Thursday, May 31, 2012

Act Locally....

My precious Whole Foods double reinforced FREE paper bag:a memento from my trip to  San Francisco in February.

Ironically, SF is where a group of school kids decided to save the environment by  reducing the amount of plastic grocery bags and now most grocers (not Whole Foods) charge for plastic bags, which I find TOTALLY ridiculous, considering the way the amount of packaging on groceries has risen exponentially over the decade. Now they wrap each band aid in plastic, so you ruin ten trying to open one. (Not to mention individually wrapped thin sliced process cheese: 100 percent plastic product?) How does that help the environment? Paper is best I think.

Anyway, most days, while waiting for the News I catch the end of some lifestyle show, with the two Oprah guys. I paid attention to one bit because it featured a woman talking about collectible purses. I like purses, or the idea of same.

I thought she was talking vintage, a la Chanel from 1930's, but no, she was talking NEW purses, as in some fancy 4,000 dollar purse you buy and then keep in the box with price tag, so it becomes collectible. How decadent!

They breezed through a few examples (promoting these brands of course because these tv shows are all about selling stuff) and then walked over to a table with bottles of water. "Water is the new oil," said the woman expert.  Now, THAT caught my attention!

I've written Milk and Water about Montreal City Hall Corruption in 1927, but the eplay is also about water, or more precisely, the human right to fresh clean water.

The play has a discussion between my grandfather, Jules Crepeau, Director of City Services in Montreal in the era and my husband's grandfather, Thomas Wells, President of Laurentian Spring Water.

Montreal had the first bottled water company in North America, and it managed to get going because Montreal also had the reputation for having the worst water in North America, despite being an island in the St. Lawrence.

Almost every woman friend I have proselytizes about the necessity of drinking lots and lots of water. They all carry around water bottles. I don't like bottle water, I can taste the plastic and I don't like having to pee all the time (especially in public bathrooms where many women think it's cool to urinate all over the seat, so as to keep their precious bums free of germs.)

I say, "Gee, I never heard about this need to drink and drink water, until they started selling it!"

It may be the advertising writer in me, but I think it's all bullshit. (Of course, I go on and on about the importance of taking omega-3's and sea weed.) Giant islands the size of Madagascar of these bottles are now floating around the oceans. Whenever a cashier wants to charge me for a plastic bag, which I re-use to pick up dog poop (another counter-intuitive practice, environmentally speaking) I want to ask, "BUT you still sell bottled water. Why, if you are so concerned about the planet's health?"

There's so much out there that is BULL HONKEY around health, human health, environmental health.

Take recycling. In my town, all you do is put everything in a blue plastic container and they pick it up. This makes no sense to me. Cat food mixed with paper mixed with margarine. Yuk!

In my sister in law's community, in rural Ontario, her community sends out pages of explicit instructions with respect to recycling. Underlined, in large letters is a statement. "If you don't clean out  bottles and cans and containers, WE MUST PUT IT IN THE LANDFILL." Proving my point, I think.

Of course, washing out every can, bottle and container and removing the label makes no sense either and not only because it takes time and we modern humans are lazy.  Remember, water is the new oil. It takes tonnes of water to clean just a few bottles. And the soap??

Anyway, I've taken to composting this past year and our throw away garbage is seriously reduced. But the composter is overloaded. Nothing is decaying, not quickly anyway.

What I have learned from this exercise is how de-skilled I am at economizing in the kitchen. (No surprise!) My composting pot is filled in no time. I waste so much vegetable material. In restaurants they put decaying veggies in a soup.  I've tried that, but ICK.  Still, THAT is something I can work on!

Start locally. And don't think too globally, because the Alice in Wonderland illogic of it all will make your head spin!

Maybe I'll go back and read Nella Last's Peace, about a housewife in England in the austerity period Post War. She could make 10 good meals out of one fish head. She had no choice. Meat rations were miniscule in England in 48. (No wonder my Dad came back here to live.)

In 1967, they had Expo 67 in Montreal. I recall one exhibit very well. Man and the Community. It had little wooden models of people by some well known artist. In one work, a couple lazed on a bed while all their needs rotated around them on a conveyor belt. "Laziness is the Cause of all Progress."  That's what it said. I remember for some reason.

Laziness is also the cause of all de-skilling. If the need to make 10 good meals out of one fish head ever returns, will we be able to invoke our inner grand mother and  do it? Doubt it.  From what I hear, only the Cubans will have the necessary skills, as they've been practicing for a while.

Um. Coffee and Scallion Soup. The filter paper is full of dioxins I think.  They say coffee is good for you now. I drink a lot. But apparently the drip machines are toxic, the plastic in the piping leeches into the hot coffee. Must buy a French Press! Next time my drip machine breaks, which will be any day as they are built to last about 10 minutes...And how is that good for the planet, built in obsolescence?

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Social Network 1910

I've read quite a few articles lately, trashing Facebook. This IPO fiasco has given leave for some people to trash the product, not merely the IPO offering.  Conrad Black on the Huffington Post? How Funny!

I am writing a book (made of up three digital ebooks) about women in 1910. The books are based on family letters. If there is any one thing that hits you in the face when you read these letters, it's how important social networks were back then.

Yes, I know they are still important now, especially in a bad economy where "who you know" is more important than "what you know." (Well, that's always been the case, but more than ever when jobs are few and far between.)

But also let's face it, we live privatized existences today. (Blame in on consumerism. I do. The more privatized the social unit, the more costly it is and the more money it puts into commerce.) Our social networks, like our extended families, are seriously diminished compared to 100 years ago.

Privatization means that husbands and wives spend a lot of time in each other's company and also rely on each other for emotional and physical and financial support. (This was not the case early in the century. Women and men moved in separate spheres.)

Dinner and a movie is the usual activity for couples because it's the cheapest thing to do - and it's not that cheap anymore. (I love that line by Jim Carrey from my FAVORITE movie Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind: "We've joined the ranks of the dining dead." )

We are still social animals, sure, but chances are when we go out, more than not, we sit or stand among a crowd of strangers - and interact only with the people we are with. We like the feeling of being in a crowd. We just don't trust anyone enough to speak to them.

We likely don't even know our neighbours to talk to. And with 24 hour groceries, we can't use the excuse of needing to borrow a cup of sugar.

The Nicholsons lived in Richmond, Quebec, a town of 2, 500. Their friends were a small proportion of the town, the leading citizens (English ones) and Presbyterians. The women in their circle still had 'their day at home' like in the Victorian era. That's when the local hens got together and gossiped about everyone else or 'raked the town over' as Edith liked to put it.

The Nicholsons had a large family too, but friends trumped family for some reason. They feuded with family a lot.

Without friends or family in those days, you couldn't leave the house to be entertained. You couldn't go on vacations.

