Sunday, March 27, 2016

Pompeii and Montreal and Silent Film Footage

Killing time.

I had my Easter Meal, the extended family one on Good Friday, so there's nothing to do right now but surf the Web and look and see if anyone has posted any film footage from 1910 Montreal. (No!)

However, I did find this interesting post on YouTube. The Canadian Film Institute has posted one of the 1910 films Edison made for the government promoting the Canadian West to Americans.

I've written about it here...Salmon Tales.

J. Searle Dawley was the Director for this Edison project.

This film is  called The Song that Reached his Heart: A Story of the Lumber Regions of Canada's West, and has been enhanced digitally, I imagine.

Yesterday, I went to the Pompeii Exhibition at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.

I've long been fascinated by Pompeii, ever since I perused the famous book, Last Days of Pompeii,as a child, the one with the eerie black and white pictures of the figures above.

I took the snapshot above at exhibit. My husband wasn't moved. "Just a bunch of old stuff. I don't see what you see in them. "

Oh, well.

My husband thought one of the plaster cast men looked like 'he was praying.' I said, "I don't think they were Christians." (I remember that perhaps it was still a family cult and that fishes marked the thresholds of the homes where these new Christians lived.)

I've been reading up on Roman Law and they had a strict separation of public and private that allowed Christianity to be spread, and often by women even if, in Rome, men ruled the home.

I bought a detail of Livia's garden for my Pompeiian bathroom... I had to laugh. Listening to a BBC Radio Four dramatization of Cherie, I learned that the aging courtesan in the Colette book also had a Pompeiian bathroom.

The exhibit includes a marble bust of a Princess likely related to Livia. Apparently, she had a small mouth 'like Livia' something to be desired.

 Sian Phillips, who played Livia in I, Claudius, did not have a small mouth. The motion picture camera does not like small mouths.

Back when I was a child, we had a marble bust in our house, of three children. It had belonged to my grandparents. It weighed a tonne.

My aunt posing with the marble bust.. My mom later sold it.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Constance Hamilton, suffragist, on the 1917 Conscription Election

The Toronto Suffragists, including Mrs. Flora Macdonald Denison and Mrs. Constance Hamilton, marching in the 1913 Washington Suffrage Procession.

(Constance Hamilton speaking)

In 1916, Premier Borden came back from a visit to England with an enormous mandate: to get 500,000 more recruits for the war effort.

The Montreal Council of Women, of all places, spurred by Carrie Derick, their Past-President, passed their own Conscription resolution.

This resolution was sent along to the National Council of Women then on to all the locals across the country. It became known as the Montreal Resolution. I believe 11 Councils came out in favour, 7 against.

Later, Carrie Derick, The MLCW Past-President, felt she had to flatly deny that her organization had ever come out in favor of Conscription; they had come out, she said, for 'compulsory public service' for both men and women.

I was told, on the sly, that the word Conscription was written in their minutes before the resolution in question and even underlined.

“Re: Conscription and expression of sympathy: That the LCW is dissatisfied with the present undemocratic method of recruiting and believe that Canada should without further delay fulfill her pledge to send 500,000 men for the Defence of the Empire and petition the government to take definite steps to extend the operation of the Military Act for Home Defence to overseas, with just and reasonable exceptions.”
Ah, the Montreal Council. They had their own peculiar set of problems, many of which we, in Ontario, couldn’t fully understand. So, who am I to judge?

Even if Miss Derick did turn against me, in 1917, during that time of crisis, and  against Premier Borden and against the country and the war effort.

My opinion, anyway.

Still, as I said, I will always owe the woman a special debt.

Up until the founding of the Toronto Equal Franchise League, my chief concern had been getting city women back to the farm, a more wholesome environment for them than the big city, with its many temptations.

Then, in 1912, Miss Derick who convinced me that if young  country women were going to continue to flock to the big cities for work and recreation, even with our government’s great efforts to counter that trend with the Macdonald Movement for Rural Education, then we righteous women had to get involved.

And the municipal arena was the logical place to start.

Derick considered it a big fiery feather in her cap, the 1910 Montreal Municipal elections, where the reform candidate, a Dr. John James Guerin was elected Mayor, largely because of her organization’s efforts.

Her enthusiasm was contagious. So, in 1912, I adopted the suffrage cause, just as Flora Macdonald Denison was given the post of President of the Canadian Suffrage Association.

Right from the start, I recognized that the CSA was decrepit and obsolete.   I asked to see the membership list of the CSA, but none was to be had. The treasurer's reports? Non-existent.

I had heard that the CSA’s Port Arthur branch had only two women working for it. Her Quebec representative, a Mrs. Hammond Bullock,  I understood, was tone-death to the political realities of that Province.

And, yet, here was Mrs. Denison, being feted by none other than Mrs. Chapman Catt, a leader of the American movement, at the Washington DC parade in March, 1913, and described  in all the introductions as Canada’s greatest suffrage leader.

As if she were some kind of superstar. No question about it, she had a peculiar charisma, that woman,  to go along with her most peculiar ideas.

