Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Service and Disservice, Chapter 5 Carrie Derick.

Emmeline Pankhurst and Carrie Derick

Service and Disservice: Chapter 5. About the iffy involvement of the Canadian suffragists in the 1917 Conscription Crisis. 

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  of the Montreal Suffrage Association, to be specific.

Everything I want you to know.

Had I wanted you to know more, I would have left behind diaries and letters, like Flora Macdonald Denison or Madame Gerin-Lajoie. But, no. I didn't save rough copies of my speeches with lines crossed out, or little notes, all blotched, penned on the back of cafe menus, and the like, to be archived  for 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 any of my speeches, and I gave many 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 Therese 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 them over. I was in my 70's was in sharply declining healthy. I had quit McGill four years, 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 friend 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 of half women and half men.

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

I went straight to the launch of the bilingual La ligue des Ddroits de la femme in 1922, with Dr. Ritchie England and me leading the English side and Mme Marie Gerin Lajoie leading the French side and then I described how Mme. Casgrain took over the reigns of the organization in 1927.

Quebec women hadn’t won the vote by 1933. And in some ways you can blame Mrs. Hamilton and the Toronto Suffragists for that. It wasn’t only the Roman Catholic Church and Napoleonic Code that made it so difficult. There were scars, you know. Much bitterness.

Yes, it’s all in the minute books.

(I’m guessing it isn’t in the history books. Otherwise, why would you bother to ask me?)

Yes, look in the minutes books. I couldn’t edit those down.  The editing of minute books takes place on the fly. It's an art, really.

Most of what you want to know is in the minutes. Some of it, anyway.

At that same 1933  luncheon,  Mrs. Casgrain told the group assembled that I was a great Canadian lady and that my name would go down in history. Has it?  Do school children struggle to remember how to spell my name at exam time?

No? Well. That puts me in good company, I guess.

Yes, go read the minutes of the Montreal Suffrage Association if you want to know what I was up to in 1917, with me and my association.

 I may have whittled the MSA documents  down to the essentials before I passed them on to Mme Casgrain, but no one can accuse me of being a slacker when it comes to proper governance, or maintaining proper records.

No one can accuse me of being a Mrs. Flora MacDonald Denison or a Mrs. Constance Hamilton with respect to that.

When we created the Montreal Suffrage Association in March, 1913, we did it all on the up and up.  We wrote a Constitution and Articles of Incorporation. We wrote a mission statement, a very general one: ‘to promote suffrage.’ And, to make sure only the right kind of people would be able to join our new organization, we put it in the by-laws to that effect. “Anyone  could become a member of the MSA, but only upon nomination by the Executive Committee and  approval at a general meeting.”

If that doesn’t sound fair to you, if that doesn’t sound in the spirit of true democracy, either, let me explain.

We could not open our new suffrasge organization to just anyone  in the city. There were some people out there, some young folk, some excitable young women, specifically from the UK, who wanted to hijack our movement, our Montreal suffrage movement and make it more British or more American in style.

And these excitable young women scared a lot of people, a lot of our elite men and women, who otherwise were quite willing to entertain the idea of woman suffrage, seeing the value in it, seeing how it could be used to stabilize our society in a time of roiling change.

These people did not understand that Quebec is a place unlike any other.

Was I scared of these girls? Absolutely not!  As if I would be afraid of any young woman or man. Me, a college professor.   I wasn’t even intimidated by Mrs. Pankhurst or her daughters.  But, I understood the situation, the situation in the province all too well. Being Quebec born.

As President, I  carefully curated every word that came out of the new suffrage organization, out of necessity, with one unhappy exception, in the summer of 1917

The time Mrs. Constance Hamilton, that Torontonian, Chairman of the Women's Section of the Win-the-War Committee, beat me at my own game.

So what questions do you have for me, precisely? You think a  lot of what I said, back then, was contradictory?

Well, I didn’t get where I was, the first female full professor at a Canadian university only by brains, hard work and good fortune.

I was a political animal, first and foremost,  with a grounding in the Greek and Latin classics  and the  art of rhetoric as good as any high-quality lawyer;  and if anything is true about the game of politics, you can’t always say what your mean, especially to the Press, and you can’t always mean what you say, either, especially in difficult times.


Especially during a time of crisis, a time of war.

I’m guessing little as changed in your time. Am I right?

So, you think that because I was a VP of both the National Council of Women and the National Equal Franchise Union in 1917, as well as President of the Montreal Suffrage Association and Past-President and Life Member of the MLCW that I was privy to all and everything that was going on at that time in Canadian suffrage circles, even during the undignified national debate over the Wartime Elections act.

And most of that, you think, I probably did not include in any Montreal minute books.

You may have a point, but, to tell the absolute truth, when it comes to the critical period,  May, 1917 to December, 1917,when Votes for Women was being debated in Parliament and on Peel and Sainte Catherine, I was preoccupied not with politics but with something much more traditionally feminine. I was busy with the canning and preserving of food – so critical at that junction of the war.
During the Conscription Crisis, itself, December 1917, when the riots were happening in Quebec, I was giving talks on heredity to women’s groups in the Ontario, raising funds for the MSA.  

In other words, I tried to stay clear of the controversy, right at that time. I tried to steer the Montreal Suffrage Association clear of the controversy, too, and might have succeeded, were it not for that game-changer, that major slip up in the summer of 1917, where I surrendered control of the message to others at the MSA and paid dearly for it. The whole country did.

