Saturday, August 1, 2015

Revisiting Favorite Novels and Being A Girl


Little Women by Louisa May Alcott was the first 'novel' I read, probably in the 5th grade, back in 1965.

What do  I remember about it? That I liked it, a lot and that Meg, one of the characters, put a clothes peg on her nose to make it slimmer.

I, too, thought I had a fat nose, back then.

Funny what you remember, eh?

Lately, I revisited Little Women, by listening to a French audio tape online. Little Women isn't one of those novels you revisit in order to understand it from a more seasoned perspective.

It isn't 'great literature'. Or is it?

I can't help but deconstruct the book, despite its simplicity.

It's about being 'middle class.' Little Women clearly defines what is to be a middle class girl in the 20th century. (That is, to be as cultivated as a high class girl, but more spirited and more resourceful.)

No wonder it is a classic.

Like the middle class Nicholsons, a real family, explored in my ebooks Threshold Girl, Diary of a Confirmed Spinster and Furies Cross the Mersey, the March are an independent female centered family, although they rely peripherally on men to make their lives better.

Their mother is calm and wise, although it is explained she was not always like so.

The father is away being a doctor in the Civil War (the horrors of which are avoided)...a rich, reclusive neighbour boy befriends them, but he needs them as much as they need him.

Etc. Etc.

Edith and Flora Nicholson, 1913, on the lawn of their home, Tighsolas in Richmond, Quebec


The Nicholsons of Richmond, Quebec, my husband's ancestors were three sisters (and a brother, but he's out of the picture by 1910) Edith, Marion and the youngest Flora whose father, Norman, in 1908-1913 was away working on the railroad.

Their mother, Margaret, is wise, if not calm. She's a bit of a nervous wreck because the family has money problems, caused in large part by her son's debts.

Despite being cash-poor, their family is well-connected and well-respected in Richmond - as they once were prosperous and they stilled lived on a fashionable street in a lovely house.

When the girls move to Montreal to teach, former Richmond families help them out.

I have no doubt that Edith, Marion and Flo read Little Women.. (Was the book popular back in 1910 before the movie version came out? I wonder..... Checked on Ngrams. No Little Women wasn't popular back then. The book soared to popularity during the WWII years, in between two film versions.)

OK. I have a little doubt. (Edith was a Middlemarch kind of girl.)

Me in 1966 with a copy of Big Red, from the same Children's Classics series as my Little Women book.


If the Nicholson women read Little Women, I wonder if they related to the Marches? How could they not?

As for myself, back in 1965, I had two brothers, so I was as much as a tomboy as Jo, on the outside. On the inside I liked all things girlie, horses, pink clothes, Yardley cosmetics, but I wasn't allowed to express this side. No money!

 My father was always at home, by 6 pm anyway. My mother wasn't wise.

That's why the nose-business is all I can recall.

Oddly, I put a line in Threshold Girl that mimics one in Little Women: Magazines sure make you want things. The line in Little Women is The more things you have, the more you want.

I doubt Louisa May Alcott realized to what extent women's vanity would propel the new consumer age, although there were some Department Stores by that time.

Oh, another podcast I listened to in French was about "Body Image" - an extraordinarily complex subject.

The expert has spent years investigating women who undergo plastic surgery. She said she has total respect for these women, but not for the society that creates such women. Consumer society, she says, takes our innate fear of death and fear of not being loved and exploits it for commercial purposes.

No kidding.

A fashion model, speaking next, said she was in Venezuela and was shocked to see that Mom's gave plastic surgery to their daughters for 'coming of age' gifts. That's NOT in Little Women, although I wonder if Meg's fat nose is the equivalent or precursor. Wasn't Meg played by Elizabeth Taylor? Gee, no need for nosework there...but, then again...


Statue at Place Ville Marie. In 1970 I passed the same fountain with a  school friend who said "That's all men want of women."

Emile Zola, Eugenics and Miss Carrie Derick


 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. 

A Suffragette Love Affair - A Real One



The Suffragette Movement is a 'romantic' movement, in that we've romanticized these social activists, to a degree.

It will be interesting to see how Carrie Mulligan/Meryl Streep's new movie, Suffragette, will deal with history. The movie is slated for release in October.

We forget how much these suffragettes were feared and loathed in 1912/13 by many people, even by those people who wanted women to get the vote.

But I've just uncovered a TRULY romantic Hollywood-Style romance about one  of Mrs. Pankhurst's troops.


And, yea, it's got a Montreal angle!

I've written an ebook, Furies Cross the Mersey, about the British Invasion of Militant Suffragettes to Montreal in 1912/13.It's available on Amazon.

Mrs. Pankhurst visited Canada on two occasions to speak. She made just one visit to Montreal, in late 1911.  She was the guest of the Montreal Council of Women. Carrie Derick, Past-President, had requested that she be invited to the city, 'to hear the other side of the question.'

Barbara Wylie of the WSPU came to Canada in early September, 1912 and stayed until 1913.  In her speeches, Wylie  bragged about having been to jail.

The pretty suffragette traveled all the way to British Columbia, during a winter of record cold.

 Then she returned to England and became the spokesperson for Mrs. Pankhurst for a while - and then she got arrested in a protest in front of His Majesty's Theater in London.  You can read all about her Canadian escapades in Furies Cross the Mersey.

Caroline Kenney, sister of prominent militant Annie Kenney, came to Montreal, Canada in December, 1912 and stayed a few years.

Iconic Image of Annie Kenney and Christabel Pankhurst.

I'm the one who figured this out: no biographer had done so before.

 I write about Caroline in my Furies book, too, and will write more in the follow up, Service and Disservice about the years 1913-19 and the Conscription Crisis of 1917.

Caroline came to stay with her older sister Nell in St. Lambert. I have seen her immigration documentation. She intended to stay in the country and work as a teacher.


While in Montreal, she helped found, in late 1913, the Montreal Equal Suffrage League. It was to be a group made up of militants and non-militants.The ESL didn't get much press. Caroline, herself, gave a couple of talks upon her arrival, to a Jewish Group and to the Women's Temperance Union.

She got bad press for her first talk, about the "Evolution of Militancy." Militancy was a very dirty word in Montreal and Canadian suffrage circles in 1912/13, even though many, many women sympathized with Mrs. Pankhurst's WSPU.

Caroline's sister, Nell, had immigrated to Canada in 1909 and married Frank Randall Clarke, a journalist, late of the Daily Mail of London.

 I figured out that Nell Kenney had acted on behalf of Mrs. Pankhurst's militants in 1908 in England. There are mentions of her meetings in Votes for Women Magazine.

And, just lately, I read an account of that romantic 'suffragette' story I told you about.

 Lyndsey Jenkins, an Oxford scholar, soon to release a new biography of prominent British Suffragette Lady Constance Lytton (and now researching the Kenney Family) sent me a certain biographical document saying that Frank Randall Clarke met Nell at an election rally for Lord Asquith, one she disrupted on behalf of the suffragettes.

The police fell on Nell hard, apparently. (Naturally!)  And who came to her rescue? A young reporter covering the Asquith speech, one Frank Randall Clarke.


Clarke fell in love with the suffering suffragette, followed her to her 'safe haven' in England and ...well... the document says he married her in England.. but, that's not right.

I have seen their marriage certificate. They came to Canada in 1909 and married here in Montreal.

It seems that they had to get out of England quickly.

Now, isn't that romantic? Reeealllly  romantic? Hollywood-style romantic?

I'd say so.

I see nothing in the newspapers to indicate Nell worked for the suffrage cause while in Montreal, but by 1913 she had two infants.

Frank Randall Clarke's new place of work, the Montreal Witness Newspaper, was for woman suffrage, but covered the British Suffragettes in the most sensational way! See the pic at top.


Still, I can see from the membership list of the Montreal Suffrage Association that St. Lambert, a community of Anglos south of Montreal Island, was an enclave of suffragists. The MSA had lots of members from that place. (The MSA, upon launch in 1913, promised to be peaceful and reasonabland to go about a quiet education of the people.)

 That seemed weird to me at first.  Why St. Lambert, of all places?

Now, I know why. A dyed-in-the-wool militant suffragette moved there in 1912-13, at the height of the movement, at the height of all the controversy.

Anyway, Frank Randall Clarke became a prominent social activist in Montreal, lobbying for better labour conditions, and the author of the biographical document assumes that Nell helped him along.

His fonds are at the McCord Museum in Montreal. They include photos of the Royal Princes on their Montreal visits, wearing suits so sleek, so finely threaded, they shimmer, and also pictures of homeless men during the Depression sleeping in their rags on park benches.

Whatever, Frank Randall Clarke appeared to adore his wife all through their time together. They had more children.

Nell accompanied Frank on a cross-country assignment  of behalf of CP Rail in the 1930's. A McGill Thesis was written on the project by Ann Lynne Becker. You can read it here.

Diary of Another Peyton Place





Now the other day I saw that the movie Peyton Place was airing on Turner. I watched part of it and then saved the rest. (The movie was more intelligent than I thought it would be.)  I don't think I have ever seen it, although Peyton Place, the term anyway, is iconic. It was a soap opera in the sixties when I was a little girl and all my 'cool' friends watched it, but I didn't. I preferred the Avengers, not based on a true story, I imagine.

I went to Wikipedia to see that Peyton Place was a book by Grace Metalious, a HUGE bestseller, that was indeed based on true stories, but Metalious didn't admit it, but everyone knew. She got into trouble for telling the lurid stories of her prim New England town and then passing it off as fiction.


Anyway, the film (about the 40's) looks great on my big screen HD TV. In fact the Mackenzie living room is done up in my colours Orange, pink and mint green!!

From the Tighsolas letters I can see that Richmond had its share of scandals. Margaret writes "So and So is seeing another woman. His wife was out looking for him. I think he should just throw himself in the Salmon River." There was a divorce, but Margaret referred to it as 'breaking up housekeeping'.