I make no apologies for the coup I instigated in March, 1914, taking away 1,000 of the CSA's members to start another, more responsible and responsive, national suffrage organization.

I know Mrs. Denison likes to think she kicked us out, but we were the ones who broke away from her organization.

Frilly talk in newspaper columns and high-sounding speeches in foreign countries does not a national suffrage organization make.

The suffrage movement in Canada, for so long the purview of over-educated, spoiled and excitable women, was stagnating. Something had to be done to shake it up.

And, if a Great War broke out before we, ourselves, at the National Equal Franchise Union, could get organized, well, that's not our fault either, is it?

As I said earlier, I gave up the suffrage cause before our National Equal Suffrage Union could have its second meeting. We brought in Nellie McClung to speak, though, in the summer of 1915, if I recall, as well as Mrs. Rose Henderson of Montreal, the child-offender champion.

I enlisted, instead, as Chair of the Women's side of the Win-the-War-Committee.

And, then, as it became clearer and clearer that the Allies wouldn't win the war without more soldiers at the Front, more Canadian soldiers, I applied myself to that sticky problem.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

The 1929 Supreme Court Persons Decision and the War Time Elections Act

Emmeline Pankhurst and Carrie Derick.

The famous Canadian Supreme Court (or rather  UK Privy Council House of Lords) decision of 1929, deeming women 'persons' and therefore eligible to be appointed to the Senate, fails to 'mention the war,' or more specifically, the War Time Elections Act of 1917.

The  decision is a bit of a history lesson, but when it comes to explaining how women got the vote, another landmark, one vague sentence is used, something like "women got the vote in dribs and drabs, provincially and federally, between 1916 and 1922."

I admit, the authors did not use the phrase dribs and drabs.

They wrote this: From 1916 to 1922 various Dominion and Provincial Acts were passed to admit women to the franchise and to the right to sit as members in both Dominion and Provincial legislative bodies.

The appellants in this famous case were Henrietta Muir Edwards, the Vice-President for the Province of Alberta of the National Council of Women for Canada; Nellie L. McClung and Louise C. McKinney, former members of the Legislative Assembly of the province; Emily F. Murphy, a police magistrate; and Irene Parlby, a member of the Legislative Assembly  and a member of its Executive Council.

One of these women, or all, might make the new banknote Trudeau has promised us.

I imagine the British authors didn't mention just HOW women first won  the right to vote in 1917, because it wasn't a relevant precedent. The War Time Elections Act certainly was not a pretty precedent.

It was a 'temporary' war measure, anyway.

Had the Supreme Court cited the War Time Elections Act  as a precedent in this 1929 Persons Case, it might have gone this way: During any future war, we'll need to ensure our Senators are on-board with the effort, and since  Senators are appointed for life, and since women can't be counted on to make smart decisions in wartime, as proven back in 1917, then only SOME select patriotic women in Canada should be deemed persons and allowed to be appointed to the Senate.

(Can you tell I am not a lawyer?)

In 1914 The Montreal Suffrage Association put on a dramatic entertainment, "How the Vote was Won" to raise money for the war effort.

Only Nellie McClung figures in my story Service and Disservice, about the Canadian suffragists and their involvement in the 1917 Conscription Crisis, and she figures periperally.

McClung is given credit by historians for giving Premier Borden the idea, in 1917, to allow only women with close relations at the Front to vote in the Conscription Election.

"This was not in the true spirit of democracy,' Constance Hamilton, a keen supporter and co-drafter of the cynical limited suffrage strategy, would later admit.

I believe Constance Hamilton of Toronto was the key female mover and shaker in this regard, not McClung.

It was Mrs. Hamilton who helped Premier Borden send around a dubious telegram in early August 1917, 'discretely' asking certain select women leaders of Canada to poll their membership to see if the Conservatives/Union would win an election if Borden gave women the vote.

And,it was Mrs. Hamilton who suggested Borden give the vote only to women with men at the Front or to women in provinces where they already had the vote.

(She, clearly, was afraid of Quebec women voting.)

I read somewhere that when these Alberta women won their "Persons" court case, one Isabella Scott of Montreal wrote Nellie McClung to congratulate them.

Isabella Scott figures, too, in my story.

She is the VP of the Montreal Suffrage Association who,  in July 1917, took it upon herself, with a certain CM Holt, the Acting President, to send a certain inflamatory letter on behalf of the MSA to the National Equal Suffrage Union, led by Constance Hamilton.

Carrie Derick, President, and all the others on the MSA executive, were conveniently out of town.

This letter was loudly in support of Conscription and against an election. It was printed in the Toronto papers with another statement by Hamilton saying that her NEFU didn't want a election because foreigners and slackers could vote.

This July letter, I believe, led Borden to believe that some Quebec women would be on board with limited suffrage, should he have no choice but to call an election, which was not true at all.

Derick had been working hard all Spring to make sure all the women of Canada got the vote in the next election. She had been frantic about it. She had wanted to organize a giant deputation to Borden in May, with the French Fédération St Jean Baptiste, demanding votes for all women, but then the Premier hinted, in late May, that  he would soon, indeed, give all the women of Canada the vote, so the deputation didn't happen.

