Monday, December 28, 2015

Discovering Shabaeff on a snowy post-Christmas Day.

Princess by Valentin Shabaeff.

The things you discover on a sleepy, snowy Christmas Monday as you watch, with one eye, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers on the Turner Classic Movie Channel.

I was staring around my 'family room,' that I am slowly turning into my office because the room gets a lot of sun in winter (when there is sun) and my eyes fell on the icon of the Virgin, or so I thought, on the wall.

'I think I'll move it upstairs,' I said to myself. "It's pretty, and it goes with the Christmas decorations up there."

I assumed it was a copy of something. I inherited the frame from my mother and she always referred to it as 'the Persian Girl.'

But, upon removing it from the wall, I noticed the piece was purchased at the Klinkoff Gallery on Sherbrooke, an important gallery, so I looked up the name of the artist, V Shabaeff to see that he is a well known artist.

Sort of.

A Quebec museum ran an exhibition of his work just last year called "Under the Radar."

Oh my god, they are talking about the Rape of the Sabine Women on TV.. singing about it. Hmm.

Anyway, Shabaeff was from Russia and moved to Montreal and lived a long time and had a studio in city.  So there are lots of his works out there, in all mediums.

He's the kind of guy the NFB would make a documentary about, in the old days, anyway.

Too bad I missed the exhibit. Reminds me of my college days when I had just read all of Joseph Campbell's books and then passed a poster in the "McGill Ghetto" promoting a talk he was giving at Concordia, to find the talk had been the night before!!

Byzantine.... that's what this ceramic looks like. No wonder.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Eugenics and Ignoring Ugly History in Montreal

I found a newsletter online that mentioned my name: the November, 2015 issue of a report the Montreal Council of Women sends around.

I was a little, how might I say, bemused.

The author alludes to my May, 2015 blog posts on Carrie Derick, the 1909-1912 President of the Montreal Local Council, saying I don't flatter the McGill geneticist. She goes on to say that she would have to go back in time to properly argue the issue and she doesn't have the time.

Seems to me, my posts about Derick are mentioned in the newsletter just to be dismissed.Why bother?

There's nothing to argue, anyway.  Carrie Derick was deeply into eugenics. The historical record makes it clear:The many public talks she gave on the subject were covered in the press of the day. After all, she was a professional geneticist and she knew all about pea-pods.

In December, 1917 she avoided the Montreal conscription controversies by going to Hamilton, Ontario to give a talk on heredity on behalf of the Montreal Suffrage Assocation, as a 'fundraiser.' At least, that was the rationale since eugenics had nothing to do with woman suffrage. Or did it?

The 1910 era Montreal Council minutes and, more especially, the National Council of Women minutes, go into ugly detail about the eugenics-tainted reforms these women hoped to achieve in the area of health and immigration. The bit below is from the Montreal Council Minutes suggests that morality and health got all mixed up in the minds of these social reformers.

A survey of 'defective immigrants' from the Herve Institute is telling. It is written that:
3 were epileptic,
2 were insane
38 were of low grade mentality
1 called "very queer"
1 termed 'simple'
1 had St Vitus Dance
7 were neurotic
4 paralyzed
1 a gambler
2 were beggars
1 had a drug habit
30 were illegitimate
27 were grossly immoral
3 criminal
9 had cancer.

While researching my future ebook Service and Disservice, about the involvement of the Montreal Suffragists in the Conscription Crisis, I found some very disturbing paragraphs in the Women's Century, the organ of the National Council, from the WWI period.

Shocking, really.

But, that's neither here  nor there. Eugenics was a trendy issue in 1910,  period, what with the unsettling demographic changes happening in North America.

The Protestant Evangelicals ran the show and they were racist. Hello! (Or, as Pierre Berton writes in Marching As to War, 'they wanted everyone to be just like them.')

Many upstanding public figures, most more illustrious that Derick, were adherents of the eugenics cause. She wasn't the only one spewing nonsense all over town about  the absurd  Jukes/Edwards study.

My general point is related to Montreal history: Derick was a very influential woman and her support of eugenics gave the movement moral authority in the city, in the entire country.

(Not in the province. French Canadians were very wary of the 'hygienist' movement, sometimes known as the purity movement.)

McGill, I have read, was 'eugenics central' in Canada. For this reason, there was less opposition to the theory in Canada than in the US and in Europe.

When Carrie Derick was fighting for the post of Chair of Botany at McGill in 1912 (explored in Furies Cross the Mersey) the Montreal Council passed a long resolution pointing out that Miss Derick was a popular speaker all across the country.

