Wednesday, October 13, 2010

In their Proper Place, All Right

Galacians from Canada West Magazine 1909

In the 1908-1913 period, the Nicholsons of Richmond Quebec continually asked themselves this question: "Should we move out West?"

Many of their friends and relations were moving out West. Norman's brother Gilbert, a carpenter, moved to Edmonton and brought his daughter Sophia, who found a husband there.

I found the magazine Canada West on, which was produced by the Immigration People.

From what I can see, this is a magazine squarely aimed at middle class women. Women of virtue, women of economy, women with big dreams, women like Edith, Marion and Flora Nicholson.

The articles enhance many of the key themes of the era: one article is about a young woman who craves a certain expensive hat. It's called A Lesson in Economy. "She wanted a hat, a fluffy pink thing that hung in the window of Mrs. Perkins' millinery establishment in Main Street. It was not serviceable. It could only be worn with a dainty frock such as she did not possess." (This was written before D. W. Griffith produced The New York Hat, so that says something.)
And then, mixing messages as per usual, the magazine has an article about the Society Women of Edmonton. "Edmonton today has a society that is strikingly cosmopolitain and to this is that it largely owes its charm. At a representative social gathering one might meet people who had previously lived in any of Great Britain colonies: New Zealand, Japan, California, London.(sic).

Canada West Magazine has a myth-busting story about a Galacian settlement too: "Galacians are a merry lot, no long faces, no brooding glances. You fancy they can laugh easily, cry easily...There's seems to be a prejudice against the Galacians. "The Galacians are lazy and dirty, " says one. "The Galacian is a drunkard, of poor morals," says another. A certain conclusion to come to is that some people have come into contact with the wrong kind of Galacian. All tribes, all people, have their wrong kind. Even the Scotch people, of whom you are so proud."

And of course, the 'restless woman' issue is touched upon, in an interview with a British Actor, a Mr. Lackaye (in what seems like a regular Theatre Column for that touch of fantasy all women crave). Lackaye has a reputation for being misogynist. He says, "Perhaps I am called a woman-hater because I don't believe in woman's suffrage and because I deprecate the amused contempt with which the average man treats the average woman. Now, isn't it true that the ordinary man makes the intelligent woman ridiculous with is attempts at gallantry, his attitude towards here being more of an insult than a compliment. (Message here, I supposed, is for young women not to expect this treatment out West.) I don't treat a woman like a doll. I assume she is a reasoning being until she is proved otherwise. As to the franchise for women, there is no doubt in my mind that a woman with brains and intelligence is more worthy of the vote, than say, an ignorant Italian labourer but my question is, Will it do her any good? Women will never consent to be jostled about by the drunken roustabouts of the polling booths. When they want to face men on a equal footing, I won't stop them."

And there's one other immigration article, or more a rant that is self-explanatory. "Six charitable societies in Britain in 1907 sent 11,000 'assisted immigrants' to Canada. 11 thousand of the unfittest. 11 thousand who had not cared to try to pull down anything in the wolf-fight of life. Eleven thousand who had given up, acknowledged their helplessness, and came in floating on the tide. Somehow the miraculous air of Canada was to transform these men, add muscle to their flabby arms, vitality to their anemic bodies, ambition to their listless minds... Practically, they starved. Canada needed men to plough, to sow, to reap, to punch cattle, and make horsehoes and mill flour. These men could do none of these things. The men who had depended on carrying someone's purse across Blackfriar's Bridge for sixpence.."

Clearly, this author had little sympathy for the people struggling on the bottom of Britain's entrenched Edwardian era class system. But this was basically Canada's official immigration policy. Poor urbanites need not apply.And even the Nicholsons, the most respectable of families, with educated daughters, weren't needed or wanted out West. No Money!! Even son Herb, who moved out West because he stole from the bank he worked at, tells father Norman, "This is young man's country. Or for people with money to invest."

An Edmonton Society Woman.