In October, 1917, Derick's Montreal Suffrage League passed a resolution against the War Time Elections Act and Derick tried, unsuccessfully, to get the Montreal Council of Women to do the same.

(Too many women walked out on that meeting, so her resolution did not pass.)

Borden wrote the MSA back an angry letter saying he had no choice, otherwise alien women out West could have voted.

So, there you go. My smoking gun.

Borden gave women with men in the war a vote, because he knew they'd vote for Conscription for 'reinforcements' so that their men could come home.

Service and Disservice tells this story. It's all long forgotten by history; I found it written up only in a 1975 scholarly paper printed in Atlantis, a gender and justice journal).

 I had dug out the information myself, while researching Furies Cross the Mersey, about the invasion of militant suffagettes to Canada in 1912/13.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Hyphens, Quotations and Blots Upon History

Service and Disservice is my e-book about the Canadian Suffragists and their involvement in the War Time Elections Act of 1917.

It's a work of fiction. I make up some things and, in places, I fill in the blanks. The book, however, is based on a great deal of research and contains many quotations - and it brings up many very relevant questions related to the past and present.

I notice that on Wikipedia, the War Time Elections Act is written Wartime Elections Act. I chose to write it as it was written back then.

Indeed, the Liberal Party of Canada pamphet, rebuking the Act, had it written in two ways, War Time Elections Act and War-Time Elections Act.

I know for a fact that compound words start out separate and then they are hyphenated and then made into one word: world wide, world-wide, worldwide.

Here's a bit from that document, available on

There's nothing new about election fixing. Bernie Sanders, just last week, said it happened in Ohio.

A Blot Upon History (If the War Time Elections Act was indeed a Blot Upon History, it is a blot that has been white-washed, or is it whitewashed.

"In view of events that happened subsequently it is instructive to read what 
was said about the War-Time Elections Act by different members of Parliament during its passage through the House of Commons in 1917. Here are a 
few extracts from the Hansard: — 

F. B. Carvell : — Page 5699. — The Government are disfranchising Austrians, 
Germans, British subjects; they are disfranchising women, in fact it seems to me 
that they are disfranchising any one who they think will vote Liberal. 

A. K. McLean: — Page 5596 — The Bill before the House proposes to dis- 
franchise arbitrarily a portion of the people of this country. This legislation 
is objectionable in principle, and I deny that there is anything in the world 
to justify its introduction or its enactment. A proper regard for the future 
of this country and for our good name among the nations and peoples of the 
world compel one to oppose the measure. It is not founded upon any principle 
of a substantial character. I maintain that history will adjudge the act con- 
templated by this bill as a blot upon our national career. And unfortunately, 
it comes at a time when we are writing glorious and imperishable pages of our 
history, which will be the future epics of this young nation. 

Geo. E. McCraney, M.P. — Page 5563 — I do feel, however, that in placing 
this measure of disfranchisement before parliament — a measure against which 
we protest; a measure in respect of which we must accuse the Government of 
the most partisan conduct — the Government by their own Act are throwing 
the gravest doubt upon the judgment that we have exercised in supporting their 
measure of conscription. * 

W. A. Buchanan, M.P. — Page 5581 — We left our party and took the 
position we did for the national advantage, because we looked upon the measure 
as a war measure. The Government is adopting the present measure, not as a 
war measure and not for the National advantage, but for the advantage of the 
party they represent. I would like to say that, if we are going to build up a 
united Canada, if we are going to bring people into this country and promise 
them the rights of citizenship, we must adhere to the pledged word we have 
given them. We must let them know — that we as Canadians living under the 
British flag, are going to adhere to our word. 

W. E. Knowles, M.P. — Page 5812 — I look upon this Bill as a great peril. 
If we are to lay down the principle that a Government that is in power can go 
behind the Bill of Rights, and the principles of the Magna Charta, and can say 
"We believe we must be perpetuated and continued in power, and we will 
disfranchise people who would vote against us," then the democracy is destroy- 
ed, and any tyrant who \vould assume power m this country could continue to 
possess that power, if you are going to once allow the principle that he is to be 
able to dictate as to who will vote. 

Hon. Frank Oliver, M.P. — Page 5818 — I say that this Government is 

committing a crime against Canada in the legislation now before the House, a 
crime the effect of which may be more far-reaching than any man can now see.

D. D. McKenzie, M.P. — Page 5609 — Certain emissaries went froth from 
this country to the West to ask certain gentlemen to cast their lot with this 
Government and come under the Tory yoke. But, as they would not submit 
to the Tory yoke, as they would not come within the thraldom of Toryism, the 
next thing was to subject them to this law, to have them gagged, pilloried, 

Hon. W, M. Martin, Premier of Saskatchewan, issued a statement from 
Regina, Dece'mber 8th, 1917-'of which the following are extracts: 

"In regard to the War-Time Elections Act, I have already expressed my 
opinion with respect to the disfranchisement of certain classes of our people. 
I regard this feature of the act as un-British and undemocratic, calculated. to 
create distrust and suspicion and to delay the Canadianizing of many of these 
people for a generation. 