There were no secrets in a small town. Well, that's people hoped. Certainly the Nicholons didn't everyone to know that their son Herb stole from the bank. They couldn't even see it as a theft. That would have turned their world upside down to think a son of theirs was dishonest.


This Story, Diary of a Confirmed Spinster is based on REAL Letters but it's got a BIG fiction aspect. At the BBC Radio Four, where they specialize in history programming, they have a really good term I'll use. My story is a "Re-imagining" of events that took place in 1910 and is based on Real Letters. There's no 'sex' in my story... well, actually, it's all about sex, but middle class Edwardian Style sex.



HBC has arrived.

He is sitting in our casual parlour, the back parlour,  the parlour off the kitchen,  just three feet from where I myself recline in the sturdy cherry wood rocking chair my Mother usually sits in. When she has the time to do so.

She has draped it, I notice, to cover the threadbare  cushion, in the canary yellow afghan I crocheted for her at Christmas.

HBC is staring at me with a look of confusion more than compassion, patiently, maybe anxiously. Waiting for me to say something.  This boyish-looking man with a bit of a cowlick and rather red ears, is politely allowing the shock of it all to sink in.

With his head of otherwise straight blond hair and the beige cardigan he is sporting over  broad bony shoulders, HBC indeed looks rather like a schoolboy, albeit a gangly overgrown one.

And he is so informally dressed compared to me, we make quite the ridiculous pair, but as he explained, he was heading out to Potton Springs with some Montreal friends when he decided to hop off the train at Richmond. And I had invited him to drop by at the first chance, so that is what he did.

There’s no one but God to bear witness as we sit so close together in the family room of Tighsolas, my home. An awkward couple, despite our age appropriateness. Both 27, you see.  In another universe, we could have become suitors.

HBC, the bank clerk, in my mother’s favorite rocking chair and me, the school marm, in my father’s world weary leather wingback.

HBC in his casual country-outing attire, me in my formal frilly white dress.
I look quite the eccentric. Even Miss Havisham –like. Not a look I have previously aspired to, but quite fitting these days, all considered.

When the young man first arrived, and I invited him to come in the house to sit and talk privately in our parlour, I told him to spare me nothing.

I wanted to know it all.  All about the ‘mercy’ trip to Mexico. All about the sudden job transfer to Cornwall, Ontario. All about everything leading up to and right after the fire. That fateful fire. That horrifying fire. That conflagration that converted me in the space of a week from a blushing bride to be, perhaps a little on the ripe side, to an opiate-addled spinster in training.

As HBC began, the small subtle muscles at the side of his face rippled and pulled taut, so I knew there was more to this sad story than even I had guessed. So much much more, as it happens.
I wanted to know. I had to know. Still, I wished on some level that the young man hadn’t dropped in on this particular morning, despite his standing invitation to do so, despite his obligation to do so, as my dear Charlie’s closest friend and ally at work and at leisure at the Bank of Montreal in Danville, Quebec.

Because as he ambled up the street on long, lanky legs, we were all standing out in the street having our picture taken, me, my sisters Flora and Marion and our mother Margaret.  In our white dresses. We were all wearing our spring hats, too, our Easter bonnets, and Mrs. Montgomery, our neighbour, who was taking the picture, was having to back up into the street so that our huge headdresses could get in the frame.

My hat, a huge black shape with pink flowers and Marion’s a small turned up shape, with blue blossoms, had been purchased in April at Ogilvy in downtown Montreal. Mine for 7.50. Hers for 6.50. On April 29th, to be exact, just one day before the terrible event.
 As I made one third Marion’s salary, my purchase was the most audacious, but I was feeling giddy, what with the warming late afternoon sun and the crocuses peeking out of the ground here and there on St. Catherine Street, blue, yellow, and my life on the brink of the DESIRABLE.

Mother’s hat, which she had purchased a year ago locally at Miss Hudon’s  was a profusion of turquoise Japanese peony blossoms, last year’s style. And she was still getting used to the bigness of it. She had added a yellow ribbon in way of updating. Flora’s hat, well, I don’t recall where she got it. It had no up-to-date flourishes, no velvet ribbon, just a few faded sprigs of some imaginary bloom, likely picked from the remainders basket at Miss Goyette’s, the bargain milliner in Richmond.

It was Mother’s idea to get all dolled up in our best frocks and frills  and have a tea party on the front lawn. As we had done in the past, although much later in the summer, and usually to escape the brutal heat in the kitchen.
But it was not hot on the day in early June. There were other reasons. Mother was simply desperate, that’s all. Desperate to save me from my spiralling sadness. Desperate to forget her own escalating set of problems.
So after church (Mr. Carmichael’s sermon was on the Garden of Eden) we ceremoniously slid into our white dresses, a fashion from before the turn of the century , white dresses being genteel dresses, delicate, for they stained easily – that being the point.  Women wearing white dresses had servants to do the wash. Except in our case, it wasn’t true. We washed our dresses ourselves! It took two days, at least (with one sunny day ) to wash, dry and iron our fine, frilly white dresses.

Our genteel impractical white dresses. I read  that Queen Victoria  started the fashion, decades ago, at her wedding, to promote British lace to the world.

As we sat there, teetering on our solid kitchen chairs, on the lawn, my mother’s brainstorm had quite the opposite effect on me.

I could see, through the murk of my black mood, how nonsensical we looked, like something out of Alice in Wonderland. How pretentious even, in our silly super-sized hats and  out of date white dresses.
I felt somehow released from my physical body and I understood how ridiculous we appeared from the street, and I hoped our neighbours were not watching. (But, of course, they were. They always are.)

What with the card table draped in our finest white linen tablecloth, embroidered in blue, out on the soft Spring lawn. And on that our best china and silver tea pot. I felt on display, like an animal in the zoo. Or one of those tasteless exhibits I’d heard about at Dominion Park, the singing midgets or infants in the incubator.
“Step right up ladies and gentlemen. On view the Canadian Middle Class of Prime Minister Laurier’s Time.

Aspiring to the finest life has to offer: opera, theatre, poetry, but so afraid of falling into the lower class. The puzzle is, dear people,  these specimens are actually working class on paper, only elevated by education and sense of entitlement. They have studied Latin, Botany, and Geometry, so are instilled with a love of Beauty, but not always with the means to seek it out. Like peacocks or chameleons, disguising their true domestic situation with ostentatious displays as well as lotions and creams to hide the rough and reddened skin of their hard-working hands.



Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it is True. These particular specimens are UNIQUE to all Canadian society, in that they Wash Their Own Clothing.

Well, this has only been truly lately. Mother had plenty of help in the past, a live-in maid at the turn of the century and various washerwomen since. In the past, it was easy to find someone, often a French woman, to do your dirty work for 10 cents a day. But times have changed.

So, before I could shake myself of this unpleasant idea, I saw him now loping up the road, HBC as I always refer to him in letters. Walking up from College Street  and, I supposed, the train station.

“I was on my way to Kingsey Falls , to see a friend, so I dropped by,” he said. “We’re off on the 3.10 to Potton Springs.  To meet a group of fellows from the bank. I’m sorry, I decided to get off right then and there, about  5 minutes before the Richmond stop. There was no time for a telegram.”

“Yes, but I told you to drop by any time. So please don’t apologize,” I said, wondering if he would want the anchovy canapés we prepared for our tea. Or should I offer him some cold tongue?

We couldn’t ask him to join us for lunch; that would be too time-consuming and uncomfortable.
And it wasn’t the point, anyway. So we quickly passed into the empty house. Straight to the parlour. The casual parlour as there was not time to prepare the formal parlour for a visitor.

He asked me only for a glass of water.

“I’m sorry to have disturbed you,” he repeated. “You are celebrating something? A birthday?”
“Quite the opposite,” I assured him.

I brought him a glass of well-water in a green glass tumbler. And then I asked him to proceed. Without further delay. To tell me all he knew about the circumstances of the death of Charlie G. Right from the beginning. From the trip to Mexico in October up until that dreadful night in late April, the night Haley’s Comet  ominously passed over my Charlie.

I wanted to know the minutest details. All that Charlie was doing the three months since our informal engagement over Christmas, especially whatever he was doing that he didn’t tell me about in his letters.
He couldn’t have spent ALL his spare time in the Presbyterian Church – as he had wanted me to believe. Even I knew that he was saying this only to please me. To prove his conversion to The Way had stuck.
So HBC began, leaning back on the old couch, his right elbow at right angles to his head as he flattened the hair on the back of his head with his palm. His bicep was a muscular one, I noticed, larger than Charlie’s. I guess you call men like HBC wiry, deceptively strong.

But then suddenly taking on the posture of a much older man, possibly imitating his own father or a beloved Academy teacher, he opened his mouth to speak.  About Monterrey. About Cornwall. About the circumstances of the Rossmore Hotel Fire. I think it took about an hour in all; I can’t be sure. And, then, as it all began to sink in, the uncomfortable unpleasantness of it all, the uncleanliness of it. And  I suddenly realized,  with an invisible slap to my face, that I had been protected all these months from truth of the situation, protected by dear Charlie as well as by HBC, his best friend. Protected as we older Nicholson sisters, Marion and I, protect little Flora from the more unpleasant truths about our own dear, devoted, but deeply troubled family.

I had been protected from the real reason Charlie went to Mexico in the first place and protected from the real reason he was transferred away from Danville to Cornwall immediately upon his return.

Worst of all, I had been protected from the knowledge about myself, about my self-defeating female narcissism, my shallow self-absorbed existence.

I had spent the last year believing myself to be the damsel misused and mistreated, because I enjoyed the part of a being tossed in love. I took to my bed like some wealthy habitué in a bad novel, and, true to type, guzzled tonics to my soul’s content, more to elicit pity than to recover from debilitating grief.

