Thursday, February 28, 2013

Avalanche Conditions in Quebec

It's bad enough that there's been no sun for a week and forecasts say this is going to continue for another week. But all this snow! And it's not even March - and March can be the snowiest month.

We have a two car tempo (giant plastic shelter) in the yard and my husband has been dutifully brushing the snow off the top so it doesn't cave in.  (A few years ago, when we had a lot of snow, a woman died under her tempo here in Quebec, I seem to remember.)

But now the snow around the sides of the tempos has become a death trap. (So I think!) 

My son, who is 6 foot three and visiting home after traveling widely, went out to brush the top of the tempo for his father last night and he said he sunk up to his neck in snow. He pulled himself out with his shovel. He came in very upset, worried for the dogs, mostly.

So I got freaked out and ORDERED my husband (when he got home) to do something about it! "We've got avalanche conditions in our own back yard," I whined. 

"You're way shorter than your son, you would have been swallowed up by the snow and I couldn't have done anything about it."

"I know better than to go near the edge of the tempo," he answered in non-challant fashion.Anyway, we've had years with lots of snow."

"But not like this, weird climate change snow.. where it's on the brink of being rain. You know, they say a kid can drown in 1 inch of water. Well a man can drown in 6 feet of snow." 

"I am more worried about the roof of the house," he replied and went to bed.

The tempo in question. A 12 foot high pile of soft snow.. and there's more to come.

"I don't want you to end up a Stupid Death of the Week headline on Google, for everyone's morning amusement, " I continued. As in...  "Ha ha. Did you read this? Some suburban idiot got engulfed by his own snowpile."

And they are predicting yet another week of dreary skies and snow and 0 Celcius temperatures. It's not really snow out there, it's barely FROZEN WATER"

I'm a mother. Once you have little babies and little children your brain becomes re-wired and you worry about everything, even dogs, even grown ups dropping through a snowy sink hole in the front yard.

I can distinctly remember when this change-over happened, when my synapses rewired. 
When I was 30 and I had given birth to said tall son. I would have a recurring dream. I was at home and a friend drops by and asks me to go out (like it happened all the time in college) and I say "Sure" and I go out with him/her and then SUDDENLY I remember. "Wait! I can't be here. I have a baby at home."

Now I am an empty-nester and I worry about my dogs. (My son is beyond worry. He has backpacked the world and happily avoided about telling me about any close calls he has had.  I overheard one story he was telling his Dad. "I went out with some fishermen in Holbox Mexico. They took me out a while and then dropped me out at a 5 foot shoal, in my underpants and gave me a snorkel. It was a reef full of gorgeous fish and stuff, a real dream-scape, but I was all alone out there for a couple of hours. I didn't even know if they were coming back." 


Below. Holbox. I could be there now...Well, thousands of Quebeckers are away this month, and for good reason. A friend of mine is in Bali and updating her friends daily on her sunny adventures.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Anna Karenina, Production Design and My dining room table documentary

Yesterday happily I saw a promo for Parade's End on HBO and set my timer. I recently heard a BBC Radio 4 dramatization of it and I have wanted to see this British mini-series.

A mini-series which features a Suffragette! A real one. The kind they had in Britain but not here in Canada. Our suffragists were reasonable...They handed out literature... They were reformer style and they kept the suffrage movement closed to wackos, would be militants.

Yesterday, online, I also saw a bit about the Oscars snubbing Anna Karenina in the production design department giving the Oscar to Lincoln. The writer of the piece said Anna Karenina perplexed people, but she thought the costumes were the prettiest ever in film. (I think it won for best costume design, did it not?)

I liked Anna Karenina. Tom Stoppard penned the screenplay as he did the teleplay for Parade's End. I must like Tom Stoppard: Shakespeare in Love is one of my favorite movies ever.

I love Anna Karenina the book but find both earlier movie versions unwatchable. This Joe Wright Anna Karenina I could watch and watch and watch. It's weird no doubt but I like weird. I found Lincoln kind of unwatchable, largely for the production design. Yes, it was true to the period, but I don't want to see the world through dim candlelight.

That's why I am creating these Dining Room Table documentaries.

Here's one I just posted on YouTube... (first draft).. It's about 1910 Canada and the Movement for Rural Education.. a topic most people would find boring. My story Threshold Girl is a narrative prose version of the story of Canada in 1910.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Why Teachers Matter 1910 era

 Here's a still of Flora Nicholson from a 'test' of my new soon-to-be 'dining room table documentary' about Flora Nicholson and her year at Macdonald Teacher's College.

Threshold Girl, my ebook is  based on her year.

I had to take a still because the video, although just 3 minutes, was too HD, even to load onto YouTube... (Well, it would have taken a hour to load there.) And I didn't have the audio on high enough anyway. (Back in school, I wanted to be a documentary maker, but that didn't pan out. But now no one can stop me! We have the technology!)

BORING! (People Might Say.) A story about Teachers. But I disagree. Most middle class women who worked in the entire first half of the 20th century were teachers.

My documentary features Flora's Colourful Manual Training Portfolio, which she left behind. When I first found it, I wasn't that impressed either. But I educated myself. This portfolio is KEY to what was going on in Canada in 1910. Rampant Industrialization. Mass Immigration.

As I said in my off-the-cuff doc (my first try) Edith's picture here is nesting in a pile of 'boxwork."

Little trays and baskets and barns and postcard holders.  

This boxwork was part of the Manual Training Movement, started in Europe.  Sloyd.  This new activity was to help children of immigrants learn manual dexterity and perseverance.  This was to make these men good workers in our Canadian society. The girls it would hoped would go on to be domestics, a very fine profession according to Canadian Powers That Be. (Women's groups disagreed.)

 These children were not destined to be  knowledge workers. This was an era of "Everyone in their Proper Place." Today, our kids with undergraduate college degrees are destined to work in Service...if they can find a job.

Flora's Letter from Macdonald. I included all her letters in Threshold Girl. This makes that book partially epistolary.

I guess I should head down to Macdonald College to take some video. That campus has looked much like it looked in 1910 until recently. They've squeezed in a giant modern building among the adobe roofed historicals.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Of Prostitutes and Suffragettes

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

Then just lately, as I read over the original minutes of the Montreal Suffrage Association, I saw a mention of this very same book. Apparently, Pankurst's book was a big seller in Montreal, at least among those who followed the suffragists. How interesting!

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

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

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

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

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

The minutes of the Montreal Suffrage Association reveal that they were bringing in a speaker to discuss Women and Social Purity...

