Monday, April 30, 2012

War and Death and the Camera

MacArthur Uncles.

Yesterday, Sunday, my husband and I took a meal of bbq chicken and quinoa salad to eat with my father in law who is at the Veteran's Hospital in Ste. Anne, he's 92, and then came home to watch five hours of a program called Apocalypse WWII, on the National Geographic Station.

Well, my husband settled to watch it and I am recovering from a cervical disk issue and can't do much else, even type for any length of time, I watched too.

And I turned to my husband and said, "I don't remember seeing any of this footage before." "Did they film in colour in 42?.

Well, it seems I was right. A lot of  footage the program contains, mostly of human misery and degradation, has been recently declassified by the governments or discovered in personal collections and digitally enhanced and colourized.

It seems there was a lot of film taken during WWII, by the Allies, Germans and Japanese. Only recently declassified, I guess. So not released during or after WWII.  (Instead, movies like Casablanca were released in 42, romanticizing war.)  John Houston and John Ford took war footage for the Americans. Controlling the image is important: It has been said that news  images of the Vietnam war propelled the anti-war movement in the US.

Anyway, this program showed the human side of war, the human devastation side, and for this reason, I had to keep watching, despite the fact the film contains thousands of images of dead and dying bodies, young men, soldiers mostly, starving to death, freezing to death, mortally wounded and  civilians too, men and women and children. Holocaust images.  In movies, soldiers are portrayed by actors in their late twenties or thirties, but in real life they are college age kids, or jr college aged and in the case of Hitler's youth, children.

And then there was MacArthur, strutting around. My husband's 3rd? cousin. My father in law in the Veteran's and my husband both resemble the General a lot.

And after watching this I thought, my grandmother's story, of being tortured in Changi Prison Looking for Mrs. Peel is such a minuscule part of the WWII story, but that's how human beings best process things, in personal stories.  (I saw recently that Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman have started filming The Railway Man, another story about a prisoner of war on the Thai Burma Railroad.

The man Firth portrays supposedly goes back to Japan in later life to face the man who tortured him. Funny, my grandfather, also at Changi with my grandmother, and also forced to work on that Railway, visited Japan once a year until his death.

My grandmother hated the Japanese to the end, although she never talked about her days in the camp. She left behind a diary or memoir of sorts and I used that for the Looking For Mrs. Peel story. She was tortured in an incident called The Double Tenth.

Because of my injury, I couldn't get around to typing out Diary of a Confirmed Spinster, the follow up to Threshold Girl although |I've pretty well finished it and created a boffo final scene (or next to final) that has Edith Nicholson discuss eugenics with her cousin Henry the Doctor. Henry says "The female of the race is the social engineer, as she chooses what qualities she wants in a mate." Edith will respond that she thought it was the other way around. Henry will reply "We could argue about that until the cows come home." For some reason this highly successful man never married. Edith never married either, for reasons explained in Diary of a Confirmed Spinster.

Edith Nicholson was Commandant of the Quebec Red Cross in WWII. She told my husband, wars are always about money.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Free At Last!

In a 1911 letter home Marion Nicholson describes catching up with the Montgomerys who are in town to buy a new car, their second in two years. This may be a pic from that event. They are at Atwater Street.

I am writing Diary of a Confirmed Spinster, the follow up to Threshold Girl and I've got to the part where Edith Nicholson goes on a 6 hour car trip from Richmond, Quebec to Montreal in June 1911.

In a letter she describes all the places she passed through.

My job is to describe the experience.

Now, today, 6 hours on bumpy hills in a car with no shocks (I don't think) and in a tight corset would be torture, but for Edith it is euphoric.

That's the word I'll use.

The freedom of it! Before long trips were taken by train or by horse carriage. This car, going 14 miles an hour over the hills and dales of the Eastern Townships, must have thrilled the passengers, much like a long long ride at Dominion Park. And there was always the danger of breaking down to add spice to the occasion.

14 miles an hour is the speed limit in the country. 7 miles an hour in the city. (Horse drawn vehicles and autos were beginning here to fight over the road space, a fight which would continue until the late 1920's, when cars WON.

Ad for Piece Arrow. Car Rides were classy thing! No kidding, cars cost as much as a house.

A recent article claims that statistics show that Americans at least are driving much less. The author of the article ascribed this to the Internet, saying young people would rather surf than drive.

(I thought maybe GPS's had something to do with it. Or Google maps. No getting lost. No spending hours driving all over town looking to buy some item. Etc ete.

Whatever the reason, the thrill is gone. The high price of gasoline doesn't help either, I'm sure.

In the 60's I went for a lot of car drives with my dad. It was his recreation. Cheap and he got out of the house. We had a little Austen Cambridge, but my father, a former ferry command pilot, drove fast, 80 miles an hour on the highway.

As his daughter, I wasn't afraid, although I do distinctly remember almost getting killed by an oncoming 16 wheeler as he passed a car on the highway.

But he swerved in on time, obviously.

Marion sits in her Uncle Clayton's car.It broke down a lot.

The T Can wasn't as crowded with trucks as it is today.

I liked looking out the window.  On long distance treks to the US for vacation, my Dad had a game. He had great long distance eyesight (Pilot!) so we called out the state or province of the licence plates ahead,the minute we could guess them. And then there was I Spy..

Today kids don't look out the window. They are too busy playing or communicating on their iPads, etc. Or watching movies.

We experience the world second hand today. Technology changes us.

Free at Last: In the 1910 era, men drove the cars, but by the 1920's women went it alone! Here's Flora second from last. Cars gave women and teens unprecedented freedom.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Sweet Bird of Youth and 1983 Reminisces

Madeleine Sherwood in Sweet Bird of Youth

Yesterday, I watched Sweet Bird of Youth on Turner Classics, part of their Tennessee Williams festival.

It reminded me of 1982, when I worked as a copywriter at a radio station in Montreal. I guess Tennessee died in 1982, because one of the other copywriters came into the room and announced, "One of us has died."

I turned to my friend, Nora, and smiled. One of us indeed. We wrote ads for Greeks restaurants, "Step into the Sunshine at la Casa Grecque,"

I just checked. He died in 83, so my memory serves.

You see, I was a big fan of the playwright. I had studied theatre at McGill, not for the acting bit, which  I simply hated, but for the plays. Tennessee was a favorite. Edward Albee and Pinter, too.

Now, I don't recall reading Sweet Bird of Youth, although I likely did. I missed the movie, though for sure. In 1962, when the movie came out, Montreal children couldn't  go to the movies. (My play Milk and Water explains.)

And besides, I was just 8. Anyway, this movie is still damn relevant, I think.

Now, Madeleine Sherwood is in the movie Sweet Bird of Youth, playing a distinctly different character than she played in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. A mistress to a powerful man. She played the same role, Miss Lucy, on stage.

Madeleine Sherwood, as it happens, is the granddaughter of Paul Villard, who figures in my story Diary of a Confirmed Spinster, the follow up to Threshold GIrl.

My ebook story is based on family letters from the 1910 era and in that era Edith Nicholson was working at French Methodiste Institute. Paul Villard, a medical doctor and doctor of divinity, was the Principal of the Missionary School on Greene Avenue.

He figures largely in the story, as he helps Edith through a number of crises and then she suddenly turns on him and quits. (I have somewhere a letter of recommendation he wrote, rather abrupt and hastily written.) Edith seems to have been friends with Yvonne Villard, his daughter. Yvonne visits Tighsolas in the summer of 1911.

I have spent a great deal of time trying to figure why. (I wondered at one time if it was because of the Church Union controversy going on. Edith was a Presbyterian.) But no, I realize that it had to do with Villard appointing another woman head of the teachers.