HBC articulated it all to me in plain English. Plain enough. At some points I had to read between the lines.
Everything that Charlie had done in the past few months he had done for me, for love of me. Out of desire to marry me – and this as soon as possible.

He did not get cold feet in October when he left for Monterrey after the typhoon. He was not trying to weasel himself out of our understanding in March, when he asked for a transfer to Cornwall.

Charlie was trying to make this marriage happen.
I wasn’t a victim. I was a victimizer.
How could HBC look at me, now? He had to be thinking the same thing as I was.
This handsome man of the middle class, son of a prosperous farmer , now a bank clerk like Charlie (although lacking the latter’s charm)and just  like Charlie, stuck in a reasonably respectable but oh so hopeless  profession.

A reasonably well-educated man, Academy II, with no serious connections in the business world, so no real hope of bettering himself. A young man thinking of moving out West, like just about everyone else his age around the E.T., like even my own dear father.

He had to be thinking:  “If it hadn’t been for you, Charlie would still be alive.”



He would still be alive, my Charlie. And I could sense a sick sensation seeping through little spider vein  like cracks in my pitch black state of mind. I was feeling nauseous. Because the truth was sickening, I guess.  And so ugly.

“So that’s why Charlie spent his off hours in the church. Not to impress me, but to hide from those who would harm him?”

I looked HBC straight in the eye. I noticed he had green eyes, like my sister Marion, but not as watery.
HBC answered nothing. I guess there was nothing for him to say.

He examined the dark oak of the sliding doors that separate the family room from the reception room, the same woodwork my own father had installed in 1896, with such pride, as trim like this added greatly to the cost of the house. But times were good.

HBC finally spoke. “You should know. He wasn’t doing anything illegal. Strictly speaking. He’d want you to know. He wouldn’t want you to think ill of him.”

And with that final word he sprang from the chair to leave.

Think ill of him? How could I possibly. I was the villain in this piece. Not dear Charlie. Dear dead Charlie.
Burned beyond recognition. His body identified only by the tie pin nearby. In that stairwell of the Rossmore Hotel.


Half of his body anyway. (HBC hadn’t told me this first: I had read it in the Ottawa newspaper.)
“I have to catch the next train, “ he said. He had a full half hour, and the train station was 10 minutes away, but I didn’t  argue.

“Are you sure you wouldn’t like a salted pork sandwich for your trip? “I asked out of politeness.
“No, we are planning an early lunch at the hotel in Potton Springs.”

(Men are so lucky. They can eat anywhere, anytime.)


And with that he took his straw boater from his lap and turned about pirouetting elegantly on his lithe muscular legs.  But I knew I had to ask him something more, before he left. As out of context as it was, but there you go.

He was moving toward the door now, “I’ll see myself out, Edith.”
So I stopped him, extending a lacy fore-arm his way.
“Henry?”
“Yes.”
“I have one more thing to ask.”
“Edith?”
“Do you know where I can get some. For my own use?”

Now it was his turn to be shocked.

So I explained.

“I’m running out of medicine, you see. And it’s not like the City here. Everyone knows me. Dr. Moffat is a relation. Mr. Sutherland, the druggist, is a good family friend.”

HBC stared down at me with those engaging green eyes.

“No, Edith, I don’t. I’m sss sorry, “he stuttered.

He folded his hat in his hand. And then he rushed out into the hall and out the front door. I raced into the reception room, and saw him, through the window, blow by my mother and sisters taking tea on the front lawn, without so much as tipping his hat. Well, he could hardly. He had twisted it, like a dirty rag, between his pale fists.



(This book in pdf for is atDiary of a Confirmed Spinsters

Chapter 2: I Survive
But, first, let’s go back to the beginning. But which beginning? The beginning beginning? The I AM BORN beginning? (To once again invoke David Copperfield, which despite appearances, is not my favourite novel. Middlemarch is.)

Easy enough. I am born in January 1884 in a green clapboard rental house in Melbourne, Quebec. 10 months after my parents’ marriage.

I know this because I have been told and also because the proof resides in ink strokes in my father’s Store Book for 1884.

His household accounts that he kept from 1882, before his marriage to 1921, the year he passed away.
Fifty years of family accounts, kept in little black books.

It could be claimed that he entire story of our family is told in these pocket-size volumes, the practical side at least. The down-to-earth work-a-day side.

I was born in early January 1884 because the store book has an entry on the 7thinserting baby’s birth 25 cents. I have survived my first challenge.

Under that breast pump 75 cents. Breast shield 25 cents. Along with one quart of milk 5 cents, a loaf of bread 10 cents, a gallon of coal oil, 25 cents. Two cords of wood 8 dollars and 35 cents. 11 pounds of oatmeal 38 cents. One dozen herring 20 cents. 1 ½ pounds of steak 15 cents. And rent 25 dollars a month. The staples of bodily existence then and today: shelter, heat, light and daily bread.

On February 19th a baby cradle is purchased 3 dollars. And some flannel and some cotton for baby. And on April 28, baby’s picture 25 cents. I have officially arrived. I am sketched in silver bromide.
On June 27, 1 baby carriage 6.37.

A year later, baby’s  first shoes, 1.20. I am now officially a financial burden on my parents. They would spend a great deal on shoes and boots  - and the mending of same - for their 4 children in the following decades.
October 1884, one crib. 2.75. Some wool for baby 2.60.

In June 1886, a child’s broom is purchased. 15 cents and I begin to pay for my keep. In those days they began teaching girls early the womanly arts.

Also purchased that month: baby’s first book. We are Scots after all, who value education above all else. “An education is something they cannot take away from you,” my mother always says.

Still, it’s something of a mixed message, I am being sent, as a 2 and ½ year old. But I might as well get used to it. Being a female, I will be showered with mixed messages most of my life.

Then, the narrative in numbers continues: 1890 to 1895 school fees 25 cents a month. The occasional  slate 5 cents. Bottles and bottles of cough medicine 25 cents each. (Cough medicine had kick in those days.) Later on scribblers 5 -7 cents.  Skating rink 10 cents. Soda at Sutherland’s drugstore 5 cents. (Soda had kick in those days, too.)

Later, pocket money for Edith 5 cents. I guess I was doing a lot more than sweeping by then. Oddly, my younger brother Herb received ‘wages’ for his household chores.

And then I grow up. St. Francis Academy 50 cents a month. Latin text 1.25. Euclid’s geometry 1.00. And I get stockings and gloves at Christmas, just like Mother.

We are living in our own house by 1896, built at a cost of 2,718 dollars, not including landscaping.  My father is by now a well-to-do hemlock bark dealer. Hemlock is plentiful in the E.T. and used in the leather tanning process. Father sells his bark to tanneries in Montreal, New Hampshire and Maine.

The mortgage on our house  30 dollars a month, similar to what we paid on the rental house, but “Tighsolas” or House of Light in Gaelic is ours. And it is a fine house,  a brick encased  Queen-Anne Revival in the good part of Richmond, not far from St. Francis Academy on College Street. (The kind of house seen often in Ontario but fairly rare in Quebec.) My father built the place himself, inspecting every plank, brick and tile. Tossing aside more than he used.

By now I have three siblings, a young brother, Herb and two other younger sisters, Marion and Flora, born 1885, 1887, 1892.

By 1901 I am  ‘fully out’ : corset for Edith 2.35. I start wearing my hair tied up around then, but only at dances. Combs for Edith: 20 cents.

I graduate St. Francis Academy III in 1903 and take a stenography course there. Stenography is an up and coming profession for women.  13.50 for the course. 1.28 for a shorthand book. 5 cents for a reporter’s notebook.

I graduate, with 100 words a minute in shorthand and 45 words a minute in typing, good enough to get a job, but my parents don’t want me going to the city to work. Life in the city, for young working women is a dreary business, at least according to a cousin, Jessie Beacon, in a letter to Mother. Jessie says she works until six at her insurance office, goes ‘home’ to her boarding house for a ‘lousy hash complete with garnish of housefly”  and then dresses for a predictably boring evening.

My parents are intent to save me from such a denigrating existence and seek a job for me in Richmond, but in 1904 jobs in Richmond jobs for young people are few and far between.

Still, money is plentiful at home, despite the fact my father has had to change lines of work. He now sells pulpwood instead of hemlock.  At Christmas there are watches, rings, and perfume given as gifts, over and above the usual stockings and gloves.

In 1905 my younger sister, Marion, leaves for McGill Normal School and adventures in the Big City. My determined little sister has managed to convince my wary parents that the City is safe, as long as she rooms at the YWCA on Dorchester.

And, as Herb works in Montreal, at the E.T. Bank, she is not alone, so my parents permit her to go despite the great cost: 16.50 a month.

Everything in life is timing.

And I am left alone at home with my little sister, born 9 years after me, a financial burden on my parents, who shower me with ‘gifts’ at Eastertime as they feel guilty about Marion: 5.00 for a plaid dress, as plaid voile is all the rage, I read it in the Delineator; 2.35 for a ticket to see the Madame Albani Concert in Sherbrooke. Opera singer Emma Lajeunesse, now in her middle age, is a ‘local’ girl from Chambly made good. She is world-famous, a long-time favourite at London’s Covent Garden. So, (you may have already guessed) this is a huge event. All of the. E. T. seems to want to attend.

At 22, I feel like a debutante about to make her grand appearance under the patronage of a local legend. But nothing comes of it. No young men attend the home-coming concert.

But late 1906 the pulp contracts dry up. To add fuel to this fire, we are disinherited by a wealthy Maiden Aunt on her deathbed.

My brother takes this especially hard.

“Well, now that my house is being given to someone else, I will have to give up all hope of being rich and look at it as a fortune lost,” he writes in a letter home.

“My house? MY house?,” exclaims Marion at Christmas.  She is now working  at Sherbrooke High School. “What has Father been telling him?”

I don’t tell my sister that Herb believes we were disinherited because Old Aunt Maggie did not approve of ‘working women.’

