Thursday, December 18, 2014

Google Doodles and Women Suffragist Surgeons


What do you know? The Canadian Women's Suffrage Movement made the Google Doodle today.

I awoke to see this on my screen:


I'm guessing it's the Google Doodle for Canada only. The doodle commemorates the 165th birthday of Henrietta Edwards of the Famous Five.

I was about to post an essay only obliquely related to Canada and Suffrage: a most interesting story taking place during  WWI.

And this story has nothing to do with the same Western Suffragettes and their rather iffy connection to the Conscription Election that I have written about extensively on my blog.

This story is about a Canadian soldier, wounded in the Battle of Arras in 1918, who was shot three times and was stitched back together by female surgeons at a hospital in England at the Endell Street Military Hospital, a facility staffed entirely by women!

The Wikipedia entry for this hospital says it was run by suffragists (not specifically militant suffragettes) but then the militants put down their axes when war broke out, didn't they?

Great story!

I have spent years researching my book Furies Cross the Mersey (about the invasion of militant suffragettes to Montreal in 1912/13) and read extensively about the British Militants, but I'd never heard of this angle.)

This soldier was so well taken care of, he returned home to Canada well enough to become a machinist and raise a family... I learned about this story from his granddaughter, who participates in my genealogy writing group.

She said that her grandfather often praised the lady doctors who gave him a second chance at life, but she learned the details only lately, after looking into his service record.

Read my book Furies Cross the Mersey on Amazon Kindle to see how History Really Works. Nothing is black and white and the suffrage movement in Canada certainly was not.
Read a Cloud Copy here.

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

Monday, December 15, 2014

Have you ever been denied that promotion you deserve?

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

Here is how I imagine  meeting between McGill's President William Peterson and Assistant Professor Carrie Derick, when she is told in 1912 that she will not be getting the post of Chair of Botany, even though she has been de-facto Chair for two years after Dr. Penhallow's breakdown and death.

It is a scent in Furies Cross the Mersey, about the British Invasion of Suffragettes to Canada in 1912/13.


February, 1912

Scene 1: The vestibule of Principal Peterson’s tasteful residence, the Prince of Wales Terrace,  on Sherbrooke.  Monumental, Doric and austere on the outside; compact, Corinthian, ornate on the inside. 

The formidable lady cannot recall the last time she felt so small, like a little girl about to be chastised by her Sunday School teacher. And to think it is her choice to suffer in this way.

President Peterson of McGill telephoned her with the terrible news only an hour ago.

He told her the Board of Governors had decided to throw open the competition for the Macdonald Chair of Botany to ‘anyone in the world.’ The job notices were sent out a month ago.

How dare Peterson think he could get away with saying those ‘fighting’ words without looking her straight in the eye.

She demanded to see him.

He said that was impossible, as he was already at home.

She said she would go to his home.

He had no answer to that.

If Miss Derick has flown to his place of abode, adjacent the McGill campus, she would not have gotten there any sooner.

She did not even stop in at the Redpath Library to check out the latest Botanical Gazette, one of the many scientific journals containing the appalling notice.

Sent out a month ago?  How had she not gotten wind of it? With all her good friends in important places.

Well, there had been a hint, which Derick now realizes was something much more than a mere tip-off.

Andrew MacPhail told Mrs. Fenwick Williams at a private party at Christmas that some of the McGill governors, “just some, mind you,” had problems with Derick and “all that suffrage business.” MacPhail had heard it from Sir William Van Horne’s Secretary.

“It would be best,” he suggested to her friend, “if Professor Derick distanced herself and the Local Council from the controversial issue.”

So, Miss Derick took the correct pre-emptive action (or, so she thought) of proposing  a motion at the Executive Meeting of the Montreal Council to start a new, separate Montreal suffrage association.

All that conniving, all that scheming, and now ALL for nothing!

 “You must put in your C.V. like everyone else,” Dr. Peterson tells Miss Derick, his precise Scottish diction piercing her thick skin like a medical doctor’s needle.

This was after he spent a few awkward moments with his housekeeper deciding where to conduct the unscheduled interview, in the parlour or in the office.

To avoid appearing a reluctant eavesdropper, she had rested her eyes on the statue of Hermes tucked in an alcove at the top of the staircase.

Praxiteles’ Hermes, 4th century, she thought to herself. British Museum. Fig leaf applied at a later date.

Messenger God. How appropriate!

They are in the back parlour, now, with the drapes open and no fire, sitting a chilly fifteen foot distance from each other. She has been advised to keep her coat on but she is literally hot under the collar and would prefer to remove it, blast the cold environs.

 Derick cannot believe she is the first angry professor to show up at Peterson’s door without an appointment.

“It’s out of my hands,” Peterson says, his walrus moustache dancing rhythmically under a very square chin and mildly receding hairline.

“You will be on the Selection Committee?” she asks.

“Of course.”

She inquires something with her eyes. He immediately responds.

“There are already several candidates from Canada and Great Britain and at least eight from the United States. We want nothing but the best. A person of high standard, a good teacher and effective lecturer.  A great deal will turn on personality.”

Miss Derick’s stomach churns. He is describing her to a T. It all makes no sense.

Did they not want a woman to be Chair…or was it, indeed, ‘the suffrage?’

“Someone who has excellent presentation skills,” he continues, “even outside the classroom.”

Her again.

“Someone who gets along with people. Someone who is capable of representing with forcefulness and acceptability an important department in a university.”

“How many on the Committee?” she asks.”

“Twelve.”

“It will be a task to get them all together at the same time to deliberate.”

“Yes, it will be a challenge. But all must be decided by the time I leave for home, ah, Scotland, in June. Miss Derick, you will be sending in your application?”

“You will find out soon enough,” she says.

Is this a threat? Even she doesn’t know.

 For one of the few times in her life, she is at a total loss for words.

Do they think I cannot get along with people? Do they dislike my personality?

Miss Derick rises to leave before Peterson dismisses her, and turns and bumps her thigh hard into a side-table displaying a plaster-cast skull of a baboon. Then she collects herself, finds the finely-detailed oak door, and exits.


 Below: CARRIE Derick..

Sunday, December 14, 2014

A Tangled Web of Suffrage Advocacy in Montreal 1914.

Gazette advertisement for Mederic Martin, 1928, the election he lost that ended my own grandfather's career as Director of City Services.

My two stories Milk and Water (about Montreal in the 1927, during American Prohibition) and Furies Cross the Mersey (about the British Invasion of Suffragettes to Montreal in 1912/13) come together in 1914, the first year of WWI.

Read a PDF of Furies her for free on the cloud.

