then there would be no hope of abolishing it.

Men writers for the most part refuse to tell what the Hidden Scourge is, and so it becomes the duty of women to do it.

The Hidden Scourge is sexual disease,which takes two chief forms — syphilis and
gonorrhoea. These diseases are due to prostitution —they are due, that is to say, to sexual immorality. But they are not confined to those who are immoral. Being contagious, they are communicated to the innocent, and especially to wives. The infection of innocent wives in marriage is justly declared by a man doctor to be "The crowning infamy of our social life."

The sexual diseases are the great cause of physical, mental, and moral degeneracy, and of race suicide. As they are very widespread (from 75 to 80 per cent, of men becoming infected by gonorrhoea, and a considerable percentage, difficult to ascertain precisely, becoming infected with syphilis), the problem is one of appalling magnitude.

To discuss an evil, and then to run away from it without suggesting how it may be
cured, is not the way of Suffragettes, and in the following pages will be found a proposed cure for the great evil in question. That cure, briefly stated, is Votes for Women and Chastity for Men."

Now, there were some parties, in 1913, that believed that sex education was the cure for STD's. I've seen 1910 era articles to that effect.

Hmm. I wonder if I'll have Edith read this...or talk to someone who has read it.

Slip Sliding Away...

Flying Machines in 1910

Today is the American Thanksgiving, the day after the heaviest travel day in the year, and there's a controversy, sparked by a YouTube video "Don't Touch my Junk," over the strenuous security measures now in place in American airports: heavy duty pat downs and full body scanners.

Even the Republicans are spinning this 'security issue' into an invasion of privacy issue, which, frankly, boggles the mind and makes you want to look around for a nattily-dressed white rabbit holding a pocket watch.

I've been reading the postings on the Canadian press message boards and it seems, in Canada, we're a little skeptical about these measures, too, especially with respect to travel within Canada.

Why are we following the US? many are asking. People seem to sense the inherent illogic in these security measures. What is it REALLY about: safety, or political correctness or something else more sinister like "Introduction to Totalitarianism 101?" And why airplanes and not buses and trains? These are just as likely targets for terrorist attacks. Even more likely with all the airport security. (To me all this (very inconsistent) airport security seems a lot like closing the barn door after the steeds have absconded.)

You know, in 1910, the car or 'auto' or 'motor' as it was then called, came into its own as a means of transportation, although it was still considered a frivolous toy by many.

Car racing was a very popular sport although average citizens could only go 8 miles an hour on city roads (at least in Montreal) and 15 miles an hour on country roads. Still, accidents happened and were widely publicized, as they are today on the evening news. But that did not in any way deter people from wanting autos.

The airplane, or aeroplane, too, was just getting off the ground. And despite some well publicized crashes, some of them fatal, both men and women flocked to the flying schools. It was only after WWI that flying was deemed a dangerous activity, too dangerous for women, at least.

What's this got to do with anything? When I consider all this discussion over airport security, one thing comes to mind.

We human beings seem to have an instinctive fear of flying, I think, where we don't fear driving in autos on the ground, whatever the danger.

Statistically speaking, we are much more likely to die in a car crash than in a plane crash. Everyone knows that.

It's just not natural for a frail flesh and blood human being to be up 30,000 feet in the sky (in what amounts to a giant tampax applicator) to be looking at the cloud cover from the perpetually sun-lit side.

So I have to wonder, are the Powers That Be somehow taking advantage of our instinctive distrust of airplanes to experiment on how far they can go (right now) with respect to chipping away at our beloved civil liberties? Slippery slope, foot in the door and all that.

Now it's air travel. Soon will it be rail travel, car travel, and then, pedestrian travel?
(In 1910, women were not allowed to walk the streets at night, believe it or not. Even the most respectable women were guilty (of prostitution) until proven innocent. Prostitution, back then, was the Great Social Evil, remember. I've written extensively on it in this blog.)

I personally don't mind being felt up by a stranger in public, physically speaking: in de Gaulle in August I felt sorry for the agent, who was wearing a hijab, because I hadn't slept or showered in 36 hours and she had her face in my crotch as she kneeded my thighs, so to speak. I joked to her, in French, "It's just fat." and she laughed.

And last week I passed through one of those full body scanners at Pierre Eliott Trudeau, rather than get felt up, for speed's sake, but also because the agent assured me 'it wasn't an X Ray'. But the press reports say it is. So what goes?

As an infrequent flyer, who is not particulary modest, I'm not too upset about these measures, although I seriously doubt their effectiveness and I suspect some well-connected citizens are making big BIG bucks on them. But I wouldn't want this done to me as I enter a public building or as I walk down the street.
But is that how it comes down, little by little, until suddenly one're walking down the street, head bowed, stomach in a knot, afraid to look into anyone's eyes, afraid to speak to the sweet corner shop girl or that dapper Puerto Rican doorman, even though you've done absolutely nothing wrong.

I just listened to I AM A Camera by Christopher Isherwood on BBC Radio Four: I dare say, it is.

Ask the Pilot,, on the same story

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Man-made World

Votes for Women Rally in 1910 London. From Emmeline Pankhurst's bio.

Hmm. My husband just came into 'my office' (which is the sunny guest bedroom) to tell me that the PVR machine (whatever it is), to his surprise, just recorded Letterman, the Today Show and some other talk shows, because I have the thing programmed to catch Colin Firth movies and that actor was on all these shows yesterday.

"He's promoting his The King's Speech movie, I guess," I told my mate. (I just read a very positive review on, which means the movie is opening tomorrow in the US. It opens here in Montreal in December, which irks me, greatly (I say, imitating Mrs. B. in P and P.)

And then, I thought, Oh MY GOD, I must have just missed him in New York! Letterman's studio was right near my hotel, I saw it on the Google map.

Oh, well. I could have yelled out "Celebrity Sighting!!" on the Sex in the City Tour. The guide had told us if we see any "VIP" (very pretty person) we could interrupt. All very silly.

Anyway, movies are big business and millions and millions of dollars are at stake and resting on Colin's (we're on a first name basis;) rather broad shoulders, I guess.

I saw this because I know that he just directed The People Speak, for UK History Channel, that has a slogan "Democracy is not a spectator sport." Mr. Firth, in the UK, is kind of a socialist who publically supported Nick Clegg and then was disappointed with the coalition. (I read this, somewhere, anyway.) A rich and famous socialist, but nonetheless. He comes from such people, it seems. And he's big into sustainable fashion, oddly enough.

And, coincidentally, I am reading right now the Intro to Emmeline Pankhurst's 1914 autobiography, where she talks about her happy childhood in liberal Manchester, her liberal parents who strongly supported abolition and read her Uncle Tom's Cabin regularly at bedtime, and who were all for women's rights, but who, nonetheless, expected little of her, a mere female. (She says her Dad once came into her room to kiss her goodnight, and thinking she was asleep, whispered, "Too bad she isn't a lad." (He saw her potential.)

She writes about her happy 19 year marriage to Dr. Pankhurst, a suffragist himself(dispelling the cliche that women social activists were all sexually frustrated spinsters) and her passive style social activism (stuffing envelopes and such) as a young mother.