In June 1907 my father is desperate for work, with 33 dollars left in his bank account. He applies to our local Member of Parliament, E.W. Tobin, to work as inspector on the crew building the Canadian Transcontinental Railway.

He receives a polite letter from their offices in Ottawa. They say they have their full complement of inspectors. They acknowledge that Tobin has been in to see them on his behalf.

Then in August a great bridge half built collapses, the Quebec Bridge. It was to be the world’s longest suspension bridge. 78 men die, mostly Mohawks from Cawgnawaga near Montreal.

The bridge was a component of the CTR. Magically, there is a need for inspectors at end of steel and father gets the call to La Tuque, to be Timber Inspector at 100 dollars a month. .”

( It is well known that jobs on the railway are dangerous.)

My mother exchanges one worry for another.

“What is a timber inspector? Is it safe? It doesn’t sound safe. My parents take out a 1,000 insurance policy on my father’s life.

And I am still at home, no income, no prospects.

Then arrives a letter from Reverend J. R. McLeod in Three Rivers.

Three Rivers, Sept. 1907

My dear Friend,
I have but a few minutes to write as prayer meeting is starting. I was asked yesterday by the Manager of Works in a village 15 miles from here is I could find a suitable girl to teach a small school, about 10 children. My thoughts went to you. They will take you without a diploma. They offer $20.00 a month. I know you are fit for the position.

Regards, Reverend J. R. Macleod

“Should I accept now, I mean that Father is away?” I ask my mother.

“It is your decision to make,” my mother replies. She does not seem surprised at all by the letter from her cousin.

 Mother hands me another letter, just arrived in the mail, from a young  friend of the family’s, Mary Carlyle. The correspondent omits the obligatory opening pleasantries and gets straight to the irksome point:

“Dear Maggie,

I am writing you with such good news. I am to be married! He is a George White and he is from Kingsey. He is a sweet, kind man, with a good position and very good looking, in my opinion. It is such a relief. I was worried I was destined to be a burden on Father.

“Kingsey. So, that’s where all the perfect men are,” I say to Mother in a tired voice but my mind suddenly is made up. I climb the stairs to my room to scratch off a note to J.R. McLeod saying I will take the job as offered.

Chapter 3: A New Chapter

Radnor Forges is a dreary iron works company town in the December of its days, from the looks of things. Instead of the usual church spires overhead, there are chimney stacks, 40 foot high, and instead of naves, aisles, chancels and altars, we have blast furnaces, steam boilers, water pumps and rock crushers.
Two years ago the Company employed 700, today a fraction of that amount.

I’m told this fact by a handsome bachelor, Mr.C. the Manager. He and a Mr. Atkinson, his boss,  take me on a tour of the works, where bog iron is turned into household goods. I now know how Mother’s pots and pans are made.

The works are owned by the Canadian Iron Furnace Company, whose President is George Edward Drummond, not to be confused with George Alexander Drummond, the President of Red path Sugar.
I have a modest teaching load. There is another teacher, for the French,  and we have only 10 or so students.
There is a kind of social life here, mostly the parents of my students, also  a few unmarried men of quality, although most are here only to make enough money and abscond elsewhere. Mr. C. apparently has a fiancé back in Ireland.

I am not sure why I am here, as my small salary makes it impossible to save money.

I earn just enough to buy material for clothes and other necessities and to pay for my transportation home for holidays.

Still, I am earning just a few dollars less than sister Marion, who is in her second year teaching at  Sherbrooke High as elementary specialist.

Her social life is far far more active. She has many beaus. Her favorite boy, Gordon, is the son of prominent E.T. family, active in the Liberal party. I am a little green over it.

But after Christmas, I am no longer envious of her. I receive a letter from a young man who I met at a dance in Danville, Charlie Gagne.

Charlie is a clerk at the Bank of Montreal in that town and he is full of fun, handsome and always so well turned out. He is French Catholic, but he has been converted to Methodism at a Ste Hyacinthe mission where he received his education.

As a youth he travelled with the Colporteurs, the evangelists,  as far away as Mexico. His mother is a fine couturiere in Quebec City, a widow, which is why he is such a dandy dresser. All the  womenfolk in our area are on high alert.

But he has written to ME.

He has a  lovely, flamboyant hand.  He tells me about yet another dance  he attended, in January. It was nothing to the first, he says. The dresses on the Danville women put the Richmond ones to shame, but had I been there, I would have evened the score, he says.  I am flattered of course, to think the son of a society couturier admires the way I wear clothes.

I suspect he admires my work ethic, too. Were I a layabout at home in Richmond,  sitting prim in the parlour perfecting my lacework technique, I doubt he would be writing me. Absence can be an aphrodisiac, too.
I write Mother.

January 26, 1908

Radnor Forges, Quebec

Dear Mother,

Your letter received, sorry to hear that Flora has been sick and that you both missed the recital. Saw an account of it in the St. John's News.  Do you know who wrote the article. It was one of Mrs. Roes' choosing, I should judge.  How are Uncle Dan and Grandma. You have not mentioned them, but I supposed that is a good sign.

I had a letter from Christina before I got the bowl but will send her a card and thank her. My watch keeps splendid time. I showed it to Mr. Atkinson the other day. He thought it a very good one. Mr. C. took me all around the furnace and works this afternoon and now I think I understand a little about how iron is made.
 I heard that the people are very much pleased with the way the school is going and seem to think I am quite a success at it. I like the work very much and the children seem to be doing very well.  Seems there has always been some trouble with other pupils and teachers. I only hope and pray it may continue.

 Mr. Gagne asked me to send him a card some time so I did and the other day got a letter from him, said he wanted to tell me about the dance. December the 16th he was out for it and had a fine time but said everyone said it was nothing to the first. I am feeling fine, weigh 137 with my coat off so you see I have not lost any.
They say I should never leave Radnor for I always come back looking so tired out and lose all of my red cheeks. You should see the colour I have these days, you would never know me.

Your loving daughter,
Edith S. Nicholson.

Feb 10, 1908

Dear Mother,
Your letter of the 7th received yesterday and as this is Sunday I am trying to answer some back correspondence. Mr. C and I are down in the smoking room writing letters. Have written Clare Miller and Henry and will write to Mrs. Snyder after yours. Last night we were invited over to Mrs. Drysdale's for the evening, we played cards, did not come home until half past one. That was the latest I have ever been out since I came to Radnor. I think Mr. D. is just fine, she said I did not need to ask Mr. Bell for anything, I could just come to him. So in future I shall know what to do. I did not have school Thursday afternoon or all day Friday as it was so stormy and the snow is something terrible. I see in your letter that we are not the only ones having snow.

Here they think I do my hair up so nicely. Both Mr. C and Mr. A made that remark and I overheard it. So that is something new for me.  I hope you do not think Mr. C and I are getting too thick, for we are not. He is very nice to me but he is here to make money so that he can go home and marry. He is engaged to a girl in Ireland. Mrs. Vallois says we are dead in love with one another - but she says that about everyone, so that doesn't go very far with the people.

I had a long letter from Marion Friday. She is certainly having a splendid time, but I don't think much of Mae, for I think she is a great flirt and she had better not encourage him, but I don't know if it will do her any good to tell her so. Gordon is a big baby. I have never heard of anyone being as silly as he is at present time. Yes, you had better tell Bert to take my name off the roll.

I have no money to send you as yet, but will soon. I have been so laid up this week, was glad I did not have to teach. Had such a head ache. It lasted for four days. Did I tell you that Dr. Dixon said I must give up tea. You remember my last attempt, how I failed.

I am working a waist for Mrs. A. like my last one. I stamped it off for her before Christmas but she does not seem to do the eyelet very well, so I said I would do it for her.

She got a  new blue dress made at that French woman's I told you about: it looks very nice and well made.
I have not been down at Three Rivers since I came back. I was anxious to go to Grand Mere but since that Mr. Young was down there it has rather spoiled the pleasure: I do not want anything to do with him. Mr. A said he was all right but his people were not much but he was the most persistent beggar.  He would not take no for an answer. Mr. C expects to leave any day now as George Drummond wants him to take charge of some mines they are trying to lease. Don't mention anything about it in your letters as no one down here knows it - and everything is spread broad cast in a few hours. Really, I never saw such people, they are wild for some kind of news all the time.

Lovingly,
Edith

I receive a letter from Marion in Sherbrooke, where she seems to be spending all of her free time at the rink, ice dancing with her many boyfriends. I do not know what it is about her that attracts the young men so. Empirically I am much prettier. The men actually fight each other over her attentions. Imagine! Perhaps it is her razor-sharp focus. She applies herself to courtship with the same determined energy she applies to everything in life. And her laugh, I must admit, is delightfully infectious.

Flora writes me and says she and cousin May are having a wonderful time at home, and getting strong feeding wood into the furnace. I cannot imagine Flora with muscles of any kind.

Cousin May is in her second year at St. Francis and living at Tighsolas, as her home is in Kingsbury, too far to travel to school.

Flora tells me something else in her letter, that Mother is being shunned by the ladies at our church.  The Missionary Society. Flora says they look down upon her, feeling that she should be doing more now that her husband is away and she has the time. I think the silly old women do not like our mother’s  fierce opinions, especially on women’s rights.

