Tuesday, April 30, 2013

I Just thought I'd Show you Something Very Old

Here's 'an historical costume' that might confuse some future anthropologist from a far away planet. A long dress with a tiny tiny top. Even today's A list actresses couldn't wear it.

It's a christening dress from 1868..(or earlier) belonging to my husband's grandfather, Thomas Gavine Wells. Over the years, a few other children have been christened in it, but not too many.

A member of my husband's family wanted this dress to be donated to the McCord Museum. Except that they already have some of the same, owned by more illustrious Montrealers. (I saw one on display a few years ago.)

Thomas Gavine Wells, President of Laurentian Spring Water and character in my ebook Milk and Water  (about corruption in Jazz Age Montreal) owned this little dress that comes with two slips in two sizes.

This christening dress is not only an artifact of family history. Manufactured in the Victorian Age it likely is made from cotton grown in the US South (by slave labour) and manufactured in Lancashire or thereabouts (by children?)

A few years ago I discovered a Royal Crown Reader (used in Canada and the UK) from 1902 that had articles about the cotton industry. (See below)

 I am visiting the McCord Museum tomorrow to check out their archives, and information about one Frank Randall Clarke, photographer and journalist, who was the brother in law of suffragette Annie Kenney and who likely hosted his other suffragette sister in law, Caroline Kenney in our fair city in 1913. Caroline seems to have come over to Montreal to live that year and to start her own suffrage organization, the Equal Suffrage League.

The Kenneys were working class girls who worked in cotton mills in Yorkshire before becoming social activists.

I think the McCord museum is having a display of hats, which will prove interesting.

I thought this might be the oldest item in my house, but then I thought again and I have a pin belonging to my husband's great great grandmother from Coll. It must be from around 1840 at least.

And I have lots of old lace. Who knows how old that is. And I even have a stone from the bottom of the Grand Canyon. Now that's OLD.

Some of this lace is going to be used for the wedding decor at my son's July wedding.

Picture from 1902 Royal Crown Reader. Book 4. These were used in Quebec Schools too. These are cotton workers, but wearing sarongs. The only workers mentioned in the book are American Negroes..so kids would have assumed these are American Negroes..even slaves.

I have been meditating on the cotton industry in 1910, and how I can weave this social welfare theme into Flo in the City.

In short, I wondered how much Marion, Edith and Flo knew about the cotton industry. I know they loved clothes and as women who made their own clothes, they knew a bit about fabric.

But did they know enough about the industry to care about the textile workers and their trials and strikes.

Well, I just re-discovered that the 1902 Royal Crown Reader I have on hand (purchased off Ebay) has two articles on cotton!


1) The Cotton Plant:

We do not know when cotton was first used for clothing. People learned to cultivate useful plants long before they learned to write, so none of our books are old enough to tell us who were the first farmers, or bakers, or weavers. But it is only about a hundred years since cotton cloth was woven in this country. (UK).

Indian muslins have long been famed for their beauty. A traveller, writing more than two hundred years ago, mentions some muslins that are so exceedingly fine that when laid on grass and dew has fallen on it, it is no longer visible.

These delicate materials were woven on looms of the coarsest and simplest kind, and now when the machinery has been made better, the natives seem to have lost much of their former skill (sic), so that the new fabrics are by no means as fine as the old.

When America was discovered by Columbus, about four hundred years ago, cotton was found growing there, and the natives showed some skill in weaving it into cloth. The United States of America has long held the first place among the cotton growing countries of the world, and from it we get most of our raw cotton.

For many years, indeed until about thirty years ago, the work in the cotton fields was performed by negro slaves; but after a long war, all the slaves were freed in 1885.

(Another page describes how the cotton plant grows, how the bolls are harvested and how the plant is woven into fibres at the factory.)

The following article is called Samuel Crompton and the Cotton-Spinner.

It is due to the invention of these new machines that the cotton manufacture has grown to such a very great extent in England. Manchester, Liverpool, and other towns in Lancashire, have become vast hives of busy workers and population of the country is five times what it was at the beginning of the century.The cotton spinners and weavers were at first very much against the new machines...

