Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Argo and Ice Storms and the Charbonneau Commission

(A 1900 era woodstove, like the one used by Margaret Nicholson of my story School Marms and Suffragettes .. It took a lot of skill to keep this stove going and to know how to cook on it. The Nicholsons of Richmond, who figure in the story, didn't electrify their home until 1913 and that only for lights.. Finding food to heat this stove was a constant worry and a major expense!! They also had a furnace. In some Quebec homes the kitchen stove was the only source of heat and the kitchen where everyone hung out in winter.)

Yesterday was the most beautiful day in Montreal, 20 degrees. (I thought of the irony of weather, all those people suffering in New Jersey and elsewhere.)

My husband and I went to see the 7 pm showing of Argo and despite the dark, it still was pleasant outside, like summer! But my husband said earlier on he had noticed the clouds floating backward, East to West. Hurricane Sandy!

Good movie, Ben Affleck's Argo.  Funny, in 1978 an Iranian student was part of our little group and it's amazing how little we knew about Iran and how little we asked him either. Argo does give short shrift to the Canadian contribution to this event, but who cares. Maybe it's a truer account. On US TV a CIA official seemed to suggest that the CIA did indeed do everything, letting the Canadians take credit.

I visited  a friend who is ailing earlier in the day, and brought her some soup for lunch. She asked if I wanted to wait and watch some TV 'to see what's happening.' I assumed she wanted to watch the news about Hurricane Sandy, but no she turned to the Charbonneau Commission, about corruption in Montreal.

A man, Martin Dumont was testifying and as the Montreal Gazette Reports he was implicating Mayor Tremblay. You would think I'd be interested in this Commission, what with having written this play about City Hall in 1927, the era of US Prohibition.

I did watch the Hurricane coverage (holding my nose at all the Political Commercials airing on CNN). It spooked me, I got my husband to go out and get a generator and a propane heater. We could always use the BBQ to cook.

13 years from the ICE STORM of 1998, and we aren't prepared for a prolonged loss of electricity especially in winter.  The generator we bought after the ice storm ("As God is my witness, we'll never go without a power source again!") has worn out and we don't have  a wood stove. The ice storm was a miserable time - except for people with wood stoves. We went two weeks without electricity in January.  (My husband had to work and I dragged the kids - and dog, to Montreal and back, driving in thick ice ruts on the Trans Canada Highway. What was I thinking?)

On the second day of the storm, in the burbs, my sons were outside under a tree and just a few minutes after they came in, the limb on the tree came crashing down. That's when we realized the storm was serious!

But they've outlawed Wood Stoves on the island, for their pollution. It makes no sense. SO many people in Montreal rely entirely on electricity to survive in the Winter.

Milk and Water

A play by Dorothy Nixon 2012, all rights reserved. 

1927 was Canada’s Jubilee year, the 60th anniversary of Confederation. To celebrate, 2 Royal Princes, David (the future Edward VIII) and George (the future Duke of Kent) took a month long tour of Canada. Up arrival, at the beginning of August, they were feted, along with UK Prime Minister Baldwin, at Montreal City Hall. A public ceremony was held on the in front of City Hall, with Mayor Mederic Martin in his purple robes. My grandfather and my Aunt Alice watched from a perch higher up on the steps. The Royal Princes would stay in Montreal 36 hours, then travel across Canada and return to Montreal at the end of the month for four days of rest and recreation before returning to England.

 This setting of this play, Milk and Water, takes advantage of this fact.

Is is available on Kindle

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Shrieking Suffragettes and Canadian Operatives

Christabel on her broom from Votes for Women, the WSPU Magazine.

As I research my documentary about the Canadian Suffrage Movement, I find this letter to the editor in the Montreal Gazette, in reply to another letter or article condemning the militant suffragettes.

It is in August 1912 and I have to wonder if the letter was actually written by British Suffragettes themselves.  Or with help from them. Sylvia Pankhurst was speaking in Toronto in 1912 and they generally landed in Montreal. As you can see, the argument that women 'shriek' when they want something was used back then.
Furies Cross the Mersey: A Story of 1912 (School Marms and Suffragettes Book 6)

The letter speaks for itself, but it should be remembered that militancy was reviled in Canada, generally, even among most suffragists.  (Edith Nicholson, of my ebook Furies Cross the Mersey was for militancy.) And this letter is rather radical... the 'at war' statement. One wonders if the Gazette put it in for that very reason. I see some newspapers used that term in headlines, but later one when things got very violent in 1913. I must research further. This letter to the Editor preceded by one month the visit of Militant Suffragette Barbara Wylie to Canada. She told reporters upon arriving in Montreal that if Prime Minister Asquith had been hit by the hatchet, 'maybe it would have knocked some sense into him." Wylie didn't shriek. She was admirably feminine and even nice to look at, according to reporters. (She came for two years to Canada and started up kind of organization in Saskatchewan (where her brother was an MP (I think.).. But she soon returned to England and got arrested in 1913 in a famous suffragette skirmish.

"With regard to his criticism of the methods of the militant party, has it ever occurred to Mr. Rose that the suffragettes are at war with the Government, and when you are at war, well, you just  war - that is all. When the fight is over and the victory won the women will settle down to peaceful citizenship and constructive work which they infinitely prefer to fighting.

No person, for instance, would judge actions of a soldier in war by the standards of peace. If Mr. Rose thinks they might use other methods than militancy, let him study the history of the movement for the past forty-five years and then suggest a method that they would have not already tried in vain. As to whether one of the shrieking sisterhood could ever fill the position of a statesman or ambassador to represent her country, no one who has ever met Mrs. Pankhurst or had the pleasure of hearing her speak, could for he moment doubt that she would most ably fill any position requiring tact, diplomacy, strength and ability. They do not, as Mr. Rose puts it, "shriek and bite and tear: in the piping times of peace, but in war time only. Mrs. Pankhurst at peace is not the same as Mrs. Pankhurst at war, any more than Lord Roberts or any other soldier on the battlefield is the same as Lord Roberts in a London drawing room. I notice that all their critics make the mistake of judging them by the standards of peace. There can be no peace until the vote is won.

