School Marms and Suffragettes is a free ebook based on three hundred 1910 era letters belonging to a respectable middle class family from Richmond Quebec. The one-of-a-kind ebook describes the tail-end of the Laurier Era through the eyes of three vivacious middle class women, life, love, work and especially FASHION.
There are other letters that exist in the same stash, about 1000. Here are a sample from friends and relations to the Nicholsons.
Marion Nicholson circa 1910
PICTURES OF THE MIND. Martine's Sensible Letter Writer from 1860, claims that a person's letters are 'pictures of the mind.' (Margaret actually writes that herself in a 1910 letter, running down a relative who has sent her a angry letter demanding repayment of a debt.) The letters below are from Margaret's relations and friends, from 1884 to 1907 or so, all over the US, Oregon, Minnesota, Massachusetts, new York and New Jersey as well as from the Big City of Montreal. (the Isle of Lewis diaspora was wide-ranging, all the way to Australia!) They are little snippets of the past, but also Pictures of the Mind of the writers, lonely working women in the city to preachers with colourful pens, etc.
Dear Mrs. Nicholson,
This is the country Mr. Nicholson ought to be in. He could get bark delivered at the depot in Airlie for 1.25 per cord. We got some to burn. I like it for baking or ironing. It keeps such a steady fire. The bark here is so thick on the trees and they are so big, there are plenty of them 300 feet high. They are from five to nine feet through. They call them fir but I cannot tell them from the hemlock at home. There is a great deal of oak.It is so cheap, but it don't make much difference for we don't need much of it. Ain't cold. There are miles of land covered with oak. This is a great place to raise hogs. The hills are full of wild ones. Archie has been at one boar hunt. They ride after them on horseback. They are very fine meat. It is great sport.
E. M Kirkland to Marg Nicholson 1889…Airlie, Oregon.
Dear Sister Maggie,
Well, Maggie, I imagine I see you going into the church just now for it is just seven o'clock on Sunday evening and I wish I could go to church. To think what a fellow has to do to make a living. It has snowed all day and is still snowing. It is snowing and blowing something fearful here today. The worse I saw this time of the year. Our car is rocking with the winds that I can hardly write. I don't think we can work tomorrow but I don't care very much for my pay. But I am getting on alright. I have nine men now plenty to eat and to wear. The master carpenter wrote to me to put on more men but men are hard to get here. So long as a man has his health, no reason to complain. You should see the fine cattle that is shipped here every day. I am thinking of going into raising cattle next spring. I think it is the best thing a man can do out here. No risk to run
Your loving brother, Dan.
Williston, North Dakota, October 1898.
We had a delightful winter, all our snow came in March and now just a little to be seen. Little Evelyn has been quite sick. She had inflammation of the lungs and pneumonia. She was pretty bad for a while.Now she is better. Going around again, although not strong yet. Lizzie is always busy with housework, sewing for herself and the children, helping the neighbours, taking painting lessons, painting pictures, doing church work and a little of everything. I have not seen Mr. Watters since he moved to Newton. Annie called one day. How are all the girls? I think you might let Edith come to see us in the spring. Lizzie met John D. McNaughton in the car last week in Boston. He is well and boasting of a little girl in the house.
A J McLeod
Somerville Mass. March 30, 1906
Well, I am coming along about as usual, gradually increasing in my business. Of course, I am doing some poor families, from which the profits will be small, if any, but in time I think I can get into a good paying practice with comparatively easy work. We have had very pleasant weather about two weeks ago, since then very changeable and cold. Politics is now taking a back seat to business in this commonwealth and business is again coming forward. The shoe business has made qutie a start of late and will do more and more in January and February.
Regards to your family,
Henry Watters, Newton Massachusetts 1905 (Henry figures largely in School Marms and Suffragettes
Flora, Edith, And Norman Nicholson with Floss and Hugh Blair who marries Marion. His desperate letter from home in 1917 starts off Marion's Story Biology and Ambition
Dear Mrs. Nicholson,
Montreal 1900 era
It is just two months tomorrow since we came here. Mother is going to remain until September. I am leaving tonight at 7.35 for Chicago and then Minerville. I have had a delightful visit. I spent 2 weeks at Uncle John's and after, went to Duluth, called on some acquaintances, also on Neil Stalker, Ada Rose. Went up to Virginia, about 85 miles up the Iron Range of Mountains where are some of my people from Minerville. I have been in Minneapolis about two weeks. Last Sunday I preached in a church here as a candidate, but hardly think of coming out here. I like it here, but still there is an unsettled feeling among the people. Very few seem content. Everyone seems to be on the lookout, how or where to move to do better. And in church work, there is difficulty in keeping the people interested. There is so much to attract them from church and so little fixed purposes among the people to be faithful attenders at church…My brothers David and Peter are both well. David and wife have two children. Hazel is three and Murdoch is a year and three weeks, a nice bright boy with beautiful bright black eyes. I think he is the chief in the McLeod clan. He has a good sensible mother and she is proud of her little family and has a very pleasant home. David is away from here a lot. Wish he could be at home with his family. I have seen George and Emma Darby. They live in St Paul. Sunday was quite warm and about 4.30 a heavy hailstorm came. Hail the size of peas and cherries fell and was followed by rain. Everybody here fears cyclones ever since the fateful one at New Richmond, Wisconsin where thirteen people were killed and a town utterly destroyed. Oh such a wreck. Lord deliver us from such a catastrophe! Your cousin, N M McLeod. 1899
My dear Mrs. Nicholson,
I know you will be glad to hear how we are getting on. We had a very pleasant stay at the Haverstraw from Sunday until Saturday. When we came here to our new home and it was raining very hard -however we managed to get things settled so as to remain here. We had about six men helping us. They do things here in great haste. I like our flat very much.We see so much out of any windows. From the dining room and kitchen windows we see the electric cars, crowds on them all the time.We can buy anything we want, the stores are so near us. We can walk from our town to the other, we are only three miles from Jersey City and lots of other large towns all around. We already had a long walