Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Gender Gap in US Politics and the Suffragettes.

In my ebook Threshold Girl I have Flora and Edith Nicholson visit St. James Methodist Church in Montreal in early May 1912, a few days after the Titanic sinks, to see a 'real British Suffragette'.

The suffragette is Barbara Wylie, one that has been forgotten by Herstory and History.   Wiley had a brother who was an MP out West and she visited Montreal and Canada  in 1912 and probably said more than she should have. (I guess she was a bit of a rogue suffragette.)

You see, the militant suffragettes had to be careful what they said in their speeches in Canada, as 'militants' were not looked well upon.

Barbara Wylie

Most suffragettes visiting Canada began their speeches by saying "I am not militant". Not this Wylie, who told reporters in Montreal that British Prime Minister Asquith deserved getting an axe hurled at him." I quote her in my Threshold Girl book, for the Nicholson women cut out an account of her arrival in Montreal in September 1912. From the Montreal Standard.

The Suffragettes were careful about many things, including the way they dressed. They were media savvy, that's for sure. (Read my book for more.)

Anyway, as we all know, women got the vote in Canada (some during and all after the First World War).  But despite the high hopes of the suffragettes, who believed that women would change the world because 'all men cared about was making money',  did anything really change?

Many have argued "NO." Women vote like men. For the most part.

But there's an interesting article in Salon today.  According to an ABC New Washington Post statistic, if only men had the vote, Romney the Republican Nominee would win handily over President Obama.

So today, almost 100 years, later the suffragettes appear vindicated. All men do care about is money. And women do care about more than money.

Well, maybe.

Except it's more complicated than that:  the suffragettes were right wing when it came to some social policy (as I've explained elsewhere on this blog.) The Woman Suffrage Movement was strongly aligned with the Temperance Movement, especially in the States and Canada.

And here in Canada, in Montreal, Miss Carrie Derick, a suffrage leader, was a supporter of eugenics. I write about her in my book.

(Ironically, I found an article in the 1927 Montreal Gazette that claimed women voted more conservatively than men. I guess to 'vote against' vice in 1927, the age of speakeasies, was to vote conservatively, when, in 1910, it was 'progressive.')

As I wrote on another post on this blog, Christabel Pankhurst believed that prostitution would end if women got the vote, but it didn't. Indeed, brothels are now legal in Ontario. (Sort of.)

Emily Davison throws herself under the Kings Horse, by mistake, maybe. The 'first suffragette martyr" claims the press.

Here's a clipping from the 1910 Montreal Witness, a letter to the Editor that one of the Nicholson women, probably Edith, clipped.

"There is no suffragette movement in Canada, but there is an movement for the enfranchisement of women." You see, 'suffragette' meant militant, and many women, even those who wanted the vote, distanced themselves from the militants. Edith Nicholson did not. She liked the militant suffragettes.

Below is an advert from Votes For Women, the magazine of the WSPU in the UK. April 1912, the Titanic era.So it's Titanic fashion.  Yes, many fashion ads in this very political magazine. The Suffragettes knew that to be taken seriously, they had to dress well.  But they were damned if they did and damned if they didn't. "Why do you look so good?" I have a reporter ask Barbara Wylie in Montreal.