March 26, 1908

Dear Marion,

Your letter received and decided to write at once so you would see that I still have the power of writing though the blow was terrible when the ‘dear man’ left, but I ‘am growing’ as Uncle Donald says. Have had a very nice letter from him but as yet have not answered it. It is exactly four weeks this morning that we parted.
You certainly were very well remembered by your men folks on your birthday. How is G.N.E? Is he as nice as ever? How is Harry? What did Mother think of him and what did he think of Richmond. I wish I had been there so I could have made things more pleasant.  How you must miss me when you go home. You never say so, but, of course, it is because you feel so badly. But never mind, I will soon be back again. So you and Herb were home together. Had a letter from Bert yesterday telling me about Ethel Cleveland and Mr. Stone. She seems to think Ethel is very much taken up with him. Poor Jack must be nearly crazy. Had letters from Ross Macleod and Ethel Buggs yesterday. Ethel asked me up this summer. It would be lovely to take a Lake trip up and back. I am going to try and save enough money to take a trip somewhere if I can, but I am afraid it won’t be much further than Gore.  Will you come? Am having my new skirt made. My, but you are fine with two new suits. I am going to do with my blue for this spring.  Don’t know yet if I shall be home for Easter.

Your loving sister,
Edith

PS. What are you working your waist on. I have nearly finished the center piece I had at home.

May 28, 1908

Thursday Morning

Dear Mother,
Excuse pencil as I am writing this in school. Father gave me a great surprise as I was not looking for him until Wednesday. It made me quite lonesome after he went, it seemed such a short visit and passed so quickly. We were at Mrs. A's for tea. I was sorry to hear that you have a bad cold. Do take care of yourself and take things easy.

So Marion is going to Montreal. I am very glad. Father said not to stay here another year as it was such a lonesome place, so I am giving it my resignation this afternoon. Father said he might come down for over Sunday.

 So get ready to start sometime in the near future. I don't think my school will finish before the 26th anyway

Your loving

How Winston Churchill got the Suffragettes Banned from Canada


This is a capture of a 'scene' from A Soul on Fire, by Frances Fenwick Williams, published in 1915.

It's a dinner table scene taking place in sophisticated English Montreal circles. Frances Fenwick Williams was Press Secretary of the Montreal Suffrage Association in 1915. So, she knew of what she spoke, perhaps exaggerating a tad :)

When I first read this paragraph, I assumed that FW was using the names Christina Bankhurst and Windholme Churchham for Pankhurst and Churchill out of fear of being sued or something.

How could anyone not know the name of Winston Churchill?

But this is 1915 and clearly Fenwick Williams is mocking the ignorance of people with a pronounced opinion on Woman Suffrage.

I imagine that in that era, Pankhurst's name was more recognizable by the Anglo Man and Woman on the Street than Winston Churchill's. Pankhurst gave a speech in Montreal in December, 1911 at Windsor Hall. It is a pivotal moment in my story Furies Cross the Mersey, available on Kindle.

Much in the way most Montrealers today won't recognize the name Ed Milliband, even in the age of Internet. (I hope I spelled that correctly...:)

Now, Winston Churchill had spoken in Montreal, too, in 1901, also at Windsor Hall. He was lecturing about the Boer War and promoting himself to the world.

The reporters said 'Sir Randolph's son has a way with words' or something to that effect.

Cartoon mocking Borden's ban of suffragettes in 1912


In 1912, Prime Minister Borden of Canada visited London to discuss NAVY issues and was accosted by three British Suffragettes, including Miss Barbara Wylie, who demanded votes for Canadian women.

Soon, the suffragettes were banned from entering Canada, branded as undesirables. They came anyway. Read Furies Cross the Mersey.

It is likely this ban was invoked because Borden had invited Prime Minister Asquith and Churchill to Canada.

Churchill was afraid of the suffragettes, in large part because they were going to take away his champagne..



 Clipping saved by my husband's great Aunt Edie about the February 1913 Montreal Suffrage Exhibit that was all about happy families.


A newspaper clipping saved by Edith Nicholson from September 1912, upon British suffragette Barbara Wylie's arrival in Montreal. The reporters, apparently, almost missed her. They expected a battle-ax to detrain and instead were met with a lovely looking young woman. :)

Miss Wylie walks to the speaker’s platform, confidently, her heels clicking like a foot soldier’s on the hardwood floor.

Her eyes look bigger and brighter than on the other day at the college. Could that be kohl around the lids? And rouge de theatre on her cheeks?

The pretty suffragette begins by describing the events of 1912 with respect to the WSPU, Mrs. Pankhurst's Women's Social and Political Union: How the year began with 19 women in Holloway Jail.  How Emily Davison Wilding was brought to trial in January for setting fire to a pillar box. How Asquith went back on his word with respect to the Conciliation Bill while Mrs. Pankhurst was on tour in America. How several hundred women broke plate glass windows in the West End of London. How police raided the offices of the W.S.P.U. in March and arrested the Pethwick Lawrence’s. How Christabel Pankhurst escaped to France.

How Mrs. Pankhurst made a speech about ‘the argument of the pane.’

Once her list is complete she speaks in earnest.

“We women have nailed our flag to the masthead and we can no longer retreat with honor, so we will go on and never falter, until women have received the vote on an equal basis with men.”

The hall erupts in applause, Edith and Marion and Penelope and Mathilda’s wild hand-clapping is as enthusiastic as any in the audience.

‘I encourage you Canadian women to gather in thousands and go and see Mr. Borden. Use all ‘ladylike’ constitutional methods first." Edith Marion Penelope and Mathilda laugh loudly with most everyone else. "And should these fail, then I think that the Canadian women should be as willing to show an unselfish and high spirited constant devotion to the cause of liberty as the women of England.”

There is more loud applause, but rumble of discontent rises from the back of the room.

“Women did not object to making themselves conspicuous in tennis or golf and they should not be afraid of it in the cause of liberty for women who are enslaved.”


Wylie from Votes for Women, in an article discussing her trip to Canada.

Miss Wylie hits a high note on the word enslaved and it is almost too much to bear for the women in the audience. They send out a loud raucous roar.

Penelope’s colour rises to a deep red.

She imagines herself leading a suffrage parade down Sherbrooke, with tennis racquet in hand. She yells out, “Yes, liberty!”

Wylie acknowledges her comment with a nod and continues, “Of course, we shall never win the moment by physical force. We cannot turn ourselves, and go out in the thousands like the Serbs with our guns. What we can do is to express ourselves, our moral force, our physical force, in some way the people understand, even in putting a stone through a window, which may be a most righteous, heroic and religious act.”

The room is in awe, but an old curmudgeon in the back disrespectfully breaks Wylie’s witchy spell.

“But militant methods are absolutely wrong and have actually prevented women from getting the vote,” he says. He continues, “Despite the fact you are charming in personality, I call on the Montreal audience to express its disapproval of militancy and all it stands for.”

There are loud boos. And a few cheers, mostly of the baritone variety.

Dr. England intervenes from the Chair.

“Mr. Holt.  Miss Wylie has been asked to speak as a guest of the Montreal Council of Women and to state her views. It was not our intention to pass any resolution for or against militancy. But, kind sir, since you have brought up the issue, we must allow Miss Wylie to reply.”

Miss Wylie replies, pointing an accusing finger at the man: “You, sir, are the same kind of man as some of the cabinet ministers of England who express sympathy with the objects but feel that it would have come about had it not been for militancy.”

“I imagine,” replies Mr. Holt, “that comparing me to a cabinet minister is placing me very low down in the suffragette scale.” He gazes around the room waiting for a laugh that does not come.

“Let me give you an example,” says Miss Wylie.  A man stuck in a rut on a dark road may gather a lot of sympathy from passersby but if he pulled his horse across the road, he might get abuse and no sympathy, but he might get out of his own rig to get out of the rut.

Applause from the front. Boos from the back.

Another man rises to his feet to say that he is in support of militancy. That the easy peaceful methods are like a stage coach, the militant like an automobile which proceeds by a series of explosions much more quickly.

“Miss Wylie has advocated constitutional methods first,” he says. “But if a need arises for militant methods I would be willing to take part in the shame and opprobrium that would come to those who fight so that my mother and sister could vote on an equality with myself.

Yet another man leaps forward from the back to express his regrets that the man should express these sentiments.

Dr. Ritchie England cuts short his comments by declaring the meeting closed.

She is out of her depth here and knows it.


Miss Wylie looks as if she is not quite sure what has happened.  Heated arguments are de rigueur  at her speeches in England. Why not a little rowdyism? Who’s going to pay attention otherwise? Certainly not the press.
Excerpt from  by Dorothy Nixon,Furies Cross the Mersey 2014. All Rights Reserved.

A social note about a talk Wylie gave in a private parlour to a small group of Society Women in Montreal, before her YMCA talk. This bit says the women weren't impressed. In a letter to Votes for Women Wylie said she gave away all of her copies of Votes for Women, sold three subscriptions and set up a talk at McGill's Royal Victoria College. My story Furies Cross the Mersey includes a fictional description of this talk. The scene above is adapted from the report in the Montreal Gazette. 


Well, this ad comes from the June 1913 Montreal Witness. Chapman's Bookstore was obviously the choice of the Evangelicals in Montreal...The Rev. Hugh Pedley was one such man and he also was on the board of the newly formed Montreal Suffrage Association. He gave a series of lectures in the era on Sinful Montreal...He especially hated the Theatre.

The Association kept their literature bureau at Chapman's, for a while anyway in 1913. Then they moved it to the Edinburgh Cafe, run by four spinster sisters from the Orkneys.

All this goes to show that the Suffrage Movement in Montreal in 1913 was closely aligned with the Protestant Evangelical movement.

No news for me here.... I'm finishing up a book, Furies Cross the Mersey, about the Montreal Suffrage Movement, the follow up to Threshold Girl and Diary of a Confirmed Spinster. 

The Witness's from 1913 include a mention of my grandfather, Jules Crepeau.  He would soon be caught in a bribery sting, mounted by one Edward Beck, the  Editor in Chief of the Montreal Herald and have to litigate his way out of it. The Montreal Evangelicals despised CITY HALL and worked hard to Clean up the City, getting deeply involved in the City Elections, getting the Spinster Vote out.

My play Milk and Water is about another 1927 scandal involving my dear Grandpapa



Miss Edith Nicholson, my husband's great aunt, was out of a teaching job in the 1913 period. She had just quit her post at Westmount Methodist, a boarding school that converted Catholics to Protestantism.