Even when Norman was stoney broke, he paid his Masonic fees, which were considerable. He just had to be 'in the club'. All the other leading businessmen were. (It cost him 50.00 for the Masonic Regalia in 1888, a huge amount of money.)

And were in not for family friends in Montreal, the Clevelands and McCoys (originally from Richmond) Marion Nicholson would not have been able to take a good paying job in the city, teaching at Royal Arthur, and she would not have been able to help her family out financially and they would have most certainly lost their house in Richmond - and, then, who knows.

Biology and Ambition is about Marion's early schooling and career. Threshold Girl is about Flora Nicholson's year at Macdonald Teaching College in 1911/12. Both ebooks show how important friends are connections were in 1910, before radio, television and Internet. They were your social safety net!

Marion ended up having a very hard life, but she always had lots of friends. Edith relied more on family for support, although she too hobnobbed with elegant people, in her job at the Registrar's office at McGill and as Assistant Matron at Royal Victoria College (McGill's Women's Dorms.)

Immigrants too understood the importance of connections.  There was a reason immigrant groups gathered together in the city, even though the Powers That Be in Canada actually expected them to go live in the rural areas. I read a story about Ellis Island, and how some Southerners came up to encourage arriving Italians to move to the Deep South. They couldn't persuade them to. The Italians wanted to go to New York or Montreal, where their  countrymen were! They were not idiots, even if they could not speak English. They knew what they needed to survive in a cold judgmental world..

Here's a bit from the August 1911 Delineator. Rules for the Hostess and Guest. Some things change and some things stay the same.

In Canada, they are making cuts to the government's social safety net. That scares me because, for many modern citizens knowing only the modern privatized way of things, there is nothing being offered to to replace it. Will a person's Facebook friends help him out in times of need? I wonder. Will relations step up to the plate?  I doubt it, somehow.

Are we all suddenly to go back to the Old Ways of 100 years ago? How to do that?

CPR then and Now

Saskatoon in 1910, Valentine and Son Postcard

I started watching the series Madmen when it first was aired, but stopped, because it hit too close to home. I want to get into it again. I'll just buy the DVD's and watch the whole thing at one shot.

I worked as a radio copywriter many moons  ago, a mixed bag as a job. I like the job, I liked my co-workers, but the was poisonous.

Montreal English radio was already in free-fall collapse, and our station was at the bottom, so we were over-worked for little pay by people with much better salaries desperate to keep their jobs.

My friend Nora and I helped get the Union in there, and then, burnt out, we left. All the people who were too afraid to help with the union were the ones who eventually benefited, big time as they could then flow into the TV side where pay and working conditions were excellent. So it goes.

Hard work never hurt anyone, and we worked hard. (It was a burn out job.)

But it was the psychological games some managers played that was most demeaning, humiliating.

For instance, two of us won awards one year, called Canadian Soundcraft.

Instead of congratulating us, one VP arrived in our office (no windows, full of cigarette smoke) and showed us a clipping from the Ottawa newspaper.

The CJOH copywriting department apparently won 10 awards or so.

"Why can't you do that?" he asked.

My astute friend pointed to the picture and counted, one, two three.."Ten copywriters for one radio station." Then she counted us, "Three copywriters for 2 radio stations."

The fact was, we each wrote 10 to 20 ads a day, on top of clerical work which copywriters at other stations did not perform. Our station was struggling and most of these ads were last minute, to be aired that night type of thing. I once was asked to write an ad for a strip club, imagine, where the meaty sandwiches were named after the strippers. I refused and was called into the GM's office and he said "Do it or get fired." I did it, (in a joke way) but the announcer refused to voice it, anyway.

The Catch-22, the harder you worked, the less respect you got. Weird!

Anyway, this is really water under a far away bridge, but I write this because yesterday I see a news item saying that our Labour Minister Raitt is intent on dismantling unions. Strikes are bad for business.

Well, of course they are!  That's the point. That's the leverage. Who cares if I go on STRIKE. My husband, maybe, and even then, he'll just cook his own meals. (I've been injured and he's done all the work lately, anyway.)

I've spent the last five years on a personal project about the Edwardian Era and I've been chronicling the life of Laurier Era teachers, mostly. Flora, Marion and Edith Nicholson of Richmond Quebec working in Montreal.  Threshold Girl and Biology and Ambition are two ebooks in a series of three.

Back then most people worked long long hours for low low pay. Their brother Herb in 1910 is working for the CPR in Saskatoon (Yes) 10 am to 10 pm for 50 dollars a month. He had Academy III from Richmond's St Francis Academy, a very high-class  high school diploma and about 5 years experience in banks. (OK, he's a bit of a crook. ) The cost of living is very high out West in 1910, due to the Wheat Boom so the salary is extra paltry. And the hours, he writes in a letter home, make it difficult to  look for another job.

So Herb is making 600 a year, the same salary as Marion Nicholson was making working in the big city with a diploma. Teaching 50 kids, mostly very poor and many newly landed immigrants without English. Edith was making 200 a year working as a teacher without a diploma at a boarding school, so her hours were 24/7. Her boss would have claimed hers was a 'vocation' not a 'job.'

According to historians, in 1910, a Canadian family needed 1,500 a year to live in dignity. Few families in Canada, in Montreal were making close to that.

There was a great disparity, in the Laurier Era, between the Haves and Have Nots. A gaping divide, actually. The 1911 Census is online, you just have to read it.

My Threshold Girl story has a child labour theme. I created a French Canadian character who works at Dominion Textile in Magog.

The Census page for Magog Textile workers shows EVERY employee working 60 hours, even part time ones. Hmm. 60 hours was the legal limit. Someone fudged the numbers. That company was powerful, they could buy off the enumerator, maybe??

Biology and Ambition is about Marion Nicholson's early years. She went on to become a Union Leader and fought for better salaries and pensions for teachers. Threshold Girl contains a great deal about 'the servant problem'.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Barbara Wylie, the Canadian Suffrage Leader who wasn`t

Barbara Wylie, From WSPU. She was on her way in September 1912 to convert Canadians to the cause, taking the Empress of Ireland (which would soon sink, I think).

Well, earlier I referred to Barbara Wylie as a rogue suffragette for the brazen way she promoted militant values in the speeches, when all the other visiting suffragists were much more careful to tone down  their rhetoric.

But she wasn't rogue. She was sent by the WSPU as their representative.  They mentioned it in their magazine. Of course, one wonders why they sent her away to the colonies at all.

A short biographical paragraph about her I found on the Net from a book on the Suffragettes says she stayed in Canada from 1912-14, but not true, as I saw another article where she entertained a US journalist in her London home in August 1913. And she becomes spokesperson for the WSPU for a short while in 1914, with the Pankhursts in Jail again.

She had been the head of the Glasgow  branch of WSPU (some say Edinburgh) and then she came to London. She was one of the suffragettes put in jail for civil disobedience, window smashing in 1912,  but apparently she was allowed out due to her mother's ill health (ie. her parents had pull.)