It would be extremely naive to think that Miss Derick was for birth control because she wanted women, married and unmarried, to explore their sexuality.

Flora Macdonald Denison of Toronto was more in that vein and she was a serious outlier - and an agnostic, to boot.

Derick wanted young women to have a chance to earn their own living, she was an equal rights suffragist for the most part, but she also wanted these ambitious young girls corraled in special women's hotels where they could lead 'respectable lives' ie. no men allowed.

(That's what Marion Nicholson, my husband's boffo grandmother, just hated about the Women's Y. TOO MANY RULES!)

Derick also wanted the feeble-minded controled and cared for, put on farms and kept out of the gene pool. She was Education Chair of the National Council. She was a strong and determined lady. Her policies became national education policy until at least WWII when eugenics fell out of favor for obvious reasons.

Still, in the 1960's, in my elementary school on Clanranald Street they hid the Down's Syndrome kids so effectively, we hardly saw them and when we did it was a huge shock, like a strange dream. It was all so hush, hush.

I find it quite amazing, that even during the WWI, when the Society Women of Canada were busy working for the patriotic cause, that the issue of control and containment of the feeble-minded was still very much an active concern with the women of the National Council.

Many of these women gave up the suffrage cause during the war, thinking that it just wasn't important enough in the time of great crisis, as they put it.

But eugenics stayed on the National Council agenda.

This is from the 1916 Women's Century Magazine. "It is an old saying, that prevention is better than the cure and in the case of feeblemindedness, the fact is brought home forcibly. Until proper preventative mesures are taken, we will always have the difficult problem before us. It is all well to provide institutions, but why let the birth of idiots and criminals go on?"

I feel that people who deny that Derick was into eugenics and had beliefs that are not acceptable today, in the modern Western world,  are doing a real disservice to the memory of Miss Derick and the many other worthy women pioneers in Canadian and World history.

After all, that's what most historians, English and French, have done up until now: they've written Derick off as not worthy of historical mention because of her support of this controversial issue.

Derick claimed at the 1912 National Council of Women AGM that at least 50 percent of prostitutes were 'feeble-minded." Flora Macdonald Denison disagreed, saying the issue was economic.

Derick was quoted in the press as saying "Laws are for bad people: good people don't need laws."

During WWI she was all for Conscription, but preferred to call it 'mandatory overseas service.' After the war she gave lectures claiming all wars are about economics.

In retrospect,  Miss Derick said a lot of smart things and a lot of silly things, some things that she meant and some things that she didn't mean. In this respect, she was just  like her fellow male movers-and-shakers, very cagey.

As it happens, most historicans have written off Flora Macdonald Denison, the Toronto suffragist, just because of her spiritualist leanings.  (Flora wasn't cagey. She just spoke her mind.)

But there have been many illustrious men with similar quirky beliefs - and bios of these men pour out of the universities.

 (Derick, I might add, was a strong supporter of the Jews in the Protestant system, when many people, including many elite and influential clergymen, were not. She admired this community's work-ethic and respect for the education process.)

Here's something from the Montreal Council Minutes, 1913.

Re: Feeblemindedness. LCW.. Dr. Colm Russel

1)      To obtain a more efficient inspection of immigrants
2)      Taking of census in Protestant Schools
3)      Compulsory education
4)      Apply psych juvenile courts

To educate the public in regard to the huge cost to the Dominion of mental defectives, insanity and its relation to crime and vice.


Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Printer Ink, Banks, and Wartime Propaganda

A Roman design of Apollo.  I could  print it out and put it on the wall, if I had any colour ink!

Gosh. A warm December but little sun. Not much of  a trade-off. What dollars I save in heating, I lose in SAD lighting.

Printers make me crazy, and not only at this bleak time of the year.

 Well, they make everyone crazy, I'm told.

When they work, they are nothing short of miraculous; I can print out a beautiful Byzantine fresco  or Pompeian mural, just for my fun and scotch tape it to the wall, just for my pleasure.

(OK. It costs about 10.00 for the ink, each time.)

But, it you decide to be cautious using said expensive colour inkjet ink, the stuff just dries up over time and you've wasted 80 dollars.

I don't use coloured ink anymore.

And, then, of course, the printer stops working for no particular reason, just when you need to print out your latest draft of your latest book, when you are on a roll with everything clear in your head, except you need to edit the draft on a hard copy, without a bright light behind the words making you stupid.