So I am writing that part right now. I have read Dr. Villard's books on the school and its mission, so know all about it.

I see on the net that Nicole Kidman was set to start in a revival on stage, last year, but nothing more has come of it. Nichol does have a similar acting style to Geraldine Page, I think.

Ecole Methodiste teachers. I am pretty sure the man on the right is Paul Villard. One of the girls other than Edith, might be Yvonne Villard.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Point of View? Priestley and Me.

Yesterday I listened to the Saturday Drama on BBC Radio 4. It was An Inspector Calls with  Toby Jones, who I just saw in Titanic and Tinker Tailor, in the lead.

The play takes place in a factory town in the UK in 1912, and covers the same territory as my digital trilogy about the real life Nicholsons of Richmond, Quebec. Read Threshold Girl.

Now, I hadn't ever heard of this play, which shows there is a gap in my education. I studied Drama and Theatre in Junior College or CEGEP as they call it in Quebec.

According to its Wikipedia entry, An Inspector Calls is a classic play by J. B. Priestley, that is requisite reading in English and Welsh schools.

The play has what some might describe as a socialist point of view, telling the story of a bright and pretty factory girl who ends up killing herself due to a series of unhappy events, all perpetrated my members of the same prominent family.

Funny, the Priestley  girl is a bit like the fictional character I created for my trilogy, Miss Gouin! (And I hadn't read this play, really I hadn't.) Miss Gouin is a milliner's assistant in Richmond in 1911.

My ebook is based on REAL letters, real people, real events, so it shouldn't have any point of view, right? Well, good question.

My play also features middle class women. Middle class women with high aspirations and not much in their purse.

I am now writing Diary of a Confirmed Spinster, the follow up to Threshold Girl. In fact, I have the ebook totally plotted out and I've written all the key scenes.

What I haven't done is stick Miss Gouin in the story. But I think I should. When I last left her at the end of Threshold Girl, things don't look good: she is marching in a labour parade and  working at Dominion Textile. This is June 1912.

I suppose I can have her at at Montreal Council of Women meeting in Spring 1912, the one Edith attends where Carrie Derick talks about eugenics (and says inferior people have big families) possibly brought as an 'exhibit' by a social advocate society lady, as an example of something or other. Or I can have her in Boston in 1912, working in a big department store, pretending she is French from France. That is her dream.

Then she could marry Henry, the Boston doctor, who in real life never married. Happy ending for her.

Scene from An Inspector Calls. Shiela Burling, Brian Worth as characters getting engaged at the beginning of the play. These characters  both play a part in the demise of a working class girl. IMDB gives the movie, with Alistair Sim as the Inspector, 7.3. It's on YouTube.

In An Inspector calls, the girl in question is a factory worker who gets fired for union activities, but who gets a decent job in a Department Store, but is let go for no good reason and who goes to work in a      cabaret-brothel, who ends up pregnant and kills herself.

From everything I have read about the 1910 era, this is pretty much the trajectory of working class women who have bad luck. (Coco Chanel would be the working class girl with good luck.) So Priestley's Point of View is based on reality. He makes no bones about it. He has his main character say out loud "This is what happens to millions  upon million of women."

The Social Evil...Prostitution, it looms large in the life of EVERY woman in 1910, poor, middle class, and rich (who aim to eradicate it without empowering the lower class women involved- quite a trick) - and it is a raison d'etre of the Suffrage Movement in the UK, US and Canada.

Christobel Pankhurst wrote a pamphlet claiming that prostitution would be eradicated should women get the vote.

Men, she claimed, should be as chaste as women.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Edwardian Age Ikea. Oxymoron?

An Edwardian club chair.  Marion Nicholson Blair used this chair.In the series Upstairs Downstairs Mr. Bellamy has a very similar chair in his parlour.

 (You can read all about her early life at the Tighsolas website that showcases her family letters from the 1908-1913 era.  I am writing a digital trilogy based on the letters. The first ebook is Threshold Girl, about her sister Flora, a college girl in 1911/12.)

Well, today, someone came to my Tighsolas website looking up "Dorothy Nixon" Gone with the Windows Video.

Gone With the Windows is an essay I wrote a few years ago that is now in a couple of ESL (English as a Second Language) textbooks and also is posted on my website.

 Occasionally an ESL  student will come to my website trying to find an answer to a question about the essay.

This time (I am assuming) a student was looking for a real shortcut, a video. It's a visual day and age, that's for sure. And this search engine request reminds me of that.

Of course there is no video for my essay, but I am beginning to think I must someone make my essays more visual. And I don't mean by merely painting pictures with words as in 'show' don't 'tell'.  That's old hat.

Many thousands of students have come to my Tighsolas website looking up this and that and they usually find what they want. Titanic Fashion, Women's rights, Suffrage movement in Canada, Laurier Era cost of living, women in 1910....

But just this week I had to laugh: someone came to my website looking up "Edwardian Ikea."

Lord Bellamy: Hudson, Lady Lindamere  has just sat on that new chair my parlour and crushed it to pieces.  Where did you get it?"

Hudson: At a new furniture store on the Kensington High Street. Ikea. It's called borgdeborgsyfar.

I say this because I just saw a program where some craftsman recreated the main parlour of the Titanic and they created a leather club chair from scratch using 100 year old methods. It took a number of highly-skilled craftsman many days to make this chair and a total of (I think) 60 man hours or more of labour. The chair was filled with horsehair.

The chair pictured above  is also from the Edwardian era and, I can tell you,  it weighs a tonne.  Solid piece of work. It's been re-upholstered many times, but maybe originally it contained horsehair.

That's why I had to laugh: The words "Ikea" and "Edwardian" seem to be rather oxymoronic (is that a word?) contradiction in terms.

I am thinking of going through my archives and making  a list of the ridiculous requests. 1800 automobile is one I remember. But then the search may have been just a high school student and to a 14 year old 1900 and 1800 are no different.  (Actually, the first auto, a kind of wheel chair with a boiler behind it, was invented in 1820, so maybe not so ridiculous.)

I just checked, Ikea was founded in 1943, closer to 1910 than 2010!!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Laurier and Norman Nicholson

Sir Wilfrid and wife at the 1908 Quebec Tercentenary. Margaret Nicholson attended the celebrations.

As I write Diary of a Confirmed Spinster, the follow up to the ebook Threshold Girl I am finding out new information.

I've got the story plotted out, and I've written key scenes longhand, and I only need for my cervical disks to heal so I can type away. The story is based on the letters of Tighsolas, the letters of middle class Canadian family in Richmond Quebec in 1908-1913.

Now, in Threshold Girl I wrote a line for Flora, the heroine (a college student in 1911/12). She is being teased by a local shopkeeper about her father.  The shopkeeper asks, "Has Monsieur Laurier given your father his job back." (Her father, Norman, worked on  Laurier's Transcontinental Railway from 1907-1912, but was fired in 1910 for reasons explained in my ebooks.)

Flora thinks, "As if my father knows Prime Minister Laurier personally."

But then yesterday I find out this: That Wilfrid Laurier ran as the Liberal Candidate in Richmond Wolfe in 1891! Yikes. He lost by a few votes. He also ran in Quebec East, where he won and became leader of the Opposition, lent his name to a pivotal era in History, and created a vision for Canada that lasted for a century (and my just be dying right now.) Michael Ignatieff certainly thinks so,considering  an interview he recently gave to BBC Scotland. Ignatieff's grandparents lived in Richmond and knew the Nicholsons.

From wikipedia.

Norman was active in Politics at the local level from 1900 to 1910, but did he vote for Laurier in 1891? I doubt it. He probably voted for Local Man Cleveland.