Well, it all unravelled from there on, didn't it?

Mrs. Torrington of the National Council of Women and Dr. Ritchie England of the Montreal Council of Women both finding themselves in hot water. The French never forgiving us.

OK. So it is 1917. The war is been dragging on and food preservation is now a top priority in patriotic circles.

The other top priority is getting more more men to the Front. Fodder for Cannon, as Mrs. Weller liked to put it. That was certainly Premier Borden’s priority. And he made it our priority, the women of Canada’s priority, by, in turns, cajoling and praising us  in the Press and by censuring us in private.

He put the dirty task of finding new recruits at the top of our to-do list. Knitting socks and rolling bandages and raising money wasn't enough.   

Don’t get me wrong. I had been on-side with the war effort from the very beginning. In September, 1914, just a month after war was declared, I called a meeting of the executive of the MSA and said, “We have been asking for our rights, now it is time to do our duty.”

I can see now that the statement made no sense, but I was a natural when it came to the vacuous Press Statement.

I volunteered immediately to start  a Khaki League, to provide soldiers, coming and going, with lodging, laundry services and wholesome entertainment.

In the summer of 1915, I followed Mrs. Weller and Mrs. Scott to the Eastern Townships,  as far as my hometown of Clarenceville, near the US border, and gave recruitment speeches under the guise of suffrage speeches, “Women, Suffrage and War” and such, although we didn’t characterize them as such in the Montreal newspapers.

And, when Mr. Borden came back from England, asking for 500,000 new Canadian recruits, I spear-headed a motion by the Montreal Council of Women in favor or mandatory overseas service.

(Not Conscription! I never said that, whatever is written in the minutes.)

The resolution was passed and sent to the National Council of Women who sent it to all the locals and it was ratified by 11 locals and rejected by 7.

Add to this the fact that we women in the province of Quebec raised more money for the war effort than women anywhere else, and you can hardly characterized our province as being a province of slackers.

But, Mrs. Constance Hamilton did just that. And she made it seem in the Press, she made it seem to Premier Borden, as if we at the Montreal Suffrage Association were in agreement.

And, all because I was out of town in July, 1917

Service and Disservice: Chapter 4 Constance Hamilton.

Service and Disservice, Chapter 4
(This is part 4 of Service and Disservice, about the iffy involvement of the Canadian Suffragists in the Conscription Crisis. The book is the follow up to Furies Cross the Mersey.)



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 emergency legislation, maybe?

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 stressful 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 say 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.  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, all the 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.  I was asked to give a speech to the women in the audience.

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, upon our launch, when half of the 2,000 members of the Canadian Suffrage Association, and 3 of the 5 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. 

We were the suffragists in Canada responding to the challenges of the new industrial era, in short, the problems of the city.

I said this in the press in March , 1914.  I declared the Canadian National Suffrage Association, under Flora Macdonald Denison  to be “ unprogressive, bound up with the militant suffragettes, a small clique of Toronto women who have the affairs of the association under their thumb."

But, things changed fast. A great war was declared. (Well, we didn't know it at the time.)

In July, 1915, a year into the war,  I called another meeting at my house in Rosedale, not to discuss votes for women, but to figure out how we Toronto suffragists women should conduct ourselves in a time of crisis.

I hadn’t been a woman suffrage advocate for long, so I was particularly sensitive to the slurs in the Press against the Canadian suffragists.

People implored us to put aside our relatively frivolous Votes for Women fight for a much greater, much more important fight. They said we were wrong to push our selfish agenda in a time of grave crisis.

In my heart, I had to agree.


So I launched myself and most of my followers into war work – and work there was.

Fundraisers, teas and sings to organize, bandages to roll, socks to knit, chocolate and cigarettes to be gathered up for the comfort boxes for our fighting men.  And the list grew by the day.

A small handful of NEFU members continued with suffrage work. During the war they mostly pushed paper around, answering correspondence where necessary, sending out literature as requested.

You’d think Mrs. Flora MacD Denison, by then former President of the Canadian Suffrage Association, with all her experience at Simpson’s, would have got down to business organizing a sewing committee or something related, but, no, she chose to go out and to recite poetry with the birds in the wood

It wasn’t all war work with me either: I  continued my good works with the National Council. I was convenor of the Agriculture for Women Committee and second-in-command on the Immigration Committee. 

 Even before the war, in 1912, I lobbied to have more young Canadian women involved in raising poultry, (for there was a high demand and low supply) and orcharding and small fruit, and the canning of foods, all issues that increased in importance as the war dragged on.

 I worked to make it legal for women with relations in Canada, aunts, uncles even brothers to immigrate to the country, as long as these relations owned property.

 There was a servant problem in the country and many young British or Swedish women wanted to come to Canada to work in that sphere, a sphere abandoned by local girls for factory work.

 I was still. very active at the various AGM’s of the National Council during those war years, outside of immigration and agriculture committees, proposing dozens of motions concerning the legal status of women in Canada, pensions for women, women’s patrols, venereal disease, and even one for footwear reform.

So, you see, I didn’t devote 100% of my energies to Winning- the- War, as I declared in my open letter, but it was my clear priority.