She came to Canada as a brother was a MLS in Sask (some accounts say BC). (Perhaps she had dreams of becoming THE Suffrage Leader in Canada, as there was a vacuum, but that didn`t pan out.)

Anyway, Wylie figures in my story Threshold Girl. I fidget with dates, tho, bringing her to Montreal in May of 1912.  Flora Nicholson and Edith Nicholson go to see her speak in a church but miss the actual speech. I use dialogue from the Montreal Daily Star account in the book, the account I have on a news clipping belonging to Edith.  Yes, Wylie was militant, as in unapologetic about the more violent acts of the suffragettes, including attacks on the Prime Minister.

And the WSPU magazine, Votes for Women, figures in the follow up Diary of a Confirmed Spinster. Edith reads the article about women being tortured in jail and gets inspired to act out on an injustice in her own life, a perceived injustice.

Canada's official women suffrage history centers on the Famous Five out west, Emily Murphy and Nellie McClung and those others :)  And like Carrie Derick in Montreal, who founded the Montreal Suffrage Association in 1912 maybe after meeting Wylie, their women's rights activism is all tied in with murkier things, like eugenics and temperance and moral and social reform.

Emily Murphy also got into the 'war on drugs' business, in the 20's, a decade later than the Americans, but with the same racist slant.

That's probably why they didn't teach about suffrage movement  in City schools in my day.

As I've written, the Nicholsons of Richmond were tea-totalling Presbyterians, but only father Norman ever wrote about the dangers of drink. The women seemed more intent on getting all they  could out of life for themselves, love, nice clothes, great jobs, lots of travel, the right to earn a proper living, suffragettes in the truest form, wanting the same rights as the men.

Biology and Ambition, the epistolary novel about Marion Nicholson's early life reveals that this future union leader just wanted an even playing field. She was willing to work for the rest. (Boy, would she have made a great suffragette!)

Anyway, the press covered Miss Wylie (that was the point and she was so PRETTY! sic) in Toronto her speech is reported on and in Calgary I found an article that makes fun of her militancy, light of it.

Actually, a 'snippet' tour I just took of Google Books shows that Miss Wylie has left a legacy as a suffragette, in the scholarship, mentioned in Dame Pankhurst's 1930's autobiography.
And her Canadian tour aroused interest, at least converting women journalists to the cause. One account said she received a cold shoulder in the East but a nicer reception out West. After the Calgary talk, a suffrage association was started up, so even with the mocking, it worked. And she was active in BC. Her brother, the MLA, pushed for women suffrage in Saskatchewan.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Suffragettes Revisited

My improvised work station.

I have set up a workstation where my arms and wrists and gaze are all properly aligned. Hopefully, I can get to typing Diary of a Confirmed Spinster, my story about Edith Nicholson of Richmond, Quebec, a prim and proper Presbyterian teacher who was all for the militant suffragettes.

The other day I listed to some installments of a BBC Radio Four re-run, called History We've Forgotten to Remember.

The series reminds us that history gets rewritten, often by omission, and often on purpose.

I listened to the episodes called "The Suffragettes." I wondered what part of the Suffrage Movement they'd focus on, so much of it has been rewritten and/or forgotten.

Well, they focused on that fact the suffragettes were militant, even committing 'acts of terrorism' over and above the window-breaking that has been remembered in popular culture such as TV shows like Upstairs Downstairs etc.

Well, nothing I don't go around telling people. The suffragettes were the militant arm of the suffragists.

As I Canadian I learned NOTHING about the suffragettes at school. *I'm pretty sure, anyway. I took two years of British History in High School.

 Indeed, I only started learning about them when I started researching the background to the Nicholson Family Letters I found in 2005.

I couldn't help it. The Nicholsons left behind plenty of Montreal press clippings about the suffragettes. Some I transcribed and put on the Tighsolas website.

One such clipping told the story of British suffragette Barbara Wylie's September 1912 trip to Canada.  As she detrained in Montreal's Place Viger, reporters asked her about the hurling of the axe at Asquith. (It would have knocked some sense into him had it landed, she replied.) Also about a bombing at a Dublin Theatre.

1912/13 was when the militancy was at its height, over and above the famous theatrics of Pankhurst's WSPU.

Indeed, the suffragettes became militant because the government over-reacted and sent them to jail for acts that were not criminal, just effective in getting good press, in getting the word out. If they were going to be persecuted for non-criminal acts, such as chaining themselves to buildings, they  might as well do criminal acts. That was the thinking.

Asquith getting 'pied' with flour

The BBC Four Story focused on a possible assassination attempt by some suffragettes on Asquith. Not all the scholars interviewed agreed this happened for certain. Somewhere on this blog I have an press image of the suffragettes throwing flour at his car. Today that probably would be considered an act of terrorism - and not mere theatrics.

One scholar who disagreed thought that the Pankhursts were far too image conscious to allow this to happen. That's another thing, apparently, forgotten by history about the suffragettes.

Again, nothing I haven't figured out myself. The suffragettes were masters of the media image, for their time.

Hence this Miss Wylie, a fairly unknown almost rogue? spokesperson, dazzled reporters with her wit and good looks. Suffragettes made sure to dress well. Even their magazine was full of dress ads. The WSPU magazine is online and I just had to read a few issues to realize how clever these suffragettes were.

I have put something about Wylie's visit in Threshold Girl  my story about Flora Nicholson in 1911/1912. I will put something from WSPU magazine in Diary of a Confirmed Spinster. I have her reading the article on Russian Treatment of Women in Prison, the force-feeding.

On her trip, Wylie tells reporters that there are many members of the WSPU in Canada. I know Edith was a militant suffragette supporter because she writes so in a May 1913 letter. I guess I have to go through all era issues to see if her name is listed as a donor.

All to say, there is a great deal to be learned from History, REAL history. The protests happening right now in Quebec could be analyzed from that angle, but won't be.

Edith's clipping of the Wylie Visit from September Montreal Daily Star. "Will Canadian suffragists adopt militant tactics?" the headline asks.

Well, I also listened to another edition of the History program on BBC. This one about the Great Depression. Their conclusion, the New Deal did not end the Depression, WWII did. Hmm. I read so much about the mass youth unemployment in the Western World. It scares me because they had the same problem in the 1910's... and that's probably why there was a War. To kill off these excess souls rendered unemployable by the change over from an agrarian to industrial economy. (At least some historians say.)

But they can't do that now, right? They learned their lesson. WWI killed off many unemployable men and then also the best and the brightest.

My BBC Program claims that  history has forgotten the militancy of the British Suffragettes because it was soon followed by the carnage of WWI that made the violent actions of the militants seem like harmless child's play.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Children's Fashions 1910

The August 1911 edition of the Delineator has a feature on children's outfits, so I thought I'd scan them for those who might be interested. In Threshold Girl I weave in a tale about a woman working at Dominion Textile in Magog.