This is very clear from the notes I took at the National Library of Quebec of the Minutes of the Montreal Council of Women from 1909-1918.

Once again, in 1914, the MCW was getting involved in the Municipal Elections, but this time their French sister association, La Fédération St Jean Baptist, bowed out.

It's right there in my notes.

Fed Nationale will not canvas for women’s votes

A letter from Carrie Derick to Marie Gerin-Lajoie, years later in 1922. Gerin would soon drop out of suffrage advocacy, prompted by her Monsigneur. Of course, Canadian women had the Federal vote at that time, but Quebec women could not vote in their own provincial elections until 1940.


La Fédération, under Marie Gerin-Lajoie,  had been involved in getting the women's vote out in city elections since 1904. at least. I saw this in my ramblings through that organization's FONDS at the National Library of Quebec.

(These Fédération files contain all kinds of interesting information about those times, including a few letters of appreciation from first time women voters to Gerin-Lajoie.

Her personal fonds are full of rich detail, including her handwritten speeches. The fonds of the Montreal Council are interesting too, but picked cleaner, vetted and culled.

The Fonds of the Montreal Suffrage Association, 1913-1919,available at City Hall, are ultra-clean, wiped of all their personality, likely by Carrie Derick herself, who served as President. I know for a fact she still had all the files on her in the 1930's. It can be said, I guess,  that the French minutes are very Catholic and the English minutes more Protestant.)

According to these Minutes of the Council, Montreal spinsters with property won the municipal vote in 1892.

This favorable feminist fact eventually led to the Montreal Council of Women getting heavily involved in the 1910 municipal elections in Montreal, (even renting special typewriters to make comprehensive lists of eligible women voters) where they helped an English reform  faction led by Mayor John James Guerin, an Anglo doctor, get elected.

The Montreal Council ladies  were elated with the 1910 result. The minutes describe their efforts as "a great national work."

More from my notes:

Congratulations to Federation Nationale and WCTU. 

The work was magnificent. No one could have done it alone.

But working together with a united front and securing the cooperation of the St. Jean Baptiste.  By showing how important the interests, every ward was covered.


This led the Montreal Council of Women in 1910 to endorse Women Suffrage in general (an issue they were deliberating) even if no formal resolution was passed.

The minutes say "It was found that the MCW was in favor of women's suffrage and could vote as such at the National meetings in Montreal."



Two years later, in 1912 the Council once again got involved in the City Elections, but the Reform Ticket lost this time.

During this same period the organization was big into promoting suffrage, hosting militant suffragettes Emmeline Pankhurst and Barbara Wylie.

Dr. Ritchie England, new President of the Montreal Council of Women, taking over from Carrie Derick, meets Emmeline at the Montreal train station. This pic is from Margaret Gillette's We Walked Very Warily about Women at McGill.


After Emmeline's December 1911 speech, the Men's Committee of St. Andrew's church denied their rooms to the Montreal Council of Women for meetings. (That's in the minutes, too.)

Then came the 1914 election where the French Women's groups bowed out. La Fédération had been the first to get involved in civic politics and now they were dropping the ball. Why was this? Was it because of sticky French-English politics? But, of course.

In 1914, the Montreal Council passed a resolution officially condemning a contentious tramways deal that benefitted certain industrialists, including the French Forget's. (My grandfather was a Forget, so part of the gang.)

 Earlier on, in late 1913,  the Executive of the MCW had sent Mayor Martin a letter about the contract and he didn't reply. Instead he mocked them in the press. He called the good ladies 'idlers'. This was a mistake. He later had to retract.

In November 1913, the newly formed Montreal Suffrage Association published a special suffrage issue in the Montreal Herald newspaper, whose editor, Edward Beck, despised this 40 year deal.

Beck likely pushed them to pass a later resolution condemning the contract, an area which really had nothing to do with Child Welfare, Social Purity and Woman Suffrage, issues they traditionally cared about.

The MCW minutes from the era contain another funny mention.  Apparently Mayor Martin (who would still be Mayor in 1927, the time of Milk and Water) wrote the MCW a letter of apology, sort of.

The minutes claim:


A letter was received and read from Mayor Martin regarding their letter re: tramways. Hilarity ensued and some indignation as the secretary only received the answer after an appeal in the Press.

Mrs. McNaughton says that the letter begins with an untruth and ends with an insult.

 In November 1913 the Council sent out 200 invitations to a lecture on The Essentials of Good Civic Government, to be held at McGill's Royal Victoria College. According to the minutes, the event was poorly attended.

The Montreal Council of Women thought this candidate in 1914 was a good one. My notes again:


Stephens a good governance candidate. Playground and parks and ensure women have say in public life.

Public health and hygiene.. bureau of info and complaints.. regulation of transportation question.

11,000 women voters. To the women voter supreme importance of the vote, especially THIS YEAR.


Why 'especially this year?' I wonder.

Well, anyway, in 1918, Dr. Grace Ritchie England, President of the Montreal Council of Women, would suffer an impeachment hearing over her support of Laurier during the Conscription Election.

War is a messy business and the MCW got messed up big time in the politics of WWI in Montreal and Quebec, where Borden gave the vote only to women with male relations actively engaged in the big fight.

The MCW tried to weasel of out of this mess by saying they were  a non-political body.... When someone suggested that they had been involved with the Municipal elections for years, their answer was, "That isn't about politics, that is about good governance."

Oh what a tangled web we weave....when first we practice to deceive.

Friday, December 12, 2014

McGill Pioneers, Suffrage and Lots of Dirty Business



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. Snowden'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.



Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Sleigh bells and snowflakes kind of ramble



Doilies stitched around 1900 by Edith Nicholson or someone else in her family. Snowflakes from the Weather Network Website.

Every Canadian kid learns early on that each and every snowflake is different. (Is that really true? I could check now that the Internet exists, but I think I won't. Let's leave this belief intact, why not.)

And, frankly, when trudging down a snowy street in winter, wind biting at your face, one hardly cares about the shape of individual snowflakes.

How many hours have I spent in my life suffering the agony of waiting for my toes or fingers to thaw out? It really hurts!

But, up close, snowflakes are beautiful, aren't they? Very  beautiful.

Edith Nicholson of my story Threshold Girl stitched the doilies at the top of the page years and years ago, over a hundred years ago.

I am not sure if the technology existed back then to see individual snowflakes in all their splendor, but  if images did exist, they probably were published in the pages of Technical World Magazine or something, not in a magazine women were meant to read.

But back then women were expected to know how to do this kind of needlework.

To be so adept meant you were a woman of some leisure and probably not on of those restless 'new women' agitating for more rights.

But doilies are pretty aren't they, in a snowflaky kind of way.  Hmm..