She says there's nothing that can replace FIRST HAND experience.

"I had to go through years of public work before I acquired the wisdom and experience to learn how to wring concessions from the English Government. I had to hold public office. I had to go behind the scenes in government schools, in the workhouses and other charitable institutions. I had to get a close up view of the misery and unhappiness of a man-made world before I reached the point where I could successfully revolt against it."

I hate reading these pdf's on the computer, or even on the iPod, but this bio I will read in full. I might have Edith read it, too, in Flo in the City. I'll pretend it came out a year earlier.

Come to think of it, I bet Edith DID read this book.

And Now for Something Completely the Same

Suffragettes throw flour at Asquith. A different kind of bouquet, I guess.

As I was posting the previous blog about the social activists Emmeline Pankhurst and Jane Addams, my husband came into the room, raving about Rick Mercer's rant on the Mercer Report, on the CBC, last night.

Mercer railed against the mind-boggling subversion of democractic ideals that took place in Canada last week with the Canadian Senate voting down the Climate Change bill.

A few days earlier, a friend had emailed me a link to the Suzuki Foundation's Protest page, but I had been too busy with my day trip to New York to check it out.
It goes directly to your MP and other significant politicans.

My husband exclaimed, "Rick Mercer is bang on." Well, he often is. I blog a lot about Jon Stuart, who features Jason Jones on his show, a graduate of the Mercer school of satire, whose ridiculous, often crude rants are also often 'bang on.'

Indeed, I watched this particular Mercer rant at this URL and thought, at one point, that he was going to do something rather crude, a la Jason Jones, by pulling down his pants and peeing in an alley, but instead he painted a metaphor in words, invoking Poppies and War Veterans.

Anyway, in the previous post about suffragettes in 1910, I mentioned that I believed democracy wasn't so much 'one man, or one woman , one vote' but was 'one man, one law'. But these two phrases go together, we 'elect' the lawmakers, the legislators, right? Except we don't elect the Senate. (We also PAY ATTENTION, day trips to New York notwithstanding. That's our duty, our side of the bargain.)

My God, our democracy appears to be on life-support, thanks to the shenanigans (too nice a word) of a cynical minority government and our own pitiful collective lack of vigilance as Canadian citizens. What would our ancestors have thought about this; the ones born here (who believed the 20th century to be Canada's Century) or the ones who immigrated here to get away from similar style governments?

I know what they would have thought: as they were very family oriented. They would have thought we were selling out our children and our children's children.

In These Women's Hearts

Black Thursday, November 1910. London. Emmeline Pankhurst. From her autobiography published in 1913.

"The Republican system, when not modified by drastic democratic devices, is an expensive, cumbrous, and highly inefficient method of carrying out the popular will; and casting a vote is not so much more as casting bread upon the waters. It shall return after many days. By voting, by exercising an infinitesmal pressure on our complex, slow-moving political mechanism, one cannot do much good. But one cannot do much harm, either."

This is from a 1913 book called Modern Feminism, Women as World Builders by Floyd Dell, from the chapter comparing the methods of British suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst and American social worker Jane Addams.

Jane Addams ran Hull House, a progessive refuge for the poor, in Chicago's 19th ward and Emmeline Pankhurst was the legendary suffragette leader.

Jane Addams was, also, the best known American supporter of women's suffrage in the US.

Dell goes on to say that Addams was a 'conciliator' and that Pankhurst was a 'fighter' who was described as implacable, unable to enter into a dialogue.

Miss Addams' gift was 'to span the gulf between rich and poor, or those who have cultural opportunities and those who have not, with neighbourlyness." She was unique for actually listening to the poor whom she was serving.

Addams "has never ceased to be serenely reasonable," writes Dell.

The problem is, she says, that Miss Addams 'has not been able to inbue the movement with her own spirit, her individual genius." Addams' Hull House set no example for the other such establishments that aimed to eliminate poverty, which were either 'efficient, religious, or too afraid to be sympathetic to the plight of the poor'.

Mrs. Pankhurst, however, has called upon all women to be like herself, "to display her own Amazon qualities... And they did, they answered her call by the thousands. They have fought, and suffered, and some of them have died. (Well, one, Emily Davison.)

Dell continues: "If this all had been the result of individual genius, transforming peaceful girls into fighters, out of hand, Mrs. Pankhurst would be the most extraordinary person of the age. But it is impossible to believe that all this militancy was created out of the void. It was simply awakened where it lay sleeping in these women's hearts."

Well, all very interesting, in this day and age. I wonder what Emmeline Pankhurst would have thought of Sarah Palin. Not much, I imagine.

Of course, we live in the age of political spin-doctors and behind every political figure is a highly-efficient publicity machine, massaging every aspect of any prominent person's public life. Individual genious has little to do with leaders in this day and age. (Or does it?)

Last week on Jon Stuart, he showed clip after clip of various Republicans saying "there has to be an adult conversation." The same phrase over and over, spoken in puppet-like symmetry on different media outlets all over the land.

That phrase certainly sounds 'very Jane Addams', except for the fact that 'adult conversation' doesn't really mean anything. If you want it to mean 'open-minded' it does. But it can also mean ' stern lecture.' Jon Stuart pointed this out.
This is Madison Avenue style rhetoric, where words mean whatever you want them to mean, and are so slippery under scrutiny, so logic-defying, it's impossible to hold anyone to his or her word. (Very important in an age of the instant-replay.)

Of course, the suffragettes were very good at manipulating the media of the time, too. Their demonstrations were carefully choreographed.

(I never thought democracy is about "one man, one vote." To me it's more "one man, one law.")
Addams' ends the chapter with this: "Can anyone doubt the effect that women entering into politics will have, on politics? The decorous example of men shall rule them first, but when they have become used to politics, we will find that we have unleashed an unruly Niagara...In women as voters we will have an element impatient of restraint, straining at the rules of procedure, cynical of excuses for inaction, not always by any means on the side of progress, making every mistake possible through ignorance and self-conceit, but transforming our politics from a vicious end to an efficient means. From a cancer into an organ. This is the historic mission of women."

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Paris Diary 1910 - Part 2

Rumplemayer's is now Angelina's.

Paris 1910.. January Flooding.

Elizabeth Hardy Fair's diary continues.

August 19th,

Went to the Russian Church and of all the peculiar services I have ever attended, this was the queerest. The singing was magnificent and the robes the priests wore were wonderful.

After the service the Russian congregation all kissed the crucifix and at the same time went down into their pockets. After the service Mr. Thomas Fair introduced himself to me. He knew all about me. He lives in New York and is in Life Insurance. We walked down the Champs Elysees in the afternoon to the Tuilleries Gardens and as it began to rain, came home in a cab. Had dinner and sat around and talked. Mr and Mrs. Bailey from Puerto Rico, Mrs. Clark, Miss Clark and Mr. Fair. After lunch, rested for a short while and then went to the Louvre. Spent most of the afternoon studying Dutch Flemish.