(It goes on to describe the life of Samuel Compton)

A recent In Our Time about the Industrial Revolution (on BBC Radio Four) debated this issue, whether innovation sparked the Revolution or whether economics did.)

Monday, April 29, 2013

McGill and the Suffragettes!

Royal Victoria College in the era

Here is Edith Nicholson's letter of May 2, 1913, with the line I used to kick-start a research project and a book, to be called Sister Salvation, the follow up to Threshold Girl the Amazon e-book.  The line is in bold below.

Dear Mother,

You have had Flora's letter by now so know that we arrived safely with our trunk and are now settled in our little flat.  Marion W came up this morning - had a splendid trip and looking fine. Henry gave her a new suit and hat. Ethel was in this afternoon so she can tell you all about our place of abode.  I only saw her for about two hours and then we went shopping. 

She is looking so well and had a pretty new grey suit and a becoming hat.  My throat is better, but I did suffer from it for a few days.  Marion and Marion W went up to the Shaw's last night. 

They were quite nice and took over the telephone so we have that off our hands.  

Tell Mr. And Mrs. McMillan to call and see us. We are in most days after four. Some of us anyway. Tell him  I was sorry to miss those Methodist jokes. And if he hears any others to keep them stored for me. 

What a house we left behind us. I suppose you are working all the time trying to get things staightened out. We are going to try and hear Mrs. Snowden, but she is not a militant for which I am sorry. 


Saturday morning Marion and I went down to the St. Antoine market and I had my first real marketing experience. We got along nicely. Got strawberries, potatoes, roast of beef, grapefruit. Pineapples. Fruit is selling quite reasonable.


Mrs. Snowden spoke at St. James Methodist on May 5, 1913 on the occasion of the Canadian Council of Women's AGM. (National Council of Women.)


In the May 2 1913 edition of the Montreal Witness, it is claimed that a grand soiree was held for the Council at Royal Victoria College, a concert with nibblies.

Some Donaldas (McGill Co-eds) helped served.

Mrs. Hurlbatt, the Warden of RVC said

Poor Edith. How she loved a good concert! But not to worry, in 1920 she would take a post with McGill (working both in the Registrar's Office and at RVC, becoming Assistant Warden under Hurlbatt) and she would attend many concerts and do's. Indeed, in 28, she would step out with Miss Carrie Derick to a McGill Concert.

But on May 2, 1913 she was an unemployed teacher, helping her sisters move out of their   apartment on Hutchison to one on Guy Street.

Now, the guest list of the evening is most interesting: the usual suspects, women prominent on the Montreal Local Council like Mrs. Walter Lyman and Mrs. Scott, and a Mrs. A.C. Leggatt!

Mrs. A.C. Leggatt, I just discovered, was the woman who went around in 1913 giving lectures on suffrage for the Equal Suffrage League, with Miss Caroline Kenney, the suffragette sister of the more militant British suffragette Annie Kenney

So militants had infiltrated the bastion of Montreal's Social Elite, the same people who, in April 1913, one hundred years ago, launched the Montreal Suffrage Association, more of a  private club than a democratic organization - and an organization that was decidedly non militant. 

(I sort of guessed. In a 1930 New York Times Obit, a social activist RLP Wallace is said to have been a former aide of Mrs. Pankhurst and also a former President of Montreal's Suffrage League.)

At the Montreal Suffrage Association's  inaugural meeting on April 25, 1913, a principal speaker suggested the militant suffragettes would be better off if they starved to death in prison.

The MSA wanted to be the only show in town and they almost were, but I've recently discovered that the militants in Montreal were trying to make their mark with this Equal Suffrage League.

Who was this Mrs. A.C. Leggatt, I don't know.  There was a Mrs. Leggatt from Hamilton who was Past-President of the National Council. I assume this woman was somehow related, perhaps a daughter in law, which would account for why she was there at RVC that evening.