"Moreover, apart from the disfranchisement provisions of the Election 
act, machinery is created which in the hands of unscrupulous men may 
be used in such, a way as to win any constituency. This portion of the 
act renders possible the disfranchisement of any citizen living in Western 

The Right Hon. Sir Wilfrid Laurier in his election address issued on 
November 5th, 1917, dealt with the War Time Elections Act as follows:" 

"In order to be effective, to satisfy the public conscience and to secure 
that acquiescence in a verdict which should be the last word on all questions 
submitted to the people, a general election should be an appeal to the electorate 
such as it exists under the law. 

"The Government have discarded that fundamental principle of the 
institutions of a free people. They have designedly altered the sanctity of the 
franchise, by choking discussion, by ruthlessly using the closure, they have 
deliberately manufactured a franchise with which they hope to win a victory 
at the polls — a passing victory for themselves, a permanent injury to the coun- 

"This act known as the War Time Elections Act, is a blot upon every 
instinct of justice, honesty and fair play. 

"It takes away the franchise from certain denominations whose members 
from ancient times in English history have been exempt from military service, 
and who in Great Britain never were, and are not now, denied their rights of 

"It takes away the franchise from men whom we invited to this country, 
to whom we promised all the rights and privileges of our citizenship, who 
trusted in our promises and who became under our laws, British subjects and 
Canadian Citizens. They are thus humiliated and treated with .contempt 
under the pretence that being born in enemy countries, in Germany and 
Austria, they might be biased in favour of their native country and against 
their adopted country. The assumption is falted in theory ard might easily 
be so demonstrated. It is sufficient to observe that it is also false in fact. 
There has not been any current of emigration from Germany go Canada during 
the last twenty years, and as to Austria, almost the total number, perhaps 
nine-tenths of the emigrants from that country, were not from Austria proper, 
but from those Slav- provinces held by force by Austria, and whose sympathies 
are strong and deep against her, and for the Allies. 

"It gives the franchise to some women and denies it to others. All those 
whose privilege it is to have near relatives amongst the soldiers will be voters. 
The right will be refused to all those not so privileged, though their hearts are 
just as strong in the cause, and though they have worked incessantly for it. 
Moreover, in five provinces of the Dominion, namely, Ontario, Manitoba, 
Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia, women have been admitted to 
the franchise. According to the terms of the Dominion law, which no sophistry 
can blur, being electors in the province, women are electors in the Dominion. 
The act of last session snatches away that right from them. 

"The Act is vicious in principle, and is equally vicious in its enacting 
dispositions. We have in most of the provinces of the Dominion, a regular 
system of preparing the voters' lists and against that system no complaint has 
been heard during the last twenty years. That system is also cast aside and 
lists are to be prepared by an army of so-called enumerators, whose 
work must be done in haste, whose powers are arbitrary, with no useful 
checks to be exercised in due time, and with all doors wide open for 
errors, confusion and frauds. 

"Such legislation is repugnant to every sense of justice and right. It has 
for its object and for its effect to discourage and to stifle the fiee expression of 
the will of the people, and to make parliamentary government a mere name 
without a reality." 

On May 23rd, 191-8, in the House of Commons,. Sir Wilfrid Laurier moved 
that the War Time Elections Act be repealed, but the Borden Government 
voted this down and a new act or another enormity is from time to time men- 
tioned in the press as likely to be proposed by the Government. 

War-Time Elections Act, 1917. 

The Iniquity of 1885 Repeated in 1917. 

Thousands of English, Scotch, Irish, French and native born British 
Subjects and also naturalized British Subjects of non-German 
and non-Austrian blood were not allowed to vote. 

A dark blot of shame was cast upon Canada by the Borden Government 
passing the War-Time Elections Act, 1917, and newspapers supporting the 
Borden Government gleefully approved of it. (See Toronto Daily News 
Conservative, Saturday, March 23rd, 1918). 

Violation of Rights. 

From many quaiters, information has been obtained that the War Time 
Elections Act was used as it was intended to be used and that gross irregularities, 
many flagrant violations of the law, were systematically resorted to by returning 
officers, deputy returning officers, enumerators, candidates and agents of the 
Borden Government, amongst other violations of constitutional rights being 
the following: — 

1. That as a rule the enumerators kept no office, that it was difficult to 
locate them, that they left off names of thousands of persons, English, French, 
Irish, Scotch and native born British Subjects and also naturalized British 
Subjects of non-German and non-Austrian blood and others qualified to vote, 
and left them off even after their attention had been called to the fact that such 
persons were entitled to vote, and that the names of persons actually on the 
But as published weie subsequently removed by the enumerators. 

Prussian Methods. 

2. That the Deputy Returning Officers refused to allow persons to vote 
on certificate. 

3. That the D.R.O's acted as if they were the election agents of the Borden 
Government and challenged the right of persons to vote who were likely to vote 

4. That without regard to nationality, language or place of birth, 
persons, although naturalized, were not permitted to vote because of the fact 
that they were born in Norway *or other European country of which Germany 
or Austria had nothing to do. 