As you can see, J.N. Greenshields ran for the Liberals in the election before and lost. In 1911, he supports the Tories, not liking Reciprocity, which is Free Trade. He is President of a Textile company by then.

A voting list for the 1904 Canadian Federal Election. Norman kept it so he likely was the invigilator.

A little voting promo. The story of this election is told in Threshold Girl

Monday, April 23, 2012

Warehousing Working Women 1910 Montreal

As I write Diary of a Confirmed Spinster, the follow up to Threshold Girl the free ebook about a college girl, Flora Nicholson in 1911/12, I have decided to have Edith Nicholson, her older sister attend a meeting of social activists as her first sojourn into advocacy work. She will go because her sister Marion is interested. There she will meet Carrie Derick and learn about the Montreal Council of Women.

According to a report in the Montreal Gazette, in November 1910, a handful of people, a few clergyman and some social activist women including Carrie Derick, and, I quote "one or two men" (which one was it?) gathered to discuss the need for a women's hotel, a safe haven for women visitors to stay a day or two and for women workers to live, RESPECTABLY, that would provide a place for the women to socialize on the premises so "they wouldn't have to go out at night."

Someone listed the prominent Montrealers who supported such a hotel, Birks, Reford, the usual suspects.

Dr. Herbert Symonds, an educator, I believe (Marion would eventually teach at a school with that name in NDG and her children would attend it as well)said "The idea is to get a building that is to be a suitable home for at least some of the enormous number of women *probably 50,000,working in the city.

Dr. Paterson Smith added some colourful pulpit style language to the proceedings: "I have spoken to a variety of managers of our employing institutions and they admitted they do not like to say in public what they told me. What some of these girls have to do, and the places they have to live and the sort of future they have to look forward to. It is time that these working women had a place they could live in comfort and peace, earning their living and holding their heads up as decent citizens paying their way."

You see, these men wanted a for profit hotel, so that the girls didn't feel they were relying on charity.

A Mr. Hannah said, "We do not want a hotel with its barroom associations, but a wholesome place where a woman can live with reasonable accomodation and provision for recreation, reading, etc, where working women can live and keep their self respect.

Hmm. They wanted to women be self sufficient, financially, but they didn't want women to be able to choose how they lived their lives.

I think Marion Nicholson would have winced to read this article, despite her aching feet. At 25 she felt it her right to do what she wanted.
(Maybe in my story, Flo in the City, based on the letters of I'll have Marion say:"I wouldn't mind being invited to one of these meetings, but Heaven forbid they actually ask a working woman for her input."  Or maybe I'll have her and Edith attend because Marion wants to ask the panel if this new hotel is going to be just a 'high priced YWCA, but with the same stupid rules. Marion had lived at the Y while attending Normal School and she had detested the rules.)

Yes, Marion wanted a safe place to live where she could relax and be herself and that included going to motion pictures and plays and Vaudeville houses and Dominion Park. That's why in 1913 she started looking for a flat where she could live with Flora, Mae Watters and another friend, a daughter of an MNA) while they all worked as teachers. She landed on one on Hutchison, but it was an ill-fated experiment. At least she tried. (And then she just got married.)

And gee, I just found out why landords wouldn't rent to a group of women. They were held accountable for what went on in their places, and that's why Marion in 1912 had sooooo much trouble getting a flat for herself to share with her sister and friends. That's why she had to promise that her mother was coming to live with them.

Oh, this article has a funny aside: apparently an English woman called Lady Briggs insisted on reading a long paper out to the group. Dr. Symonds tried to silence her, with little success. Then the group attacked her, with only Miss. Derick saying "let the woman speak." She was a stranger to the group, but I looked her up and she was, indeed, an odd fish. The widow of a British Admiral, who had written a book on the Boer War she came to Canada in 1910 to make sure young women were treated right. (British immigrants?) But after this embarrassment she went to NY where she had some success getting into the society pages as a Daughter of the British Empire. Anyway, she'll make a fine comic character in the story Flo in the City, or someone like her.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Teacher's Little Helper

As I was writing  Diary of a Confirmed Spinster, the follow up to Threshold Girl, I sometimes wondered if I was being too harsh on Edith Nicholson, the heroine of  the story,  because I made her an opium addict - of sorts.

My husband's great Aunt Edie was a prim and proper Presbyterian, after all, a tee-totaller, in her youth at least, although she tippled in her old age.

Caught in the Act!  Edith at her great-niece's wedding, 1971. In a 1919 letter home she criticizes Stephen Leacock, who published a letter in the local paper criticizing prohibition. "It takes a woman to know what's right," says Edith, mimicking the Suffrage and Temperance types.

But, then, I have a 1911 Na-Dru-Co Atlas to kind-of prove my point.

Na-Dru-Co was the National Drug Company of Canada and they sent around a thick promotional brochure in 1911 to Canadian homes, the era of both my ebooks.

I found this particular brochure in the Nicholson family trunk, the one with the letters on which I based my ebooks.

Most of the products they are pushing remind me of medicines "Granny Clampett" of the Beverly Hillbillies always talked about, sarsaparilla, or par-ill-eeee as she said.

The cough syrup contains licorice, linseed and chlorodyne. I looked up chlorodyne to see that it contained opium and cannabis. Bull's Eye! Oddly on a testimonials page someone claims they give it to a baby of 8 months. Another person says she knows someone who got cured of a cough and only used one bottle.

Edith had tonnes of colds and she was always on some medicine or other. Everyone was afraid of dying from pneumonia or TB!

And then came the horrible tragedy that took the life of her fiance and the Principal of the School where she worked, who was also a medical doctor, fixed her up with a great deal of  'heart medicine.'

There's a product called Nervozone advertised in this brochure with the following blurb:"In the strenuous rush of commerce, the severe strains of depressing social conditions, overstudy, changes of female life, or impending attacks of disease, the nerves become impaired. Irritability, brain worry, Sleeplessness ensue, accompanied by lack of Energy, Emissions, Impotency, Nervous Dyspepsia, Partial paralysis, palpitations of the heart,incontinence...NA-DRU-CO nervozone is specially prepared to cover all such cases..."

I wonder what this concoction contained?

Another blurb about it in the book says "Teachers and especially women teachers are the most fit subject for rest and vacation than any other workers in the country.  One day of worry in the school room is more trying than  a month of hard labour... The best advice we can give teachers is to keep a box of Nervozone in their desks...Tsk Tsk.

Ironically, in a 1909 letter, Edith says the doctor has told her - once again - to give up tea. LOL

A Life Story in Dollars and Cents.

This is the beginning second chapter of Diary of a Confirmed Spinster, (draft 1). The first rough chapter is HERE. This ebook is the follow up to Threshold Girll

But let's go back to the beginning.But which beginning?  The beginning beginning? The I AM BORN  beginning? To once again invoke  David Copperfield. (You many think that is my favourite novel, but it isn't. Middlemarch is.)

That's easy, I am born January  1884. In a green clapboard rental house in Melbourne Quebec but  10 months after my parents' marriage.

I know because I have been told, I was born on January 2nd. But the real proof resides in my father's Store Books, or Household Accounts, which he kept from before his marriage in 1882 to a month before his death in 1921.

It could be said that the  story of our family is told in these books, the practical side, the earthly side, at the very least.

I am born in early January, 1884 because the store book reads: Inserting baby's birth, on the 7th. 25 cents. Under that Breast Pump 75 cents. Then Breast shield 25 cents. Along with one quart of milk, 5 cents, a loaf of bread, 10 cents. I gallon coal oil, 25. two cords of wood 8.35. 11 lbs of oatmeal, 38 cents. 1 doz herring. 20 cents. 1 1/2 pounds stake (steak) 15 cents. Oh, and rent 25.00 a month. The usual.  On February 19th, a baby cradle  is purchased for 3.00. And some flannel and some cotton for my baby clothes. Oh, and on April 28, baby's pictures, 25 cents. I have officially arrived.