I do not understand what Mr. Rose means when he says, "They strongly adhere to the privileges of their sex in expecting to receive light sentences for their various offences." Surely it is patent to any one, even the most causal observer, that the Government have pursued these heroic women with an almost savage fury, meting out punishments that they would not dare to inflict on men like offences. I do not suppose that Mr. Rose or any other thoughtless men who so lightly sit in judgement on the actions of these women, have even so much as gone without a meal for the sake of their convictions. The suffragettes have often gone without food for a whole week and then almost at death's door have been bound and gagged and forcibly and horribly fed by stomach tubes.

They have endured insults and cruelties of which he public know nothing and understand less, and all voluntarily because they want the vote by which alone they can get power to help and raise the suffering and oppressed of their own sex. I have before me at this moment an English paper, in which there is an account of the trial for a man for the death of his wife, whom he had so brutally beaten that she died within two hours. His defense was that she nagged him and the jury without leaving their box, returned a verdict of manslaughter with a recommendation to mercy on account of such provocation. The judge sentenced him to six months. I could multiply the cases by the hundred. In contrast, consider the sentence of five years passed on the woman who threw the hatchet at Mr. Asquith. Consider also the case of Angelina Napolitano, who murdered her husband last year under the terrible provocation. He continually and savagely beat her because she would not go out and earn money for him by immoral means. There was no recommendation for mercy in her case, and she was sentenced to death.It was only after a storm of public indignation and protest at the sentence that the sentence was lessened."

(The writer goes on to rebut the argument that if women don't fight in war they don't deserve the vote. Easy rebuttal as , apparently, soldiers didn't have the vote back then.) She lives on Kinkora Avenue. . Her name is Annie Sullivan.

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Furies Cross the Mersey: A Story of 1912 (School Marms and Suffragettes Book 6)
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Furies Cross the Mersey: A Story of 1912 (School Marms and Suffragettes Book 6) [Kindle Edition]

Dorothy Nixon 

Kindle Price:CDN$ 3.35 includes free international wireless delivery via Amazon Whispernet

Product Description

Product Description

Furies Cross the Mersey intertwines the story of six era women: Carrie Derick and Octavia Ritchie England, prominent social reformers and suffragists/gettes; country girls Marion and Edith Nicholson, cash-poor but connection-rich school teachers, looking for fun and love in the big, bad city; and Penelope Day and Mathilda Jenkins, Donaldas or women students at McGill's Royal Victoria College, women pioneers learning to 'think for themselves' in a world that is changing all too quickly.

Day and Jenkins are fictional characters; Derick and Ritchie England were very real and influenced Canadian education and health for generations to come.

Marion and Edith Nicholson were real, too, their life paths (described in family letters) typical of young women of a certain class in the Laurier Era.

All of their stories come together around the Canadian Woman Suffrage Movement.

The Montreal Suffrage Movement in 1910 was made up of McGill professors, clergyman and prim and proper middle class society ladies concerned with the sanctity of the home. Excitable young women with high ideals were not welcome.

There were no marches in that city and few inflammatory speeches. Certainly no window-smashing. Despite sponsoring visits from many a British suffragette, the Montreal Suffrage Association, launched in 1913, promised to go about 'a quiet education of the people.'

Still, in December, 1911, a month after the militant suffragettes in England renewed their fiery campaign of civil disobedience, by breaking windows up and down Oxford Street, Mrs. Emmeline Pankhurst gave a speech in Montreal that may have changed the course of Canadian history.

Furies Cross the Mersey merges historical fact and fiction to explain.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Emmeline and Isadora, NOT two peas in a pod

Isadora Duncan.

I've been researching Emmeline Pankhurst - and more particularly her influence on Canada and especially Quebec for a documentary I am creating on the Suffrage Movement in Canada.

The elder Pankhurst came to Canada twice (on official visits, possibly more times unofficially). She came to Montreal only once in 1911 and explained her position to local citizens,  being very careful to avoid any words that might be construed as inciting Canadian women to militancy.

According to Thérèse Casgrain's 1971autobiography, A Woman in a Man's World, the reaction on the city streets was still very negative.

Nonetheless, the Montreal Council of Women (an Anglo organization) used the occasion of Pankhurst's speech at Windsor Hall to launch the Montreal Suffrage Association "to keep the interest in suffrage alive'.

In September 1912, Pankhurst sent her operative, Miss Barbara Wylie, to Montreal. I've written about her visit extensively on this blog. Wylie was a bit of a live-wire. In August 1912, in London, England she and two other militants confronted the Canadian Prime Minister, Robert Borden, provoking him to say he'd never be swayed by militant tactics.

The Canadian government then quickly passed a law forbidding British militants to come to Canada.

Coincidentally, or perhaps not so coincidentally, the Montreal Gazette published a letter to the Editor in August 1912, praising Mrs. Pankhurst. The letter appears to be a rebuttal to another earlier letter condemning Pankhurst and the movement.

The woman who wrote the letter claims that violence is used by the suffragettes because "Mrs. Pankhurst is at war with her government."

Isn't that interesting?

Anyway, yesterday, continuing my research on Emmeline Pankhurst I discovered a little gem of a book on, printed in 1913, about the Edwardian era's feminist heroes. Women as World Builders.

Both Mrs. Pankhurst and Isadora Duncan are included.

The opening chapter is most interesting. It is about 'courtesans' and about the era's Goddess and Whore syndrome.