I read somewhere that the Pankhurst's got into social activism in Manchester because they saw that so many young girls were coming into social agencies (or the equivalent) pregnant by their own fathers. Oh, I heard that on BBC Radio 4. In Our Time, I think.

Anyway, in Montreal the Suffrage Association 1913-1919 (whose mandate was merely "to promote Suffrage") got involved with the prostitute problem around soldiers' barracks in WWI. 

Before they were sent to Valcartier recruits were stationed in the City, apparently attracting prostitutes. 

This problem led to a huge study conducted on Montreal's Commercialized Vice in 1919 and 20, by a Committee of Sixteen different groups led by Dr. Herbert Symonds of Christ Church Cathedral who was the President.  Dr. Herbert Symonds of Christ Church Cathedral was also an honourary V.P. of the Montreal Suffrage Association, so that explains a lot.

This report and a sensational speech given by a Montreal General doctor in front of the Canadian club in early 1923, led to the 1924-25 Coderre Commission into Police Malfeasance and Misconduct, an exhaustive inquiry into all aspects of commercialized vice, as they said, including motion picture houses that were letting in children unattended by an adult.

A Constable Trudeau, who testified, was very much against the motion pictures in general. He thought boys picked up bad habits from the flicks.

He further said that he Director of City Services, Jules Crepeau was guilty of controlling the police and forcing them to look the other way when movie houses broke the by-laws and let in these children, mostly boys.

Trudeau warned that the places were crowded and that 'one day there is going to be a catastrophe."

Shortly after, while the inquiry was still on-going, the City Executive fired Trudeau for a bribery incident.  Juge Coderre brought it up in his final report, saying it was Crepeau who fired Trudeau. (Who was this civil servant who told the Chief of Police what to do? Coderre asked.)

And sure enough, coincidentally? there was a catastrophe in a Montreal movie house, in January 1927. 70 children died in the fire, crushed in a rush to the exit.

Jules Crepeau was the first person to testify at the hearing into the Laurier Palace Theatre Fire, for he was the one who knew all there was to know about the City by-laws.

The Laurier Palace had had a suspended licence at the time of the fire, or more precisely, its license status was in a kind of limbo.

Trudeau's testimony from the recent Coderre Commission, as far as I can see, was never brought up. Ever. 

But Crepeau, my grandfather, was eventually forced to resign in 1930 by Camillien Houde over an entirely different issue, the Montreal Water and Power Purchase.  At the City Hall debate among alderman over Crepeau's resignation, Houde brought up the Laurier Fire, but only incidentally, but not coincidentally, I am fairly certain.

Read Milk and Water, about Montreal in 1927.

Ebooks and how Technology Changes Us

 The cover of my ebook Milk and Water, about Montreal in 1927, an era when City Hall was beset by scandals and corruption.....Helloooooo.

Technology changes us, but in ways we can't usually predict.

Today,  CBC news online has an article about e-books and how they are going to change the world of publishing.

Well, duh.

Many moons ago, when I had babies to care for  and I spent the day watching CNN, a brand new 24 hour news station, that station carried a story about a 'baby in a well' which became this HUGE out of control story, so I realized right at that moment that all-day news was going to change the news media and by extension how we viewed the world and by extension THE WORLD.

Later, I mentioned this to my cousin, who actually worked at CNN and she said, "Yes, people have told me that."

So the same goes for e-books. Of course.

This CBC article Social reading: the next phase of the e-book revolution quotes a Montreal e-book pioneer Hugh McGuire (Pressbooks, Libravox)who has written A Futurist's Manifesto. He says that in the future many  books will only be published in ebook format.

He doesn't talk about how the authors of these books might be paid for their work.

A friend of mine, a successful author, tells me that she is happy she got in under the wire before this e-publishing revolution. With all these digital versions of her textbooks, she says, her future work will just be stolen by students and she'll make no profits.

It sounds like ebooks in themselves will become PR tools, or something. They are already being pitched as such.

I've just published a series of e-books about the 1910 era, for my own pleasure as it were, Threshold Girl, Diary of a Confirmed Spinster and Milk and Water.

I doubt I will make any money. My digital books are about Canadian social history, so they should be of interest to teachers...or their students.

And now I'm working on a book (or play, I dunno) about the 1917 Conscription Crisis and its relation to the our 'reform-minded' Suffragists, a little known connection. It's called Sister Salvation and is the follow up to Threshold Girl and Diary of a Confirmed Spinster.

To prove McGuire's point about ubiquitous access to books, I easily tracked down an obscure 1915 novel called A Soul on Fire, that I am using for background. (I would never have learned about it without the web, but there exists a hard copy at McGill.)

A Soul on Fire was written by a Frances Fenwick-Williams, a woman who was on the Executive of the short-lived Montreal Suffrage Association, an organization I have been deconstructing on this blog.

She wrote A Soul on Fire while on the Executive and it is clear she uses her fellows as templates for her characters.

Like many of the women leading the Suffrage Movement in Montreal, Mrs. Fenwick-Williams was interested in Social Reform, but not to such an extent as her more zealous fellow board members, many of whom were Protestant Evangelicals and  adherents of the rather icky Purity Movement.

Fenick-Williams was a clever gal, but she didn't see a contradiction in the fact that these Reformer-Suffragists thought it fine that Middle Class Women should impose their values on the Poor, but then hated the fact than Men imposed their values on Women.

In her novel she pokes fun at Sir Andrew McPhail, a highly-respected anti-suffragist. She creates an erudite male character who has written a book called "Women Explained." What a great title!

She was a clever woman, this Fenwick-Williams. I am only half-way through her novel because it begins as a satire and then evolves into a goth mystery of sorts, and I'm getting confused -and bored- and I have a Kindle and can stop and start all kinds of books at will, without getting through any of them. (Ebooks have already changed the way I read, that's for sure. They've given me a kind of attention deficit disorder.)

 Here's a bit from the Fenwick Williams book, a suffrage debate at a high class dinner.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Reciprocal Royal Affairs

Queen Alexandra of Denmark and England, Edward VII's wife. (Wikipedia pic. public domain.)

Maybe I should say Pubic domain. That's a typo you try not to make when you work in Public Relations and are writing your C.V.

I write it here, because her hubby, Edward the Peacemaker, was a bit of a pig and had a chair made for himself so he could have sex with two or more prostitutes at the same time (I guess without hurting his back).

I saw a picture of it on the web. It doesn't look like much. A leather saddle-style stool with sturdy metal legs (with Art Nouveau Flourishes) and two long handles to hold on to.

Kronberg Castle Window. I took this pic in 2006, when I visited the UK and Denmark in November and both places were a bit dreary.