(I once read that's what backlighting does. It makes the critical thinking parts of your brain shut off.)

 You tell your husband (who is the de-facto techie in the house) "I preferred it back in the 1990's, when the printer was totally reliable, except for continual paper jams, before you hooked it to the stupid network."

Anyway, the draft I am working on right now is from my  book Service and Disservice - about the iffy involvement of the Canadian suffragists in the  1917 Conscription Crisis.

It's a follow up to Furies Cross the Mersey, about the British Invasion of Suffragettes to Canada in 1911/1912.

An article in the Ottawa newspaper about a certain Suffrage Tramp from NY to Washington in 1913. No surprise, some young suffragettes  in Montreal tried to organize their own Tramp to Ottawa. Did that ever scare the reform-minded suffragists of Montreal, who quickly started their own organization, the Montreal Suffrage Association, that no one could join unless approved by the executive made up mostly of McGill professors and leading Presbyterian clergymen and millionaire's wives.

I am working on something no one will read. Well.

I told this to a friend who works high up in marketing at a big bank and he said, "I write stuff no one reads, too. "

Yes, but he gets paid big moolah for it.

I found this on my website yesterday and was happy. I'd forgotten about it.

It's my facsimile  of a poster that the Montreal Suffrage Association stuck up in the Edinburgh cafe on Ste. Catherine Street during WWI.

Unlike Constance Hamilton, the President of the Toronto-based National Equal Franchise Union, Carrie Derick, President of the MSA,  did not give up the suffrage fight for patriotic work during the war.

She did both war work and suffrage advocacy. And she worked at her job in the Botany Department at McGill University. The woman was super-energetic.

Indeed, in 1917, May, 1917, when Premier Borden in Ottawa hinted in the Press that he would give ALL Canadian women the vote in the next election, Derick tried to organize all the suffragists of Canada to go to Ottawa to make sure he did just that.

There were people who thought that Borden was obligated to give  the vote only to women who could already vote provincially.

Quebec women didn't have the vote provincially. Ontario women had just won the right in February.

Carrie Derick invited Constance Hamilton's NEFU to join them. The NEFU declined, saying this wasn't the right time to ask for votes for women.

It didn't matter because Borden officially promised the vote to ALL Canadian women in late May, 1917 - and, then , he took it all back.

His office had had intelligence from out West; intelligence suggesting women voters out there would not support his government and his Conscription Bill.

Later, in early August, 1917, Premier Borden consulted with Mrs. Hamilton and Mrs. Torrington of the National Council of Women and a Mrs. Gooderham of IODE and asked these ladies to see if this was, indeed, true. He wanted them to ask their nation-wide members, point-blank, whether he'd win an election if he gave women the vote.

He told them to ask only respectable ladies and be discreet about it.

The answer came back NO.

So Borden's Union Government (made up of Conservatives and Liberals who were for Conscription) ended up giving the vote only to women with close relations at the Front, rigging the 1917 Election, and mocking the very democratic principles suffragists stood for.

Most women in Quebec didn't get to vote.

And here's what I discovered.

In July, 1913, Mrs. Constance Hamilton had called an emergency meeting of the NEFU in her home (even though she hadn't been doing anything as President for years) and what she said was quoted the next day in the Press.

Don't have an election. It's not fair that women  slackers out West and in Quebec get to vote and the soldiers  in the trenches don't. (I paraphrase.)

So, Constance Hamilton, soft suffragist leader of the upstart NEFU,  was the person who gave Premier Borden (or Arthur Meighen, his right hand man) the moral authority to pass this Wartime Elections Act, where only a certain group of women got to vote.

"All the women of Canada support the measure," Borden would soon say to the Press.

In that same July newspaper item, it is reported that the Montreal Suffrage Association ('which represents a large body of women throughout the Province of Quebec') couldn't send a delegate to this NEFU meeting, but, they sent this message:

"We heartily support the policy of the Borden Government for a Union Government to enforce conscription and to ensure vigorous prosecution of the war but we regret a General Election during the war. Is Canada going to fail? Never! If we break faith with those who die 'They will not sleep though poppies grow in Flanders Field.' Canada's honor is at stake, she must not fail to carry on to break faith with our brave fighting men and glorious dead."

This message was a plant to make it look like Quebec would be on board with limited suffrage!

There's not a chance in Hell that Carrie Derick approved a message like that.

The MSA held no meetings July, 1917.  And no way would the MSA want anything they said quoted in a news item with the word 'slackers' in it.