5. That subject races of non-German or non- Austrian blood born in ter- 
ritory taken by Germany or Austria but opposed to Prussianism both in Europe 
and in Canada and naturalized previous to April 1st, 1902, were not permitted 
to vote, although even the nol&rious Act did not disqualify them. 

6. That persons of European blood, although born in Canada, were not 
allowed tojvote. 

7. That Americans naturalized in Canada were not allowed to vote. 

8. That persons were known to have voted more than once. 

9. That the names? of women and other persons not entitled to vote were 
placed upon the li.jt. 

10. That the names of Indian women were impioperly placed on the fist 
and these squaws, as- at Southampton, North Biuce, Ontario, voted for the 
Borden candidate. 

11. That the Returning Officer refused to supply the lists of enumerators 
to the Liberal candidates, and even native born British subjects of British blood 
were not allowed to vote. 

12. That sufficient ballois were not supplied at the polls and polls were 
placed in inconvenient localities. 

Fooled The Soldiers. 

13. That it was suggested to returned soldiers in hospitals or elsewhere 
or soldiers in training that in regard to paragraphs 6, 7 and 8 in Form B of the 
Military Voters Act regarding residence at the time they enlisted that they 
answered by stating "I cannot say" and thus allow a further suggestion to be 
made that they designate a riding in which the Government agents wished their 
vote to be counted. 

14. That discharged soldiers who under section 10 of the Military Voteis 
Act were entitled to vote "as an elector of the polling district therein he is a 
resident at the time of polling" were requested to move for the day of the 
election to-a riding where their vote would be useful when such sojourn is not 
residence within the meaning of the law. 

15. That thousands of telegrams, letters, copies of papers, speeches, etc., 
were sent out by persons acting on behalf of the Government, and the Govern- 
ment itself issued an official statement promising exemption from Military 
service without regard to the procedure set forth in the Act. Thousands were 
exempted for election purposes and four months after many of these exemp- 
tions were cancelled. 

16. That cables or telegrams were tampered with as for example a soldier 
cabled "Home Christmas" and when the cable was delivered it read "Home 

Christmas. Vote Union Government." 

17. That the fathers, mothers and other relatives of soldiers overseas were 
promised to have their boys home for New Year's Day 1918 or shortly after- 
wards if these mothers, fathers and other relatives would vote for the Borden 

18. That the Canadian soldiers in Great Britain and in the trenches voted 
under the Military Voters' Act and in the hands of the officials it was more 
deadly than the War Time Elections Act. (See debates in Parliament as 
reported in Hansard, May 1918.) 

19. That improper suggestions had been made regarding the disposal 
of the patriotic fund and other war time efforts put forth by the people as a 
whole without regard to political views. 


The foregoing is issued on behalf of the National Liberal Convention 
Committee. The Committee is composed of the following: — 

D. D. McKenzie, M.P., North Sydney, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Chair- 
man; Senator Hewitt Bostock, Ducks, B.C.; Senator W. C. Edwards, Ottawa; 
Senator N. A. Belcourt, Ottawa; W. H. White, M.P., Alberta; Dr. J. P. Malloy, 
M.P., Manitoba; Hon. Charles Murphy, M.P., Ottawa; D. C. Ross, M.P., 
Strathroy, Ont.; I. E. Pedlow, M.P., Renfrew, Ont.; Hon. R. Lemieux, M.P., 
Montreal, Que.; James A. Robb, M.P., Chateauguay-Huntington, Que.; 
E. B. Devlin, M.P., Wright County, Que.; F. S. Cahill, M.P., Pontiac, Que.; 
Dr. J. E. Fontaine, M.P., Hull, Que.; Ernest Lapointe, M.P., Kamouraska, 
Que.; L. J. Papineau, M.P., Bauharnois, Que.; and Hon. John Oliver, Premier 
of British Columbia,; Hon. Chas. Stewart, Premier of Alberta, Hon. W. M. 
Martin, Premier of Saskatchewan, Hon. T. C. Norris, -Premier of Manitoba, 
Hon. Sir Lomer Gouin, Premier of Quebec, Hon. W. E. Foster, Premier of 
New Brunswick, Hon. Geo. H. Murray, Premier of Nova Scotia, Mr. J. H. 
Bell, leader of the Liberal Opposition in Prince Edward Island, and William 
Proudfoot, K.C., M.P.P., Toronto, Ont. 

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Service and Disservice: The Canadian Suffragists and the Conscription Crisis

Chapter 1: Flora Macdonald Denison

So you want to talk to me, about what exactly? You want me to explain my position on Woman Suffrage back in the day, 1913-1918.

Well, you must know of my position. I wanted woman to have the vote. All women. Women equal with men.

You say you  want me to focus on the you-know-what,  the Great Deception of 1917, the Wartime Elections Act that gave the vote only to women with men at the Front;  the Disenfranchise Act as Dr. Margaret Gordon, my successor as President of the Canadian Suffrage Association, so aptly described it.