I write about this because my stories Threshold Girl and Diary of a Confirmed Spinster take place in the Edwardian Era, so I've done a lot of research on important things. The chair is incidental.

My promo for Diary of a Confirmed Spinster, featuring Edward VII's death in 1910.

And because today is the Academy Awards. I haven't seen all the nominated movies, but I did see A Royal Affair from Denmark a few days ago.

A Royal Affair won't win best Foreign Film, because Amour is supposed to be something of a masterpiece, perhaps the REAL best picture of the year.

A Royal Affair is supposedly based on a true story and certainly plays like the movie Duchess with Kiera Knightly (a movie I like because it is girly).

A Royal Affair is about a young  British noblewoman who is married off to the Danish King who is an idiot, so she has an affair with his brainy, brawny adviser.  Because she is brainy and beautiful and how could it not happen?

 Apparently, this is the story of Princess Caroline and King Christian VII. King is Kong in Danish (that became apparent to me as I watched the movie) so King Kong is King King.

Anyway, so eventually Alexandra, a Danish Princess got married off to a Royal Prince, heir to the throne and from what it appears, her life was pretty awful, but did she have affairs?

Apparently, Edward was the person who set the social standard in England, where rich women could have affairs, once they'd produced an heir and a spare.

A Royal Affair is a Danish, Swedish, Czech production and is filmed in Prague which is a beautiful city and not in those large smelly castles in Denmark.

 The hallway of paintings at Kronberg.

Statue of Edward VII at Phillip's Square in Montreal. 

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Wartime Elections act and Beautiful Actresses (or the Roots of Pastagate)

A scene from Everywoman a popular morality play of 1910 that used beautiful young actresses in sensual clothing to say women shouldn't be preoccupied with beauty and clothes! Sort of like today's anti-war movies that are full of exciting battle scenes!

No Pasta or Rigatoni? Hamburgois instead of Hamburger? Macdonald instead of Macdonald's. Pretty silly and sinister too because it allows citizens to behave badly and think it is OK.

Like the orderly at the Valleyfield Hospital a few years ago who was fluffing my 90 year old Father in law's pillow and when he said "Thank You" which wasn't easy for him as he had had a stroke, the orderly said, Qu'est ce que vous dites? And he replied, "Thank you." And she asked again. And he said "MERCI" and she smiled and winked at my husband and me. 

She didn't realize she was abusing her patient. She thought it was funny.  I had to believe this 'attitude' was institutionalized. My father in law had complained that a nurse had told him "You are 90. You should know French by now. " But he had had a stroke, so we couldn't prove anything and, all considered, we didn't want to rock the boat.

I found a copy of the letter head for the Montreal Suffrage Association.  They used Old English Font which is ironic if you think about it, but appropriate too, because these people (mostly) wanted women suffrage to take the world back to a 'better' time.

As they didn't have a stable address, the minutes showed they moved around, from the Edinburgh Cafe to rooms on University to the McGill Redpath Library, it contains no address.

Just a list of the Executive.

Carrie Derick, President and her address on Crescent.

Then the Executive: (for 1917)

Mrs. John Scott
Mr. C.M. Holt
Mrs Lansing Lewis
Mrs. Peeble Macintosh
Mrs. W. Oliver Smith

Miss Grace Fairly Alexdra Hospital

Miss Eleanor Shanly Hon Recording Sec.
Mrs. J.Homes MacIntyre on St Famille

Honorary President. Julia Drummond

Hon Vice-Presidents

Rev. Dr. Dickie
Dr. Richie England
Rev. Dr. Pedley
Miss Helen Reid
Rev. Dr. Symonds
Mrs. H.W. Weller

As I wrote before, all the Usual Suspects.

These Honorary positions, I assume, were non-elected.

Mrs. Peeble MacIntosh was President of IODE. Mrs. Oliver Smith was married to a Square Mile Man, there are pictures in the Notman Collection of the Oliver Smiths.

Mr. Holts and Lewis are lawyers.  Mr. Lewis is the person sent off in 1917 to find out more about the wartime elections act, coming up.  He reports at a meeting, saying that Borden says it will be 'to honor those women who have men at the front' and because of 'urgent news from the West."

The exec wants more: they will ask Sir Ames for a copy of the Act and for the Hansard notes of the debate. (I haven't seen them yet. The debate was only four days apparently.)

The fact that the Exec wants to ask Sir Herbert Ames for the Act says everything.

Reverend Pedley (Emmanuel Church) is the man who gave a series of lectures in the 1910 era called Tempted Montreal, which included a talk about Mercenary Theatres and Promiscuous Patronage. He wasn't even talking about the Cinema. He had it out for the Theatre so he was especially prudish.

The man is learned and in the talk discusses the history of theatre from the Greek times and then laments the current state of affairs.

"What of the drama, today," he asks, "with its false ideas of life, its portrayal of vice in attractive fashion, its bringing of men, women and children into contact with the unclean?"

And this guy was on the Exec. of the Montreal Suffrage Association.

Anyway, more importantly, the Montreal Suffrage Association drew up a resolution condemning the wartime elections act.  They sent it to Borden and Borden replied saying something like this:

"You don't understand my problem!  I have to deal with the laws of naturalization as they exist. And the election is coming up, so I don't have time to change these laws that allow women to become British Citizens easily through marriage.

There is a strong feeling among the women of Canada that it would not be wise to give universal woman suffrage at this time. (SIC SIC SIC.. because as I have written it was only a few key representatives of women's groups who said this to Borden.)

Do you want to give the vote to a woman not born British?

And then he goes on to say it's all so complicated he can't work out a resolution that would be legal.

And then he goes on to say that by giving the vote to women with relations at the Front he is allowing them to vote for their relation, men at the Front fighting for Canada, men at the Front fighting in the British army, men in German Prisoner of war Camps.

And then he says he will give all women the vote later on, when he has changed the laws and made it harder for immigrant women to be naturalized. (He might even put in an education requirement, he says.)

And he says he knows there are thousands of women without relations at the front who are working hard for the war effort.

Of course, all this gets around the real issue, the problem of French Canadians who for the purposes of his re-election are lumped in with those foreign-born.


Anyway, I am starting to write Sister Salvation, the follow up to Threshold Girl and to Diary of a Confirmed Spinster, about the Nicholson women in WWI, good Presbyterian women, (who loved going to the theatre! and during the war to the 'movies')but who had no close relation in the war so who didn't have a vote in 1917.

I think I will start off with Edith at a Recruitment Fair in the new Art Gallery in 1917, afraid that a boy from home is going to show up and ask her about her 'slacker' brother Herb. How Humiliating.