Edith Nicholson, born 1884, was an exceptional kind of Edwardian woman.  Middle class and high school educated, but cash poor, she had to work. Her profession, of course, was teaching.

But, still, like many  middle class women in Canada at the turn of the last century Edith aimed to be like an upper class woman in some respects.

She had pretensions, you see. Hence the doilies.

Anyway, these were the days before Internet, or television, even radio. For entertainment, women went to the theatre or the opera  - or if not able to do that- to church to hear a rousing sermon by a skillful minister!

If you were a working girl in the big, bad city, many cold, winter days were spent alone in your room in your bleak boarding house. (Edith often complained in her letters home about having to spend the evening 'in' and alone.)

As a Canadian girl, like Edith Nicholson, I've known since childhood all about snowflakes, but I think I clipped this image today because I've been passing some time taking science refresher courses, Chemistry 101 type things on the Internet, and so I'm learning (once again) about the nature crystals and all the other stuff I learned back in the 10th grade.

Today, snowflakes seem to me like little miracles, perhaps all life emerged from crystals (although I just found out that that's not the theory being touted today. They are saying a chance meeting of random amino acids (not crystals) with some energy source might have done the trick).

I like the crystal theory better, even if it is outdated. Crystals are really pretty, after all.


 Me in 1971 the day after a record snowfall that still stands in Montreal. It was in March. I was probably studying a lot for my Chemistry Matriculation exam back then. My dad shoveled us out.
 Snowbanks  in downtown Montreal in 1910 (when this area was considered UP TOWN.) I am told that even in the 1920's and 30's huge snowbanks lined the sidewalks all winter. They rolled the snow down on the streets. Today, Montreal has a most efficient snow removal method, although residents who live on side-streets still complain about slow work after any big storm! Sleighs had bells because you couldn't hear them coming.
The view from my window a couple of winters ago when we had the SECOND biggest snow storm in recorded history. My husband shoveled us out.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Beliveau, Milk Bottles and the Montreal Suffragettes

Statue of Jean Beliveau that used to be in front of the Bell Center. I think this area is all construction morass, today.


Today I drove to the area just south of the old Montreal Forum on Atwater, where the old Montreal Canadiens, with the likes of Jean Beliveau, used to play hockey, past the Molson Center, where the present team plays, though all the construction of luxury high-rises being built there, near the Guaranteed Milk Bottle.

Actually, my husband was driving and I was looking.

"It's nice to see such building going on in the city," I said. "A good sign. Such expensive condos."

"I supposed it's just like in other big cities. These condos are going to be bought by people who don't live in them, just as an investment," said my husband.

I guess that's true. I'll see these apartments, once ready, posted on my favorite fantasy website, Sotheby's. I wonder if the pictures of the buildings will contain a shot of the ugly Guaranteed Milk Bottle, right there, across the street.

It's a heritage site and can't come down, I imagine!

The bottle as seen from the train, just west of the Molson Center. Dorchester Street Dormers.

Are the 1 percent interested in learning about the terrible poverty and typhoid epidemics of 100 years ago?

I doubt it, unless it increases their bottom line.

Our present day world is very much like the Edwardian Age, except for the salaries given sports stars.

Anyway, on our way to our destination, on Dorchester, we also passed a little industrial building called the International Paperboy Building or something that now houses MUSE, or so the sign outside says.

Muse is a television production company. They produced that WWII drama Bomb Girls.

I once asked a person there if they'd be interested in a story about the Canadian Suffragettes. She replied that although the story was very interesting and very important, it had no audience.

Oh, well. I guess I should have pitched a story about Zombie Detective Suffragettes, a Sherlock or Spooks style thing with decaying suffragettes raised from the dead coming back to help an ALL WOMAN detective agency (mostly all woman, one heartthrob male character) solve mysteries that always have a political angle, or maybe an election angle, like Robocalls...or sexual harassment on the Hill..etc...Each episode a small civics lesson.

Doesn't sound so crazy, actually. A Modern Woman's Murdoch.

But all I have is Furies Cross the Mersey, my ebook about the British Invasion of Suffragettes to Montreal in 1912/13. The suffragettes in my story are real, young and beautiful and, according to a diary left behind,  they bed-hopped (Now, why doesn't that sell, today?)

Here it is on pdf .... and here it is on Kindle for purchase.

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

And here follows (all in one post) some my previous posts on the subject in Omnibus form.

(BBC Radio Four often post their historical dramas in Omnibus form. This story would be just right for them... right up their alley.)

1) Stepford Suffragettes

McGill athletes in 1910. One of my characters in Sister Salvation will be a female hockey player.

The Medium is the Message (or Massage). I learned that back in Communications Studies at McGill, when McLuhan was popular.

I still believe it.

Of course, the media has morphed into a multi-tentacled, multi-antennaed beast, since my kids have been alive, anyway.

I had to lauch (or cry) last week. I watched BBC World News to hear proper info about the Malaysia Airline Crash - but the reporter kept saying over and over "Now, I must stress, this is just spec- u- la- tion" as if by saying that it is OK to say non-facts to fill up air time.

I can't help but notice that the cbc.ca new website has become totally tabloid or "pervert of the week" is how Ted Turner described it, this 24 hour news monster he created.

The click and read format lends itself to tabloid news. Few of us can resist clicking on the tawdry, frightening or titillating headline or the picture of the beautiful blonde, 2 to 32, the "prize" of our society.

Sometimes we just read the headline and have our perceptions coloured by what is essentially a clever lie or mischievous play-on-words to get us to read further and see some advertising.

We are only human  which means we are just a bone-throw away from that great-ape that in experiments keeps pressing the pleasure button all day long.

So, in this context, John Oliver, a comedian, becomes the sensible social commentator, who keeps your attention with silly jokes while he spends 15 minutes or so explaining a topical issue. He talked about US Prisons this week, a terrible and troubling travesty of a topic avoided by the mainstream press.

Years ago I recall reading a book "The History of News" that explained how news evolved (from the early days when flyers were sent around accusing the Royal Family of perverted sexual acts) and how the sensational, crime stories, sex stories, gossip about the elite, has always been the most popular kind of news.

For my research into the Nicholson Family Letters  for my e-books I've spent a lot of time reading 1910 era newspapers. Most of these broadsheets were aimed at 'elite' men (except when there were women's sections with recipes and fashions) so the low-brow stuff was used as filler mostly.

(And it's amazing to see how similar this filler is to today's infotainment. We haven't changed a whit when it comes to our appetite for junk news.)