 The book, I know,  was available for sale at the Montreal Suffrage Association's Literature Bureau in 1913/4. Perhaps Edith Nicholson of  Threshold Girl and Diary of a Confirmed Spinster read it.

The author, Floyd Dell, writes that a good woman who marries naively and has to leave her abusive or neglectful husband is then unfairly branded a courtesan. And what's so bad about courtesans anyway? he asks. Courtesans are often bright lively woman, as compared to the dull shallow society women who set the standard for other women.

Here are two key bits from the book..


Saturday, October 27, 2012

Would the Real Canadian Suffragette Please Stand Up!

Here's a portrait of Flora MacDonald Denison, Canadian suffragette, from a Library of Congress website.

Many people come to my blog looking up "Flora Macdonald".

I have written a series of ebooks, Threshold Girl, Diary of a Confirmed Spinster, Furies Cross the Mersey, about the 1910 era lives of Flora, Edith and Marion Nicholson of Richmond Quebec. Flora attended Macdonald College in 1910.

Flora's story Threshold Girl is about the the Two Solitudes and includes a garment industry and suffragette theme. In Quebec, French Canadians worked in the garment industry.

Mine is a Montreal and Quebec story, because I feel that story has largely been forgotten. (And besides, I'm using the Nicholson women's letters as background.)

Social History in Canada is pretty Toronto-centric.

(I am working on a follow up to Furies Cross the Mersey, Service and Disservice, about the Canadian Suffrage Movement from 1914-1919, that will included Flora McD's story.

There are already people keeping Flora MacDonald Denison's memory alive (check out this YouTube video) and frankly I think Denison deserves to be in Prime Minister Harper's new Hall of Heroes in his Museum of Canadian History.

Over Barbara Wiley, the British Suffragette who came to Canada for two years (who I sarcastically nominated in an earlier post) and even over Carrie Derick, the head of the  Montreal Suffrage Association and also the first female full professor in Canada. (She was a Botanist at McGill but also a vocal supporter of Eugenics.)

I've re-discovered Mrs. Flora McD Denison (as it is written in the Canadian Council of Women minutes)researching whether Emmeline Pankhurst, the leader of the British Suffragettes, ever came to Montreal in the 1908-1913 period.

The official story is yes, Emmeline came, but only once in 1911. (I have yet to find a newspaper account of the meeting). She came to Toronto at least twice and it is Flora MacDonald Denison who brought her there as vocal leader of the Canadian Suffrage Association.

In her 1913 autobiography Pankhurst writes that she enjoyed Toronto because she was received by the Mayor.

A biography of Pankhurst says she came to Canada twice and in Toronto, on her first visit, spoke to the Men's Canadian Club in Toronto and at two other venues. She was well-received then.

As it happens, I stumbled upon a piece in a Montreal-based newspaper (a short lived on that appears to have been created to fight City Hall Corruption) that is most amusing.(The style of writing, once again, sounds suspiciously like Edward Beck, crusading journalist, and my grandfather's foe. Read Milk and Water.

Still, I also found this:

Well, Montreal was also in the grip of a Typhoid Epidemic in November 1909. So perhaps that is the reason Mrs. Pankhurst didn't come. Or perhaps it was the money. Pankhurst's many visits to North America (6 in total around 1910) were about raising money for the cause and for lawyers! She charged a pretty penny to speak -as the article above shows.

Anyway, there may have been also some secret visits. There are accounts of people meeting up with the Pankhursts on Atlantic crossings, one where Emmeline is travelling incognito.

The suffragettes had many Canadian connections and used them for all they were worth, no doubt.

Indeed, someone met Sylvia on a transatlantic voyage in 1912 and she said she was going to Montreal. That is the year Carrie Derick set up the non militant (or not militant or non militant) Montreal Suffrage Association.

Anyway, the Canadian Encyclopedia entry on Flora Macdonald Denison says that she had to quit as leader of the Canadian Suffrage League in 1914 because she was for the British Militants.

But many feminist leaders in Canada were for the militants as I've pointed out. (Even Miss Hurblatt, Warden of Royal Victoria College - a very prim and proper place.) They  were careful, though, about the language they used to frame their support.

I found another newspaper article where Denison is quoted as saying that the British Suffragettes have a right to shoot Asquith.  Not a smart thing to say. Maybe she never said it. Maybe she said it 'off the record.'

Anyway, Flora Macdonald Denison was a dressmaker who had worked at Simpson's and wanted to promote women in the workplace. So she wasn't one of the 'maternal' suffragettes who wanted to promote women as homemakers and turn men into women, behavior-wise.

This is from the Yearbook for 1913 of the Canadian Council of Women:

No, most Canadian Suffragists weren't concerned with getting women more rights, so that they could have physical and economic freedom. (The Nicholson women wanted this, though.)  They wanted rights so that they could put in laws to force men to follow the same moral standards as women, as in stop drinking, whoring and such.

Flora Macdonald Denison was a dressmaker, who had fallen on hard times and had to work for a salary, so she had 'hands-on experience' with the life of the worker, unlike most female do-gooders.  She also worked as a journalist.

I wondered if she had been the woman who had tried to get various Canadian ladies' groups to support the Eaton's workers strike in 1912. ( I put a scene in my School Marms and Suffragettes story about this.)

So I checked.

No, that was Alice A Chown, another Ontario Suffragette, who was leader of the Toronto Equal Franchise League, another pro suffrage group. Chown too is an interesting person, whose beliefs about suffrage were more 'forward looking.' She wrote a book in 1923 called the Stairway.

So I nominate Alice Chown with Flora Macdonald Denison for Harper's Hall of Heroes. (Chown was a pacifist in WWI and Denison a 'spiritualist.' Oh well!)

