Thursday, November 19, 2009

From the Woolf's Mouth

Above: left to right. Edith, Margaret (pouring tea) Flora and Mrs.Montgomery

"On or about December 1910, the world changed. Relations between masters and servants, husbands and wives, parents and children shifted. And when human relations change, there is at the same time a change in religion, conduct, politics and literature. "Virginia Woolf

I have this quote up on one of the introductory pages of my od Tighsolas website, that I turned into a series of ebooks, Threshold Girl, Diary of a Confirmed Spinster, and Furies Cross the Mersey, about the militant suffragettes invading Montreal in 1912/13.

If 1922 is considered by some to be the birth of the modern age (with the publication of the Wasteland and Ulysses)1910 certainly was a pivotal time in history, in Canada and in all of the Western World.

The motor car, the motion picture, electricity, among other new gadgets were upsetting the status quo.

For example, Margaret would often go to church twice a day, often for want of something to do. If the Minister gave a boring sermon, she would get upset. Ministers had to be entertaining and edifying. Hence those 'fire and brimstone' sermons, with vivid depictions of Heaven and Hell.

With motion picture shows, people, young people mostly, had another kind of place to go for thrills and diversion.

Actor Colin Firth says he comes from a long line of Ministers (Methodists, not Presbyterians like the Nicholsons) and that acting isn't all that different from sermonizing. He is right, of course.

Virginia Woolf had it almost right, too, I think. Except it's new technologies that change us, and change the way we interact.

The picture above is of the Nicholson women, in about 1908, having an outdoor tea party, with best china and silver, on Mrs. Montgomery's front lawn. You can see Tighsolas in the background.

If Mrs. Montgomery hadn't existed, I would have had to invent her. She's the kind-hearted busy body who lives next door. She's a little tactless, flattery isn't her forte, but she's always there with the chicken soup when a neighbour is ailing.

In 1910 she has a baby daughter and Margaret is often called upon to take care of Baby Montgomery. Well, this baby was still alive in 2005 and my husband and I visited her in the Wales Home in Richmond. She was not in great shape though.

Also in and around that time, Mrs. Montgomery's husband, known only as Mr. Montgomery sold his horse and decided to buy a motorcar! Well, the women of Dufferin Street were not impressed, but Mr. Montgomery was merely 'catching the wave'.

Up until then the motorcar had mainly been the toy of the rich. But it and around 1910 middle class men started wanting them, despite the fact people had to pay for cars outright and cars cost a lot, 1,000 to 3,000 dollars or so. A LOT. That was the price of a fairly nice house in Richmond.
Zoom. Zoom. Zoom.

In those days, however (the Laurier Era in Canada, the Edwardian Era in England) women still had 'their day at home' when they had to entertain callers. This was a very Victorian practice.

Margaret liked to show off her breadmaking skills, so she enjoyed her day, except that she was often alone and it was hard work preparing the tea. So even when living and working in the city, the girls returned home as often as possible.

Anyway, this is my second post today and I'm supposed to be writing my Chapter 1, Just a Change of Colour. But I played around on Photoshop and couldn't wait to post this photo. The colourization is hastily done, as you can see. I notice there are not many 'casuall' family photos of the 1910 era, even online, even on Flickr.