The MSA's resolutions were always very carefully worded, whether they were about Pankhurst style militancy: ("the MSA is neither militant nor non-militant for that label is irrelevant in Canada.")
or conscription: ("The MSA never claimed to be for Conscription, just warmly in favor of  mandatory overseas service.")

I suspect Frances Fenwick Williams, a fanatical win-the-war type on the executive of the MSA, wrote that emotional paragraph. She was a poet, you see.

As it happens, the MSA, led by Derick, sent a resolution to Borden in September, protesting the Wartime Elections Act and this ploy of limited women suffrage.

Borden wrote a crazy letter back: "You don't understand the situation I am in. Would you want women who had only been in Canada a few months to vote?" He was alluding to western 'alien' women.. He didn't mention Quebec, of course, not in this letter. He  certainly didn't mention slacker women or slacker men.

Anyway, I think I'll start my book with this WAR poster .

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The 100 Greatest British Novels and Boning up on Canadian History

Hmm. I don't usually get views from those countries: I wonder who is boning up on Canadian history by reading about the Nicholson Family of Richmond, Quebec in the Edwardian Era and during WWI.

My recent posts have been about my e-book, Service and Disservice, about the iffy involvement of the Canadian suffragists in the 1917 Conscription Crisis.

As it happens, I'm having a lot of  trouble writing, with flow and style, my chapter on Mrs. Constance Hamilton, the Toronto social reformer and soft suffragist.

Usually, when I can't write, it means I need to read. I need to water the plants, as it were.

So, yesterday, I downloaded a few prize-winning novels from recent lists. One from the Man-Booker shortlist, one from the Giller shortlist and one recommended by the NY Times Review of Books.

All short novels, apparently. I read a few chapters of each and got about 25 percent of the way through each of them.

Which brings me to Middlemarch. Not a short novel.

Well, this morning the Guardian has published yet another list of the 100 Greatest British Books- this time compiled by 'book-writers' from around the world - and Middlemarch is No. 1.

Edith Nicholson, circa 1910 and her copy of Middlemarch in my house. Green book at left.

Middlemarch was Edith Nicholson's favorite book. I have her copy (in two volumes) from 1880 ish, I think.

She was given the book in the 1930's. There's an inscription.

Middlemarch is NOT my favorite book, even if the lead character and I share the same name.

I have tried, but I have never been able to finish the thing. This past summer I listened to a  French audio version on and, once again, only got half through.

No. 2 on the list is, perhaps, my favorite novel, To the Lighthouse. (It was turned into a fairly lousy film, though, with Kenneth Branagh.)

Atonement is on the list, but the novel it pays homage to, the Go-Between, isn't. I love the Go-Between, almost as much as To the Lighthouse.

The Go-Between was made into a superb film, with Julie Christie.

Atonement was made into a good film, too.

Bleak House in on the list at number 6. I had to read it in high school. A previous student had written Bleak Book on my copy, over the what'sitcalled, the scrunched pages of the closed book.

I'm happy to see Small Island on the list. That novel is one of my favorite reads of the past decade. I haven't yet seen the TV serial with Benedict Cumberbatch. I can't find it on Youtube :)

NW, Zadie Smith's newer novel, is also on the list and also on my old-style 400 dollar Kindle. I debated whether to read it first before downloading the other 3 ebooks yesterday.

(One of these e-books has typo issues. I don't have to feel so bad about my ebooks on Amazon then. Threshold Girl, Diary of a Confirmed Spinster, Furies Cross the Mersey, all about Canada in 1910, the Laurier Era, where we were debating the immigration issue.)

Waugh's Scoop is on the list, but not Brideshead Revisited. Iris Murdoch's the Sea the Sea is on the list. I was reading that novel and really enjoying it while watching Brideshead on the TV, years ago in the 1980's.

I recall that the sumptuous, seductive TV production of Brideshead Revisited made the Sea the Sea seem less compelling in comparison.  What a TV show! (It's usually the other way around, right? Great books usually outshine television and movie versions.)

 I read Brideshead Revisited for the first time shortly thereafter and have read it a number of times since.

I even recommended it to my book club, with the Go-Between and Small Island.

And, I watched the entire show on DVD just a few months ago.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Sacrificing Democracy and Men, for Democracy's Sake?

Constance Hamilton, Augusta Stowe Gullen and Flora Macdonald Denison at the Washington Suffrage Parade 1913. Hamilton, a social reform suffragist, was plotting to take over the Canadian movement at this time from the more established equal rights suffragists.