August 2oth.

Went out at 10 30, took the metro and got off at the Louvre, walked along the bridge and visited several picture shops, made one or two purchases (Picasso, I told you! P-I-C-A-S-S-O. Just have him doodle on a napkin.) on the way to St. Germaine Church. When we got there found out it was not the church we were looking for so retraced our steps. Finally found it and were fully repaid for our trouble. It was from the tower of this church that the signal was given for the slaughter of the Huguenots on St. Bartholomew’s Day 1572. Ate lunch and went out to Pere F?, the quaintest cemetery you have ever seen. One body is placed over another.

August 23:
Went to the Lourve in the morning. Pictures very interesting. Mona Lisa was carefully inspected, but it does not appeal to me in the least. After lunch, shopped and then drove through Parc Monceau. This park is lovely, abloom with flowers, with statuary and strollers galore. Great place for lovers and babies.
August 24th:
Started out at 10. Spent morning at Galleries Lafayette. After lunch went sight seeing. First to Musee Carnabalel. Very uninteresting except for Voltaire's chair and Napoleon's travelling case articles. All gold toothbrush in case with knives and forks, and a small one at that. Courtyard rather pretty and then proceeded to Notre Dame Cathedral.
August 25:
After breakfast visited Napoleon's tomb and was greatly impressed with it. The lights in the tomb were wonderful. Back of it is the chapel belonging to Hotel des Invalides. After that Eiffel Tower. Ascended to the first stop and saw a great view of Paris. Wonderful. The Seine divides Paris in half and this showed to particular advantage as the river boats steamed up and down. Saw an aeroplane high in the sky.

August 27th,

Morning clear and cool enough for a coat. Visited Cook’s office to ascertain about the Chateau districts. Continued down street in a taxi and shopped until Lunch time. Met Miss Lucille Howard at Rumpelmayer’s and had tea with her.

August 28th

Had breakfast at nine in Mrs. S’s room and then dressed for church. Went to St. Sulpice for High Mass and heard the best organ in Paris being played by Vidal, one of the finest in the city. Went to the Luxenbourg and again looked at the pictures. After lunch, took a taxi and drove out to the Bois de Boulogne and the chateau for tea. Saw one of the largest crowds since I’ve been in Paris. This is one of the swellest tea houses here, The Bois is lovely. Nothing could be more picturesque than this beautiful drive. Pres Catalan is located in a woodland with the most entrancing walks and a lake where one can row if desired.

Truchet, Abel. Scene as Elizabeth described.

Came back to the hotel and am going to write some letters.

August 29th

The day began quite clear and cool but by night it started to rain but the moon is shining brightly now. Day uneventful. Went to the Bon Marche and Galleries Lafayette. Am sitting in Mrs. S’s room now. Bought some handkerchiefs and gloves. Am going to be early for I am to be picked up early to go to the Louvre.

August 30

Miss Howard called at three past ten and we went downtown to the bank and then proceeded to the Louvre. Stayed there all morning and saw the statue of Venus de Milo, the Tour (?)nay Liery collection and various other gems. In the afternoon had tea at the Hardoma(?) and later visited the shops. Leave tomorrow for Antwerp and also go to Brussels.

Met Gaylord Clark coming from the Venus de Milo room, first time we have met since abroad. He was leaving for England that afternoon.


Paris 1910 Diary - Part 1

Elizabeth Hardy Fair wedding gown, 1912 or 13. She married Frank Tofield, a Montreal banker, and moved into the Linton Apartments on Sherbrooke Street. She mentions him in her 1910 travel diary. No wonder she married him, she loved Paris so much and Montreal was a bit like Paris.

August 17: France is reached. Landed at 6:30 at Havre. Spent a very comfortable night. Had stateroom to myself. Ate breakfast aboard ship. Had baggage inspected and departed.

Mr and Mrs. Suinon met me and we took a taxi to the Balzac, a very fine Hotel. Everything exceedingly nice.

Had lunch (what did you eat?) then visited the Luxenbourg Galleries, very very interesting.

In the evening after dinner we went out on the Champs Elysees and walked the Arc de Triomphe.

Paris is WONDERFUL. Much grander and everything more delightful than London!

Went to bed early. I was nearly dead. Had tea at a lovely little shoppe.

August 18th.

Very warm. Ate breakfast and then went shopping with the Seuris. Stores quite bewildering. Returned to the hotel for lunch and went out again as soon as we changed our gowns. Went to see Miss Boyd of Washington at the Contremartre (?) and then the stores again.

We had tea at Fullers and then went back to the Balzac. I ate dinner alone as the Sieuris we out. Very tired. Am going to bed.

August 19th.

Had breakfast at nine thirty and Mrs. S. and I drove Mr S to the station. He deposited his bags and then spent an hour shopping with us. We visited the Madeleine before returning to the hotel and it was well worth the trip.

In the afternoon we called for Miss Alice Boyd and took a taxi and I sailed down the Champs Elysees in great style. Had tea, visited several stores, then returned for dinner.

Dressed and then took in the Opera, Sigurd. And no good at all. The opera house was indeed grand and I was glad to have seen it notwithstanding the opera was so poor. Returned to hotel with no adventures to relate. Paris does not appear to me so wicked as pictured. (Editor's note: Go to Montmarte for a bit of wickedness! While you are there, buy some pictures from a short stalky guy called Picasso. Bring them home and leave them to your nephew in your will. )

Will soon start sightseeing in earnest

1910 Travel Diary. Saw the Suffragettes!

Elizabeth Fair. 1903 ish.

I've been blogging about my one day trip to New York City, and I mentioned that Margaret Nicholson visited NY in 1902 and mentioned it in a letter. A friend (or more likely relation)moved to Union City New Jersey in and around 1900.

Margaret mentions 'all the all buildings' but that is it. I wonder where they took her in 1900. Probably to one of the department stores. And likely also to Central Park.

I just happen to have a 1910 travel diary in my possession. It belonged to the young woman above, Elizabeth Hardy Fair, who just happens to be General Douglas MacArthur's first cousin, and a great aunt of my husband's on his father's side.

She did a tour of London, Wales and Paris in 1910.

(In 1903, she attended Douglas MacArthur's West Point Graduation, for I saw the dance card.)

Her diary says she is 5 foot 10 and a half, so just imagine how TALL she was in one of the big hats of the era!! Her foot size is 5, so I wonder how she kept from falling over.

Elizabeth went to Europe in July 1910, two months after the King's death and a year before the big heat wave, labour rallies and the Coronation.

Her diary is banal, which is too bad. She was a pretty social butterfly from Virginia, not a witty observant girl. Unfortunately, that's who often had the money to travel.

And she visited the usual destinations, many of them popular today.