The second dress on the left is a practical school dress, if developed in serge or flannel. Unlike many of the sailor models, the five gored skirt, which is attached to a belt or underbody, is fitted about the waist and left quite plain except for the inverted plait, which is made at the back. The blouse is regular naval style and may be slipped over the head or closed in front.

The dress on right is very simple in construction and it is particularly effective in poplin or pique, when a contrasting colour is used for the collar and trimming bands. A very lovely reproduction of the design, which closes in front, was composed of white linen, with a sailor collar and belt of lilac linen, the edges of the collar, belt and peasant sleeves and and closing were finished with a scallop worked in lilac floss.

Nice writing! I wonder if Theodore Dreiser wrote it. He was editor of this magazine, which also covered many of the social issues of the day, focusing on 'child rescue' ...adoption. (Nah, his style wasn't as nice!) He got fired when he ahem had an affair with a underage woman... or something.

Well, these clothes were for the Middle Class and UP, I imagine. Marion's children, students at Royal Arthur in Montreal's Little Burgundy were working class and probably dressed more like the above pic of poor kids vacationing at Camp Chapleau.

If any kids in Marion's board dressed like the magazine kids, it was at the new Roslyn School in Westmount.

In September the schools reopen and you mothers are already beginning to find that the question of pinafores and school dresses is much on your mind. For children who live in the City, where there are steam-heated houses and schoolrooms, the smartest materials for their dresses are the linens, piques, poplins, repps, galateas, percales, ginghams, chambrays and cotton drillings.

Of course, for children who live in country districts where furnaces and radiators are unknown, wash dresses in Winter are out of the question. They should wear pretty little dresses of serge, flannel, or any good woolen material and washable pinafores and aprons.

Oj. I haven't shown a boy, there are only  few pictured, but they are wearing knickerbockers or shorts, not skirts. In Richmond, Quebec, at least in and around 1910, Flora's nephew, Stanley Hill still wore a skirt. And her brother Herb wore on in 1889 or so.

Not sure who kids at bottom are or when it is taken. The Dalmation may be Floss around 1909, but the Nicholsons may have had an earlier Dalmation. It is possibly Stanley Hill younger, so 1905ish?

The coat: A serviceable box coat for a girl is displayed. The model may be made in full or 7/8ths length with the fronts closed to the neck and rolled open.  Many of these coats for girls are made with striped or plaid weaves and they look very smart when the collars or cuffs are faced in a one tone contrasting material.

In the Laurier era in Canada the vast majority of children lived in poverty. Many of their moms could sew, but they did so in factories, making clothes for the burgeoning middle class.

Margaret Nicholson made her daughter's clothes, until they got into working suits, then she made just the 'waists' or blouses and skirts. However she bought her son's and husband's clothes.

My Mystical Day Off

My garden: Yesterday. With Yellow Butterfly. Somewhere.

This is an intimate story, so it scares me to write it. I don't usually write such stories. My essays are personal, not intimate.

Yesterday, I decided to give myself 'the day off.'  A day off from doing stuff. A day off from worrying about nothing. It was a fine summer day, and I am recovering from a neck injury which makes it hard to do anything that requires my left arm.

So I had a good excuse.

And  I had finished the fifth story, the last of my special genealogical writing projects I gave myself about 6 years ago. Threshold Girl, Diary of a Confirmed Spinster, Biology and AmbitionMilk and Water and Looking for Mrs. Peel.  Six years ago, I had actually created a collage of images of the Finished Product and put it up on the wall in my bedroom and what do you know, six years later, these       stories came into being. (I'm very new agey, as you can guess. At times, anyway.)

Writers seldom have days off. As a freelance writer, in the past (over the past 3 decades) I have either been working frantically on some project with a tight tight (too tight) deadline (often with kids running wild around me) or looking for work, or worrying about looking for work. All very draining.

As a no-longer freelance writer, just a plain ole writer, who had given herself  BIG projects to work on to fill the time and justify her existence on this planet, for the last five years I've either been thinking about said projects, or guilting myself about not working on said  writing projects  or wondering if these silly projects are an excuse for not looking for REAL paying writing work, as if there's any of that around.

But yesterday, I took a deep breath and gave myself THE DAY OFF. Because I've completed my projects. This day off was my reward for achieving my goals, as NO ONE else cares about my projects except me, because they are personal and because they don't bring in money. We live in a material world, after all.

So, yesterday afternoon, I was sitting on the bed, propped by three fat pillows (because with my condition I can't sit in any one position too long). And I thought about St. Eustache and the butterfly.

St. Eustache is where I lived in 1958/59 in a dilapidated farmhouse with my father, mother and two brothers.

I have pictures of the place to remind me:

I can only find a pic where I Matissed the house up a bit.  (I have the negatives somewhere, which I can develop on my computer using Corel as they are in black and white.)

It was an ugly little house: I knew that at 4 years old. In the middle of an ugly field.  In a hmm ugly 'rustic' area (although within commuting distance to the Big City).

My brother says we look like Hillbillies in this picture. Weird Hillbillies. My father was Oxford educated, with a degree in Math from that place, a Business degree from McGill and with a newly minted CA diploma and he was working as an accountant in the City, a job he hated because he was a bit of an aesthete and he claimed "Money brings out the worst in people."

My mother was miserable as a young housewife, as she had been born to wealth (her father had been Director of City Services in Montreal in the 1920's. I write about that in Milk and Water) and given the best classical education afforded women of her time. She studied Greek and Latin - but not sewing and cleaning. She knew how to dress (herself, not her kids) and tell witty jokes and to give good parties. She was an expert competitive bridge player. She very upset about having to live out in the sticks among a class of people she wasn't used to.

She was also bi-polar and spent most mornings screaming and slamming cupboards when in her 'manic' phase. (She didn't know it. She never knew it. Apparently, around this time she 'was sent' to a psychiatrist who told my father she wasn't 'crazy' just 'spoiled.' )

I guess they never asked us kids about it. Not that my mother wasn't maternal. She was maternal in spades, when in a healthy state of mind.

Anyway, see that picket fence? I can 'distinctly' remember (or it has become one of my personal myths) that one morning, when I left the house because my mother was screaming and banging things around, I saw a HUGE yellow butterfly perched on that very fence and it told me that 'everything is going to be O.K.'

Maybe I wasn't in my right mind at that moment either; but then sometimes it's OK not to be in one's right mind. It can be helpful.

So yesterday, 52 or 3 years later, as I lay down on my soft memory foam bed, giving myself the day off from silly or at least unproductive worries, on a beautiful sunny spring day, in my large beautifully appointed home (I think) in a lovely suburb not that far from that depressed and depressing farming community I once lived in, having FINISHED the five big writing projects I had assigned myself 6 years ago, and with a sore arm so I can't clean out the cupboards, or wash the floors, or type anything for too long,  so I had nothing to do, I thought, "If I just take my Canon camera and walk outside into the garden, I will see a yellow butterfly and I will take a picture of it."