Here follows a bit from a letter-to-the-editor written in September, 1917 by elite Torontonian Constance Hamilton, President of the National Equal Franchise Union.

It's a letter supporting Premier Borden's Wartime Elections Act that gave the vote only to women who had close relations at the WWI Front, rigging the upcoming election in his favor so that he could pass a contentious Conscription Bill.

I'm writing a book Service and Disservice, about the iffy involvement of the Canadians suffragists in this infamous Conscription Election.

Constance Hamilton was a Yorkshire-born Toronto social reformer who only adopted the woman suffrage cause late in life, in 1912. 

That year, she waged war with the long-time pioneer equal rights suffragists of the 30 year old Toronto-based Canadian Suffrage Association, Augusta Stowe-Gullen, Dr. Margaret Gordon, and Flora Macdonald Denison, stealing half of their members, about 1,000, and starting up the Toronto-based National Equal Franchise Union.

When war broke out Hamilton soon proclaimed, in all the papers, that she was giving up the suffrage fight for 'patriotic work' (while staying on as NEFU President). 

In 1917, with conscription a hot-button issue in the country, especially in Quebec, Hamilton exploited her post as NEFU President, claiming in letters and articles and Win-the-War speeches that "All Canadian suffragists support the Wartime Elections Act."

This irked some other prominent Canadian suffragists, including pacifist Dr. Margaret Gordon of the Canadian Suffrage Association, who called the Act a "Disenfranchisement Act," and the highly-principled Dr. Grace Ritchie England of the Montreal Local Council of Women, who stumped for Sir Wilfrid Laurier during the election, and suffered severe censure for it.

It also irked many members of her own NEFU organization. 

But, by Hamilton saying so, Borden could then, in turn, say 'the women of Canada support the act."

And today's Wikipedia page on the Wartime Elections Act can say the same thing, even if it is wrong. So it goes.

Constance Hamilton. Politics over Principles. 

Nelly McClung, who was in Edmonton in 1917, usually gets the credit for giving Arthur Meighen the idea of limited woman suffrage for the 1917 election, sometime in the Spring.

I believe I have good evidence it was Constance Hamilton who conspired with him much more closely. 

Hamilton was the convenor of the Immigration Committee of the National Council of Women, having lived in Vancouver and Winnipeg, where her husband had worked as a town surveyor.

She had contacts out West. 

Hamilton went on to become the first female alderman in Toronto. 

Here's her letter, shortened. It all sounds so familiar, doesn't it? Making a mockery of democracy to preserve democracy.

This bit of history has been ignored, because it's embarrassing and because it is women's history. (I think.) I've only found one article, in an obscure 1970's feminist journal, covering this story.

.....The Wartime Elections Act, as explained by Mr. Meighen, is a war measure, pure and simple. 

It is a measure which will enfranchise the women of obvious loyalty, while the many good loyal women not possessing male relatives of military age may console themselves in knowing that they have not been called upon to sacrifice loved ones and by the knowledge of their own temporary sacrifice of the privilege of citizenship they prevent the women slackers from voting. 

It has been said that suppose the women of Quebec and the foreign women voted against conscription, they would only double the vote of their men. 

True, but they would also double the chance of an anti-conscription majority in the House of Commons, and seeing that the pursuance and winning of the war is the main business before the country, it is for the country to take such steps as to assure the election of a win the war government.

The women of Canada, while they feel deeply of the principle of democracy, will yet be conscientious of the greater principle of sacrifice and service. 

And may be willing to forego a right today so that others may have a fuller freedom and they know that whomever would save his own life, be it practical or otherwise, must first be willing to lay it down.....

Saturday, December 5, 2015

"Over the Top" for Suffrage: the Canadian Suffrage Association and the Wartime Elections Act of 1917

Canadian Suffragists, all from Ontario, marching in a March 1913 Suffrage Parade in Washington DC. Stowe Gullen in the motar board. Constance Hamilton was there, too.  She would soon start her own national suffrage movement, the National Equal Franchise Union, but she would give up the suffrage fight within a year. Hence, the report below, by the Canadian Suffrage Association, trying to cement their place in history as the one-and-only credible national organization.

WWI was still raging in June, 1918 when the National Council of Women held their annual general meeting in Brantford, Ontario.

1917 had been a bitterly divisive year in Canada, especially among Canadian suffragists, because in order to get re-elected and pass his conscription bill, Premier Borden had concocted a Wartime Elections Act that gave the vote only to women with close relations at the Front.