An article in both the Montreal Gazette and the New York Times that claims in sober fashion that suffagette-ism is a disease. These newspapers shared their stories about the British Suffagettes. But when the New York Times covered the May 3, 1913 suffrage parade on Fifth Avenue, they used two pages, three photos and conducted some excellent reporting covering all angles of the issue. (There were no marches in Montreal to report on: my story Sister Salvation explains why.)


The editorial section of the Montreal Gazette in 1911/12 had a main editorial or two and then short snippets, often about the demented, or scary, or crazy, or plain silly suffragettes of England, Mrs. Pankhurst and her lot.

This was as if to say, "The antics of these suffragettes are not important enough to take our full attention, but they should be watched from the corner of our eye and they are worth a good chuckle, occasionally. "

Of course, in England, Mrs. Pankhurst took advantage of all this: her movement was very image conscious.

It must have all seemed so "Stepford Wives" to the middle class men of England, back in March 1912, when 150 or so well-dressed women calmly walked up Oxford Street, then took hatchets from purses and proceeded to break shop windows.
When the Montreal Suffrage Association launched in March 1913, they promised to be peaceful and reasonable and go about 'a quiet education of the people.'  Even a peaceful suffrage march down Sherbrooke would have been considered 'militant' in Montreal - largely because the only news people got about woman suffrage was the sensational news about the British suffragettes.

In the fall of 1912, Premier Borden had banned British suffragettes from coming to Canada. It didn't work. A few of Pankhurst's troops did visit Montreal. One lady, Caroline Kenney, sister of famed militant Annie Kenney, lived here for a while. Her eldest sister was a Montrealer.

The Gazette, in general did not support woman suffrage. After all, they got a lot of their advertising from booze and suffragists of all stripes were generally against the liquor trade.

Anyway, I am working on Sister Salvation, the story of the Montreal Suffragists of 1911/12.  If the mass media didn't pay too much attention to the suffragettes back one hundred years ago, they certainly don't do it now.

A while back, pitching the story to a Canadian producer, she told me it was a " very important story" but with no audience.

There are only two books written about the Canadian Suffrage Movement and both are academic papers, using mostly newspaper sources.

In Britain, of course, this is different, although there has been but one TV series about the Suffragettes, Shoulder to Shoulder with Sian Phillips, in the 70's.

HBO dramatized Iron Jawed Angels with Hillary Swank a shorter while back too.

And now a movie called Suffragette is soon to be released, with an A-list cast that includes Helena Bonham Carter and Meryl Streep.

I wonder if it will earn any box office.

The story of the Canadian suffragists of Montreal in the 1910 era is essentially the story of the entire city - English side.

These same suffragists were social reformers and Montreal was in dire need of social reform in 1910. The city had the highest infant mortality rate in the Western World, it was said.
These suffragists, mostly Protestant, wanted to 'clean up City Hall'.. French City Hall.

It is also the story of McGill and the Industrial "Golden Mile" elite who ran the country. These men sat on the Board of Governors of McGill, Birks, Van Horne, Greenshields.

They decided in 1912 to deny Carrie Derick the Chair in Botany, a position she deserved, not because she was a woman, but because she was for woman suffrage, or so I will imply in my story.

Derick, as out-going President of the Montreal Council of Women,  invited Mrs. Pankhurst to speak in Montreal in October 1911, just before the suffragette leader renewed her campaign of civil disobedience and deliberate destruction of government property - after a truce of a year or so for the Coronation.

Pankhurst spoke in the City in December 191l at Windsor Hall. (200 tickets had to be given away.)

  Formidable Carrie Derick was played like a violin by the even more formidable Mrs. Pankhurst, who arranged this speaking tour in advance to earn money for legal bills, or so I will imply in my story.


The Warden of McGill's Royal Victoria College was a keen suffragist. She was a former Londoner.

I'm just putting it together scene by scene now...

Same Ole Same Ole about Women and Science

McGill Co-Ed Class of 1912 as in the Yearbook Online.


Many years ago in high school I was in a debate about 'women's lib' - and I recall my opponent, a young man brought up the issue that there have been no women geniuses.

I can't recall what I said back, probably something naive and stupid. I can't recall if I won the debate.

Anyway, this all comes to mind as I research my story Sister Salvation about the suffrage movement in Montreal, Canada. This is something we did not learn about at school, or perhaps I would have had more ammunition for the debate.

 Actually I am writing my story, but I keep finding interesting items online - and what I found yesterday was particularly interesting.

From February 1 to February 15, 1913, the Montreal Council of Women (and some of their member groups, specifically the Women's Club of Montreal) held a suffrage exhibit.

This was exactly the time that Mrs. Pankhurst's militants in England were revving up their campaign of civil disobedience - and making huge headlines in Montreal.

So the suffrage exhibit was of the calm, maternal variety, with valentines and jonquils and sweet suffragette chocolates. And a tea room.

They also sold reading materials of interest to women, with a literature bureau featuring books and pamphlets not only about suffrage, on all kinds of topics of interest to women.

It was a big money-maker...

A 1910 era magazine feature in Montreal.

The exhibit also featured a number of talks and debates. One of the people slated to give a talk was Carrie Derick, McGill Botany Professor and Past President of the Montreal Council of Women.

Right at this time she was fighting for her career prize, the Chair of Botany at McGill.  She had only recently heard that the job wasn't going to be given to her; that there'd be a competition open to anyone in the world.

As it happens Derick cancelled her talk. (In my book I am making this talk about Suffrage and Biology.

As it happens, a few days later, her friend and ally, Dean Walton of the McGill Law School debated Suffrage with a certain R.L. Calder, a lawyer... And in 1913 R.L. Calder used the same argument as the kid at my high school in the 1960's to say women weren't made for politics: No women had ever blazed a trail in mathematics, etc.  Of course, if I am correct, a few years ago the President of Harvard, Mr. Summers, is it, got into trouble for saying the same thing.












Sad Girls, Old Maids and the Epistolary Form



A Tale of Two Militant Suffragettes


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.



Confusing the Suffragettes with Bees

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 Tale of Two Women Botanists


These are beautiful botany drawings by Dutch artist Maria Sybilla Merian from 1730. During the Scientific Enlightenment women were kept out of the new field of science in general  - with the exception of Botany.

After all, looking at flowers was a genteel thing and one didn't need a formal education to document what they looked like, just an observant nature and some drawing ability. (And if women could embroider flowers, they could certainly draw them.) The importance of Merian's work: she went to Surinam to document 'new' species.

I've written a great deal on this blog about McGill Botanist, Carrie Derick, who happened to be a Canadian feminist pioneer and the first female full professor in Canada.