And as for Mrs. Hurlbatt. Her file at McGill contains no hint of her suffrage activities, but I suspect this former Londoner had affection for the militants. Her speeches about suffrage hinted at such and she was inspired by Mrs. Pankhurst to raise money for the Serbs during the war. And in 1913 she seemed to join and then leave the Montreal Suffrage Association, claiming her responsibilities at the College were too time-consuming.

There were only two students from RVC listed in the membership book of the Montreal Suffrage Association and one name was crossed out.

Carrie Derick, in her speeches about the History of the Suffrage Movement in Canada and Montreal, claimed that it was the Montreal Council that persuaded the Canadian Council to support woman suffrage, suggesting that the Montrealers were on the forefront.

But they were really quite conservative (wanting woman suffrage in order to clean up Montreal's French City Hall.)

A Mrs. Dennison was on the guest list here. Perhaps it was Flora Macdonal Dennison..(Likely). Now she was a loose cannon and a militant suffragette sympathizer.

She would have gotten along famously with the Kenneys, for she too had a working class background in the textile industry.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Militants in Montreal!

Annie Kenney. A young Pauline Collins could have played her, I imagine.

Sometimes there's an excuse for writer's block.

 I blamed it on the weather, our lousy Spring, but the sunshine has arrived in Montreal. We probably have too much sun. There have been few April showers.

Yes, I blamed it on our bleak month of March, but the real reason why I couldn't get down to the business of WRITING was because I could not answer the key question on which my story pivots:

Why was Edith Nicholson, of my e-book Threshold Girl , that prim and proper Presbyterian, all for the militant suffragettes in 1913?

But now I've answered my question: she was likely involved with the Equal Suffrage League, a rival Suffrage Organization in Montreal. Her name isn't listed in the membership log of the Montreal Suffrage Association.

Yes, yesterday, I discovered, through Internet research, that there was a rival suffrage organization existing in Montreal during WWI and that one of the principals was Caroline Kenney, sister of Annie Kenney, the highest ranking WSPU Working Class Suffragette.

Wait. I found a bio of Caroline online: It says she went to US as a Montessori Teacher in 1916. But it looks like she first landed in Montreal! Maybe she landed with Emmeline Pankhurst in 1916! No, I have newspaper evidence she was in Montreal in December 1913 (see last post) chairing a meeting of the equal franchise league. So she went to Rome to study with Maria Montessori in 1914.

Another sister (the eldest Kenney sister, Sarah) was here in the city too,  married to a certain Frank Randall Clarke. She'd been here since 1908.

There's scant information on Caroline on the Web, but plenty about Annie Kenney and Jessie Kenney (both suffragettes) and also about Frank Randall Clarke, Sarah's husband, a left-leaning working class jack-of all-trades, writer, artist  and social reformer in his own right.

(The kind of social reformer frowned upon by Montreal's elite.)

(From McCord Museum, Creative Commons license.)

The McCord Museum features some Depression Era photos of Clarke's, of homeless men.

There are fonds in Clarke's name at McGill - all relating to his studies is social psychology. There's a bio:

Frank Randall Clarke came to Montreal (with his wife Sarah) in 1908 and worked as a photographer with the Montreal Star and as City Editor and Copywriter at the Montreal Witness. (He had worked for the Daily Mail in the UK.)

In 1915-20 he worked as an insurance salesman. All this while volunteering for the Canadian Patriotic fund.

Later on he worked to establish unemployment insurance in Montreal. He went back to school and studied psychology under W.D. TAIT at McGill - his interest, industrial psychology.

Tait was a pioneer of social psychology. So Clarke 'committed sociology' I guess, way back when.

So, this Frank Randall Scott appears to have been a working class social reformer, who understood that not everyone has 'connections' and good education and that 'the right attitude' can only take you so far.

On the 1911 Census, Frank and Sarah live in Verdun and have a 1 year old girl Beatrice. He lists his profession as journalist and he makes 860 a year. (His wife Sarah was likely born in Saddleworth Yorkshire and likely worked in a cotton mill there. That's how it happened for her younger sister Annie)

I could look at his fonds at McGill but they are concerned (it says) entirely with applied psychology and vocational guidance.

How interesting!  And a fact not in the McGill bio,  Frank Randall Clarke had three sisters-in- law who were suffragettes!

The fonds that would be of interest are at the University of East Anglia in the UK.  The Kenney Fonds.

Clarke's daughter, Dorothy, of Montreal deposited her documents there in 2002, to add to the Annie Kenney fonds.

According to information online, someone is already investigating the Clarke Family of Montreal. In what context, I wonder.

Is this researcher also interested in Montreal's almost forgotten 'militant' Equal Suffrage League, that promoted Votes for Women in Montreal beside the (slightly) more famous Montreal Suffrage Association?

The Equal Suffrage League, I see,  seems to have had some trouble getting attention in the Montreal newspapers, despite the fact Clarke was City Editor of the Witness, which covered all the suffrage news. And what's a militant organization without media attention?

What I learned about that mysterious organization has come out of  the Toronto and Ottawa papers mostly.

I suspect, had the war not broken out, this Equal Franchise league would have sponsored parades and such in Montreal and got some attention, in the Montreal Witness at least. The Montreal Gazette of the period contained few photographs.

Instead The Equal Franchise League sponsored speakers to come to Montreal,  including Mrs. Emmeline Pankhurst in 1916. She spoke on behalf of the women suffering in the Balkans - and then Carrie Derick and Mrs. Hurlbatt of McGill's RVC started fund-raising for the cause.

(In my story, this is where Edith might meet Mrs. Hurlbatt.  Edith worked under her at RVC from 1920.)

From a Saskatoon newspaper, a bit about a Montreal meeting of the Equal Franchise League during the Conscription Crisis. Mrs. Weir?

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Don't Believe what you Read!

Mrs. Pankhurst. Who brought her to Montreal in 1916? And where did she speak?

Well, well. Don't believe everything you read!

In my last post, I wrote about Mrs. Emmeline Pankhurst and how she toured North America for the War Effort in WWI.

I wrote that she spoke at St.James Methodist in 1916. That's because I read it on their website. It is said people had to be turned away from the talk.

I've been poking around the Internet and found a Feb 28, 1916 letter to the Editor from Montreal written by Pankhurst asking Americans for money for the Serbs. (People in the  little countries, Belgium and Serbia, were also suffering, but only the Belgians were getting helped.)

I checked the Gazettes of the era and discovered that she (likely) did not speak at St. James Methodist at the Patriotic Night (where it is reported people had to be turned away.)

That's because, Pankhurst was speaking at the Princess Theatre on behalf of the Serbs.

The most delicious part: it is reported she was brought there by The Equal Suffrage League and a Mrs. Hamaker.

Did Montreal have a Montreal Equal Suffrage League? Or was this the Canadian Equal Suffrage League? Pankhurst was touring many  cities in Eastern Canada.

No, it looks like there was a Montreal Equal Suffrage League bringing speakers in during the war.
I wonder if Mrs. Hurlbatt (and Edith Nicholson of my Threshold Girl story) were members of this organization? That would explain everything.

Yes, Montreal had an Equal Suffrage League during the war. Maybe this association more radical democratic than the Montreal Suffrage Association!!

This visit is NOT mentioned in the minutes of either the Montreal Council of Women or the Montreal Suffrage Association, although, as I wrote yesterday, these women took up the cause of the Serbs big time!

(I just checked my notes: Carrie Derick (seconded Hurlbatt) made a motion in December 1916 to aid the Serbians, "as discussed by Mrs. Pankhurst." This was at the executive meeting of the Montreal Council of Women, NOT the Montreal Suffrage Association. During this era, there are conflicting reports in the press about who is President of the Montreal Suffrage Association, Mrs. Scott (a married woman with sons in the war and also a WCTU leader) or Miss Derick.)

Ever since I read that in the minutes, I wondered why Serbian women were so important to them, now I know.

Still, one mystery solved, another created.

I need to go to Ottawa to read the Heralds for the day. It's still early in the morning. I might go!!

If the Montreal Suffrage Association has been effaced from history (with only a few mentions on the Internet in association with Carrie Derick) and their minutes tucked away at Montreal City Hall, the historical memory of the Montreal Equal Franchise League is even foggier.

But a quick online survey reveals that there were many women in Montreal, NOT associated with the Montreal Local Council of Women or its shadow organization the Montreal Suffrage Association, going around giving lectures on suffrage.

This tidbit, from a 1913 Toronto Newspaper, reveals something too:

"more aggressive devotees" just the kind of suffragist the new Montreal Suffrage Association didn't want in their midst. That's why they wrote in their by-laws that every member had to be nominated by a member of the Exec. 

Leggatt and Kenney, not names I've seen in association with the Montreal Council of Women. I doubt they were members of the Montreal Suffrage Association, although I have to go back to the archives to double check. There were a number of former London residents in Montreal talking up suffrage and that includes Mrs. Hurlbatt of the Royal Victoria College of McGill.

(Just checked. Caroline Kenney is the sister of militant British suffragette Annie Kenney, and they had a sister Sarah Kenney Clarke in Montreal.  So  THIS JUST IN! Now it is OFFICIAL. Militants were around in Montreal in the 1910's.. and not just visiting like Barbara Wylie.)

And here's PROOF positive that the Equal Franchise League was militant. From December  1913 

On the subject of don't believe what you read. Remember that crazy book Chariots of the Gods? The book was very popular with us teens in high school. God was an astronaut!  And the Parthenon Frieze proves it (or something like that.) Well, a savvy teacher pointed out to us that the title had a question mark for a reason.

This past week, I noticed something rather troubling. That many of the headlines around the Boston Bombings had the same.. question marks after them.

Cheesy, but also in this case very dangerous.

And then add to this the fact that people's twitter feeds were often displayed as questions (absolving the tweeters of any accountability, I guess.)

Think about it.  The headline is often the only thing that remains in a person's head after an event like this.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Can you have a Romance Novel with No Sex?

I really have no choice. No choice but to leave the sex out.

Diary of a Confirmed Spinster  is a true story about a young Edwardian Woman in Canada, who loses her Great Love in a fire in Cornwall, the infamous Rossmore Hotel Fire in 1910.

A Middle Class Edwardian Woman: A Presbyterian. SO....NO SEX!

I am reading a book about the Edwardian Era in England which claims that Sexual Repression in Edwardian Times was very effective.

In earlier centuries, half the women getting married were already pregnant, but this statistic was greatly reduced in Edwardian Times.

And the Edwardian Middle Class was the most repressed of all.... The Upper Class broke the rules (using the lascivious King as a role-model: he had a special chair made so he could enjoy the services of three women at a time) and the Lower Classes, well, they always did what they have to do to survive.

Hence all those Prostitutes and the Social Evil.

Anyway, if a movie were to be made of Diary of a Confirmed Spinster, starring Ryan Gosling, of course, since he's a native of Cornwall, I would have to put some sex. But then again, Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice does fine without it. Chick Lit. Gotta Love it.

Here's a link to the e-book Diary of a Confirmed Spinster on Amazon.com

Sweatshop Redux..

The news is filled with stories of yet another sweatshop catastrophe, this time a building collapse, this time in Savar, Bangladesh. They are still digging people out of the rubble.

 This time it hits closer to home for Canadians because a Canadian brand is involved, Joe Fresh. 

I actually have one JOE item, a little green shirt I bought two years ago, which I hardly wear. 

The top was so cheap, I couldn't resist buying it. 

I don't have much money for clothing these days. Not with the rising price of everything else, especially food and gasoline.

The other week I bought a 20 dollar top, hoodie style, in the terrific Danskin brand, from Costco.

 I've been wearing Danskin products for decades, since I was a 20 something flower-child, and I've always associated that brand with quality and North American manufacture. I just checked, my pretty new Danskin top is made in Cambodia.