Suffrage was still a key issue for the National Council of Women during the WWI years, and many provinces, including Ontario, granted the provincial franchise to women during that time, although many society ladies put aside their suffrage advocacy for 'patriotic work.'

I am writing about this bizarre business in a book called Service and Disservice, about the Canadian suffragists and their dubious involvement in the 1917 Conscription Election. It's the follow up to Furies Cross the Mersey, about the British Invasion of Suffragists to Canada in 1911/12.

It was all a bit of a mess, well, a HUGE mess, and in the 1918 Yearbook of the National Council of Women most of the women's societies agreed to let sleeping dogs lie and avoid re-hashing, in their annual reports, any of the raw emotion, bent logic, viciousness and invective that had characterized the Canadian women's movement the final months of 1917.

The Canadian Suffrage Association, led by Dr. Margaret Gordon, a pacifist, had come out vocally against this limited suffrage ploy of Premier Borden's Union Government.  Dr. Gordon called the Wartime Elections Act 'a  disenfranchisement act.'

So, too,  had the Montreal Suffrage Association, under Carrie Derick, although they were 'warmly in favour of compulsory national service.'

(The MSA was careful not to use the word Conscription in their propaganda.  That was a hot-button word in Quebec.)

 The Montreal Local Council of Women had been greatly divided over this Wartime Elections Act. Their President, Dr. Grace Ritchie England suffered an impeachment hearing over her support of Liberal Sir Wilfrid Laurier in the 1917 election, and for a September, 1917 letter to the Press she co-authored with Mme Dandurand, an elite French woman, calling the Wartime Elections Act 'an insult to women'.

But, you wouldn't know it by the  annual reports filed in 1918 National Council of Women  Yearbook.

Only the National Equal Franchise Union, whose President Constance Hamilton had loudly supported Borden's Union Government and this limited suffrage re-election ploy, made mention of dissent within the ranks over the issue, while claiming that all ended well with everyone coming together in a spirit of patriotism.

(Not true, of course.)

The Montreal Local Council avoided discussing the Conscription Election, focusing, in its report, on its work to care and control (and  put away on special farms) the feeble-minded of society, Carrie Derick's pet project. She was a McGill Botanist/Geneticist and a eugenics evangelist.

In the 1918 report, the Montreal Local Council of Women also mentioned  that they distributed Conscription literature around town, in both languages, at the request of the Federal Government.

By 1918, most women in Canada had won the right to vote federally. This was the silver lining in the dark, undemocratic cloud of the very cynical, anti-Quebec and anti-immigrant Wartime Elections Act, that made hypocrites of so many of the society ladies/social reformers of Canada.

The Montreal Suffrage Association uses the Suffrage Play "How the Vote was Won" as a war fundraiser. Although pledging the MSA to war work almost immediately,"We have been asking for our rights, now it is time to do our duty" in September, 1914, President Carrie Derick never gave up the suffrage cause, putting pressure on Borden in May 1917, demanding the Federal Vote for Women: "We have been doing our duty, now it is time to have our rights." 

She tried to organize a nation-wide deputation to Borden that month, but the PM, at the end of May, suddenly promised all Canadian women the federal vote.

 Then, in September, Borden broke his promise, after receiving 'disturbing intelligence from out West,' revealing that citizens in many constituencies weren't likely to vote along patriotic lines. This according to a representative of the Montreal Suffrage Association. 

Borden's main man, Arthur Meighan, was just as afraid of the anti-war sentiment in Quebec, but Borden couldn't come out and say that. He told  Quebec Suffrage Leaders that he couldn't give ALL Canadian women the vote in 1917 until he changed the laws regarding citizenship for new Canadians. As it stood, a female immigrant was granted Canadian citizenship directly upon marriage to a citizen.

"You don't appreciate the pickle I am in," says Borden to a French suffragist organization in September,1917 defending his Wartime Elections Act that gave only women with men at the Front the right to vote in the December federal election, ensuring that Borden would win the election and that his Conscription Bill would pass.  (He wanted 100,000 conscripts. In 1916 he had asked for 500,000 recruits and the MLCW formally endorsed mandatory overseas service to fill that huge quota, about 1/8th of all the men in Canada!)

Here's a direct translation: "Before women have the vote, we must establish what quality of citizen she is." And some suffragists in Canada bought it. Oy.

Here's the entry for the Canadian Suffrage Association for 1918. It all sounds so very familiar, doesn't it?

CANADIAN SUFFRAGE ASSOCIATION. Margaret Johnston, Recording Secretary.