So I walked out (with a big part of my brain saying I am being very very silly) and right then a yellow butterfly flew over my lawn shelter over my head and away and I quickly tried to take a picture, but it all happened too fast!

The thing is, it's not like there are a whole lot of butterflies in my garden. There aren't. I think butterflies are extinct at least in the suburbs where all the low brush and milkweed has been eradicated. Birds are pretty rare too, despite the trees and foliage. Scary!

So I saw the butterfly I knew I would see. Mystical moment ? Maybe. Or perhaps I saw the ethereal thing flitting around through a window but paid no attention except subconsciously and it reminded me of 1958 and things went from there.

Either way, who cares.  I think it just goes to prove that if you 'give yourself the day off' from work, life, worry, from being Your Old Self, things, magical things, can happen.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Beware Beauty - and Dr. Oz

August 1911 Delineator, clothes for school girls. Caption: the long vacation should help school girls grow tall and rosy. Pretty dresses and trim outing costumes help towards the fun and exercises which they need. The dress on the right is a semi-princess for a small woman. "The model looks extremely well-developed in a foulard, round or sailor collar and cuffs. A feature of the waist (blouse) is the kimono sleeve.

In Threshold Girl  I have Flora Nicholson peruse this very edition of the Delineator magazine. (Indeed, the cover is the cover of my ebook.) I have lots of nice colour plates in the book from various era Delineators.

This is the page that would have caught her attention: She was 18 in 1911, but a small,thin 18. In those days they tried to make thin 18 year olds look bigger. Today, the ideal woman (see Kate Middleton) is so thin she can blow away.

The ideal woman. She is a problem!

A couple of days ago my husband, on vacation, was watching Dr. Oz. He likes the show. But Oz was promoting some silly sounding method to instantly reprogram people (ie, women, his audience) out of their bad habits.

He brought a young woman out. Her problem, she wasn't happy with her looks, her nose, her mouth, her skin, whatever. She was a plain woman.

I turned to my husband, "This woman isn't happy with her looks because she has been bombarded with media images since birth saying her features are NOT the ideal! That's NOT gonna go a way in five minutes. If if did, the stock market would crash. More than it has, anyway."

I write this because the picture above features 'models' all with a certain round type of face. A few months later, Flora, who is not a pretty girl, writes back about a girl at school who is "one of those dolly face girls who pretends to be so terribly nervous." Dolly-faced girls were 'in' I guess.

This woman is popular and has stolen Flora's roommate's affections.

The Nicholson women were not brought up to be nervous, although they were somewhat  vain. Even the middle aged Mom was vain. (I can see she was a beauty in her day, from the early picture I have of her, but in the 1860's and 70's, young women were not bombarded with consumer-age images. That was only starting in 1900, for the middle class and only in these fashion magazines.)

Beauty was considered dangerous by some people, mostly religious types.  "Beware Beauty" advises the 1896 sex hygiene book, Light in Dark Corners.

I put that bit about Beauty in Biology and Ambition about Flora's sister Marion, who was very popular with boys and girls, although not a classic beauty, just a charismatic girl. No shrinking violet nervous Nellie.  I guess women in the era were taught that men liked 'frail' women but all evidence in Marion's diaries proves quite the opposite. No one was more boffo than Marion Nicholson, who rose to be a Union Leader. (And even after that the men liked her.)

All this brings to mind an incident I heard of a few months ago. I was visiting a relation whose daughter was away at college in California. Her daughter was checking out sororities. She phoned her mother to say she was introduced, or whatever, at a certain sorority but she knew she wouldn't get in. All the girls were beautiful.

"And your daughter isn't beautiful? " I asked.
"Not in the right way, " my relation answered. Not tall, skinny and blond.

You see her daughter is a classic Egyptian or Middle eastern beauty. Indeed, when they visited the Louvre a year or so earlier, the Mom and Daughter went around comparing her to the statues there.

A goddess. But not the right kind of goddess!

Take about Dolly type of beauties. Barbie really has become the ideal. And Barbie doesn't exist outside of Copenhagen. Not even in the suburbs of Copenhagen, because there you get Danish peasant stock, or so my sister in law (a Dane) told me.  Well, actually not Danish because the actresses and Kate Middleton are flat chested, pencil thin, modern day garconnes.

I recall a line from the bizarre satire 30 Rock, where most of the women except the protagonist are ideal women, blond pencil thin.  What's her name, Jenna Maroney, the crazy blond lead actress with the pre-teen body, asks Liz Lemon if they can hire a big woman to stand behind her so she looks more tiny and vulnerable.

30 Rock satirizes society's ideal woman while featuring loads of said woman - along with a lot of homely fat men. Kind of cake and eat it too...Like the very popular stage play Everywoman, Flora and sisters go to see in 1911, that proselytizes against female narcissism using gorgeous young actresses in pretty form fitting costumes.

Ok, to the other dresses. The first one on the right anyway: The top is a waist for a small women, resembling a Norfolk jacket . Applied straps, simulating box plaits, conceal the side seams front and back. The waist closes in double breasted style and is particularly smart when worn over a skirt with a patent leather belt. Linen, poplin, duck and serge are used extensively for the design and the cuffs and broad sailor collar are generally made of a contrasting material.

A neckband for wear with different high collars is rather better for the regular shirt waist style, that is usually made with full length sleeves.

If you are going to read any of my three books about the Nicholsons in 1911, you had better get it in your head what a 'waist' is. The women are always writing about them. Waists or shirtwaists are blouses or blouses in a male shirt style.

In the 1910 era, as young women went off to work in the big city, they adopted male dress habits (on top, not below, which was illegal...hence harem pants, ah, skirts) like shirts and ties!! and then they fancied them up!! Below, from the same magazine a 'mannish' shirtwaist.  I have no pictures of Marion or Flora in working women garb, but I do have a couple of Edith, so that's good enough.

Edith, second top. In her Mannish Shirtwaist, 1911 era. Right in style, because she liked to be fashionable to her dying days. The Nicholsons made their own waists.. and wrote about it a lot.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Pesticide Laws and Student Protests

My garden today. I hope the housing prices in Quebec don't plummet, with the political situation. We're retiring soon. Maybe I should have stayed in the duplex in the city.

I've been honing my epistolary ebook Biology and Ambition and sending it to people who might enjoy it, teachers!

Quebec teachers - who are pretty busy right now, as they always are.

But Quebec's in a quandary right now, with these student protests.

I like reading commentary from the rest of Canada in places like the National Post, cause they don't quite get it.

You have to be a Quebecker to get it.

That Pesticide Law, it started in Quebec and Quebec was the only place it could have got started.

The Chemical Corporations didn't understand Quebec. They had huge power, huge clout, but not enough understanding of Quebec.

