Thursday, January 31, 2013

Babying Grown Women in 1910

Yesterday I visited the Quebec Archives. They are housed in this beautiful building on Viger.

I brought my camera but forgot to take an outside pic and couldn't take an inside pic (was afraid to) but the place is gorgeous inside too. And I had it pretty much to myself!

I went to look up material relating to the Montreal Council of Women in 1908-1913. This building, once an academy of higher learning, was built in 1910 (Beaux Arts style) so it all  fit together very nicely.

I am making a documentary about the early suffrage movement in Quebec to complement my ebook Threshold Girl.

Now, I knew the Archives contained the fonds of the Montreal Council of Women. But a few years ago, when I visited, for some reason they couldn't find them for me.

Yesterday I had better luck, but apparently they have upgraded their system since then.

A receptionist made me a library card and guided me through the steps to 'order' what I wanted.

Oddly, I didn't see anything that interesting in the fonds in the list online, for instance, no report on the Suffrage Exhibit of 1913, so I merely chose the minutes for 1908-1913.

I assumed they would be on microfilm but they weren't: these were the original minutes in one  dilapidated volume!

I would have loved to have taken a picture of it (but I couldn't) so just imagine a dusty old ledger book about 10 by 8, with a black cover that has become detached, and about 200 bloated pages, for there are many documents inserted between the pages, and rather sloppy minutes, penned in many different hands.

How lucky!

These minutes aren't of the short and sweet, tight-lipped variety. They are kind of stream of consciousness and quite candid in parts.

And I'm glad I didn't read them 4 years ago. I wouldn't have understood what is going on. Yesterday, after 4 years of research, I was all too familiar with all the names and all the business arising, as they say at Board Meetings.

(* caption...Marion Nicholson, my husband's grandmother. She was a teacher in the city in 1908-12...and her letters reveal she had a HELL of a time finding a place to stay. The 1908-1913 minutes of the Montreal Council reflect this reality, with many business and reform people trying to set up Women's Hotels.

I write about it in Diary of a Confirmed Spinster. Oddly, Mr. Molson was an interested party, and yet the Women's Christian Temperance Union was a powerful faction in the Local Council. The Local Council was all for curbing alcohol sales in restaurants and hotels. And they wanted saloons kept a distance from schools, colleges, parks, you name it! What was a drinking man to do???

Here's a snippet from a meeting with Dr. Symonds, influential pastor of Christ Church Cathedral:

" Dr. Symonds pointed out the need of wholesome recreation for the army of women - regretting for them the lack of opportunity of self-improvement or that intercourse (sic) which was best for their social development. 

It is clear that no existing organization could meet with the need caused by the tremendous growth of our city and the thousands of women-workers to be considered....

(The message here. No one bothered to ask the young women involved what they wanted. Marion in my story is peeved at this fact!)

No, nothing in the minutes surprised me, but it was all too interesting.

Where to begin:

1) Yes, the the Council hated my grandpapa  who is the subject of my other ebook Milk and Water. Well, they disapproved of his faction (which, ironically, included Thérese Forget Casgrain's people.)

I already knew that the council worked hard for the Reform Candidates in the 1910 municipal election. But these minutes also happen to contain many pages of notes describing the Council's elation at the positive results. (Dr. Guerin, their candidate got in and this, with the help of women voters, the spinsters who had the municipal vote.)

In fact, a line is drawn across these pages, because someone decided the recorder had taken too many notes and they were irrelevant.

Here's  a bit on the elections:

"Congratulations (to all our volunteers on the elections) and to the Federation Nationale and the WCTU. The work was magnificent! No one society could have done it alone. But working together with a united front and securing the cooperation of the Federation Nationale SJB (St. Jean Baptiste).. In the last week a call came from the Citizen's Association asking for help of six or ten women to send (unknown word) ballots and these women worked all day, Wed. Thurs. and Friday...So it was the women of Montreal who thus worked together, representatives of the various organizations, the Local Council, the Federation, the WCTU, the Women's Canadian Club, all involved? in a great national work."

2) In the Montreal Council of Women 21st Anniversary Volume, which I read the other day, it is mentioned that, early in the century, the Council worked to promote homemaking classes to girls. I found this odd when I read it because I have been led to believe, from newspaper articles, that the Council (and Carrie Derick) was all for Technical Schools for Women.

Well, the minutes for 1908-1913 prove I am right, and emphatically too. The Council did not want women to work as domestics (which was the aim of the Royal Commission on Industrial Training and Technical Education.) So the scene in Threshold Girl, where I have Flora take on Mr. Robertson over technical schools, is OK. Phew..

The Council held an emergency meeting in 1910, because new labour laws were being proposed that would lump women in with children as regards length of workday.

This would only make women seem inferior, the Council believed  and "would force labour into the homes where conditions are much worse than in factories!"

Authorities like the Royal Commission were cited to show that the tendency would be to suppress women's labour in machine work and relegate them to manual labour.  Further discrimination would force women to be replaced by boys. Women would become the unskilled class of worker.

Hmm. So although Miss Derick and the Council gave a deposition to the Royal Commission re: working women in Montreal, (in 1912 I believe) they did not agree with the Commission's core beliefs. Funny, in the description of Derick's deposition, as written up in the Royal Commission Final Report Book,  the council's point of view regarding domestic work  vs factory work is not mentioned (as far as I remember.)  Did they avoid bringing it up to Robertson, or was it censored in the Commission's Report?

