Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Church Problem

Nicholson relations likely. Styles suggest 1900

OK. As I write my novel Flo in the City, about a young woman coming of age in the exciting 1908-1913 era, using the letters of, my social studies website, I worry about one thing, the part religion plays in their lives.

They came from very religious people, Isle of Lewis, Scots who immigrated to Canada, and the US and Australia in the mid 1800's.

Here's a letter I have from a member of the older generation, written to Marion McLean (Mother of Margaret McLeod) in 1896, the year Sir Wilfrid Laurier came to power in Canada, the year the Nicholsons built their beloved home Tighsolas.

Now, this relative was a preacher's wife (but weren't they all if they were not illiterate).

The Free Church Manse

East Charlton

Victoria, Australia

My dear cousin Marion,

Your letter of the 23rd came safely to hand and I need not say that my dear husband and myself were truly glad to hear from you. It is refreshing indeed to me and my husband is shared in my joy. Let us thank the gracious Lord for his care over us in our youth and age and press on to a nearness to God... and so. Then she complains that the younger generation only wants to have fun.

The Nicholson letters, which number about 1000, contain many letters from Ministers of the Cloth, all kind of doom and gloom. If there was a disaster, no one to describe it better than a minister. That was their job.

I write this, because the next part of my story takes place on a Sunday. The girls are at home. I know what Marion does on Sundays at home because I have her diary from the last year. She goes to church, usually twice, once in the morning and once in the evening. She goes for the boys, and the social aspect, and for something to do,and to show off a dress and for entertainment, as sermons are entertaining. I have little to show she is going for religion, but she must be on some level.

And she goes for drives or walks with a beau.

Working on Sunday is a no no. I have a letter Marion writes in 1913, where she cooks a chicken in her new flat, which she shares with three girls, including FLO. I made a chicken, and on a Sunday! she writes.

But that's for later on in the book.

So this Sunday, Margaret isn't at home. I will have Marion doing some school work, preparing a test of some kind, for it is end of term. I have some material from the Royal Crown Reader I can use.

I will have Flo remark that Mother wouldn't be pleased to see her working and she will reply: Teachers don't have days of rest.

Margaret was religious, but not one 'of the dour and sour old ladies dressed in black who ran around carrying their bibles' as a grandchild described the older generation of Scots in Richmond. No, she was a modern woman who wanted to have it all, freedom, security, equality with men (not quite in the way we see it) and most of all ideas.

She wanted her daughters to have it all too. That's why she insisted on them getting an education. "An education is something they can't take away from you," she told them. Ironic, as the story of Flo in the City will reveal how the Nicholsons are in danger of losing their house to creditors.

Remember, the Isle of Lewis Scots were cleared from the land in Scotland and forced to come to Canada.

Of all the girls, Edith is the one who speaks about religion in her letters. She loves 'the old songs' and she loves a good sermon, as she loves a good lecture.

In some ways, Edith is the one most like Mother Margaret, as she wants it all, spiritually and intellectually, whereas Marion wants fairness and power (she ends up leading a Union) and Flo, well, Flo wants a family above all.