The many long years of steady educational spade work, together with deputations to Parliament and the bringing of world-famous speakers to Canada by this Association, was undoubtedly the means which resulted in such glorious victories for the cause of Suffrage, as Canada has had during the past two years.

 A movement gathers weight and rapidity, as it grows, and finally it is able to sweep aside obstacles which obstruct its progress, and to "carry on," by its own momentum. The women's suffrage movement has undoubtedly reached the crest of the wave sooner, because of the war, than it might otherwise have done, but had not the foundations been laid secure and sound on the rock bed of Justice, supported by an educated public opinion, no parliamentary action could have taken place.

Naturally, since the war broke out, the energies of the Canadian Suffrage Association had to be diverted into many channels, for it was imperative to loyal citizens that they do patriotic work, both as an Association and as individual members.

 No new Associations, therefore, have been formed since Ontario went "Over the Top" for Suffrage, but we felt that the Rubicon had been crossed, which was soon shown by the Federal Amendment following so quickly in its wake. 

No longer, do we hear the old slogan of Anti-Suffragism, "A woman's place is in the home," for this terrible world war has conclusively proven that "A woman's place is wherever she can be to serve humanity." 

This Association has contributed, through the personal work of its leaders, much that is basic in the making of Democratic opinion in Canada. 

We are too close to the life-work of Dr. Emily Stowe, Dr. Stowe Gullen, Mrs. Flora MacD. Denison, Dr. James L. Hughes and Dr. Margaret Gordon, our five National presidents, to estimate the scope and true value of their work—history will tell the story—but The National Council of Women know the long hard struggle, the many years of intensive work which were necessary, before Woman's Suffrage became a plank in their platform. 

A man-made nation, emphasizing the combative attributes of the male sex and glorying in the ideal of power through might, has launched the human race into a bloody struggle that staggers the imagination, and dazes, almost to madness, the human mind. 

Nations are recognizing that the co-operation of women is necessary, and that the ideal, for which, to-day, the Allies are staking their all, is the same old ideal on which the Women's Suffrage Movement was founded. 

When the Union Government invited many of the representative women to present themselves at Ottawa, to discuss policies for the nation's welfare, our national president. Dr. Margaret Gordon, was asked to represent us. 

(Editor: This is news to me. It is said that 4 leading women, including Mrs. L. A Hamilton of the National Equal Franchise League and Mrs. Torrington of the National Council of Women,visited Borden in Ottawa in early August, 1917. Earlier, he had sent them telegrams, asking them to poll their nation-wide memberships to see if he would win the election if women got the vote. The answer was NO. In my book, I suggest that Mrs. Hamilton, who was convenor for the immigration committee on the National Council of Women, gave Borden the idea of limited suffrage, although Nellie McClung generally gets the credit for this.) 

This notable gathering bore testimony to the truth of the vision of the the pioneers, whose efforts laid the foundation on which has been reared that great modern structure which the President of the United States epitomized when he said, "We must make the world safe for Democracy." 

Though the Canadian Suffrage Association has been in the thick of the fight for over a third of a century, it is not going to rest because of victories won. Our work will not be finished, until women and men, throughout Canada, shall meet on the democratic ground of political equality, for on that foundation, and that only, can a real Democracy be built.

HERE'S a tidbit by Mrs. Torrington from the same yearbook.

The franchise makes women, as they are in the majority, the arbiter of the nation's destiny.

And lest we forget how religious many of these "maternal' reform-minded mostly Presbyterian women were: Mrs. Torrington again.

The future of Canada lies in the home. The victory won on the battlefield must be followed by a realization of the power of consecrated motherhood. To us it is a testing time, and surely there is not a woman to whom war does not bring its problems. Upon woman rests the responsibility, in a great measure, of the development of a higher civilization. Nor is it a time of our personal beliefs or convictions. A writer has said : "The origin of your duties is in God. The definition of your duties is found in His Law. The progressive discovery and the application of His Law is the task of humanity." I am convinced that the solving of the many social problems which we are facing will come through the spiritual touch—our being in touch with the Infinite. 

Read Suzanne Evans' Mother of Martyrs.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

The Selfish Gene and WWI Conscription

Frances Fenwick Williams was a Montreal author and suffragist who figures large in my book Service and Disservice about the 1917 Conscription Crisis in Canada - and the iffy involvement of the Canadian suffragist movement.

It's the follow up to Furies Cross the Mersey, about the 1911/12 British Invasion of Suffragettes to Montreal, an invasion Ms. Fenwick Williams helped bring about, I suspect.