July 18: Had breakfast and at eight thirty saw Mrs. Moore off and then went shopping with Mrs. Morgan. Came home, ate lunch and rode in a bus to the Army and Navy store. Spent all afternoon there. My purchases consisted of 2 collars and one umbrella. Rained all morning. London awfully dingy and buildings all dark and dreary looking.
July 20:

Made an early start for Windsor. Reached there at 11 am and saw the Castle thoroughly. A perfect castle, just my idea of what one is. The dining table is 150 feet long and the table set used for state occasions has ten tons of gold plate in it.
The State Apartments are magnificent. Had lunch in a nearby restaurant (which one?) and then took a carriage down to Eton and attended a sevice in a quaint chapel (Which one?).

July 21: After breakfast, we visited the shops, returned to the hotel (The Metropole, which apparently can be seen in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows) for lunch and later Mr. and Mrs. Morgan and I went to the Wallace Collection. A perfectly wonderful collection of things for one man ot have gathered together in a life time. Wallace was a benevolent man, an Englishman, and while in Paris in 97 he gave away over forty thousand pounds to the poor. After leaving the Collection, I took a bus down to the Strand, as far as the bus went.. Had dinner and after an hour or two in the lounge, retired...

July 22. Day clear and a vist to the Tower of London was the first thing on the programme and then Mr. William Campbell and his sister and I took a bus to Waite Chapel. There we hailed a taxi and drove to the Cheshire Cheese Inn for lunch. (Finally, you named a place!) Then we visited the Courts and saw the barristers all in wigs and gowns.

Then we visited Goldsmith's grave, the old church built in the 10th century where the Knight's Templar were organized (Temple Church) and dressed and went for tea with the Rafferty's at 69 Grosvenor Street - the Empire Club. After the tea we took a spin in their motor.

July 23,

Day lovely for England but quite cool. Went all through the House of Parliament. Very grand. The House of Lords is particularly handsome. All red.House of Commons was green. Had lunch. Saw the suffragettes having a parade. Later went to the theatre with Mr. Traverse to see "Miss Gibbs". Well-staged but much too long. (Editor: Understatement. This was a huge demonstration of thousands of suffragettes to Hyde Park. Edith Nicholson would have passed out for joy, or joined them. But Miss Elizabeth of Norfolk was not a 'new woman'..."Our Miss Gibbs was a popular musical with 23 numbers.)

July 26. Mrs. Campbell and I spent most of the morning shopping and visited the SS offices. Met Mr. William Campbell and had lunch with him at Fuller's. Then got on a bus and took a ride down the Strand and over London Bridge. Went home by taxi and after straightening ourselves out a bit, re-joined him and went by the tube to Hyde Park. Took tea at a nearby tea house. Hyde Park is nice, but as it is out of season, there is not a great deal to do there.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Customary Hassles

The Stella McCartney Boutique on West 14th in Chelsea. We passed it on the Sex in the City Tour.

My son's partner and I went to New York for one day this weekend, and on our way back, at Canadian Customs, the agent was rude to her. "What did you do in New York?" (The appropriate form is "Was your trip for business or pleasure?) She said she went to theatre. When he asked if she had anything to declare, she said "No." He asked "No clothing? " She didn't know what to say, so she replied, "Too expensive." He then said, "What? You can afford to go to New York FOR A DAY, but you can't afford the clothes?"

Totally inappropriate. I suspect he was either 'joking' and as he was French the tone was all wrong, or he was in a bad mood. Or he liked having power over a pretty young girl. (No one bothered to hassle me.) She got hassled on the way in also, for not filling out her customs form in advance, while I was treated kindly and with respect for the same stupid mistake. Indeed, because my glasses were packed away the agent practically filled the form out for me.

What's so strange or elite about a day trip to New York? A friend of mine (a well off artist) went the week before and used airmiles and stayed at a bargain basement hotel in the Village and the trip cost her next to nothing. I treated myself to a fancy hotel, the Chatwal, because I like a dose of fancy (using both senses of the word).

New York can be an expensive city, or a cheap city. Just walking around and looking at the buildings, the people and the shop windows is a thrill.

I did my shopping in Montreal before the trip. Winners and Costco. Two cheap cheap outfits made of indestructable textiles by slave labour somewhere.

I myself wouldn't dare step into one of those high fashion boutiques in New York, (lest I be kicked out). And nothing would fit anyway, were I inclined to splurge away my 'long term care' savings. Well, I would have liked to pop into Stella McCartney's boutique in Chelsea. But she's like 'family' with Paul and all.

And then we got directed to the place where they checked the bags and a very polite agent explained the problem: we hadn't stayed in New York long enough to purchase duty free cigarettes.

He too asked "No bag?" We both had big purses that carried our change of clothing. Who wants to drag luggage around New York for six hours while we wait for our time to check into the hotel?

It all seems perfectly logical. Maybe it's a cliche or stereotype, that all women are clothes obsessed? On this trip, I marvelled at the many, many many beautiful period buildings and my son's girlfriend admired the many many many period trees in Central Park (although she likes clothes too.)

Hmm. I see that coming up in May in New York my 'pal' Stella is going to be c0-chairing some high fashion affair along with Colin Firth. Hmm. That man, with his beautiful posture and elegant gait, is a marvel to look at too, at least I think.

You know, speaking of clothes obsessed women, on the Sex in the City Tour we took the guide told us to keep any eye out for any 'celebrity' and to shout out if we see one. Who cares? I can go to Toronto in September if I want to see famous actors. The Guide, "Lou" an actress herself, praised all the SITC actors to the sky, saying they are all nice and approachable and she said she's often seen Chris Noth in the Village. Truth be told, my husband looks just like that man, feature for feature. (Just picture Noth in a baseball cap with grey hair) And my son looks like my husband, pretty much.

So neither of us was that impressed.(I bet Chris Noth has Isle of Lewis Scot genes.)

Old Times, Good Times,

Old New York Times Building

I had a peculiar moment, Saturday Night, as I stood with my daughter in law on the 5th story balcony of the American Airlines Theatre, awaiting the call for Mrs. Warren's Profession with Cherry Jones in the role of Mrs. Warren.

That's because that balcony faces 43rd street and you get to look right into the building adjacent, the former New York Times building.

It's basically empty. There is at least one finished apartment/business on a low floor, (We saw a couple of people milling around a huge kitchen space) and another weird apartment that had some kind of light show with city images being projected onto a wall. Otherwise all you see is empty entrails inside cavernous spaces. A bit eerie to look at. All vacant buildings are that way, however lovely.

A huge, beautiful building, though. White with delicate ornamentation on the facade. (We don't have white buildings in Montreal.)While we were there two men came out and one speculated it was the New York Time Building.

So, just imagine what I would have seen if I had stood on this balcony in 1982, when I visited New York with two friends in my twenties. I would have seen "my future job"... as I was an aspiring journalist writing radio copy at CFCF in Montreal.. I would have witnessed the very opposite of what I witnessed on Saturday. A busy, busy building. An important building. One of the most important buildings in the world.

(Ironically, it was the NYT's positive review of the play, Mrs. Warren's Profession, that got me to come to New York in the first place. I ignored their negative review of the Lion's Club Restaurant, and made reservations anyway. And I am glad I did.)

Maybe it's all a big fat metaphor for the decline of newspaper industry.