And yesterday I bought some new shoes, Dansko, a Danish brand where the company (it says on the web) is 100 percent employee owned. The shoes were super comfortable and cost only 70 dollars.
Socially Responsible: The Dansko box comes complete with some quirky advice on recycling it.

Nice comfy, inexpensive shoes.

Made in China (Not that there's anything wrong with that...)

When I bought them, I assumed the shoes were made in Denmark, one of the best countries in the world, with  the best worker rights. So I felt good. I should have figured the 69 dollar price precluded that.

But my husband checked and told me that Made in China is written on them. (Their website says their shoes are made in Italy and China.)

 I bought the shoes in Vermont, at a great store in Burlington's pedestrian mall. 

I remember as children my father taking us to New Hampshire and Vermont to buy cheaper shoes.  St. Johnsbury, I think.  

There were lots of shoe factories in New England, in the olden days. Lots of water, you see.

(The McGarrigles have a song about Quebeckers working in said mills. I think it is called Jack and Jill.)

There are many articles being published in the press today about how our cheap clothing comes at a price to humanity. 

It has always been thus...Great Britain's newly acquired love for tea in the 1800's spawned China's opium wars, etc.etc.etc.) But does it always have to be this way? Can the entire world be Danishized?

Anyway, I wrote the following blog post a while ago, when there was another tragedy in Pakistan.

I've written a fair bit about Venuses on this blog, modern and antique. But this artwork at the Tate in London caught my eye.

Venus deciding what to wear in a day and age where clothes are cheap. There's no basket, so she's not doing laundry.

Who does laundry anymore, clothes are so cheap. You just wear a top once and throw it away. (I must admit, I had piles like that in my bedroom, when clothes were not cheap.)

Last week a fire in a Karachi Pakistan sweatshop killed 264 people making our clothes (probably). La Plus ca Change.

The rumour is the doors were locked and that there was no fire escape.

In 1911, a fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in New York City killed many women and provoked the American union movement. I write about it in Threshold Girl. The doors were locked there too. Victims, some under age,  jumped from windows, as did the Pakistanis in this latest tragedy. (I do not think child labour figured in this Modern Asian story, though.)

I doubt this fire will provoke a Union Movement: news stories, these days, are as throw-away as clothing.

Threshold Girl is based on the real letters of real Canadian women but I invent a character who works in Magog at the Dominion Textile Plant, a Miss Gouin.

In those days, Canada had its own cotton manufacturing plants. The old Dominion Textile Plant in Montreal, along the Lachine Canal, is now condos. Girls as young as 12 worked there, I can see from the 1911 census. 60 hours a week was the legal limit for workhours, and according to that same census, EVERYONE worked that amount of time. (Amazing!)

The census shows girls as young as 12 working and that everyone worked 60 hours, the legal limit. SURE!

The Magog Plant lasted until just recently, under another name.

Our clothes come from places like Pakistan now.

According to the BBC
The garments industry is critical to Pakistan's frail economy. According to central bank data, it provided 7.4% of Pakistan's GDP in 2011 and employed 38% of the manufacturing sector workforce, accounting for 55.6% of total exports.BBC Karachi Fire

So, the question is, Should we feel guilty about that pile of crap clothing in our bedroom, or not?

Catching the Moon, Spontaneously

The moon never seems to look as big in a photograph as it does to the naked eye. I took this picture last night, on the windy road on those islands in Lake Champlain that crosses over from Vermont to New York.

I caught it on the fly.  It looked to me like a giant orange basketball on the horizon.

Had I known, a hour earlier, I could have asked a professional photographer, Reed Prescott, why it's so hard to capture the moon in a photo.

He has a store-front studio in Bristol, Vermont. Reed Prescott is described as a New England Landscape artist on this webpage that has a painting of colourful Adirondack (I think) chairs on Lake Champlain and it leads to the artist's own webpage that showcases a beautiful painting of a New England mill.

There's a Youtube video featuring his paintings and a painting of Bristol as it evolves.