They came in with their suits and briefcases to give their spiel in support of Pesticides, in English. Something like that.

And so pesticides were banned in Quebec and then lots of provinces followed. In the US (where corporations rule) they implemented laws to OUTLAW the banning of pesticides by communities. So I've heard.

It all started with an eccentric British doctor in a sort of anglophone suburb called Hudson, where I happened to live, but like a rash it spread. (And unexplained rashes on local children, eating too many clementines at Christmas, were why this doctor got concerned in the first place, I have heard.)

I never used pesticides anyway, when I lived there,  as I had young children - and in those days, the 80's, young children actually played outside!

 One year, my marigolds, started from scratch in February in the living room, my sturdy home-made marigolds, my glistening, dewy flowers, were all felled by cutworms. My hollyhocks, my favorite flower, the flower of my faded childhood memories, as they once grew 'wild' in the ruins of some old building on Decarie Boulevard behind my duplex in the city where we Boomer children once played,outside all day long, in the lanes and among the rusty carcasses of Chevy Belairs and Corvairs in the used car lots lining the street, were shribbled and decayed  by some brown mold, rust I think it called. But my kids were more important.

My father in law lived in Hudson. I recall he wanted to kill some little weeds pushing up between the stones on his front walk and he killed his large Maple instead. Imagine how much pesticide he put on the walk, where my kids often played.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

PR and Ebooks

(This is  the kind of thing I did for a living a few years ago. I got good press too, often front page stories. I was amazed at how my 'pressers' were often used verbatim or practically verbatim by the busy reporters. Top reporters, too! It's a good way to ensure the info in the article is correct, as reporters always make mistakes.)

British Suffragette Barbara Wylie gets arrested in front of Buckingham Palace 1913

A Novel Approach to Genealogy

Anne-Kitty Wells
Montreal - May 22, 2012

One day, way back in the early days of this century, author Dorothy Nixon sat at a garden table with her friends, slurping back sangrias and she asked them a ‘trick’ question: “When did women get the vote in Canada?” No one knew the exact date.

Strange, you’d think, when her friends were all highly educated, most with graduate degrees.
It was clear there had been a gap in their education.

Dorothy wasn’t surprised. She had just learned about Canadian Women Suffrage lately after finding a treasure trove of family letters from the 1910 era, belonging to her husband’s mother’s family.
Indeed, she even knew why no one knew the date Canadian women got the vote.

She had found a copy of their Canadian History Book in a local V.O.N. thrift shop. Canada Then and Now, published in 1954, the year of Dorothy’s birth, incidentally.

There was no mention of women and the vote within its pages. In fact, there was no mention of women at all.

Dorothy now knows when Canadian women got the vote, thanks to these letters she found in 2004 and the many of years of research she has conducted for background for her ebooks Threshold Girl, Diary of a Confirmed Spinster and Biology and Ambition, a digital trilogy to make up the omnibus edition titled School Marms and Suffragettes.

The letters she found in 2004 belonged to the Nicholson Family of Richmond, Quebec, consisting of parents Norman and Margaret, and ‘children’ Edith, Herbert, Marion and Flora. Marion, who rose up to be President of the Protestant Teacher’s Union in Quebec, is her husband’s grandmother.

All of the girls were ‘new women’ of the era, looking for jobs while looking for love, and following the antics of the British Suffragettes.

As Nixon explains, there was really no Suffrage Movement in Eastern Canada, no parades, no window-breaking civil disobedience.

But there were occasional lectures by visiting suffragettes, often promoted by the Montreal Council of Women, a powerful organization in the 1910 era. And some of these meetings got pretty rowdy with participants almost coming to blows according to newspaper accounts.

The Nicholson women, all 'prim proper Presbyterians' working as teachers in the big city, often attended these meetings. They also clipped newspaper reports of the events, storing them with their letters.

This bit from the Nicholson collection is from the 1912 Montreal Standard according to Nixon:

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…

Barbara Wylie, a minor suffragette who has only a tiny presence today on the Internet,  came to Canada on a lecture tour in 1912 because her brother was an MP out West and she figures in the ebook Threshold Girl. This volume also contains a factory-labour theme.

Dorothy’s Marms and Suffragette novels all contain important (if forgotten) historical themes such as women labour in factories, the eugenics movement, and anti-Semitism in the school system.

You can read Threshold Girl and Biology and Ambition,(the first and third of the School Marms and Suffragettes series) here.

Dorothy Nixon has also written Milk and Water, about 1927 Montreal Municipal Politics and Looking for Mrs. Peel, about women prisoners of war, civilian internees, at Changi in Singapore in 1942.

Good Title

I changed the named of my eplay about Montreal in 1927 Mixed Drinks and also to 1927 and also to  Montreal Story.

We'll see which name becomes more popular.

I love it when in Shakespeare in Love everyone says "Good Title."

Milk and Water is the original title, a good one except that the phrase can also mean namby pamby and that's not what I am going for.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Victoria Day Musings, Ah, Dollard ah Patriotes ...

I posted a draft of my ebook Biology and Ambition a few days ago and within minutes the Googlebot came around and it was available on Google, second when a person enters Biology and Ambition.

Pretty fast.

Biology and Ambition is the follow up to Threshhold Girl and Diary of a Confirmed Spinster, to make the omnibus School Marms and Suffragettes.

About 3 young women in 1910 Canadian, their hopes, dreams, disappointments. Middle Class Women. Pretty much like Middle Class Women today.

I'm watching the Djokavic Nadal final in the Spanish Open or something and just missed Nadal winning the second set.. Gotta pay attention.

My husband asks why I watching in French. I like the French commentary, that's why.

The colour commentator whoever she is uses eloquent language, much different from hockey commentators.

Something to do on a nice Monday holiday, Victoria Day but not here in Quebec, where my husband is so bored he is cleaning out the BBQ.

The bugs get you outside and if we put the mosquito netting around our little shelter the idiot dogs run through it every time they hear a noise - and they don't learn.

We live in a suburb and suburbs now are dead quiet, except on Saturday morning when the neighbourhood men (yes, men) do the lawn.

Two days ago we went Costco and bought an instant garden, a few ready made pots for next to nothing, 10 to 15 dollars.

I usually buy the flats, but this spring I am injured, I can't use my arm.

Instant garden, like instant pudding or instant mashed potatoes. I usually don't like instant things, but in this case, why not.

My magnolia. Just blooming now. Last year I rolled these potted trees out into the family room and they blossomed inside in April. But the aroma was disgusting! I thought the cat had peed on the carpet.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Bright Young Things, Sad Young Things

Marion Nicholson (second from left)and friends get picture taken in 1905 at Normal School. She writes about in in her Normal School Letters, which I included in Biology and Ambition, the follow up toThreshold Girl and Diary of a Confirmed Spinster.