CFCF once had huge studios on Ogilvy and now it's in an office building near Papineau, with one small studio for news. (George Clooney used the old empty studios to film part of Confessions of a Dangerous Mind... I write that because we took a Caleche ride in Central Park the Sunday Morning, and the guide mentioned all the movies filmed in the Park.

I checked on Google. And I read up on Wikipedia. The New York Times Building has been sold, and quickly flipped for a huge profit, but then the crash... Now it may be turned into an hotel. Not sure if it's right, as I believe the same article says that the building was erected in 1913 (The Tighsolas Era!) but read somewhere else that Time's Square was re-named in 1904.)

Still, it's a Tighsolas Era Building. Margaret Nicholson visited New York in 1902, when newspapers were the only news medium, outside of gossip. She was caught in a hail storm on the Brooklyn Bridge. She was impressed by 'all the tall buildings'. I wonder what she would have thought of Times Square Today. Or all the tall tall tall TALL buildings.

And just this morning I realized (or remembered) that Times Square is named for that building. Duh!!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

New York New York

I'm sitting in the cozy, elegantly appointed lobby of the Chatwal hotel, very mellow atmosphere,well, some light bluesy version of of Fire and Rain is playing in the background, with the young handsome staff quietly going about their business and I can see my reflection in a bronzed door - and I look like I'm an interesting person.

Yesterday my 'daughter in law' and I did the Sex in the City Tour and went to see Cherry Jones in Mrs. Warren's Profession at the American Airlines Theatre, around the corner from this hotel.

Odd, this tour was a last minute idea and what a good one! First, the tour started in front of the Plaza and ended near here in Times' Square!

And we got to see Soho and the Village and eat great cupcakes at the Magnolia in the Village. And visit a sex shop that was very tasteful (compared to ones I have seen) both senses of the word, considering their fare. The Pleasure Chest.

Well, we got to see some of the Sex in the City Locations and they are all, well, picturesque. Because that is the point, I guess.

Anyway, I awoke about 7:30 and it occurred to me: I remembered this line from Mrs. Warren's Profession, where the daughter says she is sick and tired of the fact that women can't address their problems because they are not allowed to speak of such things!

Buddakan ..We visited: Great space, but the food is also supposed to be great.
I match the decor at the Buddakan

The Magnolia, where the cupcakes really ARE really good!

Well, how things have changed. The Sex in the City Tour (with three brave men in attendance) lets it all hang out - and that show was a pioneer with respect to this, in TV, I think.

Yet, prostitution is still very much in existence. I must think about this.

The Chatwal is a very pretty place, ideally located. Although they were late getting our room ready.. It's a newish hotel, and I get a sense the staff is in training, but they are friendly, and they make the big effort - and good looking and young and multi-ethnic too

So it's all very promising..and the bed was perfectly comfy and the room well ventilated. So I slept well.

Anyway, we'll do a Central Park caleche tour probably before we leave; we did 30 Rock and I bought a T Shirt with Dr. Spaceman for my hubby. Aren't I nice?

And we ate at the Lion's Club, attached to the hotel in location (but I don't think in ownership) which is new and got a mediocre review in the NYT lately, but the food is quite fine - and I think I know my good food. Heritage Pork too. Which I like because I won't eat the other pork.
The reviewer didn't like the small crowded room, but I did. I spend so much time alone in a house. And I like that New York Vibe.

Oh, btw, people do not dress up for theatre, but I think its because these theatre goers do it regularly. It's like going to the movies for them. They are all comfy chic and quite friendly. Unlike in movies. The people in the seats around say a few words to you.

Anyway, Cherry Jones came to lobby to collect for an actor's fund and it's true about stage presence. On stage she is imposing ( I loved her outfits) but in person a very well proportioned woman of medium height and she seemed fun, the little I heard her speak. A down to earth type.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Habitant (or Happy Peasant) 1909

Baking Bread in Rural Quebec.

This article, titled the Habitant is from Canada West in 1909. Funny, there were plenty of French Canadian immigrants to the West. As well as the French who lived there. This article seems odd. But it does give a sense of how the people of the time realized they were in an era of gallopping change. Most rural Quebecois still do not speak any English, although most English Quebeckers today can speak French.

"These early years of the twentieth century, when the Giant Progress is striding in seven league boots to the uttermost parts of the earth, reducing peoples and habits and customs to a dead level of sameness, it is refreshing to find an accessible corner to whcih he has not yet penetrated.

French Canada is, today, almost untouched as it was a century ago by the changes which are bringing even the dreamy mystics of the Far East into line with the more practical and adventurous spirit of the Occident; and the tourist who seeks the health-giving air of the St. Lawrence will find along its shores a people as private as the heart of a poet could desire. The inhabitants of the little picturesque villages which cluster on the banks of the might river of the north are purely French. as far as their language, laws, and customs are concerned, might be the very same people Jacques Cartier left to face the rigors of a northern winter three hundred odd years ago, they have retained their characteristics as they never would have done in revolutionary France, for the easy British rule has left them almost entirely to their own devices. Imagine thousands of British subjects, in the most loyal of all the British colonies, living under the protection and enjoying the prestige of the Union Jack, yet unable to speak a word of English. The consequence of this isolation is that they have become far and away the most interesting race in North American.

Life in these quiet places is delightful primitive. Remote from the marts of men, the habitants are dependent upon their own resources for many of the necessaries of life. Every house has its outside bake oven, a thing of brick and mortar, with a rude lean-to to protect if from the weather. The spinning wheel is as necessary an article as the sewing machine in a more modern equipped home. And the floors, often rough hewn, are covered with catalongs, the rag carpets beloved of our grandmothers.

Patient, frugal, sober and God-fearing, never troubling their heads about the rest of the world with its fashions and follies, never caring to go beyond their own parish, content to end their days in the low, white-painted dormer windowed houses that sheltered their grandfathers, and thereby escaping the heart-burning and misery that so often fall to the lot of a more ambitious people.

While We Were Sleeping - or NOT Sleeping

Poor children, Western Canada 1910

Something very very bad happened in the last few decades, while we Boomers were sleeping. Well, not sleeping at all,in fact, while we were raising our kids and worrying over each and every danger to their fragile little bodies and minds: dangers from their heirloom cribs; dangers from PVC blinds, the cord and the lead; dangers from eating too many McNuggets; dangers from pesticides; dangers from videogames; dangers from not getting outside for exercise; dangers from getting outside because of kidnappers; and the danger of not passing advanced math -and without advanced math they HAD NO FUTURE in a tech-based society. So, while we were NOT sleeping, the United States became a plutocracy, with, as it stands today, 1 percent of the population holding 34 percent of the net worth.

I guess that's how it always happens. (And now our kids really have no future, even with great math skills. (Let's blame it all on those highly-motivated Chinese students, taking over our universities. Why not? Have to blame someone and a Goldman Sachs trader is hard to picture up in his Ivory Tower.)

A plutocracy is a highly unstable form of economy, the kind in place in many banana republics, or European countries with entrenched class systems. Except that many South American countries are doing better than the US in this respect, as explained in the New York Times today, A Hedge Fund Republic?.