Edith was a suffragist and suffragette sympathizer, who went to all the talks by famous suffragists and who cut out all kinds of clippings, but she never joined the Montreal Suffrage Association.

But then again she was all for the militants....

Recruiting Exhibition WWI Montreal. (McCord Museum photostream on Flickr, Creative Commons)

Friday, February 22, 2013

Montreal's New City Hall 1921 and the Suffragists

My little promo for Milk and Water, my ebook about Montreal in 1927.
I've also written Furies Cross the Mersey and Service and Disservice about Canada's Suffrage Movement.

They raided Montreal City Hall the other day; I'm glad I wasn't there. I visited their archives on Friday to look up info on the Montreal Suffrage Association.

Apparently, these City archives also contains the fonds of La Ligue des droits de la femme, the Quebec Province Suffrage Group established in 1922 (under the name Provincial Suffrage Committee). Carrie Derick claimed in a 1933 news report that she was turning all her info on the early suffrage movement in Quebec over to La Ligue.

But yesterday I visited the Banq archives to look up the Fonds Feminin Suffrage, and the Fonds of Marie Gerin-Lajoie, the Quebec Feminist Pioneer and the Fonds of the Fédération National St-Jean Baptiste, the Woman's Advocacy Group - and discovered that many documents regarding the early suffrage movement in Quebec were in these files.

So I am confused. But these files were interesting. Very interesting and for so many reasons.

First, the files  contained some info on a citizen's committee organized in 1921, when New City Charter was being designed. These prominent people were asked to give their input.

From the look so of things,  this new charter was being drawn up to appease those people who thought City Hall Politics was corrupt.

The Committee was large about 30 people: I recognized Mr. Birks and Mr. McConnell and yes, the only two ladies on the Committee, Mrs. Walter Lyman (Anna Scrimger Lyman) and Mme Gerin-Lajoie.

My grandmother Maria Roy Crepeau, as a girl. She was born about the same time as Gerin-Lajoie, yet  she didn't do advocacy. Grade 4 education. But as the daughter of a Master Butcher her considerable dowry bought her a successful husband... Her form of social activism was grass roots. She fed tramps at the door, her best food too.  She attended shut ins. She doctored the poor using folk medicine, mustard plasters and some blue stuff put on sore throats. (She was an intuitive doctor.) And she gave away most of the 'gifts' my grandfather, Director of City Services, got at Christmas, a roomful apparently. 

Point four of the new charter said that the City would be divided up into Departments and that one person would be appointed representative of the City Employees.

I guess that was my Grandfather's post, Director of City Services.  Except that his post ended up being a Liaison post between the Executive and the Departments and the Press.

And then, in 1919, these same Protestant Reformers conducted a study on Vice in the City, sparked by wartime prostitution, which brought about the 1924-25 Coderre Inquiry into Police Malfeasance and Misconduct, where my grandfather was HIGHLY criticized for wielding too much power!!

My poor grandfather.  At least it is clear he wasn't guilty of 'designing the charter' himself as some critics later  accused him of.. Hmm. McConnell. I think my grandfather, a Forget, was aligned with McConnell's interests.

Anyway, my purpose in doing all this was to learn more about the Quebec Suffrage Movement for a book or a play.

 Thérèse Casgrain has gone down in history as the woman suffrage icon in Quebec. (Her fonds are restricted.) But Gerin-Lajoie was the pioneer, starting her career with the Montreal Local Council of women, spinning off the French Fédération National  St. Jean Baptiste in 1907 and only giving up in 1926 because of pressure from the Catholic Church.

Her fonds contain her handwritten speeches. She was a beautiful writer, using all the stylistic tricks. There is even a speech she wrote in English, and although her English is not perfect, her writing in English is still lovely.

And the Federation was active in municipal politics, like the Montreal Council of Women, and it was active for the same reasons 'to save the children.'

But, still, these French Canadians didn't go at it in the same way as the Protestants, promoting Purity or Social Hygiene which were loaded terms. (If I was a scholar, starting out,  I would investigate the differences in approach between the French and English Social Activists, but it's a big job.)

Certainly, I can see one BIG difference between the Fédération and the Council. The Federation is made up of worker associations, the shopgirls' associations; the factory workers' association; the domestics associations. More socialist and grassroots. The Montreal Local Council of Women was an umbrella group of benevolent associations, mostly. There were exceptions.  These society women didn't listen much to those people they set out to help. (Why would they? Prostitutes were mental defectives,they believed.) I write about this in my Diary of a Confirmed Spinster.

Everyone, women's groups, businessmen, etc, know there is a dire need for accommodations for working women in the city in the 1910 era,but no one bothers to ask these working women what they might like.

The Gerin-Lajoie fonds contained 'inspirational' letters from spinsters who had voted and also contained a list of Fédération office workers and their lunch hours, using first names like Alice and not Miss Whatever as was the English way. And lots of letters from religious leaders.

Oh, and I found something really interesting, a letter from Borden (a rather short-tempered one) addressing the Federation's objections to the Wartime Elections Act.

I'll write about that later.


Thursday, February 21, 2013


My cat,Foo Foo, must know something. He's started to lie at the picture window, looking out.  And it's snowing more than ever.

It's the 21st of February and the forecasts say that the cold weather is over - and the daytime highs are going to hover around 0 Celsius for the rest of the month, but that can mean a lot of snow here in Quebec, and many bleak overcast days and very crappy driving conditions.

But the cat doesn't care because he doesn't drive and he can 'smell spring'. 

He's a 100 percent indoor cat in the winter  and a good 90 percent outdoor cat in the summer. The day it first snows in say, late October, he retreats indoors for months of rest and over-eating, a feline form of hibernation. 

And now he can smell spring. There's hope for everyone. Even little old self-styled shut-in me.

Well maybe I'm giving Foo Foo  too much credit. Maybe there's some 'action' out there, squirrel action that's caught his attention. Certainly no bird action yet. 

But we humans tend to project onto our animals, don't we?  I had a neighbour who trusted her Lab's instincts when it came to people. If he growled at someone she assumed the person was a baddie and if he liked someone, she assumed the person was nice. It never occurred to her that the dog was just reading her feelings and acting them out for her.

Foo Foo is my familiar. He is reading my feelings right now. I CAN'T WAIT FOR SPRING. But first comes the big snow.

And I console myself, not by sitting at the window in hope of seeing black and grey rodents chasing their tails around the yard in a pre-Primaveran frenzy, but by playing slideshows on my TV of places where I'd prefer to be, mostly in New York City and California.

 Here's a building off Central Park. (If I didn't have so many dogs and cats to take care of, I could take a weekend in New York City.)

Oh, I do have something to do. I have to write the Great Canadian Story, about three young Montreal women during the WWI Conscription Crisis. Right now I am listening to a 10 part BBC Radio 4 story, Brothers and Strangers, by C.P.Snow to get in the mood to write GOOD STUFF.

I like this serial very much. I read the novel Masters years ago but not the other stories in the series. Funny, I read the Masters but didn't bother to learn from it. It's all about what you have to do to get ahead in this Darwinian life, isn't it?

So now I am writing Sister Salvation (I just decided on this title) the follow up to Threshold Girl and Diary of a Spinster (and the prequel to Milk and Water about Montreal in 1927.)

Here's my video 'promo' for Diary of a Confirmed Spinster about the 1910 Rossmore Hotel Fire.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Toronto Suffragists, Montreal Suffragists and 1917

I managed to track down a copy of Atlantis, a women's study journal, an issue from 1976 (when I was at school!) about the Wartimes Elections Act (I think it is wartime elections act) and the Canadian Women's Movement.

McGill Library didn't have it so I bought it online from Hants England, where my Aunt lives. (Maybe I'll donate it to McGill.)

I am researching background for my book about the Conscription Crisis (based on real letters) the follow up to Threshold Girl and Diary of a Confirmed Spinster.

I'm trying to get to the bottom of something: Who originally thought of giving limited franchise to women in the 1917 Canadian federal election?

PM Borden is blamed nowadays, but this article says that in the day pacifist suffragists blamed Nellie McClung for giving him the idea in April 1917.

The newspapers of the era blamed Arthur Meighen, his Solicitor General.

Well I may never know. But it probably wasn't Carrie Derick.

This paper by Gloria Geller was written from a Toronto-centric point of view and doesn't mention the Montreal Suffrage Association or its President Carrie Derick who was also a VP of the Canadian Council of Women.

But the paper does not say that  the President of the Canadian Council of Women a Mrs. Torrington, endorsed limited suffrage, but does not mention Derick as also endorsing it. (The Montreal Local Council of Women censured Mrs. Torrington at a meeting.)

So, maybe I should give Derick credit for really and truly being against the wartime elections act, and not just saying it 'for show' at the Board meeting of the Montreal Suffrage Association, despite the fact she for conscription (well, that's a whole other thing, the Local Council heartily endorsed getting more men to the front, but claimed they did not take sides on the Conscription Issue.)

Only Mrs. Scott and Mrs. McNaughton supported Borden's Wartime elections act..implemented, he told these suffragists, to 'honor' women who had relatives at the front and also because of 'urgent news from the West" ...all others on the Executive made a motion opposing it.

Still, as VP of the Canadian Council of Women, she must have known these women endorsed limited suffrage at the Win the War meeting in Toronto in early August 1917, as an emergency measure to get Conscription passed and as a foot-in-the-door for universal women's suffrage, which is what it ended up being.)

Most of what Geller writes, I've already figured out from reading the minutes of the Montreal Council of Women.

Anyway, just goes to show you how little has been written on this particular subject. This article is almost 40 years old and scholars in the field still refer to it!

The opening paragraph is extremely interesting. Geller says that although people know about the Conscription Crisis, few realize it was a ploy by Borden to get re-elected. So in 1976, when I was at McGill, no one realized this very obvious fact!

Amazing! Especially considering  Marion Nicholson, my husband's grandmother, says as much in a letter to her father in 1917...a letter I am going to use in my new book.

Geller sums up the whole affair, saying what I also have come to believe. The women were used by Borden. Their inherent xenophobia was taken advantage of. They were forced to play the man's game and get immersed in party politics.

Well, Geller's description of the Toronto suffrage movement which was fragmented and diverse explains to me why the Montreal Suffrage Association was so elitest and why they so carefully controlled their membership. They were afraid of becoming like the Toronto Suffragists!!

Ooops. Another book from Abebooks just arrived for me, by courrier. Margaret Gillett's We Walked Very Warily about women at McGill. I read this book in the McGill Library 6 years ago when I started researching my Nicholson letters.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

War, Prostitution and Protestant Reformers

In May 1919, in  a deferred Annual General Meeting of the Montreal Suffrage Association voted to disband in order that a bilingual group could be set up to fight the Provincial Suffrage Battle.

After all, Borden had given most Canadian women the federal franchise in 1918.

No mention is made in the minutes of who attended this meeting, (against the rules of governance) although a letter to the Editor of the Montreal Gazette questioning the disbandment claimed only 9 members (out of 300 membership) showed up.

There was only one dissenting vote, that of Mrs. Fenwick-Williams, the Press Secretary, an author, and also the only member of the Executive who was a pure suffragist and not a Social Reformer with other fish to fry -as in ulterior motives for wanting women to have the vote.

Perhaps  Fenwick-Williams was the one who wrote that anonymous letter to the editor of the Montreal Gazette wondering about the break up of the Association and asking why the funds remaining in the treasure was going to help 'mental defectives.'

(In 1917 or 18, Carrie Derick offers to give a talk on the connection between mental defectives and social vice, but only as a fund-raiser of the MSA. She believed that about half of prostitutes were mentally defective.)

This little financial item isn't mentioned in the 1919 minutes of the Montreal Suffrage Association, but then something else important isn't mentioned in the minutes, the fact that the  the Montreal Suffrage Association  sent a letter to the Montreal Council of Women in 1918 asking that prostitution around soldiers barracks be halted with active intervention, by women police etc.

That didn't have much to do with woman suffrage (except for the fact that many suffragists, including the British Suffragettes, thought that prostitution or the traffic in women would be stopped as soon as women got the vote. Christobel Pankhurst's the Great Scourge, about venereal disease was a big seller for the MSA.)

As it happens, Rev. Dr. Symonds of Christ Church Cathedral was the pre-eminent man on the Executive of the Montreal Suffrage Association.

During the later war years, 1918, 1919,  he was also the head of the Committee of Sixteen a group looking into "commercialized vice" in Montreal.

The Committee published a  report in 1919 (Dr. Atherton presented it to the Exec of the Montreal Council of Women)showing how widespread this commercialized vice was in the city.

The report is available online and it is pretty DRY. So no one paid attention.  But a few years later in 1923, a  Dr. A.K. Haywood of the Montreal General (and formerly of the Canadian Army Medical Service)  gave a 'sensational' speech to the Canadian Club, describing drug-addled prostitutes in vivid terms, which set a fire under High Society and brought on the Coderre Inquiry into Police Malfeasance and Misconduct, which ended up fingering my grandfather, Jules Crepeau, the Director of City Services, not for abetting prostitution, but for forcing police to look the other way when underage patrons (mostly boys) went to the cinema alone. In the minds of Protestant Reformers, all vice is connected.