 And here follows an advertisement from the Toronto Council of Woman yearbook that says it all.

Feathers for your hat from 1.00 to 100.00!

100 dollars was the monthly salary of Norman Nicholson, Flora, Marion and Edith's father, who was working on the railroad. It was considered a good monthly salary and few men in Canada made that much, let alone women. (Edith earned 250 A YEAR as a teacher!!)

Friday, October 26, 2012

Writers and Jail: An Interesting Combination

A Suffragette  being hustled away at a UK Demonstration.

Conrad Black got into the headline news, again, last week, when he had a fight (not physical, but threats were made) with a BBC interviewer or presenter as they are called. He is in the UK promoting his new book, A Matter of Principle.

Black was asked about his conviction and the jail time in the US on fraud and obstruction of justice charges and he answered that everyone knows the US justice system is corrupt.)

While in jail Black  published articles about that same system, where men fester in prison on petty drug charges. *While the banksters, blitzed on cocaine, almost bring down the world economy and only get promoted to big government, according to the documentary Inside Job.

Upon his release and 'exile' to Canada he's been quite silent on the subject of petty criminals, I guess because he doesn't want to irk Harper, who seems intent on creating an American style justice system in Canada.

I don't know if Black continues his condemnation of the US Justice System in his new book. Oh, wait, the publisher McClelland, calls the book 'a scathing account of a flawed justice system.' But does Black stick up for the little guy, or only lament his own very different situation?

Anyway, this made me think. Sending writers to jail is an iffy business.

I thought of Doystoevsky and Jean Genet and Emile Zola and such.

Doystoevsky was sent to jail and sentenced to death for participating in a revolutionary group (he claimed he just wanted to free the serfs)  but he was given a reprieve by the Tsar at the last minute as he stood in line waiting to be executed by a firing squad.

Two of his fellow prisoners were driven mad by the experience. Dostoyevsky wrote a brilliant novel, The Idiot.

Of course, most people in jail are from the underclasses, either illiterate, quasi literate, with fetal alcohol syndrome, or otherwise learning disabled. That's the issue.

I've been reading a lot of stuff about the suffragettes in  their WSPU magazine, Votes for Women. That magazine is very well written and it vividly describes their "Russian Treatment" in jail in the 1910 era.

I've also been reading newspaper articles about the Suffragettes in the North American newspapers. They covered the same topic, but were it not for the magazine, average women in the US and Canada, like Edith Nicholson, of my ebook School Marms and Suffragettes, would not have heard about their 'torture' at the hands of the British authorities - and might not have felt sympathetic toward their cause.

Here's a description of their Russian Treatment. I put it in my story, for I have Edith read it after picking it off the floor of a meeting room.

 I have no doubt that members of the Canadian suffragist movement read this magazine.  Indeed, Carrie Derick, the President of the Montreal Suffrage Association seems to me to have taken many of her ideas from it.

“Of all the actions of the Suffragettes none have been so widely misunderstood as the prison mutiny and the hunger strike. Even among those who have nothing but admiration for the women who have faced ill-usage and imprisonment for protesting at Cabinet Minister’s meetings, or for taking part in deputations  to the Prime Minister at the House of Commons, there are many who regard the hunger strike not merely as tactically and perhaps morally wrong, but as justifying to some extent the statement that the militant Suffragists are hysterical and unbalanced.

This criticism is partly due to the fact that the prison mutiny and hunger strike were the latest phase of militancy – and it has been a noteworthy feature at every stage of the present campaign that critics have fastened upon the latest militant methods for attack, while condoning and even sometimes expressing approval of earlier militant methods – and partly due to the fact that the outside public have never properly realized that there was an important principle underlying the apparently unaccountable behaviour of the Suffragettes in prison.

To incur WANTONLY additional punishment in prison, to undergo GRATUITOUSLY the terrible ordeal of starvation, to submit to the torture and forcible feeding rather than act rationally – these might be evidences of hysteria; but to determine, FOR A SUFFICIENTLY IMPORTANT PURPOSE, on a course of action without flinching, and to carry it through to the bitter end – these are evidences of a well-balanced mind and an heroic and untameable spirit.

To understand the action of the Suffragettes it is necessary to go back in history and trace in brief the treatment which has been adopted in past centuries and in other countries towards those who, like the present day Suffragettes, have incurred imprisonment, not on account of degrading crimes implying moral turpitude, but on account of actions taken with a political object.

In ancient days those who conspired to reform the government were dealt with barbarously; first they were tortured, then they were killed, and finally their bodies were mutilated. Later on, though the death penalty was still enacted, the savage accompaniments were omitted. As times advance, public opinion demanded greater and greater differentiation between the treatment of ordinary criminals punished for their selfish anti-social actions and that of men and women who had run counter to the law in consequence of their political views.

Even in the Bastille, we find political prisoners given considerable privileges; thus Parades was allowed to have what books he pleased, to carry on correspondence, and to be visited by friends. In the early part of the last century Cobbett was imprisoned in this country; not only did he have books and correspondence, but he was actually allowed to have the constant company of one of his children, who took up his abode in the prison to be with him. The condition of the political prisons of Neapolitan King Bomba in the forties raised a storm of indignation in the is country, because though they had certain privileges as to writing and reading, they were in other respects treated as common criminals and subjected to unhealthy and degrading conditions.

From the commencement, in dealing with the Suffrage prisoners, the Government departed from this honourable tradition.