Here's a bit from a newsclipping Edith cut out in 1910

Away from Nature

Away from Nature
Margaret's Clipping
Likely from Montreal Witness, circa 1910. 

If men and women lived a less artificial life it is probable no such question as the decline of the birthrate would exist.  But every day takes us deeper into a state of living farther removed from Nature; every day sees a new invention, something to save time, labor and money.  The large factories of today did not spring into existence in a night. They had small beginnings.  But they grow enormously and who benefits whereby?  Some would arbitrarily say the owner reaps it all. Some would claim the world benefits.  It is a problem that remains to be solved.  Whoever is the gainer of the factory system, great is the suffering entailed to bring about that benefit.  For of the many ills mankind is afflicted with, the factory is responsible for a large number.  Built in crowded districts, ill ventilated, unsanitary, they are far from desirable places for young children and girls, and it is that portion of the population that mostly finds employment in them.  For it is long hours and low wages that the factory thrives on, and it is the younger generation that must be fed to it.  But then, how can a people be healthy and vigorous when it is bred under such conditions?  The factory is here to stay.  But laws should be passed, and carried out, that would do much to mitigate the evils.  There are progressive factories where it is a pleasure to work, and they are paying concerns.  But factory legislation and an impartial administration of it is badly needed.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Cleanliness, Godliness and Public Baths and Public Servants

A colourized mural from Pompeii. As soon as I buy more ink for my printer, I'm going to turn this into a motif in my bathroom, the one that is in so much need of renovation, it looks as if it is from the Roman era.

I have three bathrooms, 3 full ones  and we are two people living here. In and around 1900 in Montreal many homes had no bathrooms, just outdoor privies.

Hence the public baths that I write about in Milk and Water, my story about 1927 Montreal, that is about City Hall Corruption and My Grandfather, Jules Crepeau, the Director of City Services.

Montreal had 16 public baths by 1927. I actually have Jules state that fact in the story.  The newest one to open is an Art Nouveau marvel on Amherst, Les Bains Généreux, a building that is now the Musée de Fiers Mondes, a museum that honors the working class of Montreal.

Mayor Mederic Martin presided over the opening of the new Amherst bathhouse in 1927,  named after the district's alderman.

Martin presided over a lot of openings and parades and costume balls that year: The Mayor's role was mostly ceremonial back then. The Executive Committee had all the power in Civic Politics in Montreal in 1927 and the most powerful man of all was J.A.A.A. Brodeur, Montreal's Napoleon, the President of the Committee. My grandfather, Jules Crépeau was his personal minion, I suspect.

In my play I also have Jules Crepeau take a swipe at the Presbyterian Ladies, who sit on all the City Clean Up Committees. "You know how those ferocious Presbyterian ladies never let you go home."

When I wrote that bit, I had no idea how much -in real life - my grandfather must have hated these activist women.

It is only lately that I learned that the Montreal Council of Women, an umbrella group of advocacy organizations,  openly and pro-actively worked against his faction in the 1910 municipal elections.

They amassed over 100 volunteers who worked hard for the Reform Candidates. According to the Montreal Council's Annual Report, "the canvassers of the Montreal Council visited practically all the women voters in the English wards and many voters in the French wards..."

"Immediately before the election," it is written,"a copy of a ballot paper correctly marked and accompanied by the address of the polling booth was sent to each elector, about 80,000 in all."


And their efforts proved fruitful.

"Almost all the reform candidates were elected and the hope of a purer, stronger civic life seemed near fulfillment," they wrote.

(A Dr. Guerin was made Mayor. He appears to be an Anglo/Francophone mix. He has English first names. He only lasted two years.)

Ah, the P word as in Pure. In Milk and Water I have my grandfather wax philosophical about that loaded and ubiquitous word. "If something is pure, something has to be impure," he says.

He is referring to himself. In Montreal City Politics in 1910, the French Canadian element was considered corrupt, rotten.

And maybe it was, by Presbyterian standards.

In 1913, my grandfather, Assistant City Clerk at the time, was caught in a bribery sting, perpetrated by a crusading journalist, one Edward Beck. Beck wrote up about it in his new tabloid Beck's weekly.

"The City Hall is a sweet-scented sink hole of pollution if men like Crepeau speak the truth. Their greedy official hands take toll of contracts, levy tribute on ordinances, and prey upon the poor city labourers. Graft, graft, graft is written over the doorways, the lintels and on the doorposts." 

My grandfather sued for slander and won (just 100 dollars) and Beck, once the Managing Editor of the Montreal Herald, closed up shop.

Then, in late 1913 the Montreal Council brought in a speaker from Pittsburg to talk about how to Clean up City Politics.

Now, it could be said my grandfather didn't have a faction, being a mere civil servant, who started in 1883 as the message boy in the Health Department and who was awarded the new and powerful post of Director of City Services in 1921.

 But of course he did. He was related to the Montreal Tramway People, the Forgets, Montreal's most powerful French Canadian industrialists who were aligned with the great McConnell.

In 1914, with the non-reform faction back in power in the City, the Montreal Council of Women denounced in a letter to the new Mayor, Mederic Martin, the lengthy new contract awarded to Montreal tramway, a virtual monopoly. Martin first criticized the Council in the press and then made peace with them with a letter promising to keep the people informed of transportation issues.

Me at the Getty Villa in Malibu last year this time. Why can't I be there now!!!

