Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Humiliation of McGill's First Female Full Professor

 Carrie Derick
 Emmeline Pankhurst
 Ethel Hurlbatt

In  1912/13, McGill Botanist Carrie Derick, Canada's first female full-time professor, was listed in the University Calendar after Mrs.Ethel Hurlbatt, Warden of Royal Victoria College, under OTHERS and not with the other McGill Professors.

Carrie Derick had been appointed a full-professor of Botany in June 1912, but she had been told by President Peterson that it was a 'courtesy appointment.'

This sad fact will have to go into my story, Furies Cross the Mersey, about the Montreal Suffragettes of the 1912/13 era, where I have two RVC students get into trouble trying to start a suffrage march, an act that would have been characterized in Montreal at the time as 'militant' and against the law.

Practically the ONLY suffrage headlines published in the Montreal newspapers were about Pankhurst and her WSPU's  acts of civil disobedience, threats of big violence, and acts of small violence.

From what I can see, Hurlbatt, Warden of RVC, was a suffrage supporter and closet suffragette supporter. Carrie Derick was too. Derick described British suffragists in the press as 'moderate' and the militant suffragettes as 'more advanced.'

In January 1912, after Mrs. Pankhurst's December 1911 speech in Montreal, Hurlbatt announced at the executive meeting of the Montreal Council of Women that she would offer 'citizenship' classes for anyone interested. (Her students?) Citizenship courses were code for woman suffrage classes in those days.

It was the Citizenship Committee of the Montreal Council of Women that mounted the February 1913 Woman's Suffrage Exhibit.

According to the minutes of the Montreal Council of Women, only one person signed up, and Mrs. Hurlbatt announced at the next Executive Meeting that she was giving up her suffrage activities on the Council due to 'work conflict'.

At the time I first read this in the minutes I assumed Hurlbatt quit because her pride was hurt. But now I suspect something different, something more political.

That's because, right around then the Montreal Gazette published an editorial calling Women's Universities "Suffragette Factories."

This was,  most probably,  no coincidence. RVC was the only Women's College in Montreal.

At the same January 1912 post-Panhurst meeting of the Montreal Council of Women, it was moved to start a suffrage association, 'to keep the interest in suffrage alive',  although Thérèse Casgrain in her 1972 autobiography claimed that Pankhurst's 1911 speech mostly inspired negative feelings on the Montreal street.

It took over  a year for the new organization to be born, and this interim period is when my own Furies Cross the Mersey story unfolds.

As it happened, militant suffragette Barbara Wylie visited Montreal in September 1912 and perhaps spoke to RVC students. A lot happened during this year including a fight between militants and non-militants for control of the suffrage conversation in the city.

When the new 'sweet' and  'reasonable' Montreal Suffrage Association was finally launched on April 1913, Carrie Derick was appointed President although, it was claimed, she took on the post reluctantly.

Carrie Derick had been President of the Montreal Council of Women from 1909 to late 1911.

It was Derick who proposed a motion at a Montreal Council meeting (in October 1911)  to have Pankhurst come to speak to Montrealers on their behalf  "So that we can hear the other side of the question."

But it was the next  MCW President, Dr. Ritchie England, who picked up Pankhurst at the train station in December 1911 and got snapped by the photographer from the Montreal Star.

This same 1909-1912  period was when Derick was de-facto Chair of the McGill Botany Department, at first helping out the ailing Chair, Dr. Penhallow, and then after his death in 1910 taking over for him.

Derick clearly was a woman of high energy.

But in June 1912, McGill appointed an American as Chair of the Department, over Derick, who was expecting the appointment - as unprecedented as it was.

Dean Walton of the McGill Law School lobbied the other McGill Governors on her behalf but to no avail. I will postulate in my story that her suffrage advocacy was the reason why she wasn't hired as Chair with 3,000 salary.

It's not such a stretch. Suffrage was a very controversial issue in Montreal in 1912/13, even at McGill.

Dean Walton would be appointed Honourary Vice President of the new Montreal Suffrage Assocation.

He would talk at the inaugural meeting of the Montreal Suffrage Association, saying "Only imbeciles lunatics  and women didn't have the vote."

Funny, Margaret Gillette in We Walked Very Warily, her book about women at McGill,  says Hurlbatt said the same thing.

I have to revisit the minutes of the Montreal Council from 1910-1913, but especially for 1912, to remind myself exactly what was happening at that time...for my story.

(I had notes, but they are locked inside a broken hard-drive.)

I just realized Derick's McGill drama must be part of my suffragette story.