Representatives of the Committee of Sixteen, which now included the Rotary Club, stormed City Hall in January 1923 and my grandfather was there to greet them. If the Reformers couldn't change city hall the democratic way, through elections, they'd do it this way, I supposed.

The Coderre Inquiry ended up costing a lot of money - it took two years and covered all aspects of vice in the City, including the evil of the cinema. The final report was 10,000 pages.

I suspect that this all got started with the Wartime efforts to stem prostitution near the barracks of our young impressionable soldiers, who needed to be protected from sex and booze, but not from seeing their comrades blown to bits beside them in the trenches. The Reformers were keen on getting as many Canadian boys to the front as possible.

I suspect the reformers felt this was a cagey way to get social purity reforms through, by starting with the problem of the soldiers. In wartime the rules changed. If suffragists could get their hands dirty doing war work, because it was needed, they could get directly involved with social problems too, especially if you could link it to war work, even if that wasn't exactly their mandate.

The mission of the Montreal Suffrage Association was to Promote Suffrage. That's all. Theoretically, universal suffrage would give a voice to the Prostitutes (however retarded sic) as well as the Society Ladies.

(I'm reminded of a very strange quote from Carrie Derick, in the 1930's. We need laws for the worst people; the best don't need them. Yikes!)

Anyway, the report of the Coderre Inquiry came out in 1925 or early 26 and it eventually ended up being read out in the United States Senate (by a former Ontario attorney general) at their Hearings into Prohibition and the testimony was reprinted full-page in the New York Times.

Milk and Water is my story about 1927 Montreal.

It seems McGill University held an exhibition in 2009 on the Committee of Sixteen's efforts and the write up is here.

They consider it a bi-partisan effort...Protestant/Catholic/Jewish.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Opium Dreams: A story of Love and Loss in 1910

Diary of a Confirmed Spinster, the second part of School Marms and Suffragettes.
All rights reserved 2012

Dorothy Nixon.


HBC has arrived.

He is sitting in our casual parlour, the back parlour, the parlour off the kitchen,  just three feet from where I myself recline in the sturdy cherry wood rocking chair my Mother usually sits in. When she has the time to do so.

She has draped it, I notice, to cover the threadbare cushion in the canary yellow afghan I crocheted for her at Christmas.

HBC is staring at me with a look of confusion more than compassion, patiently, perhaps  anxiously. Waiting for me to say something.  Anything.

This boyish-looking man with a bit of a cowlick and rather red ears is politely allowing the shock of it all to sink in.

With his head of otherwise straight blond hair and the beige cardigan he is sporting over  broad boney shoulders,  he does look rather like a schoolboy, albeit a gangly overgrown one.

And he is so informally dressed compared to me, we make quite the ridiculous pair, but as he explained, he was heading out to Potton Springs with some Montreal friends when he decided to hop off the train at Richmond. And I had invited him to drop by at the first chance, so that is just what he did.

There’s no one but God to bear witness as we sit so close together in the family room of Tighsolas, my home, an awkward couple despite our age appropriateness. Both 27, you see.  In another universe  we could have become suitors.

HBC, the bank clerk, in my mother’s favorite rocking chair and me, the school marm, in my father’s world weary leather wingback.

HBC in his casual country-outing attire. Me in my formal frilly white dress.

I look quite the eccentric.  Even Miss Havisham–like.  Not a look I have previously aspired to, but quite fitting these days, all considered.

When the young man first arrived, and I invited him to come into the house to sit and talk privately in our parlour, I implored him to spare me nothing.

I wanted to know it all. 

All about the ‘mercy’ trip to Monterrey Mexico.  All about the sudden job transfer to Cornwall, Ontario. All about everything leading up to and right after the fateful fire. That infernal fire. That miserable conflagration that converted me in the space of a week from a blushing bride to be, perhaps a little on the ripe side, to an opiate-addled spinster-in-training.

As HBC began, the small subtle muscles at the side of his face rippled and pulled taut, so I knew there was more to this sad story than even I had guessed. So much, much more, as it happens.

Still, I wanted to know. I had to know, although I wished on some level that the young man hadn’t dropped in on this particular morning, despite his standing invitation to do so, despite his obligation to do so as my dear Charlie’s closest friend and ally at work and at leisure at the Bank of Montreal in Danville, Quebec.

Because as he ambled up the street on long, lanky legs, we were all sitting on the front lawn having our picture taken, me, my sisters Flora and Marion and our mother Margaret.  In our white dresses. We were all wearing our spring hats, too, our Easter bonnets, and Mrs. Montgomery, our neighbour, who was taking the picture, was having to back up onto the curb just to get our huge headdresses into the frame.

My hat, a huge black shape with pink flowers and Marion’s a small turned up shape, with blue blossoms, had been purchased in April at Ogilvy in downtown Montreal. Mine for 7 dollars and fifty cents. Hers for 6 dollars and fifty cents.  On April 29th, to be exact, just one day before the terrible event.

As I made one third Marion’s salary, my purchase was the most audacious, but I was feeling giddy that day, what with the warming late afternoon sun and the crocuses peeking out of the ground here and there on bustling St. Catherine Street, blue, yellow, and my life on the brink of the DESIRABLE.

Mother’s hat, which she had purchased a year ago locally at Miss Hudon’s  was a profusion of turquoise Japanese peony blossoms, last year’s style, but  she was still getting used to the bigness of it. She had added a yellow ribbon in way of updating. Flora’s hat, well, I don’t recall where she got it. It had no up-to-date flourishes, no velvet ribbon, just a few faded sprigs of some imaginary bloom, likely picked from the remainders basket at Miss Goyette’s, the bargain milliner in Richmond, Quebec.

It was Mother’s idea to get all dolled up in our best frocks and frills  and have a tea party on the front lawn. As we had done in the past, although much later in the summer, and usually to escape the brutal heat in the kitchen.

But it was not hot on this day in early June. There were other reasons for the charade. Mother was simply desperate, that’s all.  Desperate to save me from my spiralling sadness.  Desperate to forget her own escalating set of problems.

So after church (Mr. Carmichael’s sermon was on the Garden of Eden) we ceremoniously slid into our white dresses, a fashion from before the turn of the century, white dresses being genteel dresses, delicate, for they stained easily – that being the point. 