Other Council women, too, continued to push for their pet projects during the war, even if patriotic work, with their various clubs and churches, was a priority with them as well.

Sometimes these personal concerns dove-tailed neatly with war-time issues, as with temperance and prostitution issue.

Sometimes, they did not, as with National Council’s crusade to identify and care for the feeble-minded of society, led by Miss Carrie Derick, McGill geneticist, my sometimes friend in the era,  and my sometimes foe.

I will always owe that Montreal woman a very special debt. She was the one, who, in 1912, convinced me that women should get involved in municipal politics, for social reform purposes, and I, in turn, convinced the Toronto Council of Women.  This led to us getting interested in woman suffrage at all levels of government.  

The Montreal Council of Women had had great success in 1910, getting the spinster vote out and getting a Reform Ticket into City Hall.

So, I started up the Toronto Equal Franchise League, a fifth Toronto Suffrage Society.

Up until then my chief concern had been with getting city women back to the farm, a safer and more wholesome environment.  

The Powers-That-Be  in Canada concurred with me, with the Macdonald-Robertson Movement for Rural Education.

They aimed to teach farmers new scientific skills, to keep them interested in the vocation, so (I thought) if farmers could learn new skills, why not the wives and sisters of these farmers, too?


For those who called me an elitist, a stuffy Rosedale Socialite, with my concerns for the Servant Problem, I won’t name names, I’d like to bring to your attention a debate at the 1917 NCW AGM.  

It was asked whether the Council might adopt the Union Label, specifically the label of the Union of Typographers, whose policy was to give equal pay for equal work. I was the one who said yes, Miss Derick wanted it to go to a special committee.

I also tried to start a suffrage society for working women. So, don’t pin that elitist label  on me. But, I’m getting off topic, aren't I?

I wasn't alone. In 1915 Canada, in wartime, almost every lady involved with that National Council of Women of Canada  put their heart and soul in patriotic work. 

 Anything that could be done, was done. 

You could have reached to the Moon and back with the bandages rolled in dingy back rooms for the cause.  But, it was never enough. For next few years, Premier Borden kept sending us at the National Council of Women  emissaries with one clear message: the women of Canada were not doing enough.

That Canadian women too infused with ‘the joyriding’ spirit, his emissaries said. They didn’t want to make the sacrifices their sisters in Europe were making.

What Borden really meant was that we weren’t doing enough to get our men to enlist. We weren’t doing enough to get other women to get their men to enlist.

As early as 1915, recruitment figures in Canada were falling short. That’s when the  National Council passed a motion to use moral persuasion to get men to enlist.

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 for  'mandatory public service' for both men and women.

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 she turned against me, in 1917, during those perilous times,  against Premier Borden and against the entire country and the war effort.

My opinion, anyway.


Monday, February 8, 2016

The Duchess of Duke Street and Canadian Suffragists in 1917

My copy of Atlantis from 1975 about the Canadian Suffragists during WWI.


Well, more and more stuff comes online each day.

Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax has posted back issues of Atlantis, the Women and Gender Studies journal - and with it, two articles that mirror my ebooks about the Canadian Suffragists.


One is English Militancy and the Canadian Suffrage Movement by Deborah Gorman and the other is The Wartime Elections Act of 1917 and the Canadian Suffrage Movement by Gloria Geller.

The first piece covers the same territory as my Furies Cross the Mersey, available on Amazon Kindle.  The second, the same territory as Service and Disservice, a work in progress.

 I read the Geller article two years ago. A copy of the Atlantis issue containing it is somwhere in my basement.

Both of these articles are from around 1975. That's a long time ago. 40 years ago, yikes! I was in my first year of university.

 Gorman writes a lot about Miss Barbara Wylie's 1912 visit to Canada, saying it was pretty ineffective, indeed, hubris on the part of the W.S.P.U,  but ignores the Quebec side of things.

She doesn't mention Caroline Kenney (sister of famed militant Annie Kenney) being in Montreal at the same time. That's not I surprise; I figured that out by myself only last year.

So, 1975 is the very last time someone addressed these historical events.

The Duchess of Duke Street was on PBS back then. (I just watched an episode of that on YouTube yesterday.) So was Upstairs, Downstairs.  Remember that great show? Why doesn't someone do a re-make? :)

Next year will be the anniversary of the Conscription Criss, an event that may have changed the course of Canadian history.

And women were involved. Who would have guessed?

Now, upon reading the Geller article for a second time, I can see that she believed that Constance Hamilton of the National Equal Franchise Union and Mrs. Torrington of the National Council and Mrs Gooderale of I.O.D.E. had a part in fashioning the Wartime Elections Act.

Those women who supported Borden and were instrumental in determining the nature of the Act itself were, as noted above, Mrs. A.E. Gooderham, President of the I.O.D.E. (Independent Order of the Daughters of the Empire), Mrs. L.A. Hamilton, Chairman, Women's Section of the Win-the-War League and President, National Equal Franchise Union, Mrs. F.H. Torrington, President of the National Council of Women. p.103.

It is commonly believed that Arthur Meighan or Nellie McClung were the culprits.

(Geller did not consult the minutes of the Montreal Suffrage League or the Montreal Council of Women. She did consult Carole Bacchi's master's thesis on Canadian Suffrage which became a doctoral  thesis which became the definitive book on the subject of  the Canadian women's suffrage movement - published around 1980.)