Just recently, I completed a final draft of Furies Cross the Mersey, a book about Carrie Derick and her role as lead suffragist in Montreal in the 1911/1913 era. I include a note about Merian. I have Derick owning two prints of hers, framed in her living room. That is made up, but I got most of my info from Margaret Gillett's little book on Derick, No Fool She.

Carrie Derick was President of the Montreal Council of Women from 1909-1912 (the era of my e-book Threshold Girl) and the President of the Montreal Suffrage Association, founded in 1913 and dissolved in 1919.

Also in 1912 she was appointed Full Time Professor of Botany at McGill, a 'courtesy' appointment as she had been turned down for the position of Chair of Botany, even though she had been acting as de facto Chair for 3 years.

She continued to be education chair of the National Council of Women - and she used her authority as a Botanist to promote eugenics, which is why there will never be a Heritage Minute about her, although there is a street named after her in Verdun. No question, some of her beliefs were quite scary: you can read about them in Gazette articles from the era. She gave lots of talks on the subject.

Still, it must be understood. Eugenics, in 1910 was very chic. 

McGill was eugenics central (according to the Oxford book of Eugenics), The Ontario Hygiene Reader for high schoolers had a chapter on eugenics, or choosing your mate well, and the 1912 Child Welfare Exhibit in Montreal (mounted by top citizens, English and French, and attracting hundreds of thousands of people) had a eugenics display. The NY exhibition, held a year before, made no mention of eugenics, but many of the smaller US exhibitions did, the Pittsburg Exhibition in 1913 calling itself a child welfare and eugenics exhibition. 

Google News archives shows that eugenics was discussed through the 20's into the early 30's and then stopped. I wonder why? (Well, we know why.)

There were two types of eugenics, positive, where a young person was told to choose his/her mate well, or negative, removing 'defectives' from the gene pool.. and of course the definition of defectives was left to the individual.

One funny article from the thirties I found has a lady decrying that young girls only are looking for a guy with a nice car and a 'life of the party' face and not worrying about genes.


There's a book of Derick's posted on archive.org... a collection of Botany articles published in the Montreal Herald in 1900.

The Nicholsons of Richmond read the Herald, so it is very likely that Edith Nicholson 'met' Carrie Derick through her work long before she met her in the flesh at McGill in the 1920's. In my story, their paths cross at suffrage meetings.










By C.M.D!!! Did they not want to say this was written by a woman?? I think so. The preface says these drawings are from the pen 'of a well known botanist of high standing'...No wonder Derick got into feminist activism, as the case of 18th century  Merian reveals, women Botanists were not such an unusual thing.



              Carrie Derick writes a note to French Canadian suffragist Marie Gerin Lajoie on McGill Botany Paper

                                    This is a more scientific paper, autographed by Derick.


 A drawing from Flora Nicholson's 1911/12 Nature Diary for Macdonald Teachers College. I don't know if she ever met Derick (through her sister Edith) but in my e-book Threshold Girl I have her attend a meeting of the Montreal Council of Women.

Flora refers to the dowdy Miss Derick as the woman who studies flowers but does not wear them on her hat.


More of Merian's work.




Frances Fenwick Williams: One of a Kind and Montreal Suffragists

Mrs. Frances Fenwick Williams is not listed as a member of the Montreal Suffrage Association under her usual name, but under Williams.



As I put together Sister Salvation (the story of the suffrage movement in Montreal in 1912/13 - and the British Invasion of militant suffragettes happening at that time) I have a little problem:

I can't discover what Frances Fenwick Williams looked like.

She's the Canadian author who was the press secretary for the Montreal Suffrage Association (1913-1919)

In my story, I have her give a talk to students at Royal Victoria College, about Montreal newspapers and the different factions that control them.

That's in October 1912... I also have her bring along a special guest, militant Suffragette Barbara Wylie.

I did find this interesting bit in the paper: Apparently in 1917 Frances FW came out in favor of Borden's Unionist government. Strongly in favor.



Dr. Ritchie England, President of the Montreal Council of Women campaigned for Laurier and got into hot water for it.

Carrie Derick, President of the Montreal Suffrage Association, steered clear of all controversy often by re-writing history on the spot.

Clever woman this Carrie Derick, who also figures largely in my Sister Salvation Story. She had a politician's way of playing with words and re-writing history.

She claimed that the Montreal Suffrage Association was started 'to keep the interest in suffrage alive' after Emmeline Pankhurst's 1911 speech in Montreal. Except there was no interest, really.

My story ends in 1917, but the article above contains a most interesting point: Fenwick Williams claims that five years before, that would be in 1912, she was in England campaigning for the suffragettes.

She may be lying, but maybe it is true. Maybe Frances Fenwick Williams was in England in August 1912 when Wylie 'accosted' Premier Borden and demanded the vote for Canadian women.

Borden then banned militant suffragettes from coming to Canada, but still they came. Wylie and then Caroline Kenney, sister of famous militant suffragette Annie Kenney.

Simon Fraser University has put together a bio of Williams.

She apparently got married in 1909, to a well-known New York City based city planner, but clearly that marriage didn't work out.

She moved back  home to Montreal almost immediately.





In 1911, her father, a stock broker in 'mining' was living at 24 Crescent...no salary mentioned in the Census data. She isn't living with him, she lives on Oldfield. (Where's that? Westmount?)

Carrie Derick lived at 65 Crescent in 1911. She was making 2,000 a year as an Assistant Professor at McGill, although that info isn't in the Census. I got it elsewhere.

In 1901 Frances, who would be 23 years old and the eldest of the Fenwick children, wasn't at home either. I wonder where she was? She claimed she had worked as a secretary for Dr. McPhail of McGill.

She later made fun of McPhail and his anti-suffrage stance in a 1915 book A Soul on Fire.

I don't think FW was a Donalda, a McGill graduate, but there are no early yearbooks online for the 1900 period, so I can't be sure.

Fenwick Williams  wrote short stories for some 'pulp' fiction magazines in the 1905 period and then published her first novel, The Arch-Satirist in 1910. Sometime around then she also wrote for the Montreal Herald. Don't know whether she reported or got a by-line.

I'm sure Royal Victoria College students would have loved to hear her talk.

A Wisconsin newspaper called her  1910 novel 'breezy summer reading.'



In 1919, the MSA disbanded, with only Mrs. Fenwick Williams dissenting. They essentially threw her off possibly because of her boistrous support of the Unionist Government. The MSA pretended to be non-political.

Later on she taught creative writing in Montreal.

She had many sisters and a brother, so likely she has descendants, but no direct descendants.

I wonder what went wrong with her marriage: so many things could have happened, abuse, gay husband, VD... didn't like being married.

But why she didn't get divorced? (My husband's grandmother, a wealthy woman, got married twice in the same era and just left her husbands, without divorcing.  She left one  of them, she claimed because he couldn't have children.)

According to the SFU blurb on Fenwick Williams her husband is listed on the US Census a living in a Club in New York throughout the decades until his death.

I can't find Frances on the 1921 Canada census either.


McGill's Board of Governors and a Theory
The 1910 McGill yearbook had a bit on Penfellow. Nice looking guy. I think I might mention this in my story. Anyway, he hired Derick.. and then she took over for him...as de-facto Chair. 

 My book Furies Cross the Mersey  posits the theory that Derick didn't get his job when it was posted, not because she was a woman, but because she was a suffragist, a prominent suffragist who had just brought Emmeline Pankhurst in to speak in Montreal in December 1911.


I was going to leave the Titanic out of my story Furies Cross the Mersey (on Amazon.ca) about the Montreal Suffrage Movement in 1912/13 - because it is so "yesterday."

But I may have to reverse my decision.

It seems that Charles M. Hays, President of the Grand Trunk Railway, and the most prominent Montrealer to go down with the big boat, was also a governor of McGill.

And it was McGill's Board of Governors that decided early in 1912 to invite applicants for the job of Chair of the Botany Department, the job Carrie Derick already was doing. She thought she was a shoe-in for the job, apparently.

The previous Chair, a Dr. Penfellow, had died in 1910.

I spent a while trying to figure out who was on the Board in 1912. The closest I could get was 1909, where the Student Yearbook had a list.



And then there were a few reports in the newspapers listing new appointees around 1910, a Birks, and two mining guys.

So I can't be absolutely sure Hays was a governor right in 1912, but I will assume he was.

Who were the people on the Board of Governors? Why, the rich industrialists of the city and country, the Square Mile Guys. Guys who gave money to McGill..

Would some of these guys be against woman suffrage? I imagine so. Greenshields for instance is described in a bio as being involved determining  tariff law with respect to the textile industry.

I have read era sources, on the pro side, say that the textile industry was against woman suffrage because they were afraid women would vote for lower tariffs to have cheaper outfits.

As for Molson...well, that was a brewery and a bank. Enough said.

According to Margaret Gillett's little book on Carrie Derick, No Fool, She Sir William Van Horne wanted Derick appointed, but got his testimonial letter in too late.

Tennis Middy Blouses and Donaldas


McGill 1917 tennis team.

Since I like tennis, I am thinking of going to the 2014 Roger's Cup in Montreal although the weather forecast doesn't look too promising.

Because I like tennis,  I am making one of the characters in Sister Salvation a sporting type.

She is a wealthy student at RVC, the Royal Victoria Women's College (wealthier than most students who were mostly middle class)and she becomes turned on to the suffrage at first cause because it gets a rise out of a boy she likes.

But soon she gets serious and then she gets into trouble, but it all works out in the end.

That's the fictional part of my story.

 The rest of Sister Salvation is 'true.' The true story of Professor Carrie Derick, Canada's first female full professor and President of the Montreal Suffrage Association and the true story of the Nicholson women of Richmond, Quebec, who, in 1911/12 are all trying to make a go of it in the big bad city. (I have their family letters.)

The three storylines seem to fit together very snugly.

I first wondered if this was my own wishful thinking, then whether it was just  luck and, later, whether it was something else: the fact that Montreal women in 1910, upper class, middle class, or pioneering feminists, all suffered the same problems, the same challenges, a struggle to be taken seriously and a struggle for personal freedom.

Today, I lean towards the 3rd reason.

Making my co-ed a tennis players  in there isn't such a stretch.. Tennis was a popular sport at McGill among women from the earliest days of the Donaldas.

 The McGill co-eds at top are wearing middy blouses, sports blouses of the 1910 era that become the popular fashion during 1917 when corsets were needed for the war effort, or so the story goes.

Eaton's catalogue, 1917


So this image from the 1902 Ladies Home Journal is  the equivalent of showing a girl playing soccer in high heels.

 Edith Nicholson, second from right, in her Navy League Uniform in 1917. She's just down the street from McGill in front of the Sun Life Building.  In 1920 she would begin working in the Registrar's Office at McGill and later she would be Assistant Warden of  Royal Victoria College.

In 1912/13 Edith is hating her job at French Methodist Institute, a private school in Westmount and is about to quit. (A woman has been promoted as Head Teacher and all the other woman teachers HATE this.)

Her sister Marion is liking her job at Royal Arthur School, teaching  a class of 50, but she is turned down for a higher job, teaching the 7th grade the next year and this, she says,  "Makes me sick." You see, a 'mere boy out of school' has been hired in her place, and he is slated to make $800. a year, $150. more than she does with 6 years' experience.

She could use the money. She is helping to pay the board for a younger sister at Macdonald Teachers College.

Marion is also fed up with her rooming house, because the landlady 'lords it over her' so she desperately seeks a place of her own to live in, well, to share with her sisters and other teachers.

Landladies couldn't be too careful in those days, lest they be accused of running a bawdy house.

And,  in 1912, Carrie Derick is turned down for the position of Chair of the Botany Department at McGill in favour of  an American scholar, a man younger than her but with many more publications.

She is already an Assistant Professor. Her salary is 2,000 a year, a big salary for anyone of any sex.

But the Chair position earns 3,000. a year.

And she has fought so hard to reach where she is...almost begging for every promotion since she was hired as a part-time lab demonstrator in 1882.

The hardest part, Derick has been de-facto Chair  of the Botany Department for three years - with no extra pay. The previous Chair, Dr. Penhallow, her mentor, died in 1910 and she took over. She did all this while acting as President of the Montreal Council of Women, an umbrella group of over 40 women's aid organizations.

To appease her, the Governors of McGill make Derick a Full Professor in 1912, but with no extra duties and no extra pay and, most humiliating of all, she still has to work in the lab as demonstrator.

Pictures I snapped last year at the Roger's Cup in Montreal.

 David Ferrer
 Raphael Nada or Rafa
Grigor Dimitrov

Banning Militants from Coming to Canada
Edith's clipping, falling apart after all these years. Luckily, I transcribed it.

The first time I ever heard the name Barbara Wylie was when I read it on a headline of a newspaper clipping cut by my husband's great Aunt Edie - and left in an old trunk for 90 years!

The article, from a September 1912 Montreal Standard, is a glib one: reporters arrive at Viger Station to meet the British Suffragette Miss Wylie and almost miss her: they expect a battle-ax to de-train but instead get a tall, slim elegant woman.

Montreal reporters of the time often handled suffrage stories with more than a hint of glibness. Suffragettes were funny - that is when they weren't being terrifying.