On June 27, 1 baby's carriage 6.37. A year later, baby's first shoes.1.20.  I am now, officially,  a financial burden on my parents. Children's shoes, boots and rubbers (and the mending of same) were  a major expense for my parents all through their child-raising years. No wonder so many poor children must do without.

October 1884, one crib, 2.75 cents. Some wool for Edith, 2 dollars, 60 cents.

In 1886, June, at 2 1/2 a child's broom is purchased, 15 cents, and I begin to pay for my keep. In those days they began early teaching young girls the womanly art of sweeping.

Also purchased that month, too, believe it or not, baby's first book! (We are the Nicholsons, after all.)

50 years of family accounts!

Talk about mixed messages! But might as well start getting used to them, for as a female, I was showered with mixed messages most of my life.

Then it continues, with school fees, 25 cents a month,  and the occasional slate 05 cents. And bottles of cough medicine, 25 cents. (cough medicine had kick in those days.)  And later scribblers,  5 to 7 cents. 10 cents for the skating rink. 05 cents for a soda treat at Sutherland's drug store. Soda pop had kick in those days,too!

And later, I got an allowance of 05 cents a week. I was doing more than sweeping by then. Oddly, my younger brother Herb's allowance is put down as 'wages for Herb.'

I guess boys must be taught the value of labour.

Receipt School feels 1894.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Sopranos (both senses)

A playbill for Sherbrooke's  Clement theatre, for Madame Albani concert, 1905.  The playbill doesn't give date but I have it recorded by Norman in his store book. He gave Edith 2.35 for the concert.

Madame Albani was the Victorian Celine Dion, world famous soprano, in the last decade of her professional life.She was Emma Lajeunesse of Chambly and there's a huge Wikipedia entry on her.

In my book, Diary of a Confirmed Spinster, the follow up to THRESHOLDGIRL I think I will have Edith mention the concert. It would have been a big event.

I tried to find a report on Albani's world tour in the Montreal Gazette, but to no avail. I did find an awful lot of booze ads. No wonder The Gazette was not exactly for women's suffrage.

I even found this ad for Radnor, which plays into my Milk and Water story, about 1927 Montreal and Corruption at City Hall.

Radnor was official supplier to the British Royals. Laurentian was not. In this same edition an advert proclaims that Laurentian is now supplier to the Allan Line. (Sir Montague Allan.. oh my! This is important to my play as I mention the guy. I saw the Prince of Wales is supping at Ravenscrag, Allan's home that became the Allan Memorial Hospital, where those horrible CIA experiments took place post WWII)

It also plays into Threshold Girl. In 1911 Flora Nicholson, my heroine, has  a crush on one Ross Cleveland, who went on to marry the niece of Sir Montague.

And that same March edition has an advert for SN Townsend, for booze, they are also mentioned in Milk and Water. They made a fortune in one year during American Prohibition.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Push Pull of Biology and Ambition 1910 era

Coats from Eaton's Catalogue, winter 1913-14, range 12.00 to 25.00. Mid range. The catalogue opens with glamour coats, fur coats worth 80 dollars or more, muskrat, seal and the most expensive, persian lamb.. There are also some coats for 10.00 and 5.00. In the 16.oo range, cheviot, vicuna, or, a bit more expensive, wool.

Following is an 'edited' letter from late 1912. Margaret Nicholson is visiting her girls in Montreal. You see, Marion, her gung-ho daughter, has taken the brave step of finding a flat for herself and her sister and two friends, all teachers, very bold of her. But it's near impossible in 1913 for working girls (sic) to  keep a flat and a job. So Mom has to come to help. (Besides, without Mom there, people are very suspicious.

My Threshold Girl story (on free ebook) tells the story of Flora Nicholson's year at Macdonald Teachers College 1911/1912. I am writing the follow up, Diary of a Confirmed Spinster, about sister Edith's life in the era, where she loses her great love in a Cornwall hotel fire. I end in August 1912, in Boston, where she is on a trip with sister Marion. Edith has no prospects, for she has quit her teaching job in May. Marion's story, Biology and Ambition, the third book in the digital trilogy, will tell about her life between May 1911 to May 1913, the two years she is courted by Hugh Blair, while working as a teacher in Little Burgundy.  Despite her huge ambitions, she ends up giving up teaching to marry Hugh. This letter suggests some reasons why.

2401 Hutchison

November 11, 1912

Dear Norman,

You see by the heading that I am still in the city.

Marion and Flora won't hear to me going home and E writes for me to stay as she is getting on all right - has one of the Pepplers when she stays in the house. I will not stay more than another week. I do wish Edith was here and that we could be together for the winter as they ought to have someone here. Your letter did not reach me until Friday pm, as Edith sent it--so I felt a little worried as I always got them Thursday.

I am so sorry about your coat. I gave the right add to Lann McMorine. You better make some enquiries there about it. Might be at Cochrane.

Edith writes that Mr. Dyson said he bought thirty cords of wood and would supply our winter's wood and would bring a cord any time and to let him know so don't worry any more about wood. She also sent me notice that taxes were due.

Now I am very sorry that Herb seems to be so careless, debt seems to be no worry to him. I hope you have just let him know how hard it is for you to be away from your family and that he might try and do better. He has not written me for several weeks . I really cannot understand how he can do it.

Well, the weeks are going by and Xmas will soon be here I don't know what the girls can do with the flat; or if they will be able to get someone to keep fires if they want to go home. They will have two weeks holidays. They were talking it over but said they would decide when you came. The weather has been quite nice since I came in here.

I have not bought a coat. Takes more than I had. Marion got a long navy blue one that will be very comfortable this winter. Paid 16.50 and Flora got a brown the same price. They really needed them.

I have not gone anywhere not been up to Cleveland's yet. I have been having trouble with my teeth and as Marion was having work done at Cleveland's Friday, I had him look at mine. He said he would do an hours work for me Monday so I am to go at three o'clock, Too bad yours are giving you trouble. I think it is caused from cold, my front teeth at least one of them felt loose, but he said he did not think it was but found cavities in others. M. had five filled.

Marion said she was going to write you and tell you about Mr. Hugh Blair. He seems very nice. Went home Saturday to Three Rivers. There are a good many things that he can do such as fixing window blinds, but Marion won't let me ask him much. We are trying to put the double windows on here. I want to see them on before I go, although so far they are not needed.

I don't think there is any danger of them getting behind: the four girls pay 25 dollars each. They would rather do it than board. They say it amounted to about that at Mrs. Ellis's.

Now don't worry about Herb. We cannot help it now. If the work stops there you must just take a trip out west. See why he does not at least keep himself. He must know that Marion paid Aunt Han's note. He never wrote her or mentioned it to me. Write when you get this and add to Richmond.

They say I will be here two weeks more but I don't like to leave Edith alone . She said she would go to Kingsbury for a visit but she thought it was too cold and just stayed at home.

Your loving Wife


Flora is always saying she is going to write but there is so much going on they don't have time and when I write often they think I tell all.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Double Standard 1910, criminality and self-control

Here's a snippet from a book on the trendy topic of eugenics, written in 1910. I got if off There are two such books listed there from 1910. Trendy, you see.

Preceding this paragraph was information about how scientists at esteemed institutions, like John Hopkins, were exploring eugenics with an eye to curing 'insanity.'

This paragraph is about the lesser diseases associated with eugenics.