Another odd bit I got from the Montreal Council of Women 1921 Anniversary Edition. Carrie Derick is writing a history of the Council's achievements and claims that it is Julia Parker Drummond, President of the Montreal Council of Women, who lobbied, in 1896, for the first public bath in Montreal.

Not true, according to what I have read in later papers. The first two public baths were created in 1890 in Hochelaga an Pointe St. Charles, summer baths where the water quality is controlled. (Paul Labonne: Soins du corps: santé publique et moralité, les bain publiques de Montreal.)

Here's a bit from a previous post on the subject of public baths:

Then I found this quote, from a New Yorker who advocated public baths in 1900.

.."bodily cleanliness is the first essential. By comparison, religion, education and morals could be dispensed with and even crime tolerated for the present. If this reform could be retained, with it crime would soon disappear and the reign of religion morals would be supreme."

Another similar quote: The foundation of general cleanliness is bodily cleanliness. Until a human being appreciates the latter he will not insist on the latter. Thus it is filthy streets and houses are tolerated. It is idle to expect that people will observe habits of personal cleanliness until the facilities are provided.."

And then there's Dr. Boucher, of City Hall speaking at a meeting of the City Improvement League: Measures of personal cleanliness should not be neglected. They are a daily necessity, especially the washing of hands."

Hmm. French Canadians officials didn't equate the cleanliness with the  godliness thing. (Despite the fact my grandmother used to chase her kids around and sprinkle holy water on them, when they did bad - which I will put in my story.)

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Presbyterians, Reformers and McGill

My YouTube video promoting Diary of a CONFIRMED Spinster, my new ebook on Kindle.

There was a giant water main break in downtown Montreal yesterday, seriously messing up the McGill Campus. The city's pipes are old, 100 years old or more in places,  and we've had some very cold and erratic weather. (The pipes burst in my country exburb area, too.) But this break was apparently caused by workers...

Lucky I went to McGill Friday, to the library,  to look up a book published in 1915 by the Montreal Council of Women that sums up its first 21 years of a service.

I don't get downtown often, but when I do I am struck by the people on the street and all the different languages I can hear, not just French and English.

I attribute this to the proximity of the McGill and Concordia campuses.

But the book I looked up on Friday reveals how "White Bread" McGill University was back in the 1910 era.

In 1910, the Montreal Council of Women was (still is) an umbrella group of social reformers, and although they thought of themselves as diverse, at the time they were mostly a group  of Protestant Ladies with social scientists and medical experts coming out of McGill - only one of whom was a lady, Botanist Carrie Derick, President of the Council in 1910. (She figures in Diary of a Confirmed Spinster.)

At least the Council was propelled by Protestant Reform Zeal, no question.

Dr. Barclay, an influential (and very conservative) Presbyterian Minister, hand-picked the Council's first President, Julia Parker Drummond. (He figures in my story too.)

As it happens, Carrie Derick penned a history essay for the book I consulted. She summed up all the good works the Council had done up until 1915. The Council was involved in a massive number of projects, from prison reform to milk stations to war work, so it is no wonder that some of their projects were on the 'iffy' side.

Derick, for instance, was interested in 'helping' mental defectives, which meant getting them off the streets - for now, and eventually out of the gene pool entirely.

And, I didn't know, the Council was interested in conservation of waterways! That fits in nicely with my other ebook Milk and Water, about Montreal in 1927 during a typhoid epidemic.

It was the era of the PURITY movement, pure water, pure milk, pure women (see Threshold Girl on Kindle) and a pure society meant controlling immigration. (Immigrants of a bad type,it was widely publicized, lured our children into prostitution and gave them drugs.) 

Dr. Atherton of the Civic Improvement League told the Canadian Club all about Montreal's drug-addled prostitutes in 1921 which led to the Coderre Commission into Police Impropriety and to my own grandfather, Jules Crepeau of Milk and Water, getting slammed, not for abetting prostitution but for allowing movie theatres to admit under age children, without guardians. And that was essentially 'a boy problem' not 'a girl problem' but the Prostitution issue was a great  excuse for cleaning up just about every aspect of city life, including City HALL corruption. 

(There's a 'serious social problem' always in the news today being used in much the same way. Can you think of it?)

Odd, my grandfather, as Director  of City Services, was on the Civic Improvement League Committee.

Diary of a CONFIRMED Spinster is about the first days of the US War on Drugs that was founded on racist beliefs caused by fear of immigrants. (I think.)

Monday, January 28, 2013

Isabella Scott and Women`s Rights in Quebec

My 3 newly published ebooks about Canadian women suffrage  (and much more) are bestsellers, 1, 2, and 3 on Kindle. 

Under my name anyway. 

Threshold Girl focuses on Flora Nicholson`s first year at Macdonald Teaching College in 1910-1911 and child labour in the textile industry, Milk and Water is about 1927 Prohibition Era Montreal Corruption and Scandal and Looking for Mrs. Peel is about Changi Women`s Prison in 1943 and Expo 67.

I haven`t seen one yet, but the new Canadian 50 dollar bill features portraits of the Famous Five and Thérèse Casgrain.

I discovered a scholarly paper out of the U.K. about The Famous Five and their fight for female personhood in Canada from the British Privy Council in 1929 (which happens to be THE Women's Rights Story in Canada because the Suffrage one isn`t pretty.) The author writes that one of the first people to congratulate one of these Westerners upon their win was Isabella Scott of Montreal. (Vivien Hughes, London Journal of Canadian Studies.)

The paper does not say who Isabella Scott is.

As it happens, the Edith Nicholson clipped a letter to the editor signed Isabella Scott, about the vote and Mayor Houde, likely from a later date. (I first thought a niece of hers had penned it.)

Heil Houde says the Headline, rather weirdly.

Sir- Mr Calder is such an inveterate joker that probably his tongue was in his cheek when he announced from Mr. Houde's platform that women in Quebec do not get the vote because they do not want it; that is to say, anything they wanted they would get.

But first we must ask him to explain why women turn out in such large numbers to vote in the Federal election, if the do not want the vote...

If we are unfortunate enough to get a man for Mayor who adopts the slogan "Go Home, young women," and therefore of their legitimate right to work for a living we will certainly be getting something that we decidedly do not want...

I now know who Isabella Scott was. She was the Mrs. John Scott of the Montreal Suffrage Association, Vice-President of the organization during WWI, who seemed to have taken over duties for Derick, as she was married with two sons fighting. She was also an active member of the Women`s Christian Temperance Union, a Westmounter, so it is no wonder she has not gone down in history as a promoter of Women`s Rights in Quebec with Therese Casgrain.

It seems she should have. After the Montreal Suffrage Association disbanded in 1918, she became the suffrage spokesperson on the Women`s Club of Montreal and later that organization`s President.

I have no picture of her, although I suspect there are one or two in the Montreal Council Archives.

Upon the death of Thérèse Casgrain, the Gazette ran a obit that erased Mrs. Scott from History and told a big lie.

Mrs. Casgrain did not organize the Montreal Suffrage Association.

Anyway, in 1921, Margaret Nicholson of Threshold Girl went to vote for the first time. She put down how she felt in a letter. But a little earlier she had written about a Liberal meeting in the Richmond Town Hall, where her neighbour Mrs. Montgomery brought up the sticky subject of Quebec votes for women.

Margaret Describes the Liberal Meeting

Wednesday, November 23, 1921

Dear Edith and Flora and Marion,

I thought I must jot a few things down while they are fresh in my mind. We had the Tobin meeting last night and Tobin was first speaker. . He made a very fine speech and said he wanted to thank his friend Mr. Crombie who opposed him in 1917 that  he did it convincingly and after the war returned to his party. "The Applause hearty and long." Then the Honorable Mitchell. His speech was grand.  He was speaking about the conservatives claiming they gave women the franchise. He said how Dougherty in the House argued that women were not persons. Said he had always been in favour of it. Just then Mrs. Montgomery who was in the center of the hall said the Quebec government thought they were not persons. Mitchell stopped and asked her what she meant. As she repeated he said, I will explain that Madam. Mr Ginn and myself were in favour of it but we did not want a minority to force anything in a majority that did not want it. Said Roman Catholic church did not want it. We were all disgusted at hearing her voice; I'm sure he did not like it. It was the only interruption at the meetings. I asked Mrs. Fraser to go. We were on the elevated. Father went with Mr. Ginn.  I do hope the Liberals will win out. Mrs. Farquharson takes no interest, but I will make sure she gets to the polls and votes for Tobin. Take care of the little ones. I am anxious to see them but must stay here until after the election.  I may be so sorry I will need a change.


Well, just the other day, there was a big Women`s  Rights  Story out of Quebec. It seems that common-law wives have the RIGHT not to accept alimony. It`s  a choice, not to get married and have children out of wedlock.  Over 30 percent in Quebec do it that way.

Funny, years ago, before I got married (and I wasn`t big into marriage, but we had a kid )I was under the impression, like many others, that common law wives in Quebec had more rights than in other provinces. Not true!  Lucky I married. I can get the half share of the 45 dollars we`ve accumulated over our 30 year marriage . And one of the dogs.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Therese Casgrain, Carrie Derick and the Suffrage Movement In Quebec

Jules Crepeau, my grandfather, who got his start at Montreal City Hall in the Health Department.

In 1912 the social reformers of Montreal held a child welfare exhibit. It contained 'screens' sponsored by various interests including the Women's Christian Temperance Union.

 In 1913, shortly after the Montreal Council of Women spun off the Montreal Suffrage Association, and made Carrie Derick President, the same people held a suffrage exhibit.

These two exhibits were essentially one and the same.

Indeed, in a Montreal Gazette interview about the upcoming Suffrage Exhibit, a little on the glib side, a key organizer was asked what the main goal of the event was. "To stop the murder of children," said the woman. She wasn't talking about abortion.

In the era, Montreal had a sky-high infant mortality rate which was sometimes described as the highest in the western world, the highest outside of Calcutta.

The infant-mortality rate was highest among the French Canadians, and lowest among the Jews. High in the poor areas, low in the richer areas. Poor vaccination rates were a problem. City congestion too.

Bad water and bad milk contributed.

This infant mortality rate is where my two family stories of Montreal, Threshold Girl about my husband's Presbyterian Grandmother and family in 1910  and Milk and Water about my French Canadian grandfather in 1927, the era of US Prohibition, intersect, or more aptly collide full-force. (Both books are available on in Kindle version.)

In 1910, the Montreal Council of Women was active in the municipal elections, active for the Reform Candidate a Dr. Guerin. Dr. Geurin won. In 1912 they were also active, but 'the non-reform faction' as they put it, got in.

They minced no words in their annual reports. They were thrilled when their candidate got in and angry when their reformers lost two years later. It was not due to their lack of effort they added, perhaps alluding to corruption in the election.

No question, Montreal had health issues that needed addressing, but to the Protestants and especially the Evangelical Protestants, physical health and moral health and spiritual health were one and the same  and this posed a sticky problem.

Cleanliness is next to Godliness, is a  concept that was epitomized in the era's Purity Movement. The Purity Movement was tied into the eugenics movement, which in Canada was centered at McGill University, where the Suffrage Movement was also headquartered, as Suffrage Association President, Carrie Derick, was a McGill Botanist (very interested in mental defectives) and Dr. McPhail of the Suffrage Association Executive was a prof at the medical school  (he was pro suffrage but anti-new woman) and Mrs. Hurblatt, a vocal militant suffragette sympathizer, was the Warden of Royal Victoria College, McGill's Women's College.

And this of course raised red flags among the French Canadians, who distrusted the hygiene movement.

Oddly, in 1911, the Montreal Council brought in British Suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst to speak. (Actually, she was in Canada on a speaking tour.) Montreal Mayor Guerin attended her speech, as the Mayor of Toronto had done in 1909 when she had visited Canada but not spoken in Montreal.) As did Carrie Derick, President of the Montreal Council of Women at the time and Dr. McPhail.

This kind of thing explains why he wasn't re-elected.

In November 1913, the Montreal Council of Women brought in a speaker from Pittsburg, who talked about how to clean up City Hall. In 1913, my grandfather, then assistant city clerk, was caught in a bribery sting conducted by crusading reporter Edward Beck and he got out of it, suing for slander and winning.

In the article about the stink in his new newspaper Beck's Weekly, Beck called Montreal a 'sink hole of corruption,' with deft use of metaphor as was his style.

All very ironic as my grandfather was related to the powerful Forgets, the tramway people, and Therese Casgrain, the French Canadian feminist who fought for the right of Quebec women to vote, was Therese Forget Casgrain.

Here is an excerpt from the Brochure of the Child Welfare Exhibit.

"Surely it is our hope that this Canada of ours shall lead the world, that this land of promise shall become the land of fulfillment, that this youngest of nations, unfettered by the bonds of evil tradition which bind the old people, and profiting from their experience, shall choose out what is best, and press forward towards a greatness which other and older communities cannot hope to attain.
But it is the man that makes the nation.
It is the child that makes the man.

If, therefore, we are to become a great nation the well-being of our children must be our first care: we must rear them so that healthy and sound in body and in mind, they develop into strong and capable men and women. This is a matter that cannot be left to nature and to chance. Already with the rapid growth of our cities - Montreal is adding yearly forty thousand to its population - the child is exposed to influences every whit as harmless as those affecting the old world. Overcrowding and slumdom, lack of sunshine and fresh air, poor food, undue excitement, undue exposure to communicable diseases: these and many other bad influences tell upon the city child to its detriment.

The object of the Child Welfare Exhibition is to demonstrate these dangers and how they can be guarded against; what agencies exist in our midst for the protection and betterment of child life; what is lacking and what has to be provided for the immediate future.  J. G. Adami, T. Gauthier. Presidents. October 1912.
Health: The premature death of so many persons and the loss of earning capacity through various 'preventable and curable' diseases represent a tremendous economic loss to the community. Not only the community as a whole, but also the individual family units will find that they will be repaid if they will adopt the habit of early and frequent request for medical advice.Baby-saving: The high rate of infant mortality in Montreal, is a cause of the deepest concern. In a general way, the chief cause of mortality among babies is due to ignorance and even thoughtlessness of the part of mothers of the proper care, nourishing feeding of infants. Improper methods of feeding are the chief causes of death among young children.  The most essential feature of baby feeding is that the mother should nurse her own child. Thus not only does the baby procure food for its proper growth, but it is protected from the introduction by means of artificial food of such bacteria as cause diarrhea, typhoid and scarlet fever, etc. There are also present in mother's milk, certain substances which are able to destroy many forms of bacteria so that the nursing baby gains this very important protection. 
The exhibit on housing shows photographs of some of the bad spots in Montreal. As one of the pictures was being taken, the woman who lived in the house, remarked "every spring when the thaw begins our rooms are flooded with several inches of water. How are people, who are forced through poverty to live in places of this sort, bring up healthy children?" One of the worst features of Montreal housing is the inner court and the rear tenement. One lot is often occupied by two houses, the one at the rear being approached through a dark alley. There is little light and less air in those places. They are breeding spots for tuberculosis. Places like this sort also furnish a large proportion of juvenile delinquents. Poverty, lack of privacy in the home, lack of a place for children to play, these are all causes for misery and delinquency

Saturday, January 26, 2013

McGill, Eugenics and Suffrage and Old Aunt Edie

Well, I visited McGill and the main library there to take a look at this hardcover copy of  a book written in 1915 about the Montreal Council of Women.

I'm researching a documentary on the suffrage movement in Canada, Quebec point of view.

Why this 21st anniversary edition was created, I don't know. What's a 21st anniversary, anyway? And it doesn't contain much more than the Annual Reports of the years 1909-1915.

But those are important years as that's when the Montreal Suffrage Association was created, in 1912/13.

Carrie Derick from the book. Edith Nicholson of Threshold Girl stepped out with Miss Derick, I have it in a letter. Edith worked in the Registrar's Office at McGill (likely overseeing female applicants) and as Assistant Warden at Royal Victoria College.

Now, the only two books Canadian Women's Suffrage are the master's thesis by Catherine Cleverdon and another 1970's book.   Catherine Cleverdon, an American, had a chance to interview real people, like Edith Nicholson of Threshold Girl, but she didn't.

So the The Montreal Suffrage Association has gone down in history as a footnote - a footnote I am fleshing out. Oh, if I only could invoke Dear old Edie, my husband's great aunt.

Her favourite great niece says she never mentioned her feminist days, although she told her niece a woman could be anything she wanted to. This was in the fifties when women were being encouraged to go back into the home and wax their floors.

So, this little tome is all that is left for scholars to refer to and they do, often, I can tell.

Now, the Montreal Suffrage Association is often cited on the Net, (footnote) 1912, Montreal Suffrage Association founded. Carrie Derick first President.

What I can see from this book of annual reports is that Carrie Derick was much more interested in the problem of 'mental defectives' than in the suffrage movement per-se.

It is written here (and has been oft repeated) that Emmeline Pankhurst's 1911 visit to Montreal sparked the creation of the Montreal Suffrage Association, but I think that could be taken in two ways.

Perhaps some members of the Council were inspired but others likely were appalled and so the Association might have been created to keep the issue 'at arm's length.'

I suspect this and am looking for clues.

The clue might reside in information about the 1913 Suffrage Exhibit. Derick doesn't appear to have been a convener. And the Exhibit is not mentioned in this book.

In the 1915 Annual Report there are a few paragraphs about the association and its activities, most of the info I've already gleaned from Newspaper Reports.

Here it is.

It appears any outreach during that war years was done in the E.T. including in Derick's home town of Clarenceville.  They say 100,000, pamphlets were distributed during the year.

"Notwithstanding the absorption in the war, the progress made by the suffrage movement is marked. There is growing recognition of the devotion and self-sacrifice of women and a belief that they have, as perhaps never before, demonstrated their worth as citizens of a great empire and their right to equality with men in all the natural places."

In Threshold Girl I have Barbara Wylie speak at St. James Methodist. She spoke at the YMCA actually. Alas.

Anyway, Mrs. Hurlbatt, Warden of the Royal Victoria College, whom Edith would eventually work under as Assistant Warden, was active in the movement. Lots of other McGill Profs too, along with Derick. (The Montreal Herald created a special insert about the new organization when it was inaugurated in November 1912, but McGill has no Heralds for that era. That insert might not exist anywhere.)

One scholar I read, a French one, claims that the Montreal Suffrage Association was made up of mostly McGill Profs and their students. A Gazette article says the membership reached 800.  I will have to see if the other texts on Microfilm of the Council confirm that.

Outside the McGill Library yesterday, a campus that was once a hot bed of suffrage and eugenics. The Montreal Council stopped its work on mental defectives in 1950.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Do-Gooders and My Grandfather

The Bureau of Social Hygiene.. Hmm.

I'm reading the Committee of Sixteen's Report on Vice in Montreal, published 1920. It's on The leaders of the Committee were all the usual suspects, Dr. Symonds (an Anglican) et al. The Presbyterians and Methodists, influential leaders in the Protestant Education Sector but a few Catholic organizations too, English Catholic from the looks of things.

 The social reformers wanted to clean up City Hall and everything else, to make the world PURE and Clean and Wholesome - and the Protestants, who were evangelical, also wanted it Protestant, of course! I'm being cynical of course, many just wanted equality among peoples, really.

This very report is where my two stories, Threshold Girl and Milk and Water come together!

Threshold Girl is about my husband's female ancestors, Flora, Edith and Marion Nicholson teachers in the 1910 era. Milk and Water is about my grandfather, Jules Crepeau, Director of City Services of Montreal in the 1920's.

The Montreal Council of Women was involved (one of the Group of 16) as well and Edith Nicholson was involved with the group, or at least she was active in their woman suffrage arm, which I am researching for my doc on the Canadian Suffrage Movement.

But this Report, well. It's very interesting.

Somehow a study on Prostitution and the Police  made in 1919 20 (Post-war and this is no coincidence, as prostitution flourished where there were soldiers camped) and reported on in front of the Canadian Club in 1921 by one Dr. Atherton, ended up incriminating my dear old grandfather in 1925, but with respect to allowing underage girls and boys into movie houses  (mostly boys)  and then it all got mixed up with the Prohibition debate in the United States at a Senate hearing in 1926 and printed up in the New York Times.

Canadian Temperance types were mad.  They had made the deal with the Borden Government and supported conscription and the slaughter of their sons, expecting that Prohibition would come out of it, and, then, Quebec got in the way.

(I doubt my grandfather was involved in Prostitution. His wife, my grandmother Maria, would have beat him over the head with a broom and sent him back to de Bullion Street!)

And then there was the infamous, game-changing Laurier Palace Theatre Fire.

Movie houses figured in some of the Report's Recommendations. But this was not unusual. In the US there were many people, including the editors of the Ladies' Home Journal, who did not like the motion pictures. But Quebec had unique factors  in play then as it does today.


All those good intentions and yet 80 years later.....Establish a morals commission..hmm.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Police Corruption, Illegal Alcohol and Montreal Cinema

"One of these days there is going to be a catastrophe. If a fire breaks out one of these days, many of those inside will not be able to get out."

So said Constable Conrad Trudeau during the 1925 Coderre Inquiry into Police Malfeasance and Misconduct at Montreal.

He really had it against my grandfather, Jules Crepeau, the Director of City Services, whom he said forced police to turn the other cheek when motion picture theatres were admitting under age children.

Trudeau also hated the motion pictures themselves.