Back in 2004, when I first unearthed the Nicholson Family letters from my in-laws' basement, I didn't know any of the background to this story.

Now I am pretty well an expert.

10 years' of research will do this.

I know that Barbara Wylie was a 'minor' suffragette, one of Pankhurst's troops who came to Canada in 1912 to stir up trouble, who went out West and soon returned to England to be arrested in front of His Majesty's Theatre in 1913.


Miss Wylie from Votes for Women Magazine, the article reporting on her trip to Canada.


I know that in August, 1912, Barbara Wylie and two other British Suffragettes accosted Prime Minister Borden while he was in London, England, and bragged about having been in jail.

I know that Borden banned suffragettes from coming to Canada, in September of 1912, but that the ban didn't deter Wylie.

I know that the Montreal Standard mocked this move, saying "How many suffragettes can we even recognize, 100 maybe?" (See cartoon, below.)

When Wylie came to Montreal in late September 1912, she didn't bother to do it discreetly, alerting in advance the reporters at Montreal. She was immediately invited to speak at a private Westmount salon, with a reporter or two in the room.

No one ever arrested Wylie, even when she almost incited Canadian Women to violence in a speech a month later on November 5, at the YMCA.


Borden banned the suffragettes in September because he had invited Winston Churchill and Prime Minister Asquith to come to Canada. Perhaps he did it on their behalf. They didn't end up coming.

It was left to the newspapers to deal with the invasion of British Suffragette and so they did, mostly by dismissing them or by ignoring their message or by turning them into fashionista celebrities.

Miss Wylie's lovely looks were more reported on than her fighting words.(An exception below, where she spoke at the YMCA in Montreal.)



Well, I'm editing my story, Sister Salvation, about the Montreal Suffrage Movement that was tied into the child-welfare movement, at least until 1914, when the suffragists of Canada (most of them anyway) got on the war wagon and pushed hard for more young Canadian boys to die in England.

(Someone obviously saw the irony in this as the Child Welfare Exhibit was right then and there changed to the Baby Welfare Exhibit.)

I have a scene in November, where Wylie speaks at the Y. I describe what really happened, as reported in the newspapers, except that I put Edith Nicholson in the audience.

Edith did not go to hear Wylie, I know, because I have letters showing she visited Montreal in late October, early November, but then went home on November 2. But she did cut out that clipping.
It is possible her sister Marion and her Mother Margaret went, but I have no proof.


Miss Wylie walks to the speaker’s platform, confidently, her heels clicking on the floor.

Her almond eyes look bigger and brighter than on the other day.

She begins by describing the events of 1912 with respect to suffrage:

And once these are detailed she says, “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 no less enthusiastic than the most enthusiastic suffrage agitators 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.”

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 roar.

Penelope’s colour rises to a deep red.

She imagines herself leading a suffrage parade down Sherbrooke, with tennis racquet in hand.


But an old curmudgeon in the back breaks the magic spell.


Read my e-books Threshold Girl, Diary of a Confirmed Spinster and Not Bonne Over Here, all written using the 300 Nicholson letters from the 1910 era.

Mrs. Pankhurst and the Manipulative Montreal Press
 In my story Furies Cross the Mersey a wealthy and sporty McGill Co-ed, with few academic interests, is persuaded by an enthusiastic fellow student to go to hear Mrs. Pankhurst and then becomes awakened to the manipulative way the local newspapers report on suffrage. 



Emmeline spoke in Toronto a day after speaking in Montreal. She wrote in her autobiography that she considered these trips a success, but in truth she polarized Montreal suffragists, even on the English side.

As I get down to writing Furies Cross the Mersey for real, that is my story about the sketchy suffrage movement in Montreal in 1911/1912, I still end up spending more time on the Internet fact-checking...and I know I really shouldn't. I should just plough away and leave the fact-checking for another day.

Here's a picture of Windsor Hall (Wiki Creative Commons- McCord Museum) where Mrs. Pankhurst spoke on December 11, 1913.



She got the Royal Treatment in Montreal although she stayed but a day. I imagine this was one of the nicest halls she ever got to speak in.

Where she slept that night, I don't know, probably at the luxurious home of one of Montreal's society ladies, likely Julia Parker Drummond.

 Well, that's what I will put in my story, anyway. (Pankhurst's nemesis Winston Churchill spoke in the same hall in 1901 (about his Boer War exploits) and afterwards was feted at the fancy-pants Mount Royal Club and this just because he was the self-promoting son of Sir Randolph.

As I have explained on this blog, the Montreal Council of Women had to give away 200 seats to fill the hall, tickets were not nearly as in demand as originally expected.

The MCW made but 6 dollars on the night because Mrs. Pankhurst charged a pretty fee to speak. Indeed, that was the point of her visits to North America.

Pankhurst did not try to stir up suffragette passion in Canadian citizens. She apparently tailored her speeches to the audience and this one was informational.  (That would have got her into trouble anyway.) She did, however, send some of her lesser known troops to Montreal to do just that a short while later. They didn't charge to speak. My story covers all that.


Lucky the MCW filled the hall. The Gazette could then use this image as the lead!



Here's what the Montreal Herald wrote about the event. (Reprinted in Pankhurst's Votes for Women. The WSPU was all about Publicity too.)

"The frail, staunch fighting Englishwoman undeniably created a sentiment of sympathy for the cause to which she has devoted her life. Her eloquent address was frequently interrupted by applause.
It must be admitted that if a man were to go about work of advocating a political cause in the way Mrs. Pankhurst goes about her work we would think pretty well of him. The men who leave the impression of their personality upon the minds of the people do go about it just her way. It is the way of Cobden, of Bright, of O'Connell, of Parnell, or Wendell Phillips of Henry Ward Beecher. It is the hard way, not the easy way. It is the way of forcing opinion not of waiting for the current. THere are risks about it, discomforts about it, even dangers attendant upon it. It takes a lot of heart to carry on such a campaign. Braving occasional rowdyism is bad enough, but it takes  a pretty high order of courage to face the tedium involved in ceaseless railway journeys, in meeting not always to intelligent sympathizers, in putting up with the squeamishness of faint-hearted friends. This is desperate work for  a man. How a woman manages to do it is beyond the imagination."


The Toronto Sun published an article on Pankhurst's speech (top of page) held the next day in that city. The article was biased in favor of Pankhurst. It seems the only people who dared confront the famous suffragist were drunken men :) who got their words all mixed up.


A Tangled Web of Suffrage Advocacy


A Statue of Mme Gerin Lajoie and Idola St Jean (I think)



The minutes from the first meeting  1922 of La Ligue des droits de la femme, the bilingual group assembled to win the vote for Quebec women at the provincial level. That would take 18 years!