Criminality and pauperism being two of them. Hmm. Mongrelization. Double Hmm. (This was the age of Purity.) Marion Nicholson in 1911 is being wooed by a Mr. Blair, respectable Presbyterian Scot, who happens to have  a Cree grandmother. Did he tell her? Not likely, for the family just learned that out lately. But to look at him and his brothers in 1900 era pics, it seems obvious.

Edith Flo Hugh Blair  and Norm. The Mcleods  were from Isle of Lewis stock, a group of people who remained genetically similar to their Norse antecedents who landed in the Hebrides 800 years before. (I've read.) And they were remarkably free of disease, until they all came to the New World. (So I've also read.) The Nicholsons were originally from Skye. I married my husband for his beautiful bronze tan... one reason anyway.

Now, for my story Diary of a Confirmed Spinster, the follow up toThreshold Girl, I will have my protagonist, Edith Nicholson, discuss the issue with a doctor relation, because  she has learned about it from Miss Carrie Derick, suffragist, of the Montreal Council of Women.

The irony is: Edith's brother, Herbert Nicholson, was sent out west in 1910, because he stole 60 dollars from the bank where he worked. His parents had influential connections, so he was never charged with anything, just fired. His parents actually petitioned their MP to help him get his job back!

Herb had a bit of a criminal nature, if ripping off poor farmers out West is considered criminal. He thought of it as good business.

Now, Edith, as a teacher at a missionary school probably didn't agree. Also as a good Presbyterian she had always been taught that 'self control' was a virtue and that the criminal was merely someone without self control. (Perhaps self control is inherited? The Presbyterians thought darker skinned people had less self-control. Catholics too. Edith taught at a Missionary School where Catholic children were being taught, among other things,  to stay quiet on Sundays.)

As it happens, her fiance dies in a hotel fire in 1910, in Cornwall. I don't know, but for the purposes of my book I am making it a murder. (It could have been.)  He has gotten involved in the opium trade to make enough money to marry Edith.  (He could have. He went to Mexico in 1909, where it is legal.) Her fiance, Charlie was a bank clerk like Herb. He didn't have enough money to marry Edith. Edith understood how little these men made.

Frank McCrae Norman

August 11, 1910

Frank N. McRae,

Dealer in LUMBER of all kinds,

N Nicholson Esq


Dear Sir,

I have again seen Mr. McKinnon re Reinstating your son and I am sorry to say do not think anything can be done. He says that this above all rules, is one that cannot be broken without the offender being discharged from the service. I told him that your son claimed that whilst it was true that he had taken the 60 dollars it was also true he had put in his check for the amount. Mr. MacKinnon took the matter up with his lawyer and the manager and the enclosed is his report on same which is not favourable and so lessens the chances for being taken back,

Yours Truly,
F. McRae

Haddie, Bananas and Opium: eating 1900.

 Direct mail advertisement Crisco 1916.

Well, back in 2003, the first item I pulled from the old Victorian trunk that contained The Nicholson Family Letters was this Direct Mail Ad, from 1916, addressed to Mrs. N. Nicholson.

Lucky I did, because it piqued my curiosity. I could see it was an interesting item, pretending to be a friendly letter from the neighbourhood grocery, but really part of a slick  advertising campaign. Lots of North American women got this very ad, I'm sure. Hundreds of thousands, perhaps.

It came out of Chicago.

I did some research and decided it was likely an early campaign of female advertising legend Helen Landsdowne Resor of J. Walter Thompson. Apparently her signature style was to appeal directly to the homemaker with a three paneled brochure with a coupon. This Crisco ad fit the bill.

But today I read the small print that said Copyright J T N Mitchell Chicago. Another advertising man.

It is possible that Resor did this, before she was hired by J. Walter Thompson. She would have been a Landsdowne then.

Her Wikipedia entry says that the New York Daily News did a profile of her, as a top  advertiser, but all I can find are wedding and death notices.

Well, I'm glad I found it first. The trunk was under a shelf, so I could only open it a few inches and stick my hand in.

Yesterday, I went over the Nicholson house accounts, 1883-1921, for my book Diary of a Confirmed Spinster, the follow up to Threshold Girl. I am writing a digital trilogy about Margaret's three daughters, all 'new women' of the era.

Margaret did not change over to Crisco, I have her 1917 butter bill.

What struck me this time, was that the Nicholsons ate very well, even when struggling financially. Beef, pork, chicken (a relative luxury) turkey, lamb, canned cod and salmon, fresh fish earlier on. Lots of Haddie (haddock) a national dish. Oatmeal, oatmeal, oatmeal and I bet it tasted WAY better than the 1 minute crap we buy today. They seemed to sweeten more with molasses and honey than refined sugar. And all that opium in their sodas. Yum!

Pears, apples, bananas! (yes) and all kinds of  berries in season. Fresh veggies from the garden. And Margaret was a master baker, like so many of the Scots. (Now, their garden was not organic; they used  the Paris Green a lot. (It's in my Threshold Girl book.)

In 1908 some local cows trampled their garden and Norman wanted to sue if the damage was over 2.00.

My gosh, everything must have tasted so good. All slow cooked in the wood oven.

When the girls were living in the city, they were always pleased when Mom sent in a "Care Package." They were all becoming de-skilled, and their own daughters would feed their kids canned garbage in the sixties.

I once heard Jamie Oliver say, on the BBC, that the middle class, today, never had it so good, with respect to food. (And the poor are worse off.) He's wrong with respect to the middle class in towns at the turn of the last century. They may not have had the selection of foods, like we have today, but the quality was amazing no doubt.

The back of Tighsolas in Richmond, Quebec, where the garden would have been.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Oil Boom 2012, Wheat Boom 1912 Canada. More of the Same?

Refinery on Montreal's riverbank. 1912. These giant buildings were looming large over the landscape, literally and politically.

Today the Canadian West has oil and they are selling that oil in crude form directly to the US and China (or wanting to) - instead of refining it in the East. Hence we Easterners, indeed all Canadians, pay a fortune for gasoline - and also food and everything else  arising out of high food prices. It seems to make no sense.

A hundred years ago, in 1912, it was all about Wheat.

It was the Wheat Boom Era, after all. Canada was suddenly growing a lot of it and they wanted to profit, but how? They were building giant refineries in Montreal and adding more and more railway lines from West to East, but lots of grain still ended up rotting in the silos.

Herbert Nicholson, 26, wrote a lot about wheat and farming from his vantage point, as a  salesman for Massey Harris out West. Whether he knew what he was talking about was another thing. All I know, is that Margaret Nicholson, his mother, had to pay a lot for flour for her baking, 5 dollars a barrel. (Records for 1883, when Margaret married, reveal that they paid 1.50 for two bushels of flour, but that couldn't have been wheat flour, could it? There was little inflation between 1883 and 1910. In those early days, Canadian wheat was grown mostly in Ontario. But then they discovered  a new hardy type, Marquis.)

You can read about the Wheat Boom on my website Tighsolas.

I've been reading a lot about hundred years ago in Canada as I write my digital trilogy about  three Canadian women in the 1910 era. As I write Diary of a Confirmed Spinster, the follow up to Threshold Girl, already published online, I have come upon more info about the Wheat Boom as it influenced the 1911 Free Trade election.  It's from an article from a Boston Newspaper, (the Evening Transcript, a defunct elitest? paper,  that covered only tennis, sailing, and lawn bowling, etc on the sports page that had a genealogy column) on August 14, 1912. Edith and Marion Nicholson were visiting in Boston at that time.

If they saw this article, they certainly would have paid attention. They were a political family. That is unless they were having too much fun going to Fenway Park and Norumbega Park with their cousin Henry.