I've written about Ms. Williams a lot on this blog. She was clever and nervy - an outlier who was part of the social elite but who made fun of these people in her books.She was the daughter of a Montreal stock market official and from a distinguished Nova Scotia family.

Her second novel, A Soul on Fire was published in 1915 when she sitting on the Executive of Board of Directors of the Montreal Suffrage Association, although she wasn't a social reformer like her co-members.

Frances Fenwick Williams, about 30 years old, was an 'equal rights' suffragist, not a 'maternal' suffragist.

 She was married in 1910  but was estranged from her American husband.

Being married gave FFW the right to be a member of the MSA.  Young single women were not invited into the Montreal suffrage movement. They were too 'excitable.'

FFW was a bit like the famed American author Edith Wharton, if you think about it, but she was not nearly as good a novelist. A critique of her 1915 novel, A Soul on Fire, claimed the characters didn't resemble any  in real life.

Hmm. Ivy Compton Burnett was a Dame Commander of the British Empire, Post-War novelist and member of the Women's Writers Suffrage League.  FFW went to London in 1912 to visit with the suffragettes. And, then, she joined the very 'sane' and 'reasonable' Montreal Suffrage Association, as a kind of mole.

FFW liked to give speeches. She was an able debater at the February, 1913 Montreal Suffrage Exhibit. Her speech is in my book Furies Cross the Mersey.

During  the 1917  Conscription Crisis, she was there when Borden needed her, giving a speech in Montreal on the first day of December, a day after riots in Sherbrooke, Quebec among other towns.

Premier Borden (or people in his office) deliberately tried to stir up trouble in Quebec, pitting Anglo against Francophone, and Fenwick Williams was one of the willing pawns, it seems.

"I am a suffragist, a socialist and half a soldier," she told the 100 ladies assembled at the 1917 rally. She also said she had no political affiliation but was for the Union government because it was the closest thing you can get to a non-partisan government.

She said anyone against the Union Government and Conscription was a  "Traitor to the Dead," a phrase that made the headline the next day.

She pledged to give another speech to a larger crowd of women within the week, but the Halifax explosion happened and stole the headlines."The enemy is at the gates,"said one such headline in the Montreal Gazette.

(Grace Richie England, Montreal born President of the Montreal Council of Women, refused to get caught up in Borden's shenanigans and stumped for Sir Wilfrid Laurier and suffered an impeachment hearing in 1918 for her troubles.)

At least FFW wasn't a hyprocrit like so many of the other Canadian suffragists during WWI. In May 1913, at the AGM of the National Council of Women in Montreal, Mrs.Philip Snowden, moderate suffragist from England spoke. The gist of her speech according to the Montreal Gazette: "That the power of women's vote in politics would be to glorify the value of human life over property."

Well, the Conscription Crisis in Canada proved this wrong, didn't it? Most suffragists were happy to help Borden get his 500,000 new recruits and send virtually every able-bodied young man in the country to the Front.

Why? So that their own sons, already at the Front, would have a better chance of surviving.

The Selfish Gene trumps principles every time.

In 1913, Fenwick Williams wrote a piece in her column The Feminist, called Women and War  stating: "It is generally believed that since women don't take part in military actions that they are opposed to war. It would be a similar thing to say that since men don't take part in Spring Cleaning, that they are opposed to it."

But she also wrote this 1917 war poem that seems to show two enemy soldiers dying together.

Before Verdun

No prayer can help, no agony atone,
As I came into life I go  - alone!

Another man is lying by my side,
Another, caught in death's fast-brimming tide.

Mine was the hand that struck his life away,
And his the hand that laid me low today.

Yet now, as nearer draws the dreadful end,
He seems to me a brother and a friend.

What is he thinking as his life ebbs fast?
(How lonely each poor soul is at the last!)

If I could hear him speak before he dies I should not feel so desolate,  but he lies,
Silent and spent.

His lips grow slowly white.

I hate to look upon the piteous sight!

(There's more.)

Like many writers, Fenwick Williams was a jack of all writing trades: she wrote short stories, novels, poems and essays.

When the first issue of Chatelaine came out in the 1930's, Fenwick Williams was a contributor!

She also taught writing in her old age, from Montreal, but her course was a correspondence course with students from all over. Fenwick Williams called on her many society connections for this project, including Dr. MacPhail of McGill, a fellow Nova Scotian, and Ida A.R. Wylie, well-known author and suffragette activist.

 And in 1963, some  students actually put on one of her plays.