My husband and I took a spontaneous trip to Burlington yesterday (he's on vacation) and  we walked along the water and lunched at a pub and bought a few things on the pedestrian mall. The usual. So afterwards I suggested we drive a little more into Vermont.

My husband replied, "But it's already 4 pm."

And I replied, "And so what?"

And we had a little fight. I'm spontaneous and my husband is not. (I was amazed he said Yes to my suggestion to go to Burlington.)  That puts a damper on my spirit sometimes.

"We're in Vermont," I said (in a manner that was probably pretty screechy.) "Everyone is friendly and speaks English here."

Anyway, I got my way. (And he suggested I pick the route, so I chose a route off the highway that led to a National Park. (I was using a paper map because our Tom Tom seems to be having a nervous breakdown.) This paper  map shows that a potter lives in the area.

We drove for 20 to 30 minutes, my husband complaining that he HATES not knowing where he's driving to, and didn't find any pottery studio, or national park, but found a pretty town instead! Bristol. An artist's colony.

A town with a trendy cafe (where I suspended my sugarless diet with a mocha coffee) and sundry artisan shops -oh, and Mr. Prescott's studio.

The Town of Bristol
The Cafe
 A Street in the Town

 A little rosette I bought at the artisan store, made out of a recycled zipper.

I didn't take a picture of Mr. Prescott or his store. He was friendly and when I walked into his studio he was converting slides to JPG with a special machine. He showed me a picture of a sunset at Cape Cod taken long ago.

I didn't tell Mr. Prescott that  I haven't ever been to Cape Cod although it is high up  on my list. But that trip will have to be planned well in advance.

I'd like to visit Nantucket. I have already, but only on YouTube.

Flora Nicholson of Threshold Girl visited in 1908 with her cousin May Watters. They actually were brought there by nurses from the Newton Hospital. They were visiting May's brother, Henry, a doctor in Newton Center.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Why no movie about Emmeline?

I wonder. Why has no one ever made a movie about British Suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst? 

She's got a stamp and statue in England. A mini-series, Shoulder to Shoulder, was produced in the 1970's but that's it. Meryl Streep could do her.

Today's date: the 25th of April, 2013.  It's the Centenary of  a  press conference announcing the launch of  the Montreal Suffrage Association.

Still, it's NOT an especially important date in history. I  doubt even our local news will have a short 20 second voice over to commemorate.

(I just checked. There's no Google Doodle commemorating the event either!)

I know for sure that 100 years ago the founding of the  Montreal Suffrage Association was reported on in the Montreal Gazette, a conservative establishment newspaper, and also very likely in the Montreal Herald and Montreal Witness (two journals very much for woman suffrage).

Julia Grace Parker Drummond - Her money came from Sugar.

Julia Grace Parker Drummond, Honorary President of the new Association and Montreal's most prominent Society Lady, assured every one in attendance that day that the new Montreal Suffrage Association would be a 'reasonable' organization.

The new MSA didn't want to associate itself with the militant suffragettes in England, especially since said militants were behaving very badly in April 1913 (and their actions were widely reported in the Canadian press).

It's all rather ironic, because the MSA was founded (it is claimed in the Minutes of the Montreal Council of Women) after Mrs. Emmeline Pankhurst gave a speech in Montreal speech in December 1911.

The women of the Local Council wrote in the January 1912 minutes that they wanted  'to keep the interest in woman suffrage alive.'

A very strange strike-out in the May 1913 minutes of the Montreal Suffrage Association.

In  the next few days following this press conference these militant actions  would only escalate in the U.K..
Even Winston Churchill was afraid!

McGill Law Professor and Dean F.P. Walton was a speaker that day and he claimed that  the militants in England had hindered the chances of English women to get the vote in their country and that the MSA "must roundly and firmly dissociate itself from the methods used  by the British Suffragettes."

The  President of the new Montreal Suffrage Association, Miss Carrie Derick then told reporters "she felt honoured to be involved in a society that represented such a great step forward in Montreal's social work."