Christobel Pankhurst and Annie Kenney, in October 1905, were sentenced to the third division in Strangways Gaol, Manchester, and were thus classed as the lowest criminals.  Again in July, 1906, Annie Kenney and the others suffered imprisonment in the second division (a slightly better class, but still totally different from that allotted to political offenders.) In October 1906, ten more women were arrested and nine were sent to the second division and one to the third. This time, considerable feeling was aroused, because among the number was the daughter of Richard Cobden. Liberal members appealed to the Home Secretary, Mr. Gladstone, and he made representations to the magistrate, and they were transferred to the first division and received treatment approximating to that of political prisoners. For some twelve months, this practice prevailed, then once again, the old methods was adopted. Suffrage prisoners were sent to the second and in some cased to the third division and there suffered the full  treatment of prison discipline. Visitors and correspondence were only allowed at rare intervals, and the latter was always open to inspection by the authorities. Permission was refused Christabel Pankhurst to write a book in prison, which was not to have been published until she came out.

At first women suffrage prisoners accepted this without protest the punishment which was meted out to them; their compassion for the ordinary prisoners (many of whom for quite trivial offences were being treated in a way which would evidently unfit them for life when they came out) prompted them to protest rather against the whole system of prison treatment than against the absence of differentiation in their favour. But as time went on they realized that by remaining silent on this matter they were allowing the traditions of proper treatment of political offenders  to be abrogated, and in order that the future political prisoners might not suffer It was necessary to protest.
At first their protest was confined to words; the Home Secretary appealed to. He refused to make any change, and offered two excused for his position – firstly, that the matter was one for the magistrate and not for himself, secondly, that the offenses were ordinary breaches of the law and to be punished as such. To these he subsequently added a third excuse to the effect that the prisoners had for a time been put in the first division but had abused their privileges. There is an element of inconsistency in these replies, which are to some extend mutually destructive, but in addition each can be directly answered.
The Home Secretary undoubtedly possesses the power by the use of the Royal Prerogative of mercy to order the removal of a prison to a higher class. Even without using this he can make recommendations to the magistrate, as was actually done in 1906. …
With regard to the second assertion, that the Suffragettes are not political offenders, we have the decision of an English Court in the year 1891 in the extradition case of Rex vs. Cathioni, in which it was laid down that an offence is political if it is committed with a political object, even thought it be the offence of murder itself. Moreover, we have the test offered by the Rr. Honorable Gladstone, of public opinion , whether in the eyes of the public the offender is considered guilty of moral turpitude.
According to both these, all the women suffrage prisoners have been political offenders.

As for Mr. Gladstone’s third excuse, no charge was ever made at the time, nor has any charge whatever been formulated since.

When Mrs. Pankurst and Christable Pankhurst had been in prison together in the autumn of 1908, Mrs. Pankhurst had claimed the right to speak to her daughter while in exercise. This led to a severe reproof from the wardresses, which roused the anger of the other suffragettes present., who made a protest.  Punishments were meted out all around, and Mrs. Pankhurst was kept in close confinement, but at length, the Government gave in and she was permitted to talk to her daughter at stated times.
It was not, however, till June 1909, that prison tactics were decided on by the members of the WSPU, as a definite ploy. The essential feature was that a claim was to be made for treatment as political offenders. If this was disregarded a protest was to be made inside the walls of the prison. This would take the shape of a passive resistance to prison regulations, to wearing prison dress, to confinement in separate cells, to routines of prison life; and this was to be followed by breaking the windows of the cells, at once a vigorous protest against prison discipline and a concrete and effective method o f remedying a serious abuse, the absence of proper ventilation.
All these methods were, in fact, carried out, but by the heroic courage of one woman a still more terrible method was been put into operation. Miss Wallace Dunlop adopted as the strongest protest she could make, a method used in the Russian Prisons by the prisoners –hunger strike. The hunger strike is passive resistance carried to its supreme limit. It offers no active resistance to wrong, but it frankly stakes life in the effort to win justice.

Mrs Wallace Dunlop said in effect to the Government; “I hold the rights of political prisoners so sacred that I am willing to die in their defence; choose, therefore, between doing justice and allowing me to die in prison.”

It was a terrible step to take, involving untold suffering as well as risk of life, but Mrs. Wallace Dunlop with a full sense of seriousness of what she was doing, had made up her mind and intended to go through with what  she had undertaken. In sprite of threats and cajoling, in spite of great physical distress, she remained firm. And the end of four days, the Government gave in. They would not give her political treatment, it is true, but equally, they would not let her die in prison. They ordered her release. Thirteen other woman suffrage prisoners who went to Holloway a few days later also adopted the hunger strike. They first they carried out the protest against prison discipline which they had premeditated. For this they had to face the severe rigours of prison punishment, close confinement for several days without exercise in narrow, airless and semi dark cells, and under these conditions may of them faced hunger for three, four, five and some for over six days. In the end they all won; their spirit proved triumphant over physical suffering. They were released by order of the Government lest that great releaser, Death should free them from their bondage before their sentences expired.”

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Canada and the British Invasion (of Suffragettes) circa 1910

Unfortunately, Edith Nicholson did not cut out any clippings of Mrs. Emmeline Pankhurst's trips to Canada. Hard to believe.

I think this is because, when Pankhurst came to Canada (and if I am right she came in 1909 and late 1911) she kept a fairly low profile.

Of course, there were some factions who wanted any militant suffragettes who came to Canada arrested as criminals and deported. (I suspect the British Government put some pressure on the Canadian Government.)

I found a social note in an American Paper that claimed Mrs. Pankhurst came to Montreal in early January 1912 and spoke before a HUGE crowd which included the Mayor of all things! And she may have also visited in 1909, right plunk in the middle of the Typhoid Epidemic (see Milk and Water my eplay) and kept it MILD.

(So I must go to the library and check out the Newspapers of that time.)

Apparently, according to Mrs. Denison of Toronto, leader of the suffrage movement there, the Mayor of Toronto was pro-women suffrage, so much so, he started the Men's Woman Suffrage League. Maybe Mayor Martin didn't want to be left behind.

