Sunday, August 1, 2010

Evangelical Progressives? Not a contradiction in terms in 1910

I've been having fun reading the different articles on Women's Suffrage in the Montreal Gazette published between 1908-1914, (not all as the archives contain only a sample of the newspapers published). Still, what interesting stuff and great fodder for an essay on "Spin: then and now." La plus ca change, indeed! I've read quite a bit about the "Mrs. Snowden" who Edith hears talk in 1913 and of whom she says, "But she is not militant, and for this I am very sad." Oddly, this Mrs. Ethel Snowden, wife of an MP Philip,is sometimes call a 'suffragette' which has come to mean militant suffragist. Anyway, she was a very lovely looking woman, smart (as 'clever' as her socialist MP husband who even attends meetings in his place when he is ill, according to a blurb from Every Woman's Encyclopedia, 1910) and a terrific speaker. All which goes to prove Edith Nicholson, my husband's prim and proper great aunt, was VERY in the thick of things, with respect to her social activism as a young woman.

The articles are often wire-stories and such, and many letters to the Editor quote other newspaper reports and people, so these articles illustrate a broad view of the debate in the newspapers. Quite a remarkably silly debate, or so it sounds in retrospect, although the tone taken (and illogic spewed) is all too familiar to me as a modern media watcher.

(Yesterday, I happened to catch an interview on CNN of a policeman in Arizona, who was all for a serious crackdown on illegal immigrants. He mentioned that 'the crime rate has risen in his area' but didn't actually say illegal immigrants were responsible and the interviewer didn't ask him to be more specific. He also said something like "Who knows what these people are doing here?" and framed the crackdown as a security issue. So it's not about poor people coming to America because they want a piece of the American pie, because they admire the US way of life, it's, well, the OTHER thing. But nothing was stated outright, indeed, no mention of the word Mexican at all. Just THEM, THOSE PEOPLE. All very scary, I think. And terrible journalism.)

No one has come a long way, baby in 100 years. My first observation: if an article's spin was pro-suffrage, the article almost always mentioned how 'good looking' the speaker, the marchers, were.

Remember, editorially speaking, the Gazette was against women's suffrage. The Montreal Witness, an evangelical anti-temperance newspaper the Nicholson's read, was all for it.

Here's an link to a 1911 letter about a mock parliament at McGill, where women's suffrage was voted down 4 to 1. The Nicholson letters, refer to this mock parliament. Too bad about what happened at McGill. (I'm pretty sure. I've got to check the dates.)

Odd, the other mock Bill introduced was to have further restrictions on Oriental Immigration, which passed as well. Indeed, only 'a few socialists' voted against it.


In 1909, Marion attends a talk at Knox Church where Peter Hing, the first Chinese graduate of McGill, is being feted by his fellows and others. President Peterson of McGill speaks and says restrictions should be lessened to allow more brainy Chinese to attend McGill.

The Chinese have never felt at home in Montreal. No wonder.