She agreed this work could only be carried out in 'wise and sane' form. Then she gave one of her famous lectures on the history of the suffrage movement in Montreal.

Dr. Grace Ritchie England, President of the Montreal Council of Women, chaired the meeting which took place in Stevenson Hall of Emmanuel Church.

Dr. Herbert Symonds, of Christ Church Cathedral, an honourary V.P. of the organization, spoke on the religious aspects of the suffrage movement, invoking St. Paul, as per usual.

A Rev. Dr. Young spoke last and declared that it would be better for the movement if the suffragettes starved to death in jail.

Murmurs of "No No" were heard in the crowd.


A few days later, on April 29, the Montreal Suffrage Association held its first Board Meeting at the Redpath Library at McGill.

Few of the above local 'celebrities'  were there: Even President Carrie Derick missed this inaugural meeting but 'for good reason'.

She was likely helping to organize The May 5 Suffrage Evening at St. James Methodist where Mrs. Ethel Snowden, a British Suffragist was to be keynote speaker. (Or she was in New York for the giant suffrage parade.)

The National Council of Women held their AGM in Montreal in May 1913. Carrie Derick was a V.P. of that national organization; her dossier was Education.

Mrs. Snowden, a non-militant British Suffragist (and wife of a Labour MP at Westminster,Philip Snowden) was speaking in Montreal for the second time. (She had been here in 1909.)

In her speech, she called the Suffragettes "cave men."

Unemployed school teacher  Edith Nicholson, of my e-books Threshold Girl and Diary of a Confirmed Spinster, was in town visiting her sisters. She wrote a May 2 1913 letter to her mother in Richmond, Quebec saying: "I am thinking of going to hear Mrs. Snowden speak, but she is NOT militant and for this I am very sad."

It's odd that a prim and proper Presbyterian school teacher would be for the militants, don't you think?

Dr. England and Mrs. Snowden from the Montreal Witness

The Montreal Witness, a pro-suffrage, evangelical newspaper, (and also the newspaper of choice for Edith's family along with the Montreal Herald) provided complete coverage the National Council of Women's AGM.

In these May issues, mixed in with all the articles about the pressing Business of the NC of W, were sensational headlines about the suffragettes in England who, as it happens, were in full war-mode, protesting the arrest of Emmeline Pankhurst with civil disobedience and more.

Fashion and Good Works: Women's Responsibility

Back at home, over and above the 'trending' suffrage issue,  prostitution and "mental defectives" were two key preoccupations of the Women Reformers. 

Carrie Derick, a McGill Botany Professor, was especially keen on doing something about 'the feeble-minded' out there in society- as keen as she was on getting women the vote.

In 1914, in her book My Own Story Mrs. Pankhurst defined militancy as continued, destructive guerilla warfare against the government, through injury to public property.

She was jailed for the bombing of Lloyd George's home at Walton-on the Hill

Her imprisonment was followed by 'the greatest revolutionary outbreak that England had witnessed since 1832."

But soon a Great War broke out and all was forgiven Mrs. Pankhurst. (The violent actions of the suffragettes paled in comparison to the horrors happening in the trenches.)

Also, Pankhurst was now a high value asset to the British.  The little lady  was a terrific speaker and great motivator and fundraiser. (Obviously.)

 In 1916, she traveled to Montreal and spoke at Princess Theatre on behalf of the Serbs. The Equal Suffrage League, started by Caroline Kenney, sister of British militant Annie Kenney, sponsored her. The League is a forgotten bit of Montreal history, a militant or at least militant sympathizing organization. The League tried to start a real suffrage Tramp from Ottawa to Montreal in March 1913, o serve notice on Premier Borden, It didn't happen.

Her particular interest: raising money for the Serbian women and children involved in the conflict.
The Montreal Suffrage Association got right on it. Mrs. Ethel Hurlbatt, the warden of McGill's Royal Victoria College and a vocal suffragist (with suffragette sympathies) got especially involved. After the war the King of Serbia awarded her with a special commendation that remains in her archived file at RVC.