As I start my story Sister Salvation, about the 1912/1913 Montreal Suffrage Movement, the British Invasion (at the time) of British Militant Suffragettes and about Carrie Derick's drama at McGill - fighting for respect and a place at the faculty table, I'm creating little charts in my head.

Carrie Derick is tied to both the Montreal Council of Women and McGill, where she fights with Principle Peterson and Dr. George Adami of the Pathology Department.  Her allies are Dean Walton of the Law Faculty and Dean Moyse of the Arts Faculty.

The Montreal Council  of Women fights with Adami (who is on the Civic Improvement League) and with  most of French City Hall who they see as corrupt and, more importantly, as too lenient on prostitution and drink.

Would be militant Montreal suffragists battle with 'constitutional' suffragists, who in Montreal could be called 'educational' suffragists because they feel it is their job to educate the people with an orderly distribution of books, pamphlets and brochures, (no inflammatory flyers) and not to get attention in the press with marches and protests and public speeches.

Mrs. Hurlbatt - a member of the MCW -  makes woman suffrage a priority for the club in 1909. She sympathizes with the British Militants (she's from London herself) but she can't be too open about it because she is Warden of the very conservative Royal Victoria College at McGill, the women's college.


And so on. It's all very complicated.

The sign-ins at the first meeting of La Ligue. The Mr. Hague is a banker, the father- in- law of the lady whose father died at Changi and whom I interviewed for my WWII play  Looking for Mrs. Peel. Ritchie England (a McGill Donalda, or pioneering co-ed)  survived a 1919 impeachment trial and was a party to this organization, a good thing as her thinking was more in line with the French-Canadians.) Marie Gerin-Lajoie, was first President.

In 1912 the Montreal Council of Women decided to 'spin off' the Montreal Suffrage Association "to keep the interest in suffrage alive"after a December 1911 speech at Windsor Hall  by Mrs. Emmeline Pankhurst, despite the fact there wasn't that much interest in suffrage on the Montreal street and any interest that existed was mostly negative.

The MCW's  key focus with respect to to the women's vote had been  getting the spinster vote out in Municipal Elections in an all-out effort to clean up corrupt City Hall.

It worked in 1910 when the MCW got their candidate elected Mayor, Jean James Guerin, a doctor. It didn't work too well in February 1912...Guerin was out...only  a few of their candidates got in.

With the Montreal Suffrage Association, the ladies of the MCW could lobby freely for the Federal Vote while keeping the issue at arm's length.

Not all the MCW's 40 member organizations supported woman suffrage. Indeed, just 'several' of them appeared to. Several is how many of the MCW's member organization agreed to send around a suffrage petition in 1912.  (What is several =5 or 6, maybe?)


Dr. Adami, Cambridge educated McGill pathologist and supporter of Eugenics, like Carrie Derick.

In 1912, Dr. Adami of McGill, President of the Civic Improvement League, did not like the idea of woman suffrage and he waged open war in the press with the Montreal Council of Women over what organization was to head the October Child Welfare Exhibit.

He also crashed an Executive Meeting of the Montreal Council in 1912 and said "All you care about is suffrage."

The suffrage issue was not showcased at the Child Welfare Exhibit; the Montreal Suffragists held a Woman Suffrage Exhibit six months later in February, which proved a success if sales of literature are any measure. They made $300.00.

So, the Montreal Suffrage Association was launched in late April 1913 (with proceeds from the February exhibit)  promising at the press conference to be 'sweet' and 'reasonable.'

The MSA Board was announced: it was made up of Council ladies, clergyman and McGill profs like Carrie Derick and Dean Walton. At the presser, two clergymen openly denounced the British Suffragettes, one of them  saying it would be better if they died in jail.

Mumbles of  "No. No" were heard in the audience.

Mrs. Hurlbatt, Miss Cartwright (gym teacher) and Miss Cameron (English teacher) of R.V.C. immediately signed up to be members. Miss Cameron later got her named scratched off the membership register.

But WWI soon broke out and Woman Suffrage took a back seat to more important war effort.

The Child Welfare Exhibit's name was changed to the Baby Welfare Exhibit. (After all, male 'children' were being sent to the Front to be killed.)

The Montreal Council of Women and their President Dr. Ritchie England got into a lot of hot water in 1918 for actively supporting Wilfrid Laurier in the 1917 Conscription Election. Laurier did not support Conscription without a national wide referendum. .

In 1917, there was a frenzy among some of the National Council of Women leaders to get the Conscription Bill through. Prime Minister Borden cleverly pitted woman against woman, suffragist against suffragist, getting them to fall back on their principles, preying on their fears for their own men at the front.

 It was a somewhat shameful episode in the history of Canadian women's rights. Only women with close relatives at the Front, husbands, brothers or sons, got to vote federally in 1917 and because of his alliance with the leadership of certain pan-Canadian suffrage groups Borden was able to say 'all the women of Canada agreed.'

Dr. Ritchie England (President of the Montreal Council of Women) stood by her principles in the perilous era and suffered for it. (Or she didn't quite understand what was going on.)

In 1918 most Canadian women won the vote (so WWI accomplished that at least) and the Montreal Suffrage Association moved to disband in 1919, with only a few members in attendance at the meeting in question.

Someone complained about this in the Gazette. (I suspect it was Mrs. Fenwick Williams, the one abstainer in the group at the meeting.)

And then this organization, La Ligue des droits de la femme was organized, with a 50/50 English/ French membership, it was written right into the Constitution.

So, with the launch of the MSA in 1913, certain pro-suffrage, anti-militant forces got to shake off a few undesirables (some earlier suffrage advocates had gone about it in bull-headed fashion, not understanding the complexities of Quebec politics) and control the suffrage debate in the city.

And it was all repeated in 1919.

The fact is, there was very little that was democratic about the suffrage movement in Montreal in 1910-1919. And it was more about municipal politics, Protestant values including social purity and  temperance. But that doesn't mean it was all bad.



A weird cartoon about suffrage in the Montreal Herald. Poor women (lobbying for vote) are pointing at a rich woman as if accusing her of something.

It was the richer women who lobbied for the vote, in their efforts to 'protect' poorer women and children, at least from what I can see.

The Humiliation of Canada's First Female Full Professor


 Carrie Derick
 Emmeline Pankhurst
 Ethel Hurlbatt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All this most probably  no coincidence. RVC was the only Women's College in Montreal.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This same 1909-1912  period was when Derick was de-facto Chair of the McGill Botany Department, helping out the ailing Chair.

Derick clearly was a woman of high energy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Furies Cross the Mersey