Monday, June 27, 2011

Everyone Hates the Normal


Marion, second from left, in Normal School photo.

Well, I was able to find a newspaper description of the 1927 Macdonald Normal School Graduation and the 1907 Mcgill Normal School Graduation, so that I can probably mesh the two and describe what likely happened at Flo's graduation in 1911. Prayer to start, some choir singing (Flora was in the choir), lots of important people attending, some giving speeches. Prizes awarded.

I am pretty sure, a few years ago as I embarked on this research for Flora in the City, I read that Macdonald only absorbed the Mcgill Normal School reluctantly. Where did I read this?

I have puzzled together something about it from Gazette reports. In 1905, Macdonald (the Tobacco benefactor) said that his new school would not be absorbing the McGill Normal School (despite the fact that many assumed it would, that it was a natural thing.)

Then suddenly they are absorbing it...Political wrangling I guess. I'm assuming Principal Robins was against the move, as he resigned or lost his job when the transfer occurred, while all the other teachers moved to Macdonald, literally.

In 1906, the Normal School is saying it is looking for ways to create residences for women students, a big problem that keeps rural women from applying. (The Nicholson letters describe the huge problems young had getting places to live in Montreal.)

John Ferguson Snell's book on Macdonald College states Macdonald absorbed the Normal School because in 1906, an educational official did a survey and figured out that Women Teaching Students had difficulty finding places to live in Montreal.

(Marion's letters from Normal School reveal this. She stayed at the Y and hated it. Too many rules! I think I will have her talking to this official in 1906. Maybe she did! The Y rooms were cold, it seems, from Marion's letters. Also, there's an interesting bit in her letters about a Gazette letter that claims the Y, situated near the Windsor, is too good a location for teaching students, proving that women, alone in the city, were looked down upon.

One of Marion's fellow students is writing a reply to the letter.)

I also found an article that showed that there was some kind of smear campaign agains the Normal School and its teachers in 1907 that went all the way to the Legislative Assembly and then the Head Instructor, a Miss Peebles, took an extended vacation to Europe.

And Dr. Robins, long time Principal of the Normal School, resigned when Macdonald took over the Normal School and he said, enigmatically, in his last speech during the graduation ceremonies that Macdonald had 'wider connections.'

The fact is, I think, Macdonald always expected to have a teaching school, but one that taught manual training and nature study to rural candidates who would go back to the country to teach. In other words, they wanted to fill the void.

Neither Macdonald nor Robertson gave a hoot about city students, whose parents 'herded to the city.'

And yet, that's who they ended up helping. Teachers like Flora Nicholson didn't want to teach in boring, ill-equipped rural schools, where there was no chance to find a husband. Not if they could help it.

The short of it is, Marion's experiences in 1905/1906 at the Normal School, influenced the decision to have the Normal School put at Macdonald, where there were state of the art residences, new building, excellent ventilation, clean water and electricity!

(Apparently, the Belmont classrooms of the Normal School had terrible ventilation. A student passed out from gas poisoning or something. This is an interesting fact, if you consider the 'health concerns' of the era, tuberculosis, etc. )

Somehow I have to get this all in the novel...A little in the Flo novel, a lot in the Marion novel.