The article, called Our Up and Coming Neighbour: Canada claims that Westerners are furious with Ontario for making Laurier lose the Free Trade Election.  Westerners want to sell their wheat, tariff free to the States and Ontario is afraid they'll be forced to lower to erase tarifs on their manufacturing products. (In Threshold Girl, I write about this. A leading Richmond Citizen, J. N. Greenshields, is supporting a Conservative Candidate in Richmond Wolfe, for he is President of a cotton mill.)

Premier Borden was in London in 1912. Some suffragettes met up with him and he passed the buck on  the subject of woman suffrage by saying it was a provincial domain.

Our Up and Coming Neighbour:

by E.W. Thomson. I'll capture and paste some pics of the article as I have a sore arm.

Herbert's letters suggest that Westerners were Conservative in their voting habits, so I don't quite understand. Anyway.

Herbert Nicholson's July 1911 letter from Saskatchewan.(Ironically, he tried to get the Nicholsons to invest in oil in 1910, but they saw the automobile as a mere fad. And they had no money.

Herb to Norman
Qu'appelle Sask. July 29, 1911

Dear Father,

Your letter of the 19th arrived two or three days ago and was glad to hear from you. We are not very busy in the office just at present so think I had better answer you now as later on I am to be in charge again while our manager relieves our Wolsley Branch in the absence of its Manager and I will of course have plenty to look after. I would like if they would make me Manager of some of their Branches as I feel that I could handle one. Suppose it may come if I can only wait, seems a long time thought. 

You asked about the crops in my opinion well, I never saw anything that looked nearly as fine but as it has rained almost every day for the last two months and is at it again today the grain has kept growing all the time instead of heading out and at present there is only parts here and there that are properly headed which means of course that unless we get some dry hot weather at once there will not be time before the frost arrives in the fall for it to mature. The farmers were all smiling for a long time but are now beginning to look less hopeful. We have not had a bit of warm weather that you could speak about or that the papers report then having farther east. 

Have done considerable automobiling all summer and we have only had one night that you could feel comfortable without an overcoat.

I do not think or rather do not know what to think about an early general election. Do not think it is or should be necessary to appeal to the country on the question of Reciprocity. It seems to me that the representatives now in parliament are sent there just for this purpose and that is more in my opinion this class of men are far more able to deal with a question like this sort than about seventy five percent who vote. Would like to see the thing passed myself and think it will. 

There is a lot of opposition here of course drawn principally from party feelings, this being a conservative stronghold. Lake, the man who we heard so much about in the East, is the member and will I think be elected quite easily. There is some talk in the papers of Sir Walter Scott the Provincial Premier running against Lake, also Judge Brown, Dr. Moffatt's friend who came from Huntington originally, resigning from the bench to contest this riding but I do not think either would have much show. Lake did not have a large majority by any means at the last election but Scott does not seem to be very popular and the other man is not well enough known, was practising law in a small Western Town called Mossimin until only a few years ago when he got the appointment of Judge for that district. 

Now I wish you would not apologize for advising me as I know that you have had far more experience than I have and what is more you never advised me very wrong yet and wish you would remember that I will always be glad to have your advice any time. 

You asked me if I thought the chances for making money were any better out here than in the east. I think they are but the the 'get rich quick period' has past in any part of the west that I have seen except for the man with money and the man with money can make it other places just as well. Now I would rather buy real estate in Montreal than Winnipeg. May not be able turn it over quite as quickly but you are always sure of being able to get your money any time you want it. 

Our Manager here is an Englishman and although I am not just exactly struck on him, I can't say that I dislike him and he uses me very well. Marion will certainly have a fine salary next season. Edith has had some fine rides with the Skinners according to the cards she has sent me. I am going to write to Mother today. 

Hope Flora passed her Exams, (read about it in Threshold Girl.)

Well, think I will have to stop this time. Hope this will find you feeling as well as you look in the snap you enclose. I showed it to a man in town here and he said I should be ashamed to be so homely when I had such a good looking father. Let me know when you are writing again if you had an extra one to send to mother and if not I will send this along for her inspection. 

 Glad you have a good chief and hope as you do that you will have him as you have to work for these people.

Your son,


Monday, April 16, 2012

Red Sox and Eugenics and Canada as World Power 1912

Well,  a final piece to the puzzle that will be my ebook Diary of a Confirmed Spinster, the follow up to Threshold Girl - about a college girl in 1911/12, the Titanic Era.

Threshold Girl tells the story of Flora Nicholson, of Richmond Quebec and her year at Macdonald Teachers College and Diary of a Confirmed Spinster will tell the story of her older sister, Edith, already a teacher in Montreal, who loses her 'great love' in 1910 an infamous hotel fire in Cornwall. The two stories overlap - and there`s the trick.

As it happens, Edith and Marion Nicholson, both older sisters of Flora, visit cousin Henry Watters in Newton Center Massachusetts in August 1912.

They visit Norumbega Park and go to a ball game on August 14. I found an ad for the same ball game in a now defunct Boston newspaper, placed under an ad for a Burlesque House.

Baseball wasn't classy in 1910! Indeed, this newspaper,the Evening Transcript doesn't cover the games. The sports page has news about tennis, sailing and even lawn bowling.

Now this April 14 newspaper is a real find for me. Because within its pages is a long article on a eugenics conference in London England.

Henry`s House, I think so. Today.

At the end of Threshold Girl I have Edith take Flora to a suffragette meeting in Montreal, where Carrie Derick, suffragist and biologist, is presiding. It's a meeting of the Montreal Council of Women.

Edith points Derick out and tells Flora "She has many strange ideas."

You see, Derick, a botanist, was a supporter of the eugenics movement.

So, here I can have Edith read the article and then ask her cousin, Dr. Henry Watters, his opinion.

It's a great article. Ironically, it begins by saying that the most vocal opponents of this new fad, eugenics, are the Germans.  The Americans aren't too keen either, (although their President was all for it, I believe.) Anyway there is some wonderfully weird stuff in this article, some of it pertinent to today, I mean with respect to how people view  scientific inquiry. (We have NOT come a long way, Baby!)

And better, right beside it an article about Canada: Our Up and Coming Neighbour: How Canada is Becoming a World Power. (Yea, right.)

The same edition has an advertisement for prime real estate in Montreal, on Ste. Catherine. So it is clear, the border is not as defined as it is today. The Nicholsons had many Massachusetts relations.

The reason the US is more skeptical about the eugenics movement, it is claimed, is because Americans marry for love, while Britons still marry for money and status. (The story of the Nicholson women (a true story based on real letters) reveals that money played a  BIG part in all middle class marriages. In fact, money and marriage is a key theme in my Spinster Story, for Edith`s beau is murdered trying to make enough money to marry her.

All so weird. Henry, if he likes baseball, wasn`t for eugenics. (or at least he won`t be for the purposes of my story).

Hmm. I will have to place them in a box seat though. I can`t imagine Edith sitting with the mob.

Funny, back then (and through the century) poor people went to baseball games. Now only the wealthy can afford to go and pay 10.00 for a hot dog, etc.)

It`s been years since I went to a game. To see the Expos, in the late 80`s I think. The roof was up and we were boiling. I had kids then and it cost a fortune, all the drinks. As a teen I went to Jarry Park and spent about 2.00 max!

I think I will have Edith ask Henry how much baseball players earn. He`will say Ì think they work for the  beer.

Now, I MUST get to writing the new outline of Diary of a Confirmed Spinster.  I still want the book to end when Edith faints in front of a painting of a woman breastfeeding mumbling to herself, I will never marry. I will never have children.