Mrs. Denison, in 1913 (when the British Suffragettes and Mrs. Pankhurst were getting in big trouble in England) gave an interview to the New York Times.

She said almost all the Toronto Papers were in support of Mrs. Emmeline Pankhurst. She said so were the women of Canada, although they were not into "open meetings' and demonstrations" so they were 'conservative' in their way.

She said Canadian Suffragists weren't into militant methods (although the Canadian Council of Women endorsed Woman Suffage) either, although "some young women were coming to understand the need for publicity that they must make sacrifices for the cause."

Isn't that interesting? She understood that all the histrionics was about publicity.

Yes, very interesting. And it's not such a surprise to me now, that Edith Nicholson, prim and proper school teacher, was a militant suffragette sympathizer.

Mrs. Pankhurst came to Canada often afterwards, during the War and such, speaking from pulpits, in 1916 at St. James Methodist. (During the war the Suffragettes were very patriotic, and their particular brand of violence seemed meek and mild compared to what was going on in Europe.)

Also, many British Militant Suffragettes seemed to come to Canada "to rest and recreate" after doing jail time. The editors of the WSPU Votes for Women magazine, the Lawrences, came in 1912, (to visit a brother) and while away their home was confiscated.

Is Militancy a Disease? Most articles in the Montreal Gazette about the Suffragettes were wired in Cooperation with the New York Times.

Upon her death in 1928, the Montreal Gazette explained that  Emmeline Pankhurst lived in Toronto for a while, in 1921 and later Victoria BC. (Canadian women had the vote by then as did British women over 30.)

The obit described her as 'slight in stature, but with a fighting spirit, who at 50 had preserved much of her girlish beauty. She reveled in pretty clothes as much as any woman, loved music and children, and made the 'best lamb' in England.' (And then the obit talks about her family in Manchester  and their long fight for social justice. (I recall hearing on a BBC Radio doumentary, that the Pankhurst's became social activists when they noticed that so many young girls were arriving at their clinic pregnant by their own fathers.)

It always comes down to looks, doesn't it?  She's a suffragette, but she's SO PRETTY. The papers said the same about Mrs. Snowden and Barbara Wylie

Still, one wonders if she had been a big woman if she would have had a chance. Helen Gurley Brown was a ballsy woman, and ground breaker, but she was tiny too. There's something about being tiny and feminine that gives a strong woman an advantage. She doesn't intimidate with her looks and size, so she can make sneak attacks, or something.

Oh, and I learned something else, as I research my YouTube documentary about the Suffrage Movement in Canada, that a woman who had worked with Mrs. Pankhurst later led the Montreal Suffrage Association.

So the British Suffragettes clearly had influence in Canada, back room political influence, people in Canada were just careful about associating themselves with the militants in England.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

White Slaves and Pretty Lady Speakers

St James United, once St. James Methodist. The 1913 meeting of the Canadian Council of Women was held in the lecture hall.

"As England was the storm-center of the suffrage movement, she thought it well to refer chiefly to that country, and said that while the suffragists at times could not help feeling sick at heart at the difficulty in obtaining their aims, in reality during the past century their cause had made great strides. For their progress dated from 1832, when the successful agitation in favour of adult male suffrage had been the first step in the direction of political emancipation. A hundred years ago, there had been no profession open to women, but now they could be doctors, accountants and clerks, while other professions would be open in time; even the ministry, she thought would be open before many years. Women could now sit on public bodies of every kind, except in Parliament, while in the Civil Service, they were paid on the same basis as men. There had been two women on the recent Divorce Commission, and it had been owing to their pressure that it had been decided to recommend equal cause for divorce for men and women. While on the last occasion, when the Suffrage Bill was brought up in Parliament the Government had refused to give it any time; they had offered to introduce any other bill suggested by the suffragists, and through the efforts of the latter the Criminal Amendments, or White Slave Traffic Bill had been passed, legalizing flogging of procurers and allowing them to be arrested without a warrant, while owners as well as tenants were made responsible for the use to which their property was put."

These steps reflected a big change in the attitude towards women and had resulted from the efforts of suffragists."

This is a the first part of a summary of the 1913 speech given by Mrs Philip Snowden British Suffragist to Montrealers at Stanley Hall.

 The Montreal Suffrage Association, led by Miss Carrie Derick, had invited her to speak on the occasion of the Canadian Council of Women's Annual General Meeting.

Edith Nicholson of Diary of a Confirmed Spinster was there. (Or at least she wrote in a letter she was planning to attend. "I am going to hear Mrs. Snowden speak, but she is not militant, and for this I am very sad."

This synopsis is very interesting in that it shows that Mrs. Snowden, the wife of of a British M.P. a beautiful woman and eloquent speaker by all accounts, used the same arguments to promote woman suffrage as some of the anti-suffrage forces, that women already had it all.

So I can add Mrs. Snowden's speech  to the long list of items from 1910 where it is claimed a woman of the era could enter any profession she wished. Carrie Derick, President of the Montreal Suffrage Association, and former President of the Montreal Council of Women, said the same thing in her report to the Royal Commission on behalf of the Montreal Council.

As if having one woman lawyer meant ANY woman could become a lawyer. Nonsense.

Even in the early 30's, it has been shown, the graduates of McGill's arts program, the Donaldas, had little option but to enter teaching. The professions did not open up to them as they did to male graduates of the same program. They were not part of the Old Boys Network.

Well, well.

I'm reading this Annual Report from 1913 (re-reading it actually) and conducting more research because I've decided to create a YouTube documentary on the Canadian Suffrage Movement.

I've already posted a little 'test item' on YouTube.

In my story, School Marms and Suffragettes I have Miss Barbara Wylie speak in the same St. James church in 1912.