No wonder Canadian families are visiting the food banks in record numbers, these days, another story in the news this week. We're in lockstep with the US, right? (I bet these cash-strapped families aren't giving up their Internet or cell-phones, though, because these are now necessities.)

So, how are things in our fair land? Well, I found this stat on the Web for a few years ago: Overall, the top 20% had 69.2% of total net worth, while the bottom 20% had 2.4% and the bottom 60% had 10.8%.

This Flo in the City blog is about the Laurier Era, or the Edwardian Era in England, where the horribly uneven distribution of wealth meant, well, that slavery has many forms.

That's why so many poor Britishers wanted to move to Canada, which was a meritocracy, at least in comparison to the Royal Throne of Kings.

A few blogs ago I quoted an article that claimed this: "No position in the social structure is impossible to a Canadian. He recognizes no caste nor much pprecedence, at times not enough. He does not feel handicapped by the thought that his grandfather or his father was a horse-thief. Canada lies before him a world where nothing is as yet established. He can pick and chose his work. The one fact before him is that he must work and work harder than the next man, or else wake some morning to find that the next man has outstripped him and stands in the way of his progress....

Well. According to a book The Edwardians, by Paul Thompson,in England in 1900 "1 percent of the population died owning 40 percent of the entire value capital left." That's a quote. Hmm. That's pretty well the modern US figure. Go figure.

How does this relate to Tighsolas, or Flo in the City, my novel in progress? HUGELY. Just a short surf of the web and its treasures, I discovered that in Canada in the late 19th century, 1870-1900, there was a decrease in inequality of distribution of wealth. And this was just the time Norman Nicholson was DOING WELL. Another document revealed that it was primary White Men of Scotch origin who were doing better. That would be Norman. Another article said that in the 1870-1890's, in Canada, the EXPECTATION of wealth was growing. That explains the Nicholsons and their cronies. But, apparently, this all turned around, around the turn of the century, again, just when Norman fell on hard times.

In 1900 Canada, according to a credible source, one - fifth held at least 65 per cent of all assessed wealth and the poorest 40 per cent never more than 8 per cent, even though inequality did decline between 1871 and 1899.

Distribution of wealth is complicated to assess and, in the past, it was usually measured in land ownership. Hence on paper, the Nicholsons were not POOR in 1910, because they owned Tighsolas, the house. But tell that to Norman and Margaret and Marion and Edith and Flo. (Not that I understand these figures, I failed advanced math. But in 1972, no one cared.)

Hmm. I just read that Will and Kate's wedding will cost 50 million pounds or more, but that the Royal Family will pay 'its share'. 50 Million Pounds!! Just so teary-eyed television announcers can ressurrect all that "Fairy Tale" claptrap on the day in question. I still remember a certain Canadian commentator talking about Princess Di's big feet, "but she's a dancer and all dancers have big feet." And this was a Cinderella Story! How inappropriate.

(Then again, one movie can cost that or more - and this is as much a show...for us peasants.)

Poor Kate. She's kind of wash-and-wear pretty now but soon she'll be needing to spend 500,000 a week on her hair and makeup and clothes, and starving herself on rice cakes to keep the papparazi (or is it paparrazzi) happy -and in work. Just like poor Lady Diana. It's hard being a symbol. However rich.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Five Cent Fascinations

Edison nymph. early film.

This below is from the "entertainment" section of Jane Addams' 1909 complilation of newspaper articles: Spirit of Youth and City Streets. The nickelodeon era was only in its third year, so it is safe to say, the motion picture took off with youth from the very beginning. Addams' point of view is similar to what most moral reformers held. Addams' uses more 'science' although of the anecdotal kind and less vitriol in her editorials. She also reveals some insight into the nature of the new medium, which she ties in with theatre in general. It is a passive medium. Movies became an adult entertainment in the next decades, only re-establishing itself with very young audiences in the 50's and 60's with Disney and then becoming a youth-focused medium in the 80's. when I was raising my sons. (At least that's how I see it.)

"Going to the show" for thousands of young people in every industrial city is the only possible road to the realms of mystery and romance; the theater is the only place where they can satisfy that craving for a conception of life higher than that which the actual world offers them. In a very real sense the drama and the drama alone performs for them the office of art as is clearly revealed in their blundering demand stated in many forms for "a play unlike life." The theater becomes to them a "veritable house of dreams" infinitely more real than the noisy streets and the crowded factories.

One Sunday evening last winter an investigation was made of four hundred and sixty six theaters in the city of Chicago, and it was discovered that in the majority of them the leading theme was revenge; the lover following his rival; the outraged husband seeking his wife's paramour; or the wiping out by death of a blot on a hitherto unstained honor. It was estimated that one sixth of the entire population of the city had attended the theaters on that day. At present, however, most improbable tales hold the attention of the youth of the city night after night, and feed his starved imagination as nothing else succeeds in doing. In addition to these fascinations, the five-cent theater is also fast becoming the general social center and club house in many crowded neighborhoods. It is easy of access from the street the entire family of parents and children can attend for a comparatively small sum of money and the performance lasts for at least an hour; and, in some of the humbler theaters, the spectators are not disturbed for a second hour.

The room which contains the mimic stage is small and cozy, and less formal than the regular theater, and there is much more gossip and social life as if the foyer and pit were mingled. The very darkness of the room, necessary for an exhibition of the films, is an added attraction to many young people, for whom the space is filled with the glamour of love making.

Hundreds of young people attend these five-cent theaters every evening in the week, including Sunday, and what is seen and heard there becomes the sole topic of conversation, forming the ground pattern of their social life. That mutual understanding which in another social circle is provided by books, travel and all the arts, is here compressed into the topics suggested by the play.

The young people attend the five-cent theaters in groups, with something of the "gang" instinct, boasting of the films and stunts in "our theater."

They find a certain advantage in attending one theater regularly, for the habitu├ęs are often invited to come upon the stage on "amateur nights," which occur at least once a week in all the theaters. This is, of course, a most exciting experience.

If the "stunt" does not meet with the approval of the audience, the performer is greeted with jeers and a long hook pulls him off the stage; if, on the other hand, he succeeds in pleasing the audience, he may be paid for his performance and later register with a booking agency, the address of which is supplied by the obliging manager, and thus he fancies that a lucrative and exciting career is opening before him. Almost every night at six o'clock a long line of children may be seen waiting at the entrance of these booking agencies, of which there are fifteen that are well known in Chicago.

Thus, the only art which is constantly placed before the eyes of "the temperamental youth" is a debased form of dramatic art, and a vulgar type of music, for the success of a song in these theaters depends not so much upon its musical rendition as upon the vulgarity of its appeal.

Boys will be Boys

Boys being boys in 1910. Spirit of Adventure.