Biology and Ambition is in the epistolary form, which  can be fiction and non fiction and include documents. Biology and Ambition is both fiction and non/fiction, for I write some letters myself and stick stuff in others.

It has a few documents, like the picture above.

Marion Nicholson had many friends all through her life, male and female. I guess she had charisma.

The girl friends (from the letter I have) appear to be bright young things. Some of them are unhappy, or unhappy at the time of writing.

I just transcribed this letter and included it in Biology and Ambition. A fellow teacher is sad Marion left to work in Montreal.

This morning I saw on the Census for 1911 that this Gorden N. Edwards Marion liked in 1905/06 had a family in the furniture business and in 1911 the Dad was making 5,000 a year and this GNE 3,000, at 26 years of age as a salesman.

Contrast this with brother Herb's first job out West in Saskatoon for the CPR working 10 am to 10 pm for 50 dollars a month! At the same age. GNE was too wealthy to marry Marion, whose family had no money, just a nice house in a nice area of Richmond and lots of respectability.


Sunday Night

July 4, 1909

I got your letter the morning you were leaving. You must think me terribly rude but I have been in such a rush since I got home. 

Got the telegram. I would have loved to have stayed with you. I was so sorry. Not to have seen you anyway. The martyr came as far as Richmond. He was on his way to Montreal.  And of course, his train left ages before mine. 

What have you been hearing Marion. Now fess up and play straight. I am consumed with curiosity. You have got the idea all crooked, for no pleasant prospects. I am going back to Sherbrooke. And Saturday, I suspect, by the TCR.

I don’t in the least look forward to it. I assure you. The Mabel Trosu who is  going there is a girl from Quebec and I never had the damndest use for her in the days when we were youngsters.

Believe me, the winter that stretches before me will be no pleasant one. Perhaps it may be more than commonly  unpleasant. Anyway, I dread the very idea of school, and unless things change in a way not common to everyday life, I’ll not stay in Sherbrooke another year.

No Marion, things are not serious with me in the ways that you imagine. I really think he is awfully nice, but we are just friends, see. And I’ll miss you so much next year.

I hate the thought of it without you.

You are the only person I ever talk to. And I am quite sure you won’t miss me as much as I miss you.

Bess Hume and I have reviewed the barren future and the dreary past in a most searching way. We’re both getting old and I fancy will both continue to get old. And I see myself a teacher Old Maid. I cannot get on with or understand mankind and I feel the desire to do so is lessening.

I am beginning to take a most active and intellectual interest in the Pension Fund. 

Fancy me growing up into Miss Michelson. 
I could be nice and tall and angular. I wonder if I could look so cross.

I am making a new kimono and it is hideous. I am reading a book of Scott's called the Abbott and it is stupid and I am going back to Sherbrooke and that’s the limit.

So tell me what is to come of someone so bereft of humour and sympathy.
You really must write to me Marion, you must. This letter is so horribly blue.
I hope you don’t think that I am silly and put a wrong construction on it. You will just shake your small, wise head and say “Florrie’s got the blues.”

Remember my numerous attacks.But really I do feel very very blue and as I have shown, have good reason for it.

I am to bed. I hope you have a nice summer. Write me soon. You will have a perfectly nice time in Montreal.

A merry jest was on her lips although her heart was sad.
Florrie J.P.

She is likely one of these women. She goes out West the next year because she writes a letter saying that you are not an Old Maid out West until 35.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Epistolary Form Edwardian (Laurier) Era Ebook

I've posted my first draft of Biology and Ambition, the follow up to Threshold Girl and Diary of a Confirmed Spinster, which is finished but not yet posted as this book requires a lot of typing and I'm injured.

Biology and Ambition is about Marion Nicholson, a teacher in 1910 and is in epistolary form. Sort of cut and paste for me. Easier on the hands, but not on the brain. It is HARD to edit letters! Very hard. Even if you know your subject backwards and forwards like I do.

Threshold Girl is in narrative prose form and is about Marion's young sister Flora, a college girl in 1911/12.  Diary of a Confirmed Spinster is about her older sister Edith and is a murder/mystery. I play with history here, filling in blanks, missing information with the most audacious explanation.

All stories in the School Marms and Suffragettes series are based on the letters of Tighsolas.

The ebooks complement each other and are meant to be read together, with Flora's story first, Edith's second and Marion's third.

My stories are about teachers in the Edwardian Era, or the Laurier Era in Canada.  But, these letters cover the issues that are relevant to all middle class women, but I add  eugenics, child welfare, suffragettes, etc.

The story of the Edwardian or Laurier Middle Class has not been especially well told. Upstairs Downstairs, Downton Abbey etc. like to contrast the rich and the poor and leave out the middle class.  Not enough drama.

But the Nicholson family saga is a story that resonates today. The Middle Class never really changes. It's a class full of people who aspire to be high class but fear falling into the lower class, a much much MUCH easier thing to do, especially in a bad economy. Hence, it's a nervous class. An antsy class. And as GB Shaw said, it's a moral class, I mean sanctimonious. The Nicholsons, who are experiencing financial problems, are all these things. They are also terribly fun loving. They want to eke the most out of existence.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Everywoman and the Nicholsons of Richmond

I am in the process of writing Biology and Ambition, the story of Marion Nicholson's life as a teacher in 1908-1913 Montreal, the follow up to Threshold Girl about her younger sister Flora and Diary of a Confirmed Spinster about her older sister Flora.

In September 1912 Flora writes home that she has seen Everywoman at the Princess and been enchanted. She says it is the best thing she has ever seen. Everywoman is a popular 'morality'play making the rounds: it is a cake and eat it too morality play, preaching about the dangers of youth and beauty, while featuring many beautiful young actresses in gorgeous clingy clothing to gawk at.

It is a play aimed squarely at young women like Flora Nicholson, working in the City. 

It was made into a 1919 movie and then the story fell into obscurity, unlike say Peter Pan or the Wizard of Oz and other era books that have lived on through the century in many incarnations.

The theme of this play, where a young Everywoman decides to become an actress and becomes seduced by the bright lights of the city, and all its pleasures, including shallow men who use her, has of course lived on in many incarnations. Everywoman is a veiled warning about falling into prostitution, actresses being about one step above that. This is the age of the social evil, after all. Many people blamed the love of luxury for luring women into prostitution.

Biology and Ambition, unlike the earlier two parts of this digital trilogy to be called School Marms and Suffragettes as a complete book, is really a composite of letters, and era information. I believe I am going to put bits of  Everywoman in the story. I assume it is public domain.

Beauty, Youth conspire to undermine a young woman's future happiness in Everywoman. Actresses loved playing in this play. Adele Blood, '"the most beautiful blond on the stage' portrayed Beauty in the Montreal Production.

