Friday, February 4, 2011

Rolled Up Stockings and Cat Suits

Woman and BIG Hat..1910 Era.

In history class, in high school, we took 2 years of Canadian History; then two years of British history; then one year of World History.

I happen to have on hand the textbook used for the Canadian part, Canada Then and Now.

I just re-read (sic) the part about the Laurier Era.

(Now, the book was published in 1954, the year of my birth, and it is copyrighted to the MacMillan Company of Canada, that no longer exists. So I'll assume it is the public domain.)

The book is written in clear, cold noncommittal prose, as is typical for textbooks of the era. There are a few pages on the Wheat Boom and Immigration.

"By 1896 there was no cheap land left in eastern Canada. So many immigrants had poured into the American West that most of the good land there had been taken up. This was Canada's opportunity. Clifford Sifton, Minister of the Interior in Laurier's cabinet, began to advertise the fertile farmlands of the Canadian West, first in Great Britain and in the United States, and then throughout the length and breadth of Europe."

Well, a little fib here. Northern Europe maybe.

The books skirts the dark side of this immigration business, but of course, although when listing the nationalities who immigrated to the West, it is clear that no Greeks or Italians were invited to the party.

This is how history books (and some serious historical movies) avoid touchy issues. They don't lie, they just leave things out.

"The prospects were tempting. For a 10 dollar fee a man could take up a homestead. Each homesteader was granted 160 acres of land, on condition that he build a house on it, live on it six months of the year, break thirty acres a year, and put twenty acres under crop. If he fulfilled these conditions, the land was his after 3 years."

Well, the book also talks about Laurier's visit to the Imperial Conference during the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Year, 1897. (Which contained discussions about Canadians potentially sitting in the UK Parliament.) And it also has a bit about the Naval Bill and how Laurier's push for Reciprocity (free trade with the US) lost him and the Liberals the 1911 election.

Canada Then and Now claims that Canadians voted against reciprocity more because they feared being absorbed by the US. (An American politican bragged about soon seeing the US flag fly over the North.)

So I must find some era articles about this. Clearly lobbyists used this as a fear-tactic.

I'm right at this point in my editing of the Nicholson Family Saga.

Anyway, it's a very male-centered history, of course. Although the text is authored by a female. Why would a book published in the mid 1950's, the era when women were shuttled back into the home to wax their floors silly and keep their silhouettes svelte for hubby, contain information about the women suffrage movement?

No mention of shirtwaist suits and big hats, either, like in MY history. If I wanted to learn about the era's big hats, back in 1967, I had to wait to catch Easter Parade on my fuzzy black and white 18 inch Television. "On the Avenue..." Talk about Lost in Translation.

Of course, in the sixties, our landlady, who lived downstairs, was right out of the Edwardian Era, about the same age as Edith. But she just seemed incredibly old. (Well, she was.) And unlike Edith, who dressed to the nines until the very end, this woman wore an old house dress and her thick nylon stockings rolled around her ankles. And her sensible shoes were right out of the 1910's too.

And, in 1967, when my British/Malayan grandmother, born in 1895, visited us for Expo, I was also unimpressed. I wrote about it in Looking for Mrs. Peel. Compared to the young swinging Carnaby Street beauties, in their neon green and orange cat suits and go go boots on the cover of fashion magazines, she just didn't cut it in my eyes. Imagine that!