The motion picture show was blamed by some from the very beginning, of being a bad influence on young people, especially boys. Here Jane Addams in the 1909 book The Spirit of Youth and City Streets writes about the boys of the era and what they are dragged into court for doing. (Addams was a prominent social reformer in the 19th ward of Chicago. Montreal had its problems, but Chicago was always held up in our press as the city with the worst problems and the best innovative social programs.) In the context of my book Flo in the City, this goes to explain why Marion is denied the fifth form (fifth grade). That grade would be filled with such rowdy young males, so they preferred to give it to a male teacher, however inexperienced. Marion quit teaching in part because of this. "It makes me sick," she wrote.

Here's the excerpt:

We shall have to remember that many boys in the years immediately following school find no restraint either in tradition or character.

They drop learning as a childish thing and look upon school as a tiresome task that is finished. They demand pleasure as the right of one who earns his own living. They have developed no capacity for recreation demanding mental effort or even muscular skill, and are obliged to seek only that depending upon sight, sound and taste. Many of them begin to pay board to their mothers, and make the best bargain they can, that more money may be left to spend in the evening. They even bait the excitement of "losing a job," and often provoke a foreman if only to see "how much he will stand." They are constitutionally unable to enjoy anything continuously and follow their vagrant wills unhindered. Unfortunately the city lends itself to this distraction.

At the best, it is difficult to know what to select and what to eliminate as objects of attention among its thronged streets, its glittering shops, its gaudy advertisements of shows and amusements.

It is perhaps to the credit of many city boys that the very first puerile spirit of adventure looking abroad in the world for material upon which to exercise itself, seems to center about the railroad. The impulse is not unlike that which excites the coast-dwelling lad to dream of The beauty and mystery of the ships And the magic of the sea."

I cite here a dozen charges upon which boys were brought into the Juvenile Courtof Chicago, all of which might be designated as deeds of adventure. A surprising umber, as the reader will observe, are connected with railroads. They are taken from the court records and repeat the actual words used by police officers,irate neighbors, or discouraged parents, when the boys were brought before the judge. (1) Building fires along the railroad tracks; (2) flagging trains; (3)throwing stones at moving train windows; (4) shooting at the actors in the Olympic Theatre with sling shots; (5) breaking signal lights on the railroad; (6) stealing linseed oil barrels from the railroad to make a fire; (7) taking waste from an axle box and burning it upon the railroad tracks; (8) turning a switch and running a street car off the track; (9) staying away from home to sleep in barns; (10) setting fire to a barn in order to see the fire engines come up the street; (11) knocking down signs; (12) cutting Western Union cable. Another dozen charges also taken from actual court records might be added as illustrating the spirit of adventure, for although stealing is involved in all of them, the deeds were doubtless inspired much more by the adventurous impulse than by a desire for the loot itself:

(1) Stealing thirteen pigeons from a barn; (2) stealing a bathing suit; (3)stealing a tent; (4) stealing ten dollars from mother with which to buy a revolver; (5)stealing a horse blanket to use at night when it was cold sleeping on the wharf; (6) breaking a seal on a freight car to steal "grain for chickens"; (7) stealing apples from a freight car; (8) stealing a candy peddler's wagon "to be full up just for once"; (9) stealing a hand car; (10) stealing a bicycle to take a ride; (11) stealing a horse and buggy and driving twenty-five miles into the country; (12) stealing a stray horse on the prairie and trying to sell it for twenty dollars.

Of another dozen it might be claimed that they were also due to this same adventurous spirit, although the first six were classed as disorderly conduct:(1) Calling a neighbor a "scab"; (2) breaking down a fence; (3) flipping cars; (4) picking up coal from railroad tracks; (5) carrying a concealed "dagger," and stabbing a playmate with it; (6) throwing stones at a railroad employee. The next three were called vagrancy: (1) Loafing on the docks; (2) "sleeping out" nights; (3) getting "wandering spells." One, designated petty larceny, was cutting telephone wires under the sidewalk and selling them; another, called burglary, was taking locks off from basement doors; and the last one bore the dignified title of resisting an officer" because the boy, who was riding on the fender of a street car, refused to move when an officer ordered him off.

Of course one easily recalls other cases in which the manifestations were negative. I remember an exasperated and frightened mother who took a boy of fourteen into court upon the charge of incorrigibility. She accused him of "shooting caps," "smoking cigarettes," "keeping bad company," "being idle." The mother regrets it now, however, for she thinks that taking a boy into court only gives him a bad name, and that "the police are down on a boy who has once been in court, and that that makes it harder for him." She hardly recognizes her once troublesome charge in the steady young man of nineteen who brings home all his wages and is the pride and stay of her old age.

I recall another boy who worked his way to New York and back again to Chicago before he was quite fourteen years old, skilfully escaping the truant officers as well as the police and special railroad detectives. He told his story with great pride, but always modestly admitted that he could never have done it if his father had not been a locomotive engineer so that he had played around railroad tracks and "was onto them ever since he was a small kid."

There are many of these adventurous boys who exhibit a curious incapacity for
any effort which requires sustained energy. They show an absolute lack of interest in the accomplishment of what they undertake, so marked that if challenged in the midst of their activity, they will be quite unable to tell you the end they have in view. Then there are those tramp boys who are the despair of every one who tries to deal with them.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Salmon Tales -the Movie 1910 Canada

J.Searle Dawley at the camera (perhaps) on location in Western Canada 1910. The caption says "Taking Portraits of the Rockies." He was hired by Edison to help promote Western Canada to Americans and Europeans (the Northern type, of course.)13 films were made, 10 of which were melodramas.

A scene from James Searle Dawley's Frankenstein, also filmed in 1910.

It is said that anthropologist Hortense Powdermaker coined the word "Hollywood Dream Factory" in the 1950's, but I found a 1910 article that describes motion pictures in the exact same way: A motion picture actor is being interviewed for Canada West, and he sure seems to have his 'script' down. Indeed, he 'spins' Addams' negative view of motion picture entertainment into a positive one, using her term.

"Did you know that Jane Addams called the nickel show "the House of Dreams" asked the motion picture actor padding the sleeping pillow into place and leaning back in the corner of the section. (Editor: Jane Addams,Spirit of Youth and City Streets, 1909.)

"She hit it exactly right, too." The Nickel Show is the house of dreams to East Side New York and West Side Chicago and most every town of three thousand all over North America. Sadie and Jim, Lena and Fred, don't think much of the fried-potato reality they live in. There's too much work and too little lark and not one Duchess or Indian in the landscape. Like everyone else, they have a notion of what things ought to be like to be fun, their dream. They've only got about a thousand words or so in their vocabulary, and not very much imagination, and they don't know enough to spin dreams for themselves. So they go to the nickelodeon and see three or four different kinds of dreams, for five cents.

We're the fellows who have to get out to hustle the dreams for Sadie and Jim. And it isn't such easy work living in a dream as you think it might be.

(Then the actor goes on to say that he went into picture work because he was out of a job- that like other dramatic actors he 'looked down on picture work.' "I had a pretty good name as an actor as I was signed as part of the stock company. I still had my old contemptuous way of thinking "Nothing to do but pose into a camera. I learned my mistake."