While two naive young girls try to start a parade in imitation of the Americans (not realizing how different politics are in Montreal) Derick will be humiliated at McGill - being told by the President that her full professorship is only 'a courtesy' post - and one without a seat on Faculty to be  listed in the McGill Calendar under the Warden of RVC (who did have excellent education qualifications).

I can only speculate about how Miss Derick felt at the time.I guess I also will have to speculate about the relationship between Dean Walton and Derick.

It's sad about Derick's courtesy posting. My research reveals that she was a savvy politico.

During the 1917 Conscription Crisis she steered her Suffrage Association clear of all controversy while  Dr. Ritchie England, a brilliant woman of principle,  had her name dragged through the mud for supporting Sir Wilfrid Laurier.

Miss Carrie Derick understood Montreal (and Quebec) politics and she had a most modern way of playing with words, of 'spinning' events in the press.

The only 'taint' against Derick is her support of eugenics, but then McGill was eugenics central in the 1910 era. That part of her resume would have been a big plus, I imagine.

Furies Cross the Mersey

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Infamous Game-Changing Laurier Palace Fire ---and My Family's Connection

Some motion picture houses in turn of last century Montreal.

I've written a great deal about the era in Montreal on this blog,  but in the 1910 era the very proper Nicholson Women of Threshold Girl, my ebook,  attended the traditional theatre.

The Nickel was too lowbrow, although somewhat exciting. It wasn't until 1917 and WWI that they regularly went to 'movies' and actually referred to them as such in letters.

In Milk and Water, about Montreal in 1927, motion pictures figure more strongly.

In 1927, there was a fire in a Ste Catherine E  cinema (the Laurier Palace) where 70 children died. My grandfather, Jules Crepeau, as Director of Services was somewhat implicated.

Because of that fatal fire, Montreal became the only jurisdiction in North America to ban children in cinemas, until 1967, with a slight relaxing of the rules after 1962.

It was one of the few times the French and the English, the Protestants and the Catholics could agree on something.

In Europe and North America, children had been going to motion pictures, attended and unattended by 'adults', since the beginning of the era.  Many parents felt these places safer than the streets, with all the messy traffic, although the moral reformers did not.

From what I have read, in the Prohibition Era, children under 20 made up the largest proportion of movie patrons. And although there was a law against under 17's watching unattended, plenty did. Mostly boys as is it happens, and it is mostly boys who died in the Laurier Palace Fire in January 1927.

In 1964, I vividly recall watching the MUSIC MAN in a church basement, ST. Malachy's church on Clanranald. It was a  special family viewing and I sat cross-legged on a cold concrete floor.

There were killer fires in theatres in the US too (These places were firetraps in general) but no such laws were enacted.

This must have truly hurt the revenues of the theatre owners in Quebec. Jewish owners.

My grandfather's brother,Isadore Crepeau, was the VP of United Theatre Amusements. In the 1927 era, that company was building the huge expensive motion picture palaces in the West End such as the Empress on Sherbrooke West.

That company often fought in court with the Provincial Government over the Lord's Day Act, even before 1927. Monsieur Ouimet of Ouimetoscope fame did, too.

Conventional theatres that showed plays with live actors had to close on Sunday, movie houses were exempt.

My grandfather was accused by a certain Temperance Type, W E Raney, testifying about Montreal corruption in 1926 at the US Senate Hearings into Prohibition, of pulling the strings of the police Chief, and of allowing theatres to stay open illegally, even ones that let in children unattended.

This was only a few months before the fire but the accusation was never brought up at the Laurier Palace Fire inquiry.

Cops, apparently, were given free tickets for their children to convince them to turn a blind eye to transgressions. I read that one Constable lost three children in the Laurier Palace Theatre fire and that underscores the point.

Who went to movie houses? The kids of the working class. The inquiry into the fire acknowledged this. It's the only entertainment they could afford. The Catholic Church joined with the Presbyterian types to get this unique law passed, jumping on this tragic event opportunistically. Both churches had lost a lot of their "customers" to the motion picture show since 1908 or so. Monsieur Ouimet said Sunday was his best day.

(Ironically, the Catholic Church was a big investor in the new Nickelodeons in Montreal.)

I heard a Brit reminisce about early movie houses on BBC Radio Four. It seems, that in many cases, kids were the only ones who could read so their parents and grandparents, often immigrants, wanted the kids there with them.

As is well know, 1927 saw the first Talkie, the Jazz Singer.

Today, Quebec has very lax laws. I don't know if kids go alone..well, they do but in groups at the Cineplex.