 Her problem, she was a  teacher without diploma and most jobs available demanded a diploma.

She would soon get a job at St. Francis College in Richmond...A case of WHO YOU KNOW more important than WHAT YOU KNOW!

She had to take as summer course in Lachute in the summer of 1914.


I don't exactly know what she is doing in Montreal in 1913... but in a May 3 letter to her mother she says "We are going to see Mrs. Snowden speak, but she is not militant and for this I am very sad."

This is the last scene in Furies Cross the Mersey.


Mrs. Snowden's speech was reported in detail in the May 6 Montreal Witness.  I use the line in the headline. "Mrs. Pankhurst's troops are Cavemen."

The newspaper supported woman suffrage, but not the militant kind as this hysterical headline from around the 10th shows.


Reverend Pedley may have hated the Theatre, but Edith Nicholson and other Witness readers LOVED it! She and/or her sisters went to see Polly of the Circus, the Merry Widow  and Everywoman. Everywoman was a morality play, warning young women against the dangers of vanity, featuring beautiful young actresses in gorgeous robes. 

The motion pictures (the five and ten cent picture shows) were lowbrow for them in 1913, but by 1917, the war years, the Nicholson 'girls' were going to 'the movies' (as they now referred to them) regularly. Everyone in their social group was.


I found Miss Carrie Derick, the subject of my story Furies Cross the Mersey, on the 1901 Canadian Census, listed as a lodger.  Misspelled Cary Derick.

She is listed as a university lecturer, making 1000 a year, a very good salary. Her sister is a teacher, so also works.

I can't tell the street, but it is in St. Antoine Ward. (No doubt near McGill.)

She is not living with her boss :) Dr. Penhallow, who is listed a a lodger somewhere else.

LODGER. Hmmmmmmm.

On the 1901 census, Penhallow is listed with a woman, Sarah, a year or so younger with the same last name. Wife? Sister.

 If Penhallow wasn't married then it puts a little bit of a different tint on the relationship he would have had with Carrie Derick, doesn't it?  Or maybe he wasn't the marrying kind.

Let's see if I can find if Penhallow had a wife.

No.

His Wikipedia page doesn't mention a wife and it says he 'allegedly' had a mental breakdown in 1909, Yikes! That really changes my story, well, if the story were about David Pearce Penhallow, but it's about Carrie Mathilda Derick.

Derick took over for Penhallow when he had this breakdown, doing his job for three years, but then she didn't get the post in 1912 when the post was filled.

 The  new Chair of Botany, a Professor Lloyd,  made 3,000 salary.






In 1901, a Louise Derick lives with Carrie Derick, very likely her sister.

In my story, which takes place in 1911/12/13, Miss Carrie Derick has a housekeeper. In 1911 she lived on Bishop and was making 2,000 dollars a year.

I know, because her 'uptown' address is indicated on the minutes of the Montreal Local Council of Women and in many other places.

This Bishop address could have been a boarding house too, but I chose to make it a comfortable home. She's 49 in 1911, after all. And making 2,000 a year.

She didn't get on the 1911 census which, to me, suggests she lived on her own and just wasn't at home in June 1911 when the Census Man came around. At a boarding house, the landlady would have given her name most likely.


Carrie Derick


In 1901, university lecturer (and lab demonstrator) Carrie Derick, lodged with a few other 'teachers' and another university lecturer, it seems, a man, James Henderson. At least she was getting the same 1000 dollar salary!  In 1900 she gave a report under the auspices of the National Council of Women saying that teaching was a 'bleak' profession. She had plenty of friends in the biz.

She gives her religion as Anglican, or Church of England. The Derick's of the E.T were of Dutch and German background.  She likely spoke German because she attended the University of Bonn.


The 1922 bi-lingual Committee struck to win the vote for Quebec women.

All men are created equal, but some more equal than others.

It's Orwell from Animal Farm and the line is emblazoned on my brain, probably because we studied the book in the 9th grade when I was 14, a very impressionable age.

I wasn't alone, the line caused a buzz at school, almost as much buzz and the bare boobs in the BBC production of Casanova.

That line applies very much to my current project, Furies Cross the Mersey, an ebook that I've just published on Amazon about the British Invasion of Suffragettes to Montreal in 1912/13.

THAT I didn't learn about in school. No one did. Up until a few years ago, I didn't know when Canadian women got the vote.

The suffrage movement in Canada was basically censored in high schools back in the 60's.  Well, it still is.

Our Canadian history book, Canada Then and Now only had a few female characters: Marguerite Bourgeoys, Laura Secord, Jeanne Mance. There was a bit about Bodicea in the Canadian Reading Development Series we used.


By the 1960's there had only been one book written about Canadian Suffragists and is a 1940 Master's Thesis by an American, Catherine Cleverdon - and she used newspaper accounts.

She didn't interview any former suffragists alive at the time.

The Cleverdon book and one other from 1989 (by McGill student Carol Bacchi, who soon moved to Australia to teach) is still what most scholars refer to when they write about the Canadian Woman Suffrage Movement.

But, very lately, the Internet has changed all that.

Anyway, this famous Orwell line applies to my story because  in 1913 the elite ladies of Montreal started up a Montreal Suffrage Association, but any new members had to be approved  by two members of the Executive, most of whom were clergymen and McGill Profs.

I know for a fact that my husband's great Aunt Edith Nicholson didn't join, her name isn't in the membership book in the archives at Montreal City Hall. But, then, she was all for the militant suffragettes. She said so in a letter home. (Edith is a character in Furies Cross the Mersey.)

Ironic, no? Wanting women to have universal suffrage, but not allowing most of them to be part of the process of  winning it?

There are reasons for this, of course. This being one:


It's all in my story, every detail.

When the Montreal Council of Women decided in 1912, shortly after Mrs. Pankhurst came to speak in Montreal in December, 1911, that they'd spin off a Suffrage Association (against their by-laws, by the way) they resolved to hold a public meeting.

In December, 1912 they held that 'public' meeting, but it wasn't very public. If they were being honest they would have admitted "We are going to hold a public meeting for all our good friends."

Here's the notice. Does it sound that anyone can attend? No.. but that's the way they wanted it.


So, when this Beatrice Forbes Robertson spoke, on December 12, 1912, she spoke only to a group  of Protestant Leaders.

Odd, because in her speech she said that POOR WOMEN ESPECIALLY NEED THE VOTE.




Read Furies Cross the Mersey on Amazon.com.



If  I put out a little cash on Ancestry UK, I may get to see another image of Caroline Kenney, the semi-suffragette who I feature in my ebook Furies Cross the Mersey - about the British Invasion of Militant Suffragettes to Montreal in 1912/13.

Here's a free pdf copy.

Caroline was a sister of Militant Suffragette Annie Kenney.

Apparently, the registry says she is coming to Canada in 1912 to 'visit' her sister.  I don't know if the registry is available online, but a portrait certainly is.

True enough. Older sister Sarah Nell Kenney Randolph Clarke lived in Montreal with her husband. They'd immigrated to Canada in 1908. He was a newspaperman.

But Caroline did more than visit, newspaper items reveal. She promoted woman suffrage, alone and with the Equal Suffrage League.

But she couldn't exactly write that on the form. Premier Borden had banned the suffragettes from coming to Canada a month before.


Beautiful and feisty Barbara Wylie.


The UK Ancestry site says they have a portrait relating to her 1912 passage on the Virginian (of the Allan Line) and her 1930 border crossing. The Virginian originated in Liverpool and went to Quebec City than Montreal.


I guess someone has added the portrait to her travel documents. It's likely the same portrait I have.
But I will see.

So, if Caroline came to Montreal any time before November, 1912,  (the Seaway closed on November 26) she likely crossed paths with Barbara Wylie, another suffragette who was in Canada. (For all I know, they both stayed at the Clarke's in Verdun (or St. Lambert).


Wylie arrived in Montreal in late September and stayed at least until early November, because on November 4 she gave a speech at the YMCA sponsored by the Montreal Council of Women.

I put this speech in Furies Cross the Mersey. It almost started a small riot.

Wylie had come on the Empress of Ireland. I can't find a record of her crossing on Ancestry UK. Too bad, I would like to see the reason she put for coming to Canada.

Her visit had been trumpeted loudly in Votes for Women, the magazine of the Women's Social and Political Union.

Her arrival in Montreal got a lot of press,too. Silly press, indeed.

But Miss Wylie was feted by the local society women, whereas Caroline Kenney was not.

Caroline is not mentioned once in that organization's minutes from the era, whereas Miss Wylie's visit is showcased in the minutes and the 1912 Annual Report.

The Equal Suffrage League in Montreal was a rogue suffrage association. All the leading lights in the Montreal movement belonged to the Montreal Suffrage Association, which was an offshoot of the Montreal Council of Women.



A strange strike out in the minutes of the Executive of the Montreal Suffrage Association, May 1913. Were they for or against the British militants? I've written a book about them, and I still am not sure and that's because they weren't sure themselves.

 I know from newspaper accounts that Caroline Kenney  gave speeches in Montreal in February and March 1913 on her own and then worked with the Equal Suffrage League from the summer to December 1913. Newspaper reports referred to her  as a 'resident' of Montreal.

Her first speech was too militant apparently and did not sit well with the citizens of Montreal. (I have no account of it, but this is mentioned in an account of her next, less explosive, speech to the Jewish Community.)


Here's the clipping about Wylie's visit kept by Edith Nicholson, my husband's great aunt, who also figures in Furies Cross the Mersey.

 I have but a remnant of the original clipping left. It has crumbled to bits in the 10 years since I found it in a trunk along with many other such clippings and about 300 family letters from the 1910 era in Canada.

 In the report, it claims that Montreal pressmen almost missed Miss Wylie, because they were expecting a battle-ax to de-train and instead were met with a beautiful young woman.