"We had been engaged by the Canadian Pacific Railway Company, to go through the Dominion, taking motion pictures to be shown all over the US and Europe to advertise the country. We had a special train in charge of a railway official who made sure we didn't miss any good bets on the good points, and we surely took them all in. We rode with those champions of the plains, the Royal Northwest Mounted Police. At Regina we assisted in the roundup of 5000 cattle at Brooks, where one girl in the company donned a 'divided skirt' and rode with the rest of the men. We had a fight with the Indians in Calgary and I carried a bruise given to me by one brave for a month. "Ugh, me Kill" he said which made my scalp rise and I got hold of a mounted police to make sure he understood it was only a 'pretend' kill.
At Banff, we charged the buffalo at the National Park and did some wonderful swimming feats in the big pools. At Logan, we outdid ourselves by climbing 8000 feet above sea level nearly killing our leading lady. None of us knew anything about mountain climbing: we were dressed as if for an afternoon stroll. Our Swiss guide took one look at the leading lady's suede shoes and said something under his breath. At Vancouver we did some stunts on the Empress of Japan and in Victoria we made a salmon fishing film, where we went out at five in the morning to drop and raise the nets and then we got down with the slippery, slimy salmon at the bottom of the barge...

People are being forced into cheap amusements and the picture show fits the bill, these days when the average man can't afford 2.00 for a good seat and won't sit in the cheap seats at a first class theatre. An increasingly better class of actors is producing an increasingly better class of pictures..and in this day and age when we all demand novelty and an increasing amount of sensationalism, in both drama and literature, the motion picture actor has to possess, not only art, but also courage.

Getting down with the Salmon for one of the 3 documentaries made by Dawley. Is this a 'still' from the silent picture or one of the first publicity shots? Likely a publicity shot, like the one below, showing their train and cow-catcher.

Here's the announcement of the effort in the New York Dramatic Mirror:

The kinetogram (the bi-monthly bulletin of the Edison Company) announces that the Edison Company recently made special arrangements with the Canadian Pacific Railroad Company to take an Edison crew of photographers and a selected stock company of players by special train to Vancouver, stops being made on the way to enact dramatic subjects in appropriate localities. The party left June 22 and are now at work.

The Northern Englander

I come from Yorkshire farmers, or at least one side of me does. That branch went off to Malaya rather than emigrate to Canada's West. Still, my dad, born in Kuala Lumpur, Malaya ended up in the West, during the war, flying for the RAF (RCAF). he was brought up British and sent to a Prep School at 5, but in many ways, he was a man without a nationality. Such was the plight of children of the Raj.

It was widely supposed, in 1910 Canada, that the UK farmer was the best potential home-steader material. This Maclean's article dares to suggest otherwise.

"No position in the social structure is impossible to a Canadian. He recognizes no caste nor much pprecedence, at times not enough. He does not feel handicapped by the thought that his grandfather or his father was a horse-thief. Canada lies before him a world where nothing is as yet established. He can pick and chose his work. The one fact before him is that he must work and work harder than the next man, or else wake some morning to find that the next man has outstripped him and stands in the way of his progress....

The spirit of the old feudal system still survives in important parts of the old land. The people have been taught to be more or less dependent upon the land-owner.

But the Old Countryman, of a certain class, arriving in Canada finds this very difficult to learn. He does not know the meaning of the word initiative. He has always left that to somebody else. If he learns the lesson, he prospers. If he doesn't, he fails to become all that the opportunities are worth. The city-bred man may be quicker in this regard. He is more accustomed to accepting new conditions; his mind is trained to see things quickly. But the farm labourer can only stand "mazed"..

Well, the myth begins: Canada as meritocracy. But has it ever been so. Only in excellent economies.

Who was this Miss Barbara Wylie?

Miss Barbara Wylie under arrest, from a puzzle.

Read Furies Cross the Mersey on Amazon about the British Invasion of Militant Suffragettes to Montreal in 1912/13 with a blow by blow account of Wylie's November 5 speech in Montreal.

Who is this Miss Barbara Wylie, who took a tour of Canada in 1912, on behalf of Emmeline Pankhurt's WSPU and who converted Edith Nicholson, my husband's great aunt, to the cause of militantism?

She's not a prominent Suffragette. Indeed, she doesn't warrant a Wikipedia page.

But Edith Nicholson cut a report out of the November Witness upon her arrival in Montreal to give a speech for the Montreal Council of Women:

"Miss Barbara Wylie, the English suffragist, whose visit to Canada has aroused so much interest and speculation as to what it may eventually lead to, arrived at Place Viger Station at 3 o'clock yesterday afternoon, but looked so unlike one who had twice been in prison and was willing to fight again for 'the cause' that the small group of newspapermen waiting at the gate had a hard time finding her, and actually let her walk past. Miss Wylie (it turns out) is a tall really beautiful looking woman with every appearance of refinement and intelligence above the ordinary. She spoke intelligently of the suffrage movement, explaining the larger significance of the demand for votes for women and what she called 'the absolutely unjust, cruel and disgraceful conduct and trickery of the Asquith government. She spoke as a highly intelligent woman burning with the conviction that her cause was right. She also showed plainly a spirit of resolute intention not to give up the fight for minute until the battle had been won."

I have no proof Edith attended her speech, but since she attended the May 1913 speech of Mrs. Snowden, also promoted by the Montreal Council of Women, I assume she did. I certainly will make it so in my novel, or play,Threshold Girl (available on

The Montreal Gazette gives a blow by blow account of Wylie's speech. "The address given by Miss Barbara Wylie at the YMCA on Drummond Street (Why not the Women's Y)under the auspices of the local council of women on the subject of women suffrage called up such unexpected warmth from the audience, for and against militant methods, that only the decision of the President, Mrs. D. Richie England, prevented the two parties from locking horns and deciding the question then and there."

According to a brief bio I discovered, Wylie joined the Women's Social and Political Union in 1909, worked in the Glasgow arm (this might have impressed Edith) and then came to Canada in 1912. She was injured protecting Pankhurst at a Glasgow rally in 1913 and arrested in front of His Majesty's Theatre during a rally, at a function for the Czar with King and Queen attending.

According to another snippet I dug up, Pankhurst sent her to Canada to convert the Canadians to militantism, but it failed for the reasons I've blogged about earlier. This is because Wylie had a brother who was an MLA in Saskatchewan. She visited him at Christmas and gave some talks and met Nellie McClung, for McClung mentions her in her bio.

Barbara Wylie was very militant. Alluding to a 'raid' on Buckingham Palace she said this would encourage women to 'cast off their chains.'

In the speech in Montreal she counselled women to go see Mr. Borden, but use all constitutional methods first. (She likely had to say this, or be deported.)

Wylie had already seen Mr. Borden earlier in the year in England. The suffragettes had met with him and asked him about the vote in Canada. From the reports in the paper he was quite, well, politician-like. He said it was a matter for the provinces to decide, as the Federal Government was bound by the constitution to conduct government as the provinces did. (Something like that.)

The Toronto arm of the WSPU put out a press release saying that they would not endorse her militant ways.

I wonder if Miss Wylie knew Gertrude Harding, the New Brunswick woman who went to England to join the Suffragettes.