Irony. My mother in law, born 1917, tells me that she and her sisters and friends got into movies underage by dressing up like grown women, makeup and all. And by behaving properly, too. I don't think that's what the Moral Reformers had in mind....(Law of Unintended Consequences.)I found a picture of her dated 1929, and she did look very grown up. I was startled. They had no 'teenagers' in those days.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

The Jewish Question in Montreal Schools 1913

Education in Quebec is always a sticky issue, especially when concerning money and language.

But I'm living in the past, 100 years ago, when it cost money to go to school, elementary and high school, let alone college and when the issue in education in the Protestant sector was "the Jewish Question."

I am writing Biology and Ambition, about Marion Nicholson a teacher in Montreal in 1909-1913, the follow up the Threshold Girl (about her younger sister Flora in 1911/12 when she attended Macdonald Teachers College) and available on free ebook, and Diary of a Confirmed Spinster, about her older sister Edith, who was a teacher at French Methodist in Westmount in the same era.

The ebooks are based on real letters, but I am weaving into them political issues. Marion's political issue is this Jewish Question and I have been reading up.

In 1909, an MLA, Mr. Finnie, introduced a bill in the Provincial Legislature, allowing for the Directors of the Protestant Board of Education to be elected rather than appointed.

In those days most of the Board Members were clergyman. (It is always said the Catholic Church had too much power in Quebec in the old days(keeping the people down) but so did the Protestant Clergy. The difference being the Protestant Clergy promoted education, as their constituency was more elite.)

There is a heated debate and a Commissioner, Dr. Barclay slurs the Jews and has to backtrack a bit. Also P Mackenzie, the member for Richmond ( and a 'friend' of the Nicholsons) seems to argue against the bill.  Finnie and his supporters say that the Board has to have more businessmen. Most Board Members are Clergymen. He brings up to recent fires in Montreal Schools (one in Marion's Royal Arthur in 1909 and one other one where a teacher and some students died.)

It is a private members bill and is quashed early on. Those for the bill, Finnie and others, claim that the clergyman are just trying to save their good jobs.

But during that period, apparently, a lot of fear mongering happens, saying that Jews will take over the Board and change the Christian character (at least two schools in Montreal are overwhelmingly filled with Jewish students.) And that Jewish teachers will be allowed to teach and they too will start preaching their religion in the schools. (The Canadian Jewish News reminds people that Jews don't proselytize like the Protestants do.)

Anyway, by 1913, Jewish Teachers are allowed to teach. The Board has consulted its lawyers (Greenshields!) and they said it is legal as long as Jewish Teachers don't teach Bible Class.
(From Images Montreal)
The New Royal Arthur, Canning and Workman in Ste. Cunegonde or Little Burgundy. The school was built in in the 1860's, but partially burnt in 1909, when Marion was a teacher, but in January when empty. Her mother remarks, " I read about the fire. Is that your school? It is so lucky school was out."

A Dr. Scrimger is all for the bill. He is a preacher very familiar to the Nicholsons. He preaches at Macdonald when Flora is there and she remarks upon it to her father.

I see by reading the papers that the Jewish Question of Representation on the Board was still going strong in 1965 when I was at school.

Anyway, this story will be edited into Marion's actual letters. She doesn't mention it. Oddly, none of the 1909 letters I have mention the typhoid epidemic either. It killed people in Westmount and Ste. Cuengonde, so both Edith and Marion must have been aware. I'll have to add something about that. My play Milk and Water (taking place in Montreal in 1927) covers that issue well.

Another thing Marion didn't talk about directly in letters was about the classroom. I guess that was confidential. Too bad, I'd like to know what went on.

The only time in a letter she remarks on students is in 1906, her first job, as a summer teacher in a town in the ET. She says she has two new students, the dirtiest people she ever saw and both dunces. She names them and asks her Dad if he knows the family. Beginner's mistake, I guess.

I will put the letter in the book, changing the names and place. It speaks to why teachers didn't want to work in rural schools.

In the same letter she mentions she is bored to death because there is nothing to do and she asks Mom to send some needlework, 'fancywork.'

When she starts work in a city school, there's no  time for such things. 50 children. And plenty of outside distractions, like Dominion Park and the Nickelodeon!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Naturalism, Realism and my Furies

 British Suffragette Caroline Kenney, sister of famed militant Annie Kenney, came to Montreal in late 1912 to start a militant movement in Montreal - but she claimed to be looking for a job as a teacher. (She did work as a teacher on the Montreal Board in 1913-15) Read Furies Cross the Mersey on Amazon Kindle.