Under age admission to movie houses was nothing unusual; statistics show that as much as 30 percent of patrons  in motion picture houses in the US in the twenties were under age, mostly boys.

And it was mostly boys who died in the Laurier Palace theatre fire in January 1927 in a crush to the door after seeing smoke.

In his testimony, Trudeau said it was my grandfather who was the man who told the police what to do. (This testimony also made it into the New York Times, but a year later at their Senate Hearings into Prohibition.)

Juge Coderre in his Final Report, waxed livid about my grandfather and his over-reaching power. Coderre was especially upset that my grandfather fired Trudeau during the inquiry (for bribing his boss to get his brother in law a liquor license.)


FUNNY,  Constable Trudeau's testimony was never brought up in the 1927 Theatre Fire Inquest as far as I can see.   What a short memory everyone had!

But my grandfather was fired or forced to resign in late 1930 over the 1927 Montreal Water and Power Purchase.  He negotiated a huge pension with Camillien Houde.  At the final debate at City Hall Mayor Camillien Houde (for some cagey reason) made mention of the Laurier Palace Fire.

And then his brother, Isadore, Vice-President of a United Theatre Amusements, a large chain of motion picture houses in Montreal,  falls out of his office window.

After he was fired, Constable Trudeau sued to get his bribe back from Chief of Police Belanger.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Fear of Freezing in the Dark with my Chianti

There's a cold snap in Quebec, so old-fashioned of the weather man, and Hydro Quebec says that the draw on its lines is at record levels.

"Lower the heat," they suggest... but I am not one of those who wants to walk around the house in a sweater and thick socks to save money.. I like it cozy.  And so do my animals. So I won't do any washing or cooking at peak hours.

And my husband got the fireplace downstairs ready for a blaze in case of a power failure. He's at work until late.

I also went to the SAQ for some Chianti to keep me warm and the salesman there joked "There are no mosquitos outside." "And no more wild turkeys walking about in the fields," I added. I guess it is RIP for all those turkeys that have proliferated due to the warm winters we've been having.

We are so reliant on the electric grid here in Canada - and not just for our Internet.

Anyway back in 1913, 100 years ago, the Nicholson Family of Richmond, Quebec got wired, but just for light.

Keeping the house warm in winter was always a worry and a rather big expense as wood cost a lot of money, relatively speaking.

I have all their bills.

I also have hundreds of their letters which I am turning into a trilogy called School Marms and Suffragettes. The first installment, Threshold Girl, is available on Kindle.

It's about Flora Nicholson's year at Macdonald Teachers College in Ste. Anne de Bellevue. That school was training women to be better homemakers or housekeepers, to use more scientific methods to keep a nice sanitary home.

I based my story on the letters from the 1910 era, but I also added subplots involving the textile industry, and the purity movement.

What was the purity movement?  Well, in the 1900-1910 era, PURE was the catchword. And Ivory Soap wasn't the only product claiming to be pure.

This Purity movement of the 1910 era was very suspect. You know the motto Cleanliness is Next to Godliness. Well, that was what exactly what many Protestants believed. And they weren't just referring to bodily cleanliness.

Now, I found two articles in the 1911 era Canadian Home Journal, a woman's magazine, that are very interesting with respect to the Purity Movement.

One article is by a scientist and he seems perplexed by all the 'hysteria' over pure foods.

He says "We have passed from a sane state of mind in matters of health and happiness to a mental condition which discloses in our conduct the symptoms of a mania or hysteria... This is no exaggeration, witness the marked vogue today of pure food fads and witness our solicitude for pure food and water."

Of course he is right, but what he doesn't seem to understand as a scientist that this PURITY movement is not rational, but is about something else... Fear of Immigrants, especially those darker Catholic ones.

Witness this other article in the same magazine around the same time. The Slum Disease.

There's a reason I started off Threshold Girl with a quote from a 1911 Food and Cookery Magazine:

Give us a healthy home full of intellectual activity where the homely virtues prevail. Where complete honesty and frankness have free expression. Where the lungs expand with pure air, and the brain quivers with wholesome aspiration and sincere inquiry. Where souls bask in contentment and the sunshine of purity and peace.

I also touch on the Purity Issue in my other book on Amazon Milk and Water. 

The 1911 Canadian Home Journal also has an article on  Electric Housekeeping. The article applauds the electric iron and the electric sewing machine as great aids to homemakers, but there is some argument about electric cooking over gas cooking. Just like today.

I don't mind electric cooking (who cooks anymore anyway?)  but on days like today I wish I had a gas stove.

Ebooks and Kodaks and Five Roses Flour

Here is a picture of Marion Nicholson sailing somewhere near Hudson, Quebec in 1911. I know because Marion Nicholson, my husband's grandmother, wrote about her trip in a letter.

Here' an ad for Kodak from the 1911 Canadian Home Journal.

Marion, I know, had a camera and liked to take pictures. She writes about it in her 1907 diary. She refers to it as fooling around, as in wasting time.

Well, in the summer she likes to take pictures. She bored back home in her little town of Richmond Quebec in July 1907.

I know from the Nicholson 'store book' for 1905 that the family bought a "Kodak" for 5.00, which was  cheap.

But Sutherland's Drug Store in Richmond was advertising Brownie Cameras for 1 and 2 dollars in 1910. The Nicholsons would not have been able to afford a 20 dollar camera.

If it were not for this cheap Kodak camera, I would not have so many photos complementing my Threshold Girl ebook.on Kindle.