And that takes place on May 6, 1910, the day King Edward dies, (I think) so I am going to go back and forth in time.
Maternity, Mary Riter Hamilton. On exhibit in Montreal in 1912, but I`m making it 1910.

Edith sees the Red Sox in 1912

Dr.Henry Watters? Boston Doctor and Cousin to the Nicholsons of Richmond. (I'm not sure,but I did see a picture of him in an obit from Boston,photocopy of a microfilm and seems the same man.)

Well, as I write Diary of a Confirmed Spinster - the follow up to Threshold Girl (the first and second stories in my digital trilogy about  3 real life Canadian women during the Titanic Era, I have to wonder if I am to stop at June 1912, as I did with Flora's story- or go to August.

In August Edith and sister Marion visited their cousin Henry in Boston. It was clear from the letters, people were trying to fix Marion up with a guy from Boston (a Chester Coy who went nuts after the War)but nothing is mentioned about Edith.

So she is a confirmed Spinster by then, I guess. I'll make her so. Diary of a Confirmed Spinster is about the loss of  Edith's fiance in a Cornwall Fire in 1910 and her awakening as a suffragette sympathizer.

In Boston, she wrote a letter back to her Mom saying Henry took them to Norumbega Park and that on August 14th they were going to Boston in the Morning. (They were in Newton Center) and a Ball GAME IN the afternoon.

Well, I just discovered, the Fenway Park was opened one hundred years ago on April 20, 1912.

I checked. They played the St Louis Browns and the Red Sox won 8-2. A rookie pitcher, Buddy Napier, made his major league debut in that game for the Browns.

I bet I could find our more about the game. I could go the news archives..(TIME PASSING)

No problem. Baseball is a great game. You can find out exactly what happened through the stats! It was a double header. I think I will have them see one game only. (I should find stuff about this anniversary; surely they'll describe Boston back then. Chester will come along, and awkwardly court Marion, who is already in love with Mr.Blair back home. Edith will enigmatically remark that Henry isn't the marrying kind.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Titanic Miniseries and Fashionable Hats

Colette in her cutting edge fashion hat from Marie Claire Magazine 1937.

My husband and I watched the new 2012 Titanic miniseries last night,well, the first two episodes, anyway. 

It was on the History Channel (in Canada) and that channel had just played a programme with 'new evidence' about the Titanic's sinking (due to mirage/glare, a researcher says) which clashed with some of the old theories put forth in the mini-series.

But this Titanic miniseries was just Upstairs Downstairs on a big boat, a soap opera, so it didn't matter. Julian Fellowes of Downtown Abbey fame penned this miniseries, which has a kind of Groundhog Day style of plot development, so the first episode seems weird. 

Anyway, he clearly had lots of money so the hats were right on, with the first class women wearing Huge Merry Widow style hats and the French mistress of one rich guy wearing a smaller style more like Colette's up there. 

(In 1912, Coco Chanel was making her smaller hats for her boyfriend's rich friends.)

Gee, you have to wonder if people are going to get tired of 1912, just I get my story Threshold Girl up on the Internet (it's a free ebook) and I start writing the follow up Diary of a Confirmed Spinster.

But my story is about the middle class in Canada, and even though it has suffragettes, I'm going to paint a more complex picture of the movement, from a Canadian Point of View. 

This 2012 Titanic miniseries starts with a rich girl being released from jail for breaking windows or something with the suffragettes. (Played by Perdita Weeks, the girl who played Lydia in Lost in Austen but super thin now.) Yesterday I posted a first person testimony from the WSPU magazine,  suggesting something just like that happened. In April 1912.

Anyway, the science documentary Titanic: Case Closed featuring Tim Maltin's theory (he apparently has an ebook or e-book out called "A Very Deceiving Night").. supplied the new evidence that centers around the icebergs in Labrador in 1912. As it happens I've already posted an article from the Canadian Magazine, published in April 1912!  about those very icebergs. They were so numerous and splendiferous,they were almost becoming a tourist attraction. Hmm. Although the article was called Iceberg: Floating Menace.

Ironic, the date of that article. The History Channel Documentary revealed that the ocean liners of the time ran a gauntlet of icebergs, but it was especially bad in 1912.

It was interesting, but I thought there were some contradictions in Maltin's theory or his presentation of same.. He goes to Hamburg to look at old boat logs from Germany. He says they've never been looked at before. That's why it took until the  80's to find Titanic's ruins. But, a German boat that sailed shortly after Titanic apparently ran into debris and floating bodies. So the Germans knew where the boat was (around anyway) but never told because war broke out? Please explain. This documentary then recites the testimony of someone on that very German boat that clearly was published somewhere else a long time ago. Case not closed?

Anyway, this same Titanic investigator says the Titanic was very well built and very manoeverable for its size.

That contradicts James Cameron who supplied an interesting and daunting metaphor on a Titanic program aired just previous: that the Titanic is like modern man, powering along in one direction, but about to crash, (Global warming) because it is too big can't turn fast enough, and no one is paying attention,or the wrong people are at the helm of the world, ie industrialists.

I guess the irony is icebergs play a  big part in this 2012 tragedy in the making.

Anyway, back to the Titanic Miniseries, I see that Julian Fellowes name isn't on the IMDB entry for the series. Hmm.

Anyway, this Titanic miniseries shows why Cameron's Titanic movie worked. It had a simple plot! I'll still watch the other two episodes.

I found one of the miniseries' subplots especially perplexing, a French mistress is snubbed by an upper class woman. I mean from what I've read of the era, the Upper Classes were all fooling around. It was what they did. Prudery was a middle class thing. Alas! (You just have to read the Nicholson Letters, upon which I based Threshold Girl.)

I noticed a while back that for the upcoming movie Gambit, Colin Firth isn't listed as a star on IMDB.

Alan Rickman is. And yet in all the publicity around the shooting of Gambit, Colin Firth was showcased.

Speaking of Gambit, I watched Get Carter on Turner Classics last week. I recorded it thinking it was an In Like Flint movie, but it's about a hood and pretty gritty, even for today. Not my kind of movie. But I stayed with it, as it is stylish and Michael Caine is terrific. He was very good looking, wasn't he? Never really thought about it. I was 13 in 1968 and David McCallum was more my type :)

And then I watched a bit of Withnail and I, liked it and saved it for Saturday (Titanic Night) with my husband - but my husband doesn't get British comedy. That's why we watched Titanic the miniseries, although my husband doesn't get period pieces either.

I said "Wait a while and there'll be some pretty naked people" just like your Throne of Kings. (I knew it wasn't gonna happen, though.) He said "Game of Thrones, not Throne of Kings."

Marion Nicholson of Threshold Girl in her big hat, circa 1912. A detail of  a picture.  May be the Charles River, Boston. A hat like that could capsize a boat.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

To the Brave Women Who Today...

Suffragettes, 1912, from Pankhurst's 1913 autobiography.

As I write Diary of A Confirmed Spinster, the follow up to Threshold Girl (a free ebook about a college girl in 1911/12, the Titanic era) I am reading Votes for Women, the magazine of the Women's Social and  Political Union, or WSPU, and one issue in particular, the issue for April 19, 1912, published a few days after the Titanic sank.

I will have this issue drop into Edith Nicholson's hands, and that will partly explain why she takes Flora to a suffrage meeting in early May 1912. It's described in Threshold Girl.

This issue is perfect for my needs. It has an article on Teachers and Suffrage and a letter to the editor from an Alberta Minister, defending St. Paul - but in a pro-suffrage way.

And it also has some first hand accounts of the Suffragettes being Tortured in Jail... for breaking windows and going on a hunger strike.