The pro-suffragette narrative pretty well always fell along those lines. What pretty women! Who would have guessed? The anti-suffragette narrative painted the women as demons and terrorists and most commonly as hysterical or very very silly.



The inscription under the statue of Edward VII in Phillip's Square, Montreal. Here's a video of the place.


Funny, we don't really look at statues or monuments. They are a kind of 3-D wallpaper. And we only read the inscriptions when we are tourists, or thinking of making a documentary.

I went to Phillip's Square a while back to 'scout' some images for my documentary on the Montreal Suffragists. 

"Phillip's Square is ground-zero of the Montreal Suffrage Movement," I said to my husband, who came along with the dog. He's the professional news editor, but he would have preferred to stay home on his day off and paint the moulding on our stairwell.

If he had been listening  he might have asked, "Does that mean there was a famous rally or riot there?"

And the answer would have been NO. An unequivocal NO.

Montreal suffragists in the 1910 era didn't rally or riot or march, they wrote letters, rented booths at events and had open houses at their various headquarters, always near Phillip's Square. UPTOWN it was called in those days. 

 (And theirs was not a populist movement, all members of the Montreal Suffrage Association (which had been spun off from the Montreal Council of Women) had to be nominated by a member of the Executive and approved by the Executive.)

As as I have written before on this blog, Phillip's Square was the women's square with its churches, department store, Birks jewelers and the Montreal Art Association Building.. (A new art gallery would be built on Sherbrooke in 1913, I believe.)

Now, were I doing a radio show for BBC Radio Four, where they care about history, I would approach this statue and inquire about the 4 different statues at the base.  Are these Amazon women suffragettes? No of course not. They are a group of women symbolizing our four founding nations, apparently.


Actually, this statue symbolizes prosperity. I figured with the cornucopia.

These women are our four founding nations..

A beautiful face, for sure. But has anyone really looked closely?

Anyway, on that topic. I recently bought the bio of Thérèse Casgrain, suffragist icon in Quebec, to see what she said about her early days in the movement. 

In the bio, written in 1972, she says that it was in 1917 after she had helped her husband win his Liberal seat in the infamous Conscription Election (the subject of my documentary) that she was approached by Julia Parker Drummond and Carrie Derick (who were both associated with the Montreal Suffrage Association). She said she soon was off to Ottawa to give a speech.

The book I bought second-hand happened to contain a 1974 Maclean's article about her where it says that it was only after the 1921 Election, where she helped her husband, that she was approached by a group of suffragists to join the battle. (So history gets 'rewritten' from the beginning... or is it just a mistake by Macleans?)

Hmm. Interesting. The 1974 article suggests or implies it was in 1921 that Casgrain got her start in advocacy, but it does not preclude that she got introduced earlier to the same suffragists. Words are like that, they can be slippery. 

It might seem a silly point, but frankly, I was surprised that she had anything to do with the Montreal Suffrage Association as that group of women had had an open argument in the press with Mayor Martin over the proposed Montreal Tramways Contract.. and she was a Forget who benefited from said 40 year contract. (And besides, these MSA women  were kinda racist  or should I say, very much into "social hygiene" a loaded concept. They had a number of Protestant churchmen on their board.)

As I wrote earlier, the membership book of the Montreal Suffrage Association does not include her name and she is never mentioned in the minutes..although, I believe her husband, Pierre, is mentioned as a potential speaker.


St. James Methodist, near Phillip's Square, where the National Council of Women held its AGM in May 1913 and where Mrs. Snowden, moderate suffragist, spoke (again) perhaps in front of Edith Nicholson, who was sorry she wasn't a militant. All this is in my ebook Furies Cross the Mersey.  Here's a free pdf copy. Funny, I just found a bit from a 1913 International Suffrage Bulletin, describing this event. It claims that St James Methodist is the biggest church in Montreal (maybe) and that Carrie Derick, President of the Montreal Suffrage Association, is the first woman Chair of a University Department. Not quite. She was turned down for the position of Chair of Botany at McGill in June, 1912 and given a courtesy appointment as full professor instead. It's all in Furies Cross the Mersey



Me and another statue, more famous. Location, location, location. 1992 fountain, a newbie.




The Montreal Herald Building. The Montreal Suffrage Association held one meeting in the place, in October 1913,  when they were friendly with Edward Beck, Editor, who allowed them to write up a special suffrage section in his newspaper in November 1913.

The MSA and Beck  soon fought over who was to pay for the section.

 In return for the favour, the Montreal Council of Women came out against the Montreal Tramways Deal with a formal resolution...a deal  BECK despised and condemned in a huge one page rant in the newspaper, where he claimed certain Montreal Newspaper factions were corrupt and in the grip of City Hall.

Inez Milholland, US suffragette. Montreal didn't have any young activists (by the design of the Montreal Council of Women, I believe)



"I do not like the women's vote
The reason why I cannot note.
But this I know and know by rote
I do not like the women's vote"


You have to like this little rhyme. Mrs. Philip (Ethel) Snowden, British Suffragist, used it in her speeches. She claimed it described the unintelligent mindset of the anti-suffragists in the US.

I have written Furies Cross the Mersey the follow up to Threshold Girl and Diary of a Confirmed Spinster, about the Montreal Suffragists and a British Invasion of Suffragettes to Montreal in the 1912/13 era.

In the last scene,  Edith Nicholson, (my husband's great aunt) goes to hear Mrs. Snowden speak, in May 1913 at St. Jame Methodist Church on Ste. Catherine West.

Edith is not impressed. Mrs. Snowden is not a militant suffragette. Indeed, in her speech Mrs. Snowden describes Mrs. Pankhurst's militants as 'cavemen.'

Mrs. Snowden was the wife of a M.P. at Westminster who was eloquent and beautiful to look at, so reporters liked to cover her speeches.

And if the didn't like what she had to say, they gushed over her other charms.

What I didn't know up until now is that this Mrs. Snowden was all of 27 years of age.


She still has roses in her cheeks, as one reporter described.

That would make her 3 years younger than Old Aunt Edie at the time.

In the US and Britain, many in the suffragette movement were youngish, in their early 30's.

 But in Canada, especially Montreal, the young were shut out of the movement. .

In fact, an unmarried working woman in her 20's was considered a helpless creature who needed the Montreal benevolent faction to find her a place to live, where she might partake of 'wholesome recreation' away from the ogling eyes of evil-minded men who might, you know.. (This irked the Nicholson women, independent action-oriented country-girls, especial boffo Marion,who didn't like anybody telling her what to do.)

Edith complained in 1910 letters of the horror of having to spend evenings alone in her room, because she couldn't find someone to go out with.

The Suffrage Movement in Montreal was taken over by well-connected matrons and their allies, the influential Men in Cloth.

Furies Cross the Mersey reveals why young people did in Montreal to try to get a piece of the action, even if they were enamoured of Mrs. Pankhust and her ilk.

I also noticed that in her speeches in the US, Mrs. Snowden, 'a moderate suffragist' was easy on the militant suffragettes. In some US newspapers she is incorrectly described as a suffragette, a militant.

The United States had a militant movement, you see. Canada did not.

Mrs. Snowden also spoke in Montreal in 1909. In some of her 1909 speeches, she praised Mrs. Pankhurst's genius, but described her militancy as 'a Frankenstein monster.'

In her 1913 speech, Snowden said the militants were doing a great deal to harm the woman suffrage movement.

In May 1913 the British militants were at the height of their civil disobedience, destroying government property to make a point.

Mrs. Pankhurst was in jail and the UK government had just passed a law to let Hunger Strikers out of jail to get better temporarily to recuperate, so that no martyrs would be created.

(The new movie Suffragette with Carrie Mulligan and Meryl Streep, very soon to be released, is apparently all about this "Cat and Mouse" period in the UK Woman Suffrage Movement.)


But then Emily Davison threw herself under the King's racehorse.




Donaldas with their hair down in their nighties, from the Old McGill Yearbook, 1900... from McGill website. This picture must have proven, ah, interesting, to the male students.


When the first women were accepted as students at McGill University in Montreal,  no one worried about them falling in love with their male counterparts, only the other way around. They worried that the young men might fall in love with the young women.

In Victorian times, I guess, it was considered improbable that a young woman would find a young man attractive: after all, women were looking for men to protect them. (Something like that.)

Middle class women, it seems to follow, were supposed to fall in love ONLY with men Mummy approved of, men who had established themselves in life and who could take care for a wife.

Seems funny, nowadays.

I imagine the males at McGill were a bit afraid of the Donaldas, who were boffo pioneers after all.

The two genders did mix, however.

Here's a bit from Old McGill 1900, about the Women's Lawn Tennis Club. McGill women had their own tennis club from 1889 onwards.


Thirty Donaldas played tennis on the 'very good courts.' I wish I knew where these courts were located. I had to make it up for my story Furies Cross the Mersey, about the British invasion of militant suffragettes to Montreal in 1912/13 that has two characters who are Donaldas, one of whom loves tennis!


Furies Cross the Mersey: A Story of 1912 (School Marms and Suffragettes Book 6)

Two young women in crisp white duck middy blouses over long ankle length skirts, black kerchiefs at their necks, white laced sneakers on their feet and large wooden tennis racquets on their laps, sit on a bench and await their turn on the court.

“Warm up!” orders a lady coach from the back of the court.

“Yes, Miss Cartwright,” the girls answer in tandem.

They stand and begin stretching out their legs. 

One girl is tall and slim-boned, the other shorter, with a trim muscular build and broad coat hanger shoulders that make her waist, uninhibited by stays for the time being, seem smaller than it is.

The tall girl has medium dark brown hair with few highlights tied up in a bun and pale skin, because she is an indoor, studious type and the shorter girl has long strawberry-blond hair laced with golden threads and because she is an outdoor type her hair is tied back in a ponytail.  She also has applied a liberal amount of Hains Skin Balm to her face to protect her skin from the sun and wind.