(Women wearing white dresses had servants to do the wash. Except in our case, it wasn’t true. We washed our dresses ourselves! It took two days, at least (with one sunny day ) to wash, dry and iron our fine, frilly white dresses.)

Our genteel impractical white dresses. I read  that Queen Victoria  started the fashion, decades ago, at her wedding, to promote British lace to the world.

As we four women sat out there, teetering on our solid kitchen chairs on the spongy lawn, my mother’s brainstorm had quite the opposite effect on me.

I could see, through the murk of my black mood, how nonsensical we looked, how pretentious even, in our silly super-sized hats and our out-of-date white dresses.

I felt somehow released from my physical body and I understood how ridiculous we appeared from the street, like a scene out of Alice in Wonderland, perhaps, and I hoped our neighbours were not watching. (But, of course, they were. They always are.)

What with the card table draped in our finest white linen tablecloth, the one embroidered by me in blue silk, out on the soft front lawn. And on that table our best china and silver tea pot. I felt on display, like an animal in the zoo. Or one of those tasteless exhibits at Dominion Park I’ve heard about from my sister, the singing midgets or infants in the incubator.

“Step right up ladies and gentlemen. On view the Canadian Middle Class of Prime Minister Laurier’s Time. Aspiring to the finest life has to offer: opera, theatre, poetry, but afraid of falling into the lower class. The puzzle is, dear people, these commonplace specimens are actually working class on paper, only elevated over that class by education and sense of entitlement.

They have studied Latin, Botany, and Geometry, so are instilled with a love of Beauty, but they have not always with the means to seek it out. Like peacocks or perhaps chameleons, they disguise their true domestic situation with ostentatious displays such as this, as well as lotions and creams to hide the rough and reddened skin of their hard-working hands.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it is True. These particular specimens are UNIQUE to all Canadian society, in that they Wash Their Own Clothing.

Well, this has only been true lately.

In the past, Mother had plenty of help, a live-in maid at the turn of the century and sundry washerwomen since. In the past, it was easy to find someone, often a French woman, to do your dirty work for 10 cents a day. But times have changed, haven’t they?

So, before I could shake myself of this unpleasant idea, I saw him loping up the road, HBC as I always refer to him in letters. Walking up from College Street and, I supposed, the train station.

“I was on my way to Kingsey Falls , to see a friend, so I dropped by,” he said to me after greeting my family. “We’re off on the 3.10 to Potton Springs.  To meet a group of fellows from the bank. I’m sorry, I decided to get off right then and there, about  5 minutes before the Richmond stop. There was no time for a telegram.”

“Yes, but I told you to drop by any time. So please don’t apologize,” I replied, wondering if he would want the anchovy canapés we prepared for our tea. Or should I offer him some cold tongue?

We couldn’t ask him to join us for lunch; that would be too time-consuming and uncomfortable.

And it wasn’t the point, anyway. So we quickly passed into the empty house. Straight to the parlour. The casual parlour as there was not time to prepare the formal parlour for a visitor.

He asked me only for a glass of water.

“I’m sorry to have disturbed you,” he repeated. “You are celebrating something? A birthday?”
“Quite the opposite,” I assured him.

I brought him some well-water in a green glass tumbler. And then I asked him to proceed. Without further delay. To tell me all he knew about the circumstances of the fiery death of my Charlie G. Right from the beginning. From the trip to Mexico in October up until that dreadful night in late April, the night Haley’s Comet so ominously passed over  the smoke-stackful town of Cornwall, Ontario and my beloved, almost fiancé.

I wanted to know the minutest details. All that Charlie was doing the three months since our informal engagement over Christmas, especially whatever he was doing that he didn’t tell me about in his letters.

He couldn’t have spent ALL his spare time in the Presbyterian Church – as he had wanted me to believe. Even I knew that he was writing  this only to please me. To prove his conversion to The Way had stuck.

So HBC began, leaning back on the old couch, his right elbow at right angles to his head as he flattened the hair on the back of his head with his palm. His bicep was a muscular one, I noticed, larger than Charlie’s. I guess you call men like HBC wiry, deceptively strong.

But then suddenly taking on the posture of a much older man, possibly imitating his own father or a beloved Academy teacher, he opened his mouth to speak.  About Monterrey. About Cornwall. About the circumstances of the Rossmore Hotel Fire. I think it took about an hour in all; I can’t be sure. And, then, as it all began to sink in, the uncomfortable unpleasantness of it all, the uncleanliness of it. And  I suddenly realized,  with an invisible icy hand slapping my face, that I had been protected all these months from the truth of the situation, protected by dear Charlie as well as by HBC, his best friend. Protected as we older Nicholson sisters, Marion and I, protect little Flora from the more unpleasant truths about our own dear, devoted, but deeply troubled family.

I had been protected from the real reason Charlie went to Mexico in the first place and protected from the real reason he was transferred away from Danville to Cornwall immediately upon his return.

Worst of all, I had been protected from the knowledge about myself, about my self-defeating female narcissism, my shallow self-absorbed existence.

I had spent the last year believing myself to be the damsel misused and mistreated, because I enjoyed the part of a being tossed in love. I took to my bed like some wealthy habitué in a bad novel, and, true to type, guzzled tonics to my soul’s content, more to elicit pity than to recover from debilitating grief.

HBC articulated it all to me in plain English. Plain enough. At some points I had to read between the lines.

Everything that Charlie had done in the past few months he had done for me, for love of me. Out of desire to marry me – and this as soon as possible.

He did not get cold feet in October when he left for Monterrey after the typhoon. He was not trying to weasel himself out of our understanding in March, when he asked for a transfer to Cornwall.

Charlie was trying to make this marriage happen.

I wasn’t a victim. I was a victimizer.

How could HBC look at me, now? He had to be thinking the same thing as I was.

This handsome man of the middle class, son of a prosperous  farmer (although lacking the latter’s charm) and just  like Charlie, stuck in the reasonably respectable, but oh-so-hopeless  profession of bank clerking.

A reasonably well-educated man, Academy II, with no serious connections in the business world, so no real hope of bettering himself. A young man thinking of moving out West, like just about everyone else his age around the Eastern Townships of Quebec, like even my own dear father.

He had to be thinking:  “If it hadn’t been for you, Charlie would still be alive.”

Yes, he would still be alive, my Charlie. And I could sense a sick sensation seeping through little spider vein  like cracks in my pitch black state of mind. I was feeling nauseous. Because the truth was sickening, I guess.  And so monstrously ugly.

“So that’s why Charlie spent his off hours in the church. Not to impress me, but to hide from those who would harm him?”