Yesterday, I visited downtown to take pictures and realized the church is just a few yards from Phillip's Square, so I have to change that in my book. I have Edith and Flora taking a tram from Phillip's Square to the church. Whoops!!!

Anyway, the next part of Snowden's speech is also very interesting. She talks about how the suffragists helped change the laws with regard to the White Slave Traffic.

(The Montreal Council wanted such laws put in in Canada as well.)

Flogging and arrest without a warrant...Hmmm.  In Canada at least, so called white-slavers were almost always immigrants.. or perceived to be so. Immigrants preying on OUR women.

(Yesterday, looking up stories on the suffragettes in the Montreal Gazette, I saw a 1912 story about a Chinese restaurant that hired White Waitresses. Apparently the morality people were appalled. The waitresses shot back, "if the restaurant is good enough for white women to eat in, it's good enough for white women to work in."

A poor woman in those days either had to work as a domestic or in a factory. Maybe waitressing was indeed a better job. The waitresses claimed as much.)

And still another point made by Mrs. Snowden speaks volumes about the times. She says that anyone owning an establishment has been made responsible for what goes on within its walls.

Well! That was the reason Marion Nicholson, a teacher in Montreal, had so much trouble finding a place to live in the city..  Boarding house matrons were suspicious of any woman, (especially feisty independent women like Marion.). They had to be. They could be accused of being Madames (and then flogged???)

Were the suffragists really helping the cause of women by putting in such laws????? No, of course not. Hmm. White Slavery, the name says it all. Today it is called Human Trafficking and is as prolific as ever despite women having the vote.  It's about class, not race or gender.

Treated better than some white employers, say the women at this Chinese Cafe.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

A Documentary is Born, well, conceived.

My husband and I played around with our Corel Video Editing progamme so now I know what I can and cannot do with my documentary "Sister Salvation" about the Canadian Suffrage Movement, or lack of same.

I already have thrown a few images into the Corel Slideshow contraption and put Gary Jewell's Sister Salvation behind it. As a test.

My husband's a professional digital news editor, so he's going to help me, but the Story Board, the important part, is for me to do.

Right now I am reading the Annual report of the Canadian Council of Women, from their meeting in Montreal in 1913, where they invited Ethel Snowden of England to speak.

It's the Montreal Suffrage Association, founded by Carrie Derick a year before, that invited her.

In Edith's May 1913 letter  she writes "I am going to see Mrs. Snowden speak, but she is not militant and for this I am sad."

Edith the schoolteacher, a militant suffragette sympathizer.

Edith later made friends with Carrie Derick, perhaps at this meeting. She stepped out with her in 1917, I have it in another letter.

Up until now, no one has really done anything about the Canadian Suffrage Movement. Everyone refers to a master's thesis by an American.

That's because there wasn't one, really. The reasons given at the time: Canadian women already had enough rights; Canadians are not like Americans, into rights, they are 'intensely on the make' self-serving individualistic; there aren't enough Spinsters in Canada to start a movement.


Carrie Derick was a spinster and so was Edith (as I write in Diary of a Confirmed Spinster) she lost her great love in 1910 in a hotel fire.

And so was Ethel Hurbatt, the very first Warden of the Royal Victoria College at McGill, who gave a talk on suffrage in 1910, and who seemed very sympathetic with the British militants. (I find this fascinating as these Wardens were supposed to be the most upstanding citizens and McGill was a very Conservative place. The trustees of The Royal Victoria College didn't want the women attending classes with the men. That's why a women's college was erected in the first place.

Edith would come to know Hurlbatt too, as she would work with her in the 20's. Edith became an Assistant Warden at RVC, not having the education to be named Warden.

So here, I go..creating the first 'documentary' of the Canadian Suffrage Movement. YouTube version.

The Nicholson women will figure in this documentary.. Edith's quote, Flora's quote from Macdonald, "I think I will take up public speaking and become a suffragette."

Margaret's quote upon voting in her first election, "How I love this country."

And Norman's paragraph in support of women's suffrage, written after his wife had a fight with a relation over the subject, who quoted St. Paul.

In a 1910ish letter Margaret writes about a debate at McGill and how the results make her happy. It's an RVC debate on woman suffrage. Dr. Stephen Leacock was a judge. The Pro side won!! A mock parliament at McGill, put on by male students, saw a pro woman suffrage resolution go down to defeat. (They also voted to deny Chinese more rights.)

Only Marion Nicholson said nothing about women's suffrage in the letters I have, and she was the most political of all!

Edith in 1917 plus, in a WWI support uniform of some kind. She's posing in front of the Sun Life Building. She worked at Sun Life before joining McGill.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Astaire, TV Sex and the Boss

In those forties musicals, Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers type, when the romantic couple were ready for sex, they'd dance.

And it was fun to watch. More than fun, most times. Mesmerizing.

Today, it's all sex all the time. On Cable TV anyway. And there's nothing romantic about it.

My husband and I caught up on the BOSS this weekend. (I wanted to see Argo, but he was too tired.)

It's a great show, that's why we watch it. That's why we subscribed this year to the Cable Channel that carries it.

But it's full of sex, well, not sex, everything is always full of sex. It's full of "doing it" - a few scenes an episode.

I have nothing against sex scenes. In some movies, I wished they were longer (The Constant Gardener, comes to mind.)

But in the Boss, it's stylized, as in quickies all over the place. Usually performed by morally bankrupt people on tabletops - for power.

Not pretty, not Astaire and Rogers. And that's the point, I guess. Except the scenes lose their effectiveness when done over and over. I think anyway. I feel sorry for the actors too, somehow. Their bums must get cold.

In a great earlier scene, the Mayor played by Kelsey Grammer is on the toilet and he comes out to greet some other politician, without washing his hands. That's a great scene - about Power. But we wouldn't want to see it repeated over and over.