She wrote: “It would be more direct and at the same time more honest, if it simply stated that all who did not pledge themselves to vote Conservative would be disenfranchised.”

Peculiar laws you moderns have, allowing you to bring people back from the dead  to grill them on an historical point of interest. Not that I am a bit surprised.

To what end all of this?   To promote democracy by shedding light on a shady chapter in Canadian history, you say. Ah.

Well, then, let’s get started.

First, am I on trial, or something? Or am I here to testify against the other ones, the truly tainted parties, those suffragists among us who were guilty of crimes against democracy?

Well, either way, I have nothing to hide.

Never did. I wasn’t like the others. I always wore my heart on my sleeve.  But you have already figured that out, haven’t you?

I can tell by that half-smile on your lips.

Chapter 2: Frances Fenwick Williams

So, my novels, the Arch Satirist and A Soul on Fire are available for the entire  world to read, on some kind of Web, except that no one reads them. But, Edith Wharton’s novels are still very popular, you say, thanks to movies and something called television.

Well, if you are not here to talk about my novels, that haven’t, apparently,  stood the test of time, what are you here to talk about?

My poems? My WWI poems Before Verdun and Recruiting Song.

I certainly have no objection to that. What about them makes you curious?

You say, you find these two poems to be contradictory in tone.

All I can say to that is : A poem is like a child, it is meant to stand on its own.

OK.  I guess if you think about it, these poems, they are very different but it can be explained in a very blunt manner: One poem was a commissioned work to attract young American men to join the military and one poem was written, well, from the heart.

Believe me, I’m not the only Canadian suffragist who was of mixed mind during that perilous time, WWI, although I was of less mixed mind that most of prominent Canadian suffragists, let me tell you.

I was a feminist first and a suffragist second - and when war broke out I was a patriot, all the way, but, still always an artist with, how might I put it, the sensibilities of the outcast, of the person on the outside looking in.

My good friends were Ivy Compton Burnett and Ida A. R. Wylie, the British writers who introduced me to the movement and the Pankhursts, on a trip to England in 1912. Have you heard of them? Are they remembered?

I was not and never was a social reformer, as such, one of those maternal-style suffragists who took over the Canadian movement around 1910, even if I was married, technically, on paper.

No, I wasn’t like those society ladies I spent time with on the executive of the Montreal Suffrage Association, you know, the  wives of the Montreal millionaires who followed that Presbyterian call to clean up society, one factory, one brothel , one squalid tenement at a time.

My God, they wanted to whitewash society, take all the texture and nuance out of its very fabric.

 No writer in her right mind wants that. What would be left to write about if everyone was  exactly the same?

Chapter 3: Kathleen Weller

So, you want to talk to me about the suffrage movement in Montreal, in Canada, in those early years, right through to the end of the Great War?

Well, first, let me say that I am truly amazed that I have gone down in Canadian history as an important suffragist. (Although, I clearly was.)

By 1919, the time of the dissolution of the Montreal Suffrage Association, they’d already erased any record of my contribution to the suffrage cause in the country, the province and, even in the city of Montreal.

By then most women in Canada had already won the right to vote federally and in Quebec it was just the beginning of a long campaign to win the provincial vote – and  I wasn’t invited to that particular party.

From then on, it was all Dr. Ritchie England and Professor Derick and Mesdames  Gerin-Lajoie and Casgrain of La Ligue des droits de la femme.

No Britishers need apply.

Shortly after the MSA was dissolved, in 1919,  an anonymous letter to the Editor was published in the pages of the Montreal Gazette, complaining that only seventeen of the two hundred or so MSA members were present at that final meeting, so that the vote to disband was hardly representative.

The same letter tore into the Association's President, Carrie Derick, without mentioning her name, for having turned against Borden’s Union Government during the 1917 election, and for making a formal protest, in writing, against limited suffrage and the Wartime Elections Act.

This was a big embarrassment for some people on the MSA Executive who had led Premier Borden to believe Quebec suffragists would  be on board with any plan he might concoct  to get more soldiers over to Europe and to win the war.

As this anonymous letter stated, many members of the MSA quit the organization, right then and there, in protest.

Chapter 4: Constance Hamilton

Let me start off by saying I have nothing to be ashamed of.

I sense that is what you want of me, a confession of sorts, and after all this time. You want me to confess my part in the Conscription Crisis of 1917 with respect to the Wartime Elections Act.

You think that I had a hand in designing that essential emergency legislation, maybe?

To tell the truth, I’d prefer to discuss my pioneering status as the City of Toronto’s first female alderman. War brings out the best and the worst in people and sometimes it is best forgotten what happened during those perilous times.

Still, I won’t apologize. I will demystify, for you, the backroom manoeuvering that went on at that time. If that’s what you want. I am very proud to admit I was privy to a lot of it as Chairman of the Women’s Section of the Win-the-War Committee.

And, me, a mere housewife.  You know, that’s what they called me when I first ran for Toronto alderman in 1919. A woman with no profession, as if the decades I had devoted to social reform work counted for nothing.