Of course, I agree with Geller.That's the key point in  Service and Disservice, where I tell this unheralded story from the point of view of five Canadian suffragists, three of them from Montreal.

Emmeline Pankhurst, Carrie Derick and some 1912 headlines about British Suffragettes in Canada.

But, since Mrs. Gooderham complained in the Toronto Press about the secretive way things were handled by Hamilton and Borden and since Mrs. Torrington told the Montreal Council of Women that she didn't know what she was doing when she signed a public letter in support of the Wartime Elections Act, I'll go even further and say it was all Mrs. Constance Hamilton (conspiring with folks in the PM's office) . In 1917, Hamilton was a passive on-hold President of the NEFU and a very active member of the Women's Section of the Win-the-War Committee.

 I have the evidence, the smoking gun, as it were, and it involves Carrie Derick of Montreal. It seems she dropped the ball in the summer of 1917  and let Mrs. Hamilton do an end run around her. (That's not mixing metaphors, is it? The Superbowl was yesterday.)

I think Carrie Derick (President of the Montreal Suffrage Association; Past President of the Montreal Local Council of Women; VP Education Chair of the National Council of Women and, yes, VP of the National Equal Franchise Union)  could have stopped this game-changer from unfolding.

Indeed, Derick tried very hard, but she let up just at the wrong moment, in July 1917, when Mrs. Hamilton held an emergency meeting of the National Equal Franchise Union (which had been dormant since the War began) and got a Mr. C.M.  Holt, Pankhurst-hating VP of Miss Derick's Montreal Suffrage Association to send her an hysterical sounding 'resolution' (that wasn't really a resolution since there was no formal meeting, no quorum, no motion, or no record of said resolution in any minutes) seeming to support anything that would keep unpatriotic 'slackers' from voting, a resolution that was printed up in the Toronto newspapers - and probably lead Premier Borden to believe that Quebec women would be on-side with him should he have no choice but to call an election.

The very next day the local  Women were invited to participate in the Toronto August 2, Win-the-War meetings.  (They only had only two days to prepare, it was said, just two days to find 2,000 participants.)

The next day those infamous telegrams were sent out by Torrington, Gooderham and Hamilton, asking  elite women 'from sea-to-sea' (secretly) whether Borden would win an election if Canadian women could vote.

The answer came back NO.

Derick and Ritchie England received the telegrams, it is written in MLCW minutes, but there is no way to know how they replied, or whether they replied at all - or whether they received the telegrams only much later because they were out of town.

They didn't have to answer: everyone knew the situation with respect to Quebec.

Both Derick and England were keen to make sure ALL Canadian women got the vote when it happened. Many people, and some MP's, were pushing to give the federal vote only to women who already had the provincial vote. That would leave Quebec women out.

These two Montreal women were very much against limited suffrage of any kind - and Dr. England, at least, paid a price for her strong views.

Carrie Derick got Constance Hamilton back, a bit,  by formally protesting against the Wartime Elections Act in her capacity as President of the Montreal Suffrage Association, forcing Borden to write her back a tense letter of explanation. It  was all about foreign women out West, he said in the  letter. (Borden wrote the same letter to the French Federation St. Jean Baptiste.)

Yes, the P.M. seemed angry and impatient in his letter.

Derick had tried to get a similar protest resolution passed by the Montreal Local Council of Women, but too many women walked out on that meeting, apparently, so the motion was 'lost'.

That's why I don't believe Derick simply allowed Mr. Holt to send that crazy, bogus resolution to Hamilton in July, 1917.  It is claimed in the minutes that Mr. Holt and Mrs. Scott were the only two members of the MSA executive in the City.

Derick's had always controlled the message at the MSA but, at the time, Derick, a McGill botany professor, was busy working on the vital issue of  food conservation.

She had also locked horns with Hamilton, in May, 1917 over Quebec and the federal vote. There is some evidence,too, that Derick tried to wrest the NEFU from Hamilton at that time.

And, at the 1918 AGM of the National Council of Women, the NEFU reported that after some period of  upset over the Wartime Elections Act their membership came together in a spirit of patriotism; The Canadian Suffrage Association, a more pacifist suffrage organization,  bit the bullet and said the Wartime Elections Act may have been a silver lining in a dark cloud; while the Montreal Local Council of Women discussed only their program for the feeble-minded in their report to to the AGM and the Montreal Suffrage Association published no report at all.








Sunday, February 7, 2016

Service and Disservice Chapter 3, Kathleen Weller

This is Chapter 3 of Service and Disservice, about the iffy involvement of the Canadian Suffragists in the 1917 Conscription Election. It is a follow up to Furies Cross the Mersey.




Mrs. 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  was.)

By 1919, 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, federally, had already won the right to vote and in Quebec it was just the beginning of a long campaign to win the provincial vote – and  I wasn’t invited to that party.
From then on, it was all Dr. Ritchie England and Professor Derick and Madames  Gerin-Lajoie and Casgrain of La Ligue des droits de la femme.

No Britishers need apply.

Upon the dissolution of the Montreal Suffrage Association, in 1919,  an anonymous letter to the Editor was published in the pages of the Montreal Gazette, complaining that only 17 of 300 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 turning against Borden’s Union Government during the 1917 election, and for making a formal protest against limited suffrage and the Wartime Elections Act.