I guess I'm old fashioned. Movie sex is always weird. Women never have periods, for one. And strangers are strangely adept at, ahem, the little technicalities. No awkwardness and fumbling around and boinking each other in the eye, or pulling hair or missing the mark or whatever.

Anyway, this last flashback style episode had a lot of interesting twists and a mention that The Mayor, Tom Kane, as played by Grammer started out as a clerk in the sanitation department.

That's where my grandfather started out at Montreal City Hall int he 1880's.. as a clerk in Dr. Laberge's Health Department.

It's in Milk and Water, my eplay. The Head of the Sanitation Department wielded a lot of power as he could close any place down on the grounds of public health. So if immigrants wanted to start up stores and the established storekeepers resented the competition they would ask the Sanitation Department to check out the premises and claim they were unsanitary.

As someone who knows all about Corruption in Montreal in the roaring twenties, I can only guess that the Boss is not really satire, as in exaggerating the truth to prove a point. Except for the all those quickies :)

In the 20's, Chicago was known as a corrupt city, with Capone and all that, but some people believed Montreal to be more corrupt. And that in large part to Prohibition, as the American Crime bosses came up north to run their booze empires. And also because French Canadian values were different from English (as in Presbyterian) values.

Oddly, from what I've learned, Chicago was also a very progressive city at the turn of the Century, with respect to Education and such.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

A Silly Cat Story

Throwing a Cat at a Mouse. It doesn't work. I tried it this morning.

I woke up and made the coffee and put the bread in the toaster and saw a little brown ball behind the toaster, (I think, I wasn't sure) so I ran and got the cat, Fou Fou, our twelve year old Tabby and picked him up and brought him into the kitchen and put him on the counter.

He jumped off and ran into the living room.

We live in the country (although that hardly makes a difference) and in the Fall we get mice, in the kitchen. But four years ago we inherited Fou Fou from my mother, and although he had been an indoor cat for 10 years, he was a great mouser.

Indeed, after the first year, no mice dared come into the house.

Until this year.

Can mice sense something? That a cat has become blase. Fou Fou's pretty fat these days.

I'm more embarrassed by my classic feminine reaction to the tiny varmint.

I went "EEK. A Mouse" and ran to the bedroom to get my husband. Unlike my mother, I am not afraid of mice. (I owned plenty as a child.) But this one was so SILENT. It didn't scurry. It glided across the counter, supernaturally.

Anyway, my husband jumped out of bed, got the broom and said "Where is it? "

"On the counter"

And then he said "There it is in the corner" and he went and got the cat, who had settled back lazily on the carpet,licking his side, picked him up and brought him back into the kitchen and put him on the counter. You guessed it, the normally easy-going  cat jumped off and ran in to the living room, a lot frazzled this time. Like a cartoon cat, with its hair on its back standing up on end.

My husband poked the mouse with the broom and it ran back under the stove to its hole that leads to the porch.

Time for a mouse trap, I guess. And time to wash down the counters.

Anyway, and then I got a phone call, on the landline, from Private Number. I didn't answer. I don't answer the land line unless I can  see who it is. (No one important calls me on the land line anyway, except my friend Laura.). It's almost always con men and hoaxsters or sleazy solicitors of some kind who use that number.

As my husband says, The only people with land lines, these days, are old folk, easy pickings for the con artists. (He's not referring to us, we're still 'young' you know.)

Yesterday, I got a repeated call from a Quebec City number, and looked it up on the Internet and saw it was from people pulling the classic 'You've won a free trip" con.

This morning, no message was left so it was probably just another crook or cheesy salesperson..

Although, I'm a little worried it was from my friend, Laura.

Laura is dying from bone cancer.  (Although her home phone number is always displayed, maybe she is somewhere else.)

Yesterday, I brought her some home-made beef and barely soup and ate lunch with her. She had just gotten out of hospital after a week's stay. I was hoping she wasn't right back in there this morning. All those pills I brought her from the pharmacist,  hundreds of them, 7 days' worth, morphine and otherwise, in those plastic pockets on the giant cardboard cards, designed to help people keep track.

(It all seems a bit like throwing a cat at a mouse, all those medications.)

But how can you keep track, even with those cards, when you are zonked on painkillers? We all worry about that.

After our lunch, yesterday, Laura lay down on the couch and fielded phone calls from her daughter, sister and pharmacist and all the medical people and home-care people, asking if she needed this or needed that.  Laura lives alone, but she is not alone. She flatly refused to have someone come in to cook for her. "I have to do something," she told me.

After each phone call she'd tell me about what went down. And then she said. "TALK. Tell me anything. Talk about nothing. I'm sick of my medical issues."

She knows I don't have much going on in my life. She was the person I did everything with, after all. So I talked about nothing, my quiet existence in the rural burbs. (I avoided the usual complaints about my various aches and pains. )

I told her about my latest foray into film-making, for my audio books. And my husband's happiness at finally getting some 'ordinary food' like beef and barely soup, instead of my usual culinary confusion of fusion. (I made him some soup too). And I talked about the dogs and the cats, since my kids are grown and live away.

Three years ago, when my mother was dying, of the same bone cancer, in the same inexorable inevitable way, Laura made pots of delicious soup and brought it to her. (She's a family friend, her mom was childhood friends with my mom.)

Laura is used to being the Souper not the Soupee. This I think is the hardest part of her terrible disease, about dying. She is not used to being waited on. She is used to being independent.

Anyway, now I have a funny story to tell Laura. Tomorrow when I visit. She loves cats and cat stories. A little gift of sorts.

I guess, when a person is dying, you have to give a person what they  want, not what they need. It's terribly sad, but that's all you can do.