Thursday, September 23, 2010

People who need people 1910

Impressionist Painting, sans couleurs? No, Dominion Park 1910. If I could figure out how to use Paint Shop Pro.

The Nicholsons of Richmond Quebec may have been cash poor, but they were connection rich.

And in 1910 Canada, connections were everything, especially for a gal who wanted a life, because women, even women in their twenties could not go out alone to many places. Edith Nicholson complains in letters about lonely nights cooped up in her room in the city, when she could be at a lecture.
(Eureka moment: It seems to be the the so-called social evil, the prostitution problem, was used against ALL women, as a method of control, for any woman out doing anything alone was a suspect. And any group of women wanting to live together was doubly suspect.)

Marion, Edith and Flora Nicholson had each other when working in Montreal, but more importantly, they had friends.

The Clevelands, (Dr. was a dentist) and the McCoys. When Marion was teaching in Sherbrooke in 1906-07, she stayed at Mrs. Wyatts.

The Nicholson women's options were extremely limited, despite their education, or perhaps because of it. Teaching was essentially the only respectable profession they could enter, although Edith went to secretarial school. But without these connections in town, it would have been next to impossible for Marion to attend McGill Normal School. As explained in Flo in the City, my book about a girl coming of age in the pivotal 1910 era, based on the letters of,
Marion had a hard time finding a rooming house, when first in the city. And later on, when she was determined to find her own apartment (quite scandalous) because she hated the way the rooming house matrons "lorded it over her" well, the McCoys were of help. She landed an apartment near them, no doubt with their help. Landlords in those days would not rent to a group of women.

Well, I just found out that that the Clevelands, Wyatts and McCoys were three of the founding families of Richmond and area. I just found and read "A Sketch of the Early Settlement and History of Shipton" by Reverend Edward Cleveland. No date, but I suspect it was published around 1860. (I found it on, but it has no publication date.)

In this book, which has been referred to for many subsequent histories of Quebec, he talks about the first settlers, the industries, the tradesman and about the hardships.

There are no Scots here yet. The McLeods, Margaret's people, came in 1838 and 41 and the Nicholsons in 1951.

In his introduction, Rev Cleveland writes: The study of history is always interesting and important, inasmuch as curiosity is gratified by recital of facts and the experience of the past is spread out for our instruction in reference for the future. We learn thus to appreciate the present time and the advantages of which we must avail ourselves in the improvement of it. This is true, not merely on the great scale, but even when we descend to a humbler sphere and apply ourselves to the history of our own immediate vicinity. (You take also apply this to people. The great personages of history are interesting to learn about, the Lauriers and Royalty, but also 'the lesser' people, like the Nicholsons.)

Not that the Nicholsons were average. Just by virtue of having lived in Richmond, they had an advantage. The first Protestant School in Quebec was established in Richmond, as Cleveland's book points out. Education was very important to the people of the area. (So no surprise that Sutherland became Superintendant of Schools in 1911.)

Indeed, Cleveland writes this: "The Library Associations recently established in Richmond and Danville with their various means of promoting intelligence and the best interests of the community, should not be overlooked. Our newspapers, periodicals and postal arrangements also have an important bearing on the interests of education."

As I wrote in my last blog, libraries were never a priority in Quebec. It's odd, newspapers were considered educative in 1860 or whenever this book was published (I just looked it up, 1858. Good guess!) In the 1910 era some people lamented the fact that the ONLY thing people read these days is newspapers.