Anyway, I was never two-faced about my part in the Win-the-War effort. I stated my case loudly and proudly, in 1915, in all the Toronto newspapers and in the New Century Magazine, the organ of the National Council of Women.

I am giving up all suffrage activities, I said, until the war’s end.

Here are my exact words:

“Will you kindly notify all the affiliated societies and others concerned that I have decided to postpone my trip out West until a more favorable occasion. The war has reached such a serious and critical stage that I feel I am in no way justified in using my own and other women’s energies and means on behalf of the suffrage cause when the war and all that implies, needs us so urgently.  Though political freedom for Canadian women is very near to my heart, at present there is a far great issue at stake, the freedom of the whole empire. I will say to you what Mrs. Pankhurst said to Lloyd George lately ‘Our fight for votes is a forgotten issue in the National Crisis.’”

It was only a few days before, in June, 1915 that I attended my first Win-the -War meeting in Toronto.  I was asked on the fly to give a speech to the women in the audience. I liked it!

This took place a mere week after the first ever meeting of the NEFU, the National Equal Franchise Union, at my home in Rosedale.

 I had been chosen as President back in March, 1914, at our official launch, when half of the 2,000 members of the Canadian Suffrage Association, and three of the five Toronto suffrage societies, defected to us.

Before that, I had been President of the Toronto Equal Franchise League, which I founded in 1912, as a counter–balance to the old-school socialists and pacifists and would-be-militants who called themselves 'equal rights suffragists' dominating the suffrage scene for decades.

We defectors called ourselves the Progressives, because we were.

 Chapter 5: Carrie Derick

So, you think I can shed some insight into the mysterious machinations of the Borden’s Government  in 1917 with respect to the Wartime  Elections Act, that affront to democracy and women's equality that gave the federal vote only to women with men at the Front.

And , this because at the time I was  Vice-President of  both the National Council of Women and the National Equal Franchise Union, as well as President of the Montreal Suffrage Association and very involved Past-President of the Montreal Local Council of Women?

You assume I, above everyone, knew about everything that was going on in Canadian suffrage circles in that tumultuous era.

The truth is, what I knew is all in the minutes, the minutes of the Montreal Council of Women and the Montreal Suffrage Association, to be specific.

Everything I want you to know, anyway.

Had I wanted you to know more, I would have left behind diaries and letters, like Flora Macdonald Denison or Madame Gerin-Lajoie of La Fédération St. Jean Baptiste.

But, no. I didn't save rough copies of my speeches with some lines crossed out, or little notes, all blotched, penned on the back of cafe menus, and the like, to be archived in on high shelves in cool, dark rooms, for the benefit of future generations.

I was more, how might I say it, Protestant in my efforts to leave a legacy.

Had I not made the newspapers, so often, there would remain no record of any of my speeches, and I gave scores of them back in the era, on a wide range of topics, not just women’s rights.

The minutes of the Montreal Suffrage Association, (1913-1919)  I handed over, myself, to Madame Thérèse Casgrain,  at a 1933 luncheon of La Ligue des droits de la femme, where I gave yet another speech on the history of woman suffrage in Quebec, a speech I could have given in my sleep by then.

I thought it was time to hand the papers over. I was in my 70's and in sharply declining healthy. I had quit McGill four years before, my legendary energies almost spent.

At this luncheon, I started out by showcasing my knowledge of the Classics, bringing up Hypatia and Sappho, then the Abbesses of England and Mary Wollstonecraft, leading up to the Donaldas of McGill who kick-started the feminist movement in Quebec.

I mentioned how my very dear friend and life-long colleague, Miss Ritchie, defied the governors of McGill in her Valedictory speech in the 1880’s, calling for McGill Medical School to be opened to women.

Then I talked about the ‘inert’ woman suffrage movement in Quebec in 1910, how we started the MSA in 1913, with an executive made up half of women and half of men.

I left out details of the Conscription Crisis, sorry to tell you. No one wanted to rehash that grotesque chapter.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Meet Beatrice Worsley, Canada's Pioneering Computer Scientist

Beatrice Worsley (pic courtesy of Women in Computing, Cambridge University)

Meet Beatrice Worsley, Computer Scientist and Canadian STEM Pioneer.

Beatrice Worsely of Toronto has just been recognized with an inaugural Lifetime Achievement in Computer Science Award by the Canadian Association of Computer Science. 

Yet, few people in Canada have heard of her.

According to her biographer and champion, Scott M. Campbell of the University of Waterloo, “Beatrice Worsley was a pioneering computer scientist and the first female in Canada to make significant contributions to the field.”

The FIRST woman computer scientist in Canada- and few people know her name?  What a shame!
Maybe it’s just a case of nice girls don’t make history. After all, according to Professor Campbell, Worsley did have a quiet and accommodating character.

A photograph of Worsley (published in Campbell’s biographical paper for the IEEE Annals of the History of Computer)1 reveals a good-looking woman with dark brown hair done up in a soft 1940’s do, wearing a neat tweed suit. Her expression is neutral, but her eyes do sparkle playfully.