This was a big embarrassment for some members of the MSA Executive, who had led Premier Borden to believe MSA would  be on board with any plan he might concoct  to win the war.

As this letter said, many members of the MSA quit the organization, right then and there,  in protest.
This same letter also brought up my name, but in a kinder context, explaining  I had done good work for the MSA during the war years.

“Much effort was put into the organization in the early days, most notably by Mrs. John Scott, Mrs. H.W. Weller and Mrs. Mindon Cole, all of whom had an excellent record in war work.” 

By the way, everyone in suffrage circles knew the letter was written by novelist Frances Fenwick Williams. Who else could have written such a letter?

“We may ask “Who Killed Cock Robin?” but the question of who killed the Montreal Suffrage Association need not go ringing down the corridors of time, for alas the answer is too well known. The arrow that let out the life of the organization was politics, for when its President permitted and even directed the attack on Mr. Borden’s government when Conscription was the issue, then was launched the arrow, tipped with poisonous gall, and like a boomerang brought destruction to its source.”

She had been the one dissenter at the meeting.

Anyway, that was the very last time I’ve ever been acknowledged publically as a pioneering suffragist in Canada.

It is true what Frances says: in late 1914, with most suffragists in Canada dropping the cause for Patriotic Work, I carried on with suffrage propaganda on  behalf of the MSA, handing out hundreds of pamphlets, in both English and French,  at summer fairs in the Eastern Townships, and manning the booths at Dominion Park and even the annual Auto Show.

When I eventually gave up the  suffrage fight, around  the end of 1915, I  did it not for war reasons but to appease  my  husband, H.W. Weller, one of  world’s top electricity men who, for decades, ran the Canadian arm of a giant American company, Babcock Wilcox, out of their Westmount, Quebec offices.

In 1914 and 15, the Montreal Local Council of Women stupidly got involved in an issue entirely unrelated to women’s rights or social reform, a looming 30 year tramway deal.

They also got into an unseemly public battle with French Mayor Mederic Martin, who  called them‘idle ladies’ in the Press.

This embarrassed my husband, H.W. Weller, who was on the Montreal Board of Trade – and well versed in the complex world of transportation politics, especially in Quebec with its precarious French/English balance.

He knew better than to take sides, and I was tainted by association with the Council.  I had no choice but to back out of the MSA.

The Montreal Suffrage Association, technically speaking,  wasn’t the Montreal Local Council of Women,  but those days there were so many women’s groups and so many suffrage groups, everyone, including newspaper journalists, got them all mixed up, which  sometimes was a very bad thing and sometimes, well, it was advantageous, providing a kind of anonymity, unaccountability, especially during those dark days of the Great War.

The 1914 women’s annual lists scores of Canadian suffrage of associations, leagues, societies unions and even one 'club' in Brantford, Ontario.

The Canadian Suffrage Association is listed as THE pioneer organization in a most laudatory way, the brand new NEFU claims to have the elite Montrealer Julia Parker Drummond as Honorary VP, giving them an aura of authenticity.

Toronto has by far the most organizations, five of them, including a Junior Suffrage League. British Columbia, Manitoba and  Ontario have provincial organizations.  There is  a Quebec Provincial Suffrage Association ,under a certain Mrs. Bullock, listed as a member of the CSA, but that organization is of no import.

 The Montreal Suffrage League, started by Caroline Kenney, sister of Annie Kenney, is  left off the 1914 list.

If you can makes sense of all that, you are better than most.

Frances Fenwick William, despite her fine family affiliations, and I, were outsiders, in large part because we were both relatively new to the City of Montreal. I was from Midlands, UK, not far from the home of the Pankhursts, and she was from Nova Scotia.

 Frances did not like Carrie Derick who had stolen her PRESS COMMITTEE thunder at the MSA right from the beginning – and, later when Miss Derick and her followers on the Executive of the Montreal Suffrage Association passed a resolution in protest of the War Times Election Act in 1917, she was livid.

Mrs. Fenwick Williams got very vocal – and emotional -in her support of the Union Government. The rumour was she was the victim of someone in the Prime Minister’s Office.

By 1917, though, she was off the Executive of the MSA, as I was.

Others had taken our place on the MSA executive: Mrs. Hurlbatt of McGill’s Royal Victoria College got back on board the suffrage bandwagon after an hiatus of a few years, and Harriet Langstaff, Quebec’s first female law school graduate, got involved, too.

And there was Mrs. Goodchild, from St Lambert, who everyone knew was Mrs. Williams’ very good friend. A plant, or sorts.

I can’t say I disliked Miss Derick, myself.   You had to admire her gumption, to stand up with the men.

Let’s say,  I wasn’t fond of the way she insisted on taking credit for everything always on behalf of the Montreal Local Council. And she gave so many speeches, on all kinds of subjects, to such a wide spectrum of citizens, over such a long stretch of time, often getting attention in the local Press, well, her version of things usually stuck.

As it happens, the History of the Canadian Suffrage Movement was one of her favorite topics.

She might start by invoking Eve to show she was pious and Sappho (to show how educated she was) and then lead into a mention of the British Movement, John Stuart Mill and Mary Wollstonecraft, to show how modern she was, and then move to the Americans,  and then when it came to the Quebec, well it was always all about the Donaldas, and how Mrs. England defied the Principal of McGill in her valedictory speech by demanding women be allowed into McGill Medical School. And then she’d talk about the Montreal Suffrage Association, founded only in 1913.