In May 1912, Edith is also organizing her fellow teachers at Westmount Methodist, in a mass strike - or exodus. This following article will be her inspiration.I'm going to have her read it out to her fellow teachers. (I have written a play about my grandmother's trials as a Prison of War in Changi Prison during WWII. She was tortured in an infamous incident called the Double Tenth. All true, she wrote it in a diary.Looking for Mrs. Peel. I wonder if reading accounts like this, as a teenage girl, inspired. But she did not believe in female solidarity, as her prison diary shows.

Here's the testimony of one Dr. Ede. Just like in Changi, doctors were given special status.

I was put straight into a ‘room’ which remained mine thenceforward. This room had a many-paned iron-framed window, and four panes open, given about eight inches by eight inches for ventilation. These cells are a little larger, and much superior to those in Holloway, where I had just previously been roomed for twelve days.  Arriving late, most formalities were left till next day, when the doctor listened to my chest (with my consent0 and the Governor told me that we were just ordinary prisoners, without the privilege under Rule 243a (Mr. Winston Churchill’s vaunted clemency), but we were allowed to wear our own clothes. The pillow I had brought (a most essential comfort, not a mere luxury) was taken away, all books, knitting, even one’s brush and comb and many small possessions we taken and I began ‘to do time.’

But I was thankful for the sight of real country, fields and looked out of the window, the fresh country air which we all revelled in at exercise time and the songs of the birds.
The food was ample in quantity, and the vegetarian diet, which I had, was in quality and variety sufficient, though not quite satisfactory for a healthy person. Whether I should have said the same after four months, I do not know. 

We ten exercised by ourselves at first, but were soon allowed exercise in common with those who had arrived before and came in after us. Chapel was also common ground. Associated labour was deferred for several days till we had settled in and knew better what was allowed and what forbidden. Then it was for two hours every afternoon. We did coarse needlework, each in her cell, in the mornings after chapel and exercise. During this time our doors stood open and the Governor and Doctor went their rounds. Once or twice a week a Lady Visitor paid us a very welcome short visit, and once to local Justices came and asked if we had complaints to make. They were not red-tape officials, but seemed quite human.

We all, I believe, sent up the formal humble petition for the privileges Mr. Winston Churchill had given and Mr. McKenna had withdrawn, but the earlier arrivals had done this without success and we did not get an answer up to the time we were released.

After allowing the Home Secretary a week and carefully deliberately discussing matters, twenty five out of the twenty eight suffragette prisoners decided to begin a Hunger Strike as a means of getting these privileges. Thursday’s supper was to be the last meal:

With Good Friday we began. We had thought out how to keep it quiet for a few days , and about the usual amount of waste bread, fragments and so forth appeared on our plates which we always washed ourselves.  We drank an amount of water that might have drawn attention, but apparently it did not. Chapel, exercise work, associated labour, all went as usual. We showed cheerful faces, hid up the pangs of hunger, endured sleepless nights, various forms of pain, and we shrank daily visibly in face and body. It was curious to note the marked contrast in the step of one (for adequate reasons) was not striking, and any of us walking with her. The spring was quite gone out of our step. Our clothes became loos, then began to slip down around us. Still nothing seemed to be noticed by the Governor or the Doctor in her daily rounds. We expected the weakest to faint in chapel, but though the Chaplain, as it happened, hold forth on the duty as well as the pleasure of man that it is to protect women, he also seemed oblivious of what was going on.

On Easter Monday, I thought matters had become so serious that  with some of us it was medically wrong to allow it to go on unobserved. Several had become so utterly exhausted that I feared grave permanent injury and their condition at this time would have, in my opinion, justified anyone in asserting that their offence had been dearly paid for. However, there seems to be absolutely no bottom to the supply of courage and endurance in our women, and they refused consent. I had often admired the pluck of our members, but I now saw such heroism in frail and tottering bodies, such forgetfulness of self in the interests of the Cause, as amazed me once more. Next morning I took the responsibility of telling the Governor and we were thenceforward confined each to her cell and kept strictly apart, chapel and exercise being stopped. Those who had not struck, and one or two who absolutely could not keep on any longer, were exercised together. The relief of having  these trying meals off our hands was great, and the feeling that we need no longer keep up.

But when Tuesday’s dinner had been refused by us, and the tea, we became anxious as to what the next step would be, and when it would be taken. About five o’clock we began to hear sounds of struggling in cell after cell, pleadings and remonstrances, sounds of choking and gasping, moans and distressful cries. I have never head, in all my professional experience, anything so agonising. And we had to hear this, recognising which our comrades was being tortured and waiting for our own turn to come. Let no one pretend that to be fed forcibly is either safe or free from suffering; it is neither, and it is inexpressibly revolting. Many were fed by tube through the nose and one at least by tube through the mouth, and others by feeding cup forced between teeth , the mouth pulled about, the nose held nearly to suffocation.

The Suffragettes throw Flour at Asquith's car

My turn came. Some half dozen wardresses, in a body, came quickly into my cell. But I had thought out how best to resist, and I was standing on a table with my arms out of two upon panes, elbows bent and hands well up the sleeves of my coat. I refused to come down so a wardress on each side of me tried through the other two open panes to get at my hands. The small openings made this impossible and they had to give it up, and went away. I remained on my table, for a frequent eye at the spy slit in the door shoed that once I drew in my arms, I was done for. I had put a strap round my body and up both sleeves, buckling it outside the window, and I got some rest by leaning back on it. After two hours of this they came in again, tried as before, in vain, and said men were coming with ladders to undo my hands from outside. 

My cell was on the first floor. Two men and two ladders appeared, my sleeves were with difficulty pushed up so that my wrists could be grasped, the strap was cut and I was seized, lifted down into a chair , bound down with towels and a sheet and firmly held. I then saw the Governor and the doctor waiting to feed me. I was by this time gasping deeply for breath and was allowed a minute in which to recover it and then, refusing to accept food from a cup, I had the rubber tube passed through my nose and on and on until the loathing and feeling of insult injury and foul wrong was inexpressible. 

When it was over, withdrawal of the tube was nearly as distressing, and one felt as if a bruised and degraded body had been in the hands of fiends. I do not think the wardresses had used unreasonable force, and one even pitied them for having to do such hateful work. But one could not feel that a man who could inflict such horrible cruelty at the bidding of any human authority, our offence being merely that we claimed our political rights, must be wholly blind to divine law and justice. Indeed, I could not help asking the doctor, “Are the thirty pieces of silver worth it?”

I was very sore in mind and body next morning and for reasons not told me, the tube was not used on me again, but wardresses tried their best, morning and evening, to force food down from a feeding cup. I think they got down about a tablespoonful in an hour, and they were nearly as tired as I was.
On Wednesday evening a special Medical Inspector of Prisons came round to five of us; asked questions and made observations. After his visit, all water was taken away from our cells and a mug of milk left instead, fresh means of breaking down the strike, for we were very thirsty. The milk went promptly out of the window, and I heard a voice say, “This is the last straw.”
After this they may grind me to powder and I won’t give in. “ In the morning, we had access to water as usual.

On Thursday afternoon, ostensibly for reasons of health, five of us were sent out of the prison. How were the five selected? Two were really seriously ill, but it struck me as remarkable that the other three were sound, strong, medical women, who of course, knew too much and were too determined for easy victimization.

A woman about shoe identity and relationships they had shown themselves puzzled and curious- neither of those having reached the limits of their strength, and a nurse.

There were others in greater need of release, in my opinion.

And the whole of this suffering could have been stopped instantly by restoring to use the privileges under Rule 243a, and giving us the status of political prisoners instead of that of ordinary criminals.

Frances Edes M.D.