Campbell says that Beatrice Worsley “had a short but very productive scientific career” in the Canadian military, at the University of Toronto and at Queen’s University in Kingston.

She was born in 1921, in Mexico to British parents. She had an older brother, Charles. The family moved to Toronto so their children could go to school.

Beatrice was educated at Toronto’s Bishop Strachan School, where she excelled at maths and just about everything else. Upon graduation she won the Governor General’s award for the highest marks in her class.

For her post graduate studies she attended Trinity College at the University of Toronto, enrolling in sciences, then moving on to specialize in mathematics and physics. Here, too, she graduated first of her class, in 1944, with a Bachelor of Arts in Math and Physics.

As this was wartime, “Trixie” went to work for the military as a Navy WREN.  She applied for and was granted laboratory work, researching harbour defence.

After demobilization her computer career began in earnest, says Campbell. Worsley took a graduate degree at MIT in Boston writing a dissertation that “provided a snapshot of contemporary computing technology.”

Working at M.I.T., a leader in computing technologies, was Worsley’s SPARK moment. When she returned home she told her family that her future was in computers.

Her family likely didn’t understand what that meant. This was 1947. The Computer Age was still in its infancy.  Few had ever heard the word ‘computer’. But Beatrice Worsley was on the forefront of it all. “She was quickly becoming an expert in these new technologies.”

 “Returning to Canada was a step backwards for scientist,” says Campbell. Worsley first found work in aerodynamic research. She soon quit that job to join the University of Toronto’s Computational Centre, the only place in Canada with a computer research development program, as a project manager.

In 1948, Worsley was sent overseas to Cambridge University where she witnessed a momentous event in computing history, the unveiling of the EDSAC computer. Recording this event for a prestigious journal “earned Worsley a place in history,” says her biographer.

Worsley stayed at Cambridge to audit advanced math and physics courses toward a doctorate, which she completed at home in 1952, making her the first person in Canada to write a PhD thesis on a computer science topic.

“Worsley was now one of the most computer-literate women in the world.”

At U of T Worsely taught extension, undergraduate and graduate courses and published 17 papers. In 1965, she moved on to Queen’s University “to start afresh and launch a new computational center.” She died of a heart attack in 1977.

So, why haven’t we Canadians heard of Beatrice Worsley before now?

Unlike the 1910’s, when pioneering career women were written about extensively in newspapers and magazines, the late 1930’s and 1940’s had other preoccupations. The post-war 1950’s were kind of ‘back-to-the-kitchen’ for working women and the 1960’s, even with ‘women’s lib’ were rebellion and youth-oriented.

And all through the 20th Century the phrase ‘woman mathematician’ was considered by many people to be something of a contradiction in terms. Let’s face it, many people still think it is.

So, it’s been a long wait but Beatrice Worsely, Canadian computer science pioneer and STEM super-achiever, has been finally recognized for her contributions to the world of science, especially in Canada.

Nice girl or not.

All quotes in this essay were taken from Scott Campbell’s IEEE paper, available HERE on his website. LINK.

Scott is working on an exhibit for next year, tentatively titled "The Computer Girls", to be hosted at the University of Waterloo Computer Museum (, about early social attitudes towards pioneering women in computing in the 1950s and 1960s.  

Monday, March 7, 2016

Downtown Abbey's Finale and Stories about In-Between Stairs.

Edith and Flora Nicholson of Tighsolas, on the lawn of their home in Richmond 1913. They were teachers and militant suffragette supporters.

Well, I just watched the Downton Abbey Finale which was all about 'strong women' and beautiful clothes and class divides and happy marriages with pithy statements about the changing world of the 20th century.

Kind of a mixed message, but what the 'ell. It was great!

And, Downtown Abbey's 6 year saga ends  just as I have finished Service and Disservice, the last of my Tighsolas books about the 1910 era, based on family letters and a great deal of research into the Woman Suffrage Movement in Canada.

Service and Disservice (you can buy it here) about the Canadian suffragists and their involvement in the Conscription Crisis of 1917, is a perfect complement to Not Bonne Over Here, the Nicholson Family letters from the WWI period. You can buy that book here.

And my other books based on the letters, Threshold Girl, Diary of a Confirmed Spinster and The Nicholson Family Letters, are all about the middle class in the 1910 era, in between stairs...

Downton Abbey and Upstairs Downstairs didn't show the middle class (with few exceptions) because it was the middle class of the later 20th century that was watching.

Now that the middle class appears to be dying out, maybe my books and letters will be of interest to someone..

Of course, both shows featured the suffragettes. Furies Cross the Mersey is my true story of how the militant suffragettes invaded Montreal in 1912/13, The cliche in these shows is the youngest, rebellious daughter was the one who got involved in the window smashing.

Ontario based suffragists march in Washington Suffrage Parade 1913. There was dissension in the ranks and soon the Canadian movement would split in two, which would lead to these suffragists getting involved in the ugly  1917 Conscription Crisis.