Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Women and the City


I haven't been posting much to Flo in the City,my blog that is about a book I am writing about a girl coming of age in the pivotal 1910 era.
I have started taking a course in Heritage Studies, and already have some new concepts to apply to my endeavor.
At right I have posted a picture of St. Catherine Street in 1905, the year Marion Nicholson spent in the city while she attended McGill Normal School on Belmont. This picture from the McCord Museum Collection. There's a woman and perhaps a child walking across the street, a dangerous activity in any major city at that time.
I have many letters from Normal School, when Marion felt obliged, like many students, to keep her parents updated as they were paying for her schooling.
Notice there are not many cars on the street, (none in this picture). Cars took off between 08 and 13, and even then, the city didn't have as many as the country, as they were not needed, what with the streetcars and probably hard to drive on the busy streets.
If you visit YouTube you will find some films of 1905 in New York, London and S Francisco. in the era and it's pretty much the same, traffic chaos, with few women negotiating the busy streets in their cumbersome attire. You see more cars in San Francisco.
Marion's brother Herb was also in the city at this time. So this is what they saw as they walked the street. The smell, horse manure mostly. No car exhausts like in the 60's when the city was quite polluted. I hardly noticed when I lived there on Coolbrook Street in Snowdon, but int he 70's when I moved the the burbs, and I visited the city, upon returning home, I could smell the smoke on my clothes and even on my underwear. Smog was a huge problem in the 60's. We cleared that up a bit, but we have huger environmental issues to deal with today.
Of course, one of the reasons Coco Chanel gave for making women's clothes comfier, more stretchy, was that the modern working woman had to run for the street car and needed the freedom. So true! But I have read that she had little choice, as a new designer (and a woman!) she was elbowed out of the industry and wasn't able to buy the traditional materials, so she innovated with men's underwear material. FATE plays a part in all famous people's lives.
Now, if only Thomas Edison had been able to perfect the car battery, the 20th century would have played out much differently. But even today (I am told by my son) batteries aren't very good. The battery on this brand new lap top for instance.: a fairly useless thing that lasts a short time.