Everywoman warned of the pleasures of the city to young women who were experiencing the pleasures of the city, many for the first time. The play went out of favour unlike say, Pygmalion, written in 1912 for reasons pretty evident. The play contained pleasant enough poetry(and musical numbers too)  but how can a person preach against narcissism in a day and age where female narcissism is beginning to propel the economy, thanks to all the work available in the big city.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Deja Vu: Montreal City Hall Corruption?

The Crepeaus in around 1920.

Well, it's deja vu all over again for me, since I've just finished my first draft of Milk and Water about Montreal City Hall in 1927, when my grandfather, Jules Crepeau was Director of City Services.

And now a breaking story says the former Head of the Executive Committee at Montreal City Hall has just been arrested on corruption charges.

It says a few years ago he was second to Mayor Tremblay. In 1927 the head of the Executive Committee was the boss, the Mayor had little power. 

Bizarre. It was in 1921 that the position of Executive Committee Chairman was created. (My grandfather helped draft that Charter.) As soon as it was created, many people wanted it dissolved, including Juge Coderre of the 1925/6 Coderre Commission into Police Corruption.

A couple of months ago someone with a City Hall IP address  downloaded my story. I hope he or she enjoyed it.

Flaherty, Eugenics and Lupins

A high school class in the 1910 era.
It's hard to find pictures of elementary school classes.

Anyway, as I write Biology and Ambition, about Montreal teacher Marion Nicholson in 1910, the follow up to Threshold Girl about her sister Flora;s year at Macdonald Teaching College and Diary of a Confirmed Spinster, about her older sister's life and loves at Westmount Methodist Institute, I have decided to look over some textbooks from the era to see what she was teaching her 3rd and 4th grade students.

It's not that hard to find. Years ago I found a document at Mcgill  revealing the curriculum of the Montreal Board.

I have a list of recommended text books, from Flora's Mac portfolio and see they used Ontario Public School texts in their courses.

These texts are online at

The Hygiene Text is most interesting. Hygiene was a subject taught, although I read that it was basically a 'free marks' class - which means it wasn't really about knowledge but about something else. 

Ideology, perhaps. Remember this was the age of Purity and the Hygienist movement was quite racist and classist.

The book I have must have been for older classes, middle school perhaps. It has typical topics (see below) and one not so typical. Family Stock. The final chapter is on eugenics! And amazingly it uses the same case study Jukes/Edwards by a Mr. Winslip that Carrie Derick used in her speech to the Montreal Literacy Society in 1910 and that I put in Diary of a Confirmed Spinster.   

Now, imagine a child of poverty who just happened to be a good scholar and who got himself or herself through to Middle School or High School on scholarship or something. There he would meet with an official text that says he was 'inferior' and destined to remain so, due to genes. He might also be confused by the chapter on housing, that claims that a family home at minimum  should have 1000 sq foot per family member, since he might well live in a two room flat with 8 siblings with no windows or running water.

Now, people might ask what does it serve to bring up these 'embarrassing' bits from history. I think it provides a great service. 

Because one thing doesn't change and hasn't changed over the century: human nature. No doubt, there's a lot of 'official blah blah' today that passes for 'truth'  that is nothing but ideology. Well,  "DUH."

Well, take Finance Minister Flaherty's remark the other day 'that there are no bad jobs.'  If you interpret bad to mean 'beneath human dignity' well, then it's debatable, I guess. Although a question best left to philosophers and kept out of the hands of conniving politicians. If you interpret bad to mean undesirable, dirty, unsafe, disgusting, soul-crushing, stressful, tiring,  stultifyingly boring, not respectable or not respected, or merely not paying enough to raise a family in this day and age, then there's no debate. The statement is patronizing ideological bunk, coming out of the mouth of a privileged patriarch who thinks he knows best but who is way way WAY out of touch, but who controls the country's money, our money! You know that Monty Python Sketch. Dennis Moore. Takes from the poor, gives to the rich, Stupid Bitch. I love that skit. What more Lupins?

 Also one of my favorite 1909 excerpts. A college undergraduate degree ain't worth much these days, although it may put a student from a poorer background in great debt.) And Flaherty seems to want to help turn the middle class into the working poor, wage slaves by cutting UI which helps people with good jobs keep their good jobs in uncertain today.

From Educational Foundations June 1909
(A.S. Barnes and Company)

Opening to Essay Education-The Economic Side by Will Scott.

The state would educate the young in order to make them better citizens; in order to advance civilization. It being desirable that all of its people be good citizens, the state strives to educate the children of all.

The theory held by the state is also the theory of the individual – so far as other people’s children are concerned. They are to be educated so they will not violate the law – not cross swords with society.  But as to their own children, that is quite a different matter. They should be educated not only to make them good citizens, and not chiefly for that purpose, but to give them an advantage in the struggle for existence.  The object of education for one’s own children is not so much to live better but to get a better living; not so much to do better work but to get better pay….Education gives the individual an advantage in the struggle for existence only when he has more of it than his fellows…From an industrial viewpoint, education is a labor-saving machine, enabling one man to do what ten did before. Like other improvements, it tends to decrease the number of jobs, and thus to sharpen competition and decrease wages.

Excerpt from School Power: A Pressing Necessity (Frank Tate, Australian Director of Education).

We must recognize, that in the struggle for existence, the law of the survival of the fittest applies to nations as to individuals, and that in this struggle for existence there is not only the struggle that results in the open shock of war, but the less obtrusive but no less intense struggle of peace, the struggle for trade supremacy. We must realize too how different modern conditions are from those that obtained even fifty years ago. The history of the past thirty years yields ample evidence that command of markets is to be won by the nation that brings knowledge and training to bear upon the operations of producing and marketing commodities which the world wants.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Immigration 1910 Montreal and Schools

Well, as I write Biology and Ambition, the story of teacher Marion Nicholson in 1908 to 1913 I am still trying to figure out EXACTLY what children went to her school, Royal Arthur, on Canning at Workman.

I probably should look up the History of Little Burgundy. I know that is the seat of Montreal's Black Community.

 I discovered the number of schools in Montreal in 1910, 18 with 15,000 students. Royal Arthur was a big new school rebuilt in 1910 as it had partially burned down. Marion, I know has 50 students in her class. I'm guessing that is the limit.

The Education Report for Quebec for 1910 shows how some schools were growing in population, bigtime:  Dufferin (St. Urbain) Aberdeen (St. Denis) and Mount Royal, in the Plateau on Clarke. Immigrants.  I have looked at the Census and seen who lived around Royal Arthur, but I have read that many students were bused long ways, as some of the newly annexed boroughs had no Protestant Schools.

What I read over and over is that many young students know No English. And that the teachers at the early level have a hard time of it. I imagine there were not that many non-English speakers at Royal Arthur.

Biology and Ambition will be epistolary, unlike Threshold Girl or Diary of a Confirmed Spinster, although both those ebooks contain some letters. I thought it would be easier, but really, I have to edit the letters as well as create new ones and add to old ones, as Marion didn't write letters in 1910 for instance.