She was proud of the fact the Executive was made up of both men and women, although the membership was entirely female. That didn't make sense to me. 

So, if you too believe the Donaldas, McGill's first female students, are the be all and end all, you'll like her take on things.

But let me set you straight: It was the Montreal Women’s Club that got the suffrage ball rolling in Montreal in the Laurier Era. The Montreal Women’s Club, founded by, yes, another McGill graduate, Helen Reid, as a literary club.

The Citizenship Committee of the Montreal Women’s Club, to be exact. That would be Mrs. MacIntosh and me, Mrs. H. W. Weller, (Kathleen to my friends) and about 30 other future-gazing women.

I was also on the Citizenship Committee of the National Council of Women in 1910, as well, that's two years before that organization officially came out in favor of woman suffrage.

In those early days, I did my homework. I was no dabbler, no dillitante. I spent hundreds of hours studying the woman suffrage question and reading up on all the latest literature.

In 1910, I took a particular interest in Lady McLaren’s Women’s Charter of Rights and Liberties.  I combed through her book, sentence by sentence. I discussed the ideas in detail with the other women on our Committee.

You see, I took my responsibilities very seriously, even if I wasn’t a university woman, just a daughter of a well-to-do Derbyshire farmer who had used her position  to marry a hard working, talented and ambitious man.


I was proud of my husband, who for the most part supported my feminist advocacy.   I was no man- hater but I could see how some married women might be.

Let Lady  McLaren explain:

“Women have suffered so much that nothing is further from their wish than gaining equal rights for women, lest any injustice be done to the man or the child, the other two persons in the Human Trinity.

But up to the present time, man, with his wishes, his pleasure, his power has been the only one considered in the legislation. Comparatively recently, the child has risen to a position superior to that of the mother, with much of this gain coming at the Mother’s Expense.

In addition to the many ruthless wrongs which have survived from Barbarous times, much new social legislation contains clauses which entrench on the liberty, property and happiness of women.”

Unlike Canadian suffragists, Lady MacLaren thought the municipal franchise was not a worthy goal:  To confer municipal rights on women is to practically to allow them to work in the public service for nothing and there is little in these rights which confer an actual benefit to women themselves.

She thought women should be allowed to divorce on the same basis as men and that women with no children should be permitted divorce with a five year waiting period.

And she thought women needed the franchise to be able to take care of themselves, financially. Men would never allow them into the workforce without the vote.

I had my own income, due to my parents’ benevolent foresight.  Only part of my dowry went to setting my husband up in  business; and that turned out to be a most worthy investment. He rose to the very top of his profession, as we moved around the world for his many contracts.

 Most women in Quebec lost control of their dowries the minute they married. But in the Province of Quebec I couldn’t keep a bank account of over 2,000 dollars. I couldn’t conceive of not being financially independent, however kind and hardworking my husband.

In those days I also read the play How the Vote was Won, by Cecily and Christopher St-John, that was produced by our Association at the start of war.

I read My Faith in Women’s Suffrage; the feminist writings of Bernard Shaw, Zangwell and the Earl of Selbourne, Lord Robert Cecil, Beatrice Harraden, Elizabeth Robins and Lady Constance Lytton.

In my mind, it was all about fairness, but women, too, could come up short in that area.

Take for example, the Montreal Suffrage Exhibition held for two weeks at the beginning of February, 1913.

That was entirely our idea, mostly my idea.

Now, the Montreal Women’s Club was a charter member of the Montreal Local Council and some people might say I am just splitting hairs when I say one group deserves credit over the other one.

But I like credit to be given where it is due.

Back in October, 1912, when Dr. Adami of the City Improvement League refused to allow a suffrage table at the Child Welfare Exhibit, thinking it would alienate the French, we at the Women’s Club took action. 

We went to the Local Council and suggested we women hold our own suffrage exhibition, something never before done in Canada.

The MLCW provided the seed money, I admit it, but I did all the work – and no one disputed that fact.

My picture was in the newspapers promoting the exhibit, embracing my daughter. It was an old photo, because my daughter, in 1911, was 19, after all. Too old to sit on my lap.

 It was also my idea to given the exhibition a heart-warming  and untimidating Valentine’s theme. 

We displayed dollies  representing countries that already had woman suffrage, like Finland and Australia. We had sweet suffragette chocolates and an excellent home-made tea each day.

And in the basement we sold serious suffrage literature and held a series of rousing debates.

At first, we were vague about the particulars, about who exactly was mounting the event. We didn't shout it out in the Press. The promotional articles didn't mention any names.

That was out of an over-abundance of caution. A month before, the Montreal Gazette had just come out with a long editorial that was very strong against Votes for Women.

Woman Suffrage was a dirty word to many people in Montreal in 1913,and  not only the French citizens.

But, by the end of the first week, it was clear that our Suffrage Exhibition was going to be a popular and financial success.  The  Montreal Local Council began taking credit for the whole thing in the newspapers. By the end of  second week, I had to set the record straight in the Press.

“The exhibit was the outgrowth of a plan formed by a group of workers numbering about thirty from the Citizenship Class of the Montreal Women’s Club. These ladies asked and secured the support of the Local Council of Women, in their enterprise and the results have amply justified, in their opinion the efforts put forth.”