And I would not have been able to fool around with them, myself, in Corel. Maybe Times haven't changed that much in 100 years after all.

(Flora Nicholson and May Watters of Threshold Girl

Here's some evidence for that: Here's two ads in the Canadian Home Journal, one for Magic Brand Baking Powder and another for Five Roses Flour. I have both of those products in my cupboard. The difference is, that bag of flour has been around for two years (I makes pizza sometimes) and that baking powder, well, I bought it for a specific recipe about 6 months or more ago. Scones, I think. I wanted to make scones like the Nicholsons of Richmond. Scones are really just baking powder biscuits - and beautiful with butter and jam.

 I suspect the BP has lost its oomph and I should throw it away. What was I thinking, buying such a large amount of Baking Powder in this day and age?

In the old days, a company called E.W. Gillett made the baking powder. Today Kraft owns it.

I took the picture above with my brand new Canon I got for Christmas. Power Shot 320 HS. I can send the picture over my household wireless to my computer.

This is a good thing, because the old camera I had, a Canon, broke at the slot where I take the memory card in and out. And the lever that changes the function from camera to video started to get stuck on video. 

Otherwise, I loved the camera, except for the small amount of memory. This new camera is HD. It seems to me they are always trying to 'simplify' things by making them more complicated.

It seems to me the more complicated things get, the more they break. Aren't cameras essentially simple things? I mean we made them in school, with cardboard, right?

Our camera in the 60's lasted 20 years. My husband says we have a couple of these Brownie Cameras in the house somewhere, saved from when the Old Folks passed away. But there hidden away under masses of junk in the garage. Too bad. (I'd take a picture of one.)

Does new technology simplify things? A good question. I doubt it. Technology changes us - and often in ways we can't predict.

At least the Kodak ads here in this Canadian Magazine aren't trying to correct the perception that cameras will be used for naughty business.


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Downton Abbey and the Canadian Servant Problem

A beautiful advert for Libby's pineapple from the Canadian Home Journal 1911, anticipating the Art Deco style

More perspective on the 1910 era: I don't really need it.

I've already spent 8 years researching background to the Nicholson Family letters - and have three books to show for it, one of them, Threshold Girl, posted on in the Kindle Store.

Threshold Girl is about 18 year old Flora Nicholson's year at Macdonald College in Ste. Anne de Bellevue. That school was founded to teach agricultural science to farmers and 'the science of home-making' to young women. Young women destined to be married would be better homemakers, it was believed, and poorer women, destined to be wage-slaves, would become more dignified and capable servants.

Flora attended teaching school at Macdonald, which was part of McGill. Macdonald College only reluctantly absorbed the Normal School, as teaching college was called.

Yesterday, I stumbled upon a 'new' magazine, the Canadian Home Journal lately posted on

The Canadian Home Journal was a Toronto based magazine, the forerunner to Chatelaine, but -as the title suggests- it was very much like the American Ladies' Home Journal, what with all the advertising, home-making advice, and only a token amount of fashion articles.

All the same advertisers graced its pages, Heinz, Old Dutch, Magic Baking Powder. The usual suspects. The brands that would become household names in the 20th century, all because they advertised so prominently in the Ladies' Home Journal.

But this Canadian magazine also had some 'thoughtful essays'  a la Delineator and some reasonable editorials. The Ladies' Home Journal's editorials of the era were quite strident and conservative, opposing motion pictures and woman suffrage.

From what I can see,  the Canadian Home Journal avoided the issue of woman suffrage but I did find one article on the Servant Problem, which is a theme of Threshold Girl. (Edith Nicholson cut out a clipping about the Servant Problem.)

 It was a one page article as that magazine kept their articles to one page.They hadn't figured out that it was necessary to spread out articles so that readers were forced to see more ads!

Now, when Downton Abbey first was aired in the US in 2010, a review in  asked why Americans were still so obsessed with the class system, because it no longer existed.  Ha! I thought. Of course it does.

Read the article above and below from 1911 and see what you think!

Now, if I recall, in the very first episode of Downton Abbey the Titanic sinks and Hugh Bonneville's character laments the death of the poorer passengers. "Poor people, heading out for a better life." The fact is: these young Britons were likely heading out to be servants to the middle class, who preferred British help (or Swedish)over any other. The 1911 Canadian census shows this clearly.

Here's a bit of the article:

To give a whole page of my ideas on the servant question is something I promised, and there-fore shall fulfill, although it seems to be a subject worn threadbare, one that has always been, and always will exist, as broad as the world, that cannot be explained, and is apparently unsolvable. It has been presented to us from every standpoint, and has been reasoned and viewed from every possible position. Each phrase of the question has received its quota of attention; it has been scoffed at, wrangled over, and debated upon, until there would seem to be nothing more to say, and when all is aid and written, it remains at the starting point.

We cannot get past the fact domestic service is so objectionable that girls will enter any other employment in preference, and in consequence, are growing less in numbers; that they are asking more money for less service and demanding greater privileges continually. Also that housekeepers are finding it more and more difficult to secure and retain the services of a maid, that there is a lack of interest in their work, and an independence of spirit among them that his unendurable. That is what I understand the so-called servant problem to embody.

Canadian Life 1910, idealized.

Ready-made clothing factories were giving poor women another work option other than 'service.' And the Canadian Government reacted to these changing times with many cockeyed (see backward- looking) proposals trying to make sure everyone remained "in their proper place." There's a lot to be learned today from what was going on this 1910 era in Canada.