I am reading Colette's first novel, Claudine at school, and she (Colette/Claudine) talks about the first books she read, her mom's books.

And she talks about Emile Zola. Her father didn't want her to read Zola but her Mom gave her a few of his less spicey novels.

Then I looked up the definition of naturalism vs. realism...Zola vs. Tolstoy.

Naturalism supposes that humans are just a higher form of animal, apparently. I thought it had more to do with depicting everything in great detail, like Zola does.

Realism is merely writing about real people in realistic scenarios.

I call Furies  a docu/novel, because it is based on (and contains) historical documents. One third of it is, anyway. 

Another third is based on family letters. (Can't get more realistic than that.)

And another third is pure fiction, with a Hollywood story-line and a satisfying and happy ending, although the by-the-book romance FURIES contains does not end in marriage.

The story line based on family letters ends in marriage because that is what actually happened. My husband's grandmother, Marion Nicholson, got married to Hugh Blair in 1913. Their entire up and down courtship is detailed in these 300  letters.

But, in Furies Cross the Mersey, as it happens, I do try to stick some Darwinian elements in. How could I not? Carrie Derick, the star of the story, was a McGill Botany and Genetics Professor, who gave talks all over the country citing Darwin and Mendel, etc. in support of her eugenics theories.

And I do make some of the Ladies of the Montreal Council of Women sometimes act like animals, with all their chatter, while looking like flowers, with their big hats and other adornments. My kind of naturalism.

And I do have Carrie Derick bump into a table with a baboon's skull on it...a tip of my hat to Darwin, in a scene at McGill Principal Peterson's home.

Sir William Van Horne, apparently, played a trick on Peterson once, with a simian skull. 

Tuesday, May 12, 2015


Here's a picture my son took the other day hiking in New Zealand. Surreal landscape,like in a movie.

I got up early today and looked to see if there was any commentary online about  the penultimate episode of Madmen, only to discover that a zillion paragraphs have already been written, many by 'top' critics and and listed on Rotten Tomatoes.

Betty Draper finally gets some respect, and for dying.

All this prose about just one episode of one television program.

I know this is the Information Age, and I love nostalgia about the 1960's as much as anyone, but, hey, real life still happens.

At least for now.

Media critics need to get out there and take a hike. And so do their readers, like me.

Like my son did last week. He was inspired, of course, by Lord of the Rings.

Here's a link to my 1960's story, Looking for Mrs. Peel, in reference to another iconic TV Show.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Book Mentors, Book Reviews and Best-sellers, then and way back when

Colette, third right, in her small hat in 1913, ahead of the fashion, of course. This was from a 1937 Marie Claire, comparing Royalty and Celebrities and their fashion sense. Royalty was always behind the times. Colette was hired to write a beauty column for Marie Claire upon its launch, but she never made her deadline, so Marcelle Auclaire the Editor took over and wrote all the features in the first few issues herself.

I'm reading Claudine at School in French, Colette's first novel, attributed at first to her husband Willy.

I do like Colette.

I downloaded the novel from Gutenberg, but somehow I wish I had the hard copy. (You can download a novel or an ebook, but you can't download a book, right?)

Reading on a Kindle or an Android lends itself to grazing, I'm half-way through about 3888 ebooks I've downloaded from all over the place.

Once again, I checked out the Internet, to see what books were best-sellers at the turn of the Century. Claudine at School was written in 1900, but not a best-seller.

I noticed that the books (yes, books) I read in my late teens and twenties were American best-sellers from the 1920's to the 1940's.  My mother had recommended them to me! Just another instance where having a mentor is important.

And then there were the ads for the Book of the Month Club in all the magazines.

The books I read in my 20's comprised the classic literature of today, Virginia Woolf et al.

 I think I got the New York Times Review of Books back then, too.  I read a lot of current bestsellers like the Secret of Santa Vittoria and Breakfast of Champions.

So it goes.
My grandmother drew herself in her cell at Changi and left behind a memoir I used in my story Looking For Mrs. Peel.

Yesterday, I saw something come across Twitter (SQUIRREL!) that advised e-book authors to be sure to get recommendations before they published any ebook online.

Fine and dandy. But I don't see how getting your friends to give you book 4 stars means anything.

Here are my e-books, based on Canadian Social History from 1910 period.

Furies Cross the Mersey, about the 1912/13 invasion of British Suffragettes to Montreal.

Milk and Water: about Montreal City Hall in 1927, during the era of American Prohibition.