No surprise then, that when the Montreal Suffrage Association finally was launched in March, by the Local Council, I was not asked to be on the Executive. 

We Want Settlers, Not Suffragettes! Where immigration and mlitancy met, in 1912.


Barbara Wylie, Beautiful Militant Suffragette who came to Canada in 1912  for many reasons, it seems.


1912 was the year Canada accepted the most new citizens, in proportion to the population.  That was the 'immigration boom' era.

What the Powers-that-Be were looking for were strapping types to work the farms out west, as in families with lots of boys.  Technical World Magazine of 1910 said they were building a new town a day out in Western Canada.


The ethnicity of preference was the Yorkshireman, except they were finding that men from the North of England didn't make ideal farmers for wheat in the blistering cold.

Non anglos, like Slavs, were better suited to the task.

I've already written a lot about the immigration boom on this blog, about how Maclean's magazine wrote an article about 'refining new citizens' in the same way our refine wheat, through the children, through the schools.


But,  yesterday, while researching my new book Service and Disservice about the iffy involvement of the Canadian suffragists in the 1917 Conscription Crisis where these strapping new citizens were suddenly turned on due to WWI (a follow up to Furies Cross the Mersey available on Amazon Kindle) I came across something new and interesting.

I was looking up Barbara Wylie, the WSPU militant suffagette who came to Canada in 1912 and who I write about in Furies Cross the Mersey.

I've written an awful lot about Ms.Wylie on this blog, too.

Upon her return to England in 1913, Wylie contributed a piece to Christabel Pankhurst's Suffragette Magazine about The Canadian Suffrage Movement. (I'd have to to go England to find out what it says, but I can guess.)

This piece, according to an online academic article The Argument of the Broken Pane, Jane Chapman, Lincoln University, was in response to the CPR's advertising in the magazine.

The Canadian Pacific Railway.

That company was plastering England with ads for new settlers, apparently, but it is amusing to think that they thought the organ of the militants a good place to advertise! And this despite the fact the windows of their offices in London were smashed by these very same suffragettes.

According to the thesis, one advertisement shows a woman out in a field with a cow! (From what I have gathered about suffragettes, they were educated 'new women' who preferred city life.)

Some people responded by saying "We need settlers, not Suffragettes."

From www.historymuseum.ca from the National Archives.

This is especially intriguing, because in 1912, the National Council of Women was trying to change the rules so that unattached women could immigrate to Canada sponsored by any relative, an aunt or uncle or even a brother, as long as they were home-owners.

That was kind of a brash idea. Many people considered women immigrants without husbands a bit of problem. Ahem, likely to fall into prostitution.

The National Council of Women was trying to solve The Servant Problem here.  The rich were finding it harder and harder to find good help.

In the era, the Census shows, many servants were young girls from the UK or Sweden.

Constance Hamilton, President of the Toronto Suffage League (1912) and soon to be President of the National Equal Franchise Union (1914), was convenor of the Immigration Committee on the National Council of Women

Her much older husband, Lauchlan Hamilton was a famed surveyor with the CPR.

Barbara Wylie's brother was a MLA in Maple Creek, Saskatchewan.

So, it seems, maybe, that Miss Wylie's cross Canada trip to England in 1912 was about more than Votes For Women.

For all you know, it was paid for by the immigration people.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Service and Disservice: Chapter 2




Service and Disservice, Chapter 2.

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.



The following is the first part of the 2nd chapter of Service and Disservice, about the iffy involvement of the Canadian suffragists in the Conscription Election. It is a follow up to Furies Cross the Mersey, about the British Invasion  of Militant Suffragettes to Canada in 1912/13.

Mrs. Frances Fenwick Williams.

So, my novels, the Arch Satirist and A Soul on Fire are available for all the 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 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 say 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 the exactly the same?

Most people assumed my unfortunate feminist-sympathies stemmed from my being disappointed in love, my  ill-fated marriage. I had been briefly attached  to an American city planner, a Mr. Williams, in 1910, hence my pen name, but we quickly split up. No divorce, tho.

Let’s say, that it was all carefully planned by my own dear father, a stock market official, as part of a bargain he struck with me over my allowance.

I was a born different, you see. An outlier. Need I go into the details? 

But, I was an outlier with all the right social connections, so I was accepted  into Montreal society scene. Sort of.  Up to a point.

In 1913, I was allowed onto the executive of the brand new Montreal Suffrage Association, along side the esteemed McGill  Professors  and influential, high-minded Presbyterian clergymen and  boffo pioneer woman Donaldas from the Royal Victoria College, with their hard-earned but essentially useless Bachelor of Arts degrees.  

Little ole me, a jobbing author from Nova Scotia.
.

You say that’s where you want me to start, in 1913? Specifically, June, 1913?

Well, that would  be a few months after the launch of the Montreal Suffrage Association, that took place in a disorganized rush in late March, the moment Carrie Derick, the McGill Botanist,  agreed to come on  board as the President. 


As it happens, I do know exactly what I was doing in June, 1913.  I was editing my tabloid, the Montreal Saturday  Mirror, probably working on an article about Annie Kenney, Mrs. Pankhurst’s First Lieutenant.

