Sunday, August 8, 2010

It's all so COMPLEX!

Shirtwaists 1910 Eaton's catalogue.

I have started to read Nan Enstad's paper, Fashioning Political Identities, and because it is an academic paper, written in academic style and not as easily digested as the two Juliet Nicolson histories I have been blogging about, it's going to take me a few readings to figure out exactly what this paper has to do with Tighsolas. An awful lot, actually, I can see that already.

The Nicholsons, middle class women, sewed their own waists. But the Enstad paper claims that the Italian and Jewish working class women (we're talking the US here, but Montreal was not unlike New York) who worked in the clothing factories, paradoxically purchased their clothes as they didn't have time to sew. Not from the Sears catalogue however, but from carts pushed around in their neighbours. And sometimes they dressed up like 'ladies' which upset the apple cart of class distinction.

And Enstad talks of the Shirtwaist Union Protests that I have talked about and mentions the fact that observors were confused, because these women were all gussied up. How could pretty girls be serious political activists? (I just blogged about a report on a suffrage parade where the women's colourful fashions were described in detail: a similar thing, except this was usually done in support of the women: See, these suffragettes aren't all manly women. They aren't so frightening after all.

And there it is: the first connection I can make with The Nicholson women loved fashion, but that doesn't mean they weren't politically aware. Or that they didn't want romance in their life. That's a central point of Tighsolas.

Indeed, during the Second World War, Marion became a Teacher's Union Leader and Edith became Commandant of the Red Cross in Quebec.

And still they cared about fashion. And they were quite vain. And they were quite girly.

And it's all very complex... so that's why I'm spending SO MUCH TIME getting background to the Tighsolas letters before I continue writing Flo in the City, my story about a girl coming of age in 1910.