The shorter girl has blue eyes, an upturned nose and a pink rosebud mouth; the tall girl has hazel eyes, on the greenish side, a broad face with prominent cheekbones, a long tapered nose and a wide mouth with thinnish lips and beautiful straight teeth as white as milk.

The tall, serious girl is Mathilda Jenkins; the shorter golden girl is Penelope Day.


They are strangers to each other. They have just been slapped together for the first time, in the very first P. E. class of the year, an absolutely random act that will have serious implications for the future.  I promise.


Two headlines in the Montreal Gazette, two weeks apart, 101 years ago.



Here's a free read-only copy of Furies Cross the Mersey,


 The first article was on August 29, the second on September 14, 1912.

101 years ago, today, Miss Caroline Kenney, sister of famed militant suffragette Annie Kenney, was spending her first day in the city, probably in Verdun, where her sister, Nell, lived with her husband, Frank Randal Clarke, city editor of the Montreal Witness newspaper and their two babies.

I wonder if it was snowing. I could easily find out.....


I'm the first person to figure this out, I think. The Kenney fonds  in the UK have no record of Caroline's visit to Canada.

Ancestry.ca has the record of her passage though, arriving November 15, in Montreal from Liverpool.

She said she was a teacher emigrating to Canada and hoping to find a job. She didn't find a job as a teacher, as far as I can tell, but she did get active in the local suffrage movement.

Being working class, she was not welcomed by the Montreal Council of Women who were in the process of starting a new suffrage organization, the Montreal Suffrage Association.



The Council did fete Miss Barbara Wylie, another British Suffragette, sent by Emmeline Pankhurst's WSPU.

Wylie gave a speech sponsored by them at the YMCA on November 6, 1912. . It's in Furies Cross the Mersey.

She almost started  a riot....between MEN not WOMEN.


This cartoon mocked the new law barring suffragettes from Canada. How could they stop ALL suffragettes, the accompanying article asked?

Well, they didn't stop Caroline, who said she was coming to live in Canada... and Barbara Wylie came as a tourist.

I have no idea if the two Britishers met in Montreal. Likely, I'd think. An entry in the Social Notes for mid January says that Miss Wylie is leaving for the Coast (Vancouver.) So their visits overlapped two months.

And it's taken me time, going through all the newspapers,  but I've figured out that the Equal Suffrage League had a meeting in January at the Baron de Hirsch Institute...and then that Caroline Kenney gave a talk on "the Evolution of Militancy" to the Hochelaga WCTU on March 6, and that in late March she gave a talk at the Baron de Hirsch Institute where it was recorded in the Canadian Jewish News that Kenney did not speak on militantism... because with that earlier speech she had got into trouble.

So that organization aligned itself with the Jewish Community in Montreal. Pretty interesting.

The WCTU speech notice is in the social notes but she is listed as Catherine Kenney from England.

In Furies Cross the Mersey, I have Caroline meet up with my two main characters in March...and she does discuss militantism and she even suggests something, that the girls, RVC students, organize a march on the Mount Royal Club.



Was it a class issue? Militant Barbara Wylie is embraced by the Montreal Council of Women but Caroline Kenney is not.

Wylie was an official WSPU visitor, though. Caroline seems to have arrived on her own, but who knows.

Emmeline Panhurst, who is played by Meryl Streep in an upcoming movie Suffragette, spoke in Montreal in Jan 1911.

Her speech figures large in Furies Cross the Mersey


The wedding of Sarah Nell Kenney and Frank Randall Clarke took place in Montreal in 1909!  The couple had four children. This document is on Ancestry.com.

1912 clipping from the Montreal Gazette.


Frances Fenwick Williams was a journalist and novelist who figures large in my book about the Montreal Suffragettes.

I am getting the impression she might have figured even larger.

She was a member of the Montreal Women's Club (not to be mixed up with the Montreal Coloured Women's Club est. 1902)  that was a member organization of the Montreal Council of Women and she later become Press Secretary of the Montreal Suffrage Association.


Read all about the book here on Amazon.ca or find a free pdf copy here.. Furies Cross the Mersey.

Furies Cross the Mersey: A Story of 1912 (School Marms and Suffragettes Book 6)

In a 1917 article in the Montreal Gazette, Fenwick Williams strongly supports the Borden Unionist Government and therefore Conscription.

She was young and estranged from her husband and had no children.

In the article  she mentions that five years before she had spent time in England working with the suffragettes.

I think I found her travel document on Ancestry.ca. She arrived back in Montreal on November 10, five days before militant suffragette Caroline Kenney arrived in Montreal to stir up trouble.

So it is very likely that Mrs. Fenwick Williams was part of the deputation that descended on Premier Borden in London England in August 1912, while he was there to discuss Naval issues with Asquith and Churchill.

(The report in Votes for Women doesn't include her name, though.)

I know for a fact, from that report, that  Miss Barbara Wylie was one of the suffragettes who tried to get Borden to promise to give Canadian women the vote.

What  a trouble-maker, this Fenwick Williams.

In my book I have her home in October, giving a talk at McGill's RVC and introducing Barbara Wylie to the students. (Creative license.)

Mrs. Weller, who gave a tea for Wylie in September was also part of the Montreal Women's Club, an organization now forgotten.

It is likely her colleague Mrs. Fenwick Williams helped make this happen. She participated in a debate on the last day of the exhibit, that is also in Furies Cross the Mersey.

I found a bit about the Montreal Women's Club upon their 21 anniversary. Their Civic's Committee was a Woman Suffrage Committee. This organization did not leave behind minutes like the Montreal Council of Women. Nor did their members include illustrious people like Julia Grace Parker Drummond, Carrie Derick or Octavia Grace Ritchie England.

But they were the driving force behind the February 1913 Montreal Suffrage Exhibit, although they fought for credit with the Montreal Council in the newspapers (once the exhibit was established as a great success).



I doubt Frances Fenwick Williams figures in the upcoming Meryl Streep Carrie Mulligan movie Suffragette, even if she was in England in 1912, messing around with suffragettes.. That was the summer a suffragette threw a hatchet at Prime Minister Asquith.


Ethel Hurlbatt, Warden of the Royal Victoria College of McGill, a suffrage activist with the Montreal Council of Women who preferred calling suffrage classes 'citizenship' classes. 

Unfortunately, only one person signed up for her classes. Maybe, she should have called them suffrage classes, after all, or even better suffragette classes.

I finally found my missing file containing the notes, taken in 2010, of the minutes of Montreal Council of Women for the 1910 era.

It was lost inside the hard drive belonging to my old laptop, the one that suddenly died with that infamous "black screen of death."

My husband bought a little black plastic envelope thingy and I plugged it into my latest laptop and typed in Minutes Montreal Council and, voila, the missing Word Doc popped up - because Minutes Montreal Council is the first line of my document.

When I entered Notes, the file name, nothing showed up.

But enough about modern day problems.

This happily retrieved document is all about 100 year old problems... not that any of these ugly problems, poverty, etc, have gone away, even with Canadian women winning the vote almost a century ago. (Funny, wouldn't you say? Considering that's why so many wanted the vote, to improve society and the lot of children. Ha!)

If you scan this Minutes document, with your own eyeballs,  it hits you like a tonne of bricks: The suffrage movement in Montreal was all tied up, like a sturdy polymer protein, to the Social Purity Movement.

I took these particular notes long before I decided to write Furies Cross the Mersey, my ebook about the  British Invasion of Suffragettes to Montreal in 1912/13 so I wasn't looking for anything in particular.

I took them long before I dug out No Fool She, the little bio about Carrie Derick by Margaret Gillette, that exists only in one library at McGill University.

I wanted to look over this lost document because I wanted to know if Carrie Derick, McGill prof and suffragist, really said that she wanted to start the Montreal Suffrage Association 'to keep the interest in suffrage alive' after Mrs. Emmeline Pankhurst's Montreal speech in December 1911.

You see, I have put that in  Furies Cross the Mersey.

Well, the answer is No, but it makes no difference,  really. I'll consider this divergence from the absolute truth poetic licence. I'm not a chemist after all. I needn't be all that precise.

In fact, according to the Minutes, it is Mrs. Weller of the Montreal Women's Club who says that line, a little later on, after the success  of the Montreal Suffrage Exhibit in February, 1913.

Carrie Derick did propose the motion to bring Mrs. Pankhurst into speak in Montreal, at a meeting in October 1911 'to hear another side of the question.' Mrs. Snowden, a moderate suffragist, had been in Montreal to speak in 1909.

Reading over the typed notes, I can see I got the gist of it right in Furies Cross the Mersey. If anything, I white-washed the reality just a bit...by leaving out the disturbing details of  the extensive Social Purity discussion, in the 1910 era in Montreal...and how that discussion was tied into the Woman Suffrage Movement.

(Well, I put a couple of illuminating newspaper reports in at the end of Furies Cross the Mersey, but only after my historical narrative ends.)


Carrie Derick.
I notice that it is mentioned in the 1909 minutes that McGill students acted as ushers at Mrs. Snowdon's event. I guess I should have put that fact into my story. These were obviously women students and Donaldas, women McGill students, figure large in my book.

And one line in the document just glares at me. In and around June 1913, the Montreal Suffrage Association applies for membership in the Montreal Council of Women, an umbrella group of about 40 social advocacy groups.

Pretty silly.. the Montreal Suffrage Association was spun off from the Council (at one point it is described as 'a daughter of the council.')

This was totally against their own by-laws...which clearly state that the MCW is an association of organizations that have sprung up from the grass roots.



So I guess this formal gesture, applying for membership, made this political sleight of hand seem more legitimate. I bet Carrie Derick suggested it be done. She was a very cagey politician.

Read Furies Cross the Mersey, here or on Amazon Kindle. to see what I mean.