The Saturday Mirror, launched in February, 1913, contained many complimentary articles about the Mrs. Pankhurst and it was aimed directly at the Montreal Anglo elite, the same women on the boards of the Montreal Council Women and Montreal Suffrage Association.

 Imagine that, if you can.

I had my own column, the Feminist, stuck in with  a social notes column, an art column, a fashion column, a film review column (how avant-garde of us) and an architecture column where we showcased, in each edition, the interior of one of Montreal’s more ostentatious Square Mile homes.

In The Feminist,  I encouraged my readers to write in so I could address their concerns. I identified them only with initials. Very sneaky of me. I could make up anything I wanted. You see, I enjoyed playing the spy.  I was a suffragette mole, after all, sitting on the  Board of the MSA, among all those Pankhurst-hating clergymen.

 I kept my 1912 trip to London to meet with the suffragettes a bit of a secret, tho.  No one needed to know that I had a hand in this British Invasion of Suffragettes to Montreal.

The Montreal Saturday Mirror had no formal offices, so I worked out of my apartment in Westmount. My co-editor was Edward Beck, the Editor- in-Chief of the Montreal Herald and he worked out of his newspaper's St-Antoine Street office.

Yes, in June, 1913, I was editing a long. sympathetic article about Annie Kenney, Mrs. Pankhurst’s  feisty first lieutenant, by a young American journalist, that had been given me on the sly by Annie's sister, Caroline, who was living in Montreal with yet another sister, Nell Clarke.

This Caroline Kenney, if you must know, was the reason the MSA launched, so suddenly, in March, 1913, after over a year of excruciating delays.

In February, Caroline threatened to conduct a "suffrage tramp" from Montreal to Ottawa in the style of American Rosalie Jones.  Her threat made the local headlines!

The Powers That Be in Montreal went into full panic mode!

Suddenly there was a Constitution and Letters Patent and By-laws and a Press Conference presided over by Julia Parker Drummond, Montreal's leading society woman, where the great lady promised the reporters there that night that the Montreal Suffrage Association would be a 'sweet' and 'reasonable' suffrage organization, indeed, a 'sane' organization, unlike,well, you know who.


Did the Montreal Local Council of Women officially condemn the Wartime Elections Act of 1917.

I am writing Service and Disservice, about the iffy involvement of the Canadian suffragists in the 1917 Conscription Election.

It's a follow up to Furies Cross the Mersey, about Carrie Derick's very bad year at McGill and the British Invasion of Militant Suffragists to Canada in 1912/13.


The key question remains: Did the Montreal Local Council of Women officially come out against Borden's 1917 Wartime Elections Act or not?

Simple question, eh? Well, no.

As I write Carrie Derick's testimony for Service and Disservice, I have to figure out what EXACTLY went down back then, and it isn't easy.

I have the 1917 MLCW minutes in front of me. I've read them dozens of times, but still...

Emmeline Pankhurst and Carrie Derick, of Montreal and McGill.

It appears the MLCW executive did pass a resolution demanding that the National Council of Women shout out in the Press that it never supported the Wartime Elections Act, and that Mrs. Torrington, their President, was expressing a personal opinion when she did just that in a 1917 Toronto letter to the Editor.

At this same meeting, Carrie Derick moved to have the MLCW pass a resolution saying that the MLCW go on record as disapproving of the Wartime Elections Act, but that resolution , although written up in the minutes, never was passed.

"That the Montreal LCW reaffirm its belief in the justice and wisdom of the extension of the federal franchise to women upon the same basis as men and that the LC go on record as dispproving of the War-Times Election Act (sic) which discriminates in an undemocratic and unjustifiable manner between different groups of patriotic women."

Too many people had left the meeting by that time. The motion was left for another day, or 'lost' . Both phrases are used in the minutes.

In late 1913, a similar thing happened at the brand new Montreal Suffrage Association, a spin-off of the MLCW, with Derick acting as President.

Someone moved to have the new MSA join the Canadian Suffrage Association, but that motion was left on the table for another day - and it was never taken up again, from what I can see.

Then, in March, 1914,  the venerable Canadian Suffrage Association, led by Flora Macdonald Denison, was denounced by an upstart Toronto suffragist group, led by Constance Hamilton, that soon stole half the CSA's 2000 members, and called itself the National Equal Franchise Union.

Carrie Derick would soon join the NEFU as VP (not doing much during the war with that organization) and then she would have a falling out with Mrs. Hamilton, over this Wartime Elections Act and the anti-Quebec politics surrounding it.

(Hamilton led the charge to keep unpatriotic 'foreigners' and/or Quebeckers from voting in the 1917 election.  Nellie McClung and/or Arthur Meighen are usually given the credit, but Service and Disservice will suggest it was Mrs. Hamilton who 'outsmarted' and out-manoevered the oh-so-clever Miss Carrie Derick in the tumultuous summer of 1917, to make it look to Premier Borden as if Quebec women leaders were open to the idea of limited suffrage.)

Clearly, Carrie Derick knew something was up back in late 1913, when joining the CSA was postponed to a future meeting.

It's all very complicated, and not made easier by ambiguous records kept by the women's organizations at that time, if they kept any records at all.

That was the stated charge against Mrs. Denison, that she was very poor at governance.

And, frankly, that's just the tip of the iceberg, when it comes to the politicking around the infamous 1917 Canadian Conscription Election.