I looked HBC straight in the eye. I noticed he had green eyes, like my sister Marion, but not as watery.

HBC answered nothing. I guess there was nothing for him to say.

He examined the dark oak of the sliding doors that separate the family room from the reception room, the same woodwork my father had installed himself years ago, with such pride, as trim like this added greatly to the cost of the house. But times were good back then.

HBC finally spoke. “You should know. He wasn’t doing anything illegal. Strictly speaking. He’d want you to know. He wouldn’t want you to think ill of him.”

And with that final word he sprang from the chair to leave.

Think ill of him? How could I possibly?  I was the villain in this piece. Not dear Charlie. Dear dead Charlie.

Burned beyond recognition. His body identified only by the tie pin nearby. In that stairwell of the Rossmore Hotel.

Half of his body anyway. (HBC hadn’t told me this first: I had read it in the Ottawa newspaper.)

“I have to catch the next train,” he said. He had a full half hour, and the train station was 10 minutes away, but I didn’t  argue.

“Are you sure you wouldn’t like a salted pork sandwich for your trip?  “I asked out of politeness.

“No, we are planning an early dinner at the hotel in Potton Springs.”

(Men are so lucky. They can eat anywhere, anytime.)

And with that he took his straw boater from the table and turned about pirouetting elegantly on his lithe muscular legs.  But I knew I had to ask him something more, before he left. As out of context as it was, but there you go.

He was moving toward the door now, “I’ll see myself out, Edith.”

So I stopped him, extending a lacy fore-arm his way.

“I have one more thing to ask.”
“Do you know where I can get some. For my own use?”

Now it was his turn to be shocked.

So I explained.

“I’m running out of medicine, you see. And it’s not like the City here. Everyone knows me. Dr. Moffat is a relation. Mr. Sutherland, the druggist, is a good family friend.”

HBC stared down at me with those engaging green eyes.

“No, Edith, I don’t. I’m sss sorry,” he stuttered.

He folded his hat in his hand. And then he rushed out into the hall and out the front door. I raced into the reception room and to the window and saw him blow by my mother and sisters taking tea on the front lawn, without so much as tipping his hat. Well, he could hardly. He had twisted it, like a dirty rag, between his pale fists.

Montreal Suffragists, British Suffragettes and BBC Radio 4

I wrote hourly ID's for CFQR in the 1980s' heard in elevators everywhere.

One afternoon, back in 1983, when I was working as a copywriter at a radio station, writing mostly 30 and 60 second advertisements for Greek Restaurants and other small businesses, an account exec came up to me with an unusual request.

Would I like to write a pilot episode for a radio soap opera? On spec. For free of course. She didn't explain any more than that.

It was a strange request: Commercial English radio stations in Montreal were in full free-fall, with sports, talk and easy listening being all these stations produced.

Perhaps the CBC still did some radio drama, but nothing like in their heyday.

Unlike most of my fellow copywriters, who all aspired to finer things like TV and film and theatre, I had no experience as a scriptwriter.

 And I was tired out of my mind, because my job was stressful with everyone worried for their jobs and with so many 'small' contracts coming in, which meant I had to write many, many more ads per day under tighter and tighter deadlines.

But I wrote the soap opera pitch anyway.

I handed it over to the Account Executive and that's the last I heard.

I think my premise was a bit wild, not quite a Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, but still. I had the story set in an luxury apartment building and the drama was created by the tenants' interaction.

Of course, I had heard no radio plays in my life at the time so it probably was not very good, although I did  major in theatre and classics in Jr. College.

Today I am a huge BBC Radio 4 fan because that brilliant station came online a few years ago in 2006. Since that time, I've heard hundreds of their delicious plays (classic and experimental) performed by top notch talent.

Despite the economic downturn radio thrives in the U.K, although lately BBC Radio 4 has reduced its production considerably.

I probably should have quit my job back then in 1982 and moved to the UK.

Everybody knew there was no future in English Quebec Radio and it was generally believed that UK radio stations liked Canadian talent and I had a grandfather clause permit to work there. (A co-worker on the technical side did just that, move to the UK.)

But it never occurred to me to go and try my luck in British Radio. There was no Internet then. No way to research how to go about things and my meager 15,000 a year copywriter's salary at the radio station hardly made it easy to save money.

Lost Opportunities.

The minutes of the Montreal Suffrage Association show they decided not to get DIRECTLY involved with the elections except where suffrage was concerned. They polled candidates about their views on married women getting the vote in municipal elections. Their mission statement was simple: to promote suffrage... but during the war they made resolutions aimed at keeping prostitutes and booze from soldiers, putting the cart before the horse a bit. You see, the main reason these Montreal suffragists wanted women to get the vote is so that these newly enfranchised women could then vote in favour of social reforms, which were really about promoting traditional evangelical Protestant values in a changing world.

And here I am much too old to be ambitious, still writing.

I wonder if the BBC would be interested in a play about the Montreal Suffragists and how militant suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst's Dec 1911 visit 'inspired' the Local Council of Women, an umbrella group of advocacy organizations, to 'spin off' the non-militant Montreal Suffrage Association in 1913, quite against their own by-laws and to us this new organization as a kind of rogue arm of the original umbrella organization?

Here's a case in point. The Montreal Council of Women, despite the fact they were 'non-partisan' and 'non-political' always got involved in the Montreal municipal elections, getting the spinster vote out in order to get their reform candidates elected. Municipal elections were not about politics the  Montreal Council said, just about 'good governance'.

Their efforts paid off in the 1910 election, but in only that one election, it seems.

During the War, the Montreal Suffrage Association wanted to get involved in the municipal elections as well.  "Should we promote candidates who promote suffrage or candidates who promote reform?" they wondered in the executive meeting splitting hairs as these candidates were usually one and the same, because 'woman suffrage' in Canada was all about Protestant Reform.

They decided to leave the efforts to the Montreal Council of Women which really made no difference at all since the two organizations shared many of the same Executives. They even admit that fact in the minutes.

All very iffy I think.

This Conscription Crisis Era  is where my two stories Threshold Girl (about a college girl in 1910) and Milk and Water (about Montreal City Hall in 1927)come together.

Threshold Girl is about the Nicholson women, Presbyterian suffragists and suffragette sympathizers and Milk and Water is about my grandfather, Jules, Crepeau, the Director of City Services in Montreal in 1921-30.

In 1913 Jules was set up  by Edward Beck former of the Montreal Herald in a bribery sting. Edward Beck also published a Suffrage Special in his newspaper in 1913. He fiercely despised Montreal City Hall.

Crepeaus in around 1923.