Diary of a Confirmed Spinster about the Rossmore Hotel Fire in Cornwall in 1910 and the sad life of a teacher.

Threshold Girl, about a college student in 1910.

Not Bonne Over Here, family letters from WWI, covering all the bases and points of view.

Looking for Mrs. Peel - about WWI and Malaya and Expo 67.

(I must say, I'm still reeling about last night's Madmen and how the doctor ignored Betty Draper when he diagnosed her with cancer, only wanting to talk to her husband. I can't say male doctors treated me any better over the years, the few times I had to go to them.

When I was 30 and went to the doctor thinking I might be pregnant, he laughed at me, suggesting that I wanted a baby so much I was imagining things.. IDIOT!!! And that was 1985.

"Have you ever been pregnant before?"
"Well, then, how can you tell you are pregnant now?"
"I feel unlike I've ever felt before."

Today, of course, I can't get any appointment for weeks, even with  my so-called family doctor, so I just don't bother.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

French/English Politics and Eugenics Fever

In my ebook Furies Cross the Mersey, I  include a scene where Dr. Adami, McGill medical man,  tears into the ladies of the Montreal Council of Women in very rough fashion.

Furies Cross the Mersey is about the British Invasion of Militant Suffragettes to Montreal in 1912/13.

Adami doesn't want them heading the planned October, 1912 Child Welfare Exhibit of which he is President. He insists that the City Improvement League, a bilingual group, heads it.

"All you think about is the suffrage," he says at the April, 1912 meeting.

President Grace Ritchie England and Past-President Carrie Derick and the others are most upset.

True story. It's in the Minutes of the Montreal Council of Women.

Today I am researching the follow up to Furies, called Service and Disservice, about the years 1913-1919.

The Conscription Crisis.

I know a great deal about the Child Welfare Exhibit. I found the brochure at CIHM ( many years ago.

I also found a pamphlet by Adami on How to Raise a Family with the Nicholson Family Letters. ( I have since lost it. He sounded like a quack to me back then before I knew who he was.)

The Yearbook of the National Council of Women for 1913 has a few pages about the exhibit and so do the English newspapers of the era.

But today I found a report that explains Adami's very rude visit.

In September 1911, in the Tribune, a Montreal newspaper serving English Catholics, Dr. Atherton of Montreal calls out to the Catholic community to participate in the upcoming Child Welfare Exhibit.

(The exhibit was long in the planning, and based on similar exhibits in Chicago and New York. Montreal in the 1910 era had the highest rate of infant mortality in the Western World, apparently.)

No doubt they approached the French Catholics too and they refused to participate. That's why Adami shouted out at the Montreal Council meeting, accusing the MCW of being all about suffrage and temperance and into things that turned off the French factor.

No kidding.

How about eugenics, Dr. Adami? Carrie Derick's pet project was eugenics. She prepared the "heredity' screen for the Child Welfare Exhibit. (No doubt it had a bit about the ridiculous Jukes/ Edwards study. )

 Adami was a proponent of eugenics too. Apparently, McGill University was eugenics central in Canada in 1910. That's according to the Oxford Book of Eugenics.

Funny, the Chicago and New York Child Welfare Exhibits didn't seem to have eugenics displays but the Pittsburg (I think it is) Child Welfare Exhibit was specifically called the Child Welfare and Eugenics Exhibit.

Now, in my book I have Dr. Ritchie England  counter Adami by saying the Council has an excellent relationship with the Federation St Jean Baptiste, the French Women's Umbrella Group.

True, the two groups teamed up in 1910 to help put a Reform Ticket in at City Hall. They did this by getting out the spinster vote.

They also teamed up on February 1912 for that election, with less sterling results.

But, in 1914, the Federation bowed out of the elections. It is explained in a short note in the MCW Minutes.

Did the October 1912 Child Welfare Exhibit have something to do with it?

Madame Gerin-Lajoie's notes for a speech. She was a talented writer in both languages, even if her English Grammar wasn't great. She spent a lot of time pleading with Catholic leaders all over the world to let women have the vote,to help children mostly, but she had to bow out of the movement when her Monsigneur Roy (from my family tree, as it happens) told her to.

In Therese Casgrain's autobiography from the 1970's she claims to admire Dr. Ritchie England but says nothing about Carrie Derick.

Derick advocated birth control to eliminate 'defectives' from the gene pool. She is the reason there was a 'secret' classroom in my Montreal Elementary School in the 1960's with a few Down's Syndrome students and such. We saw them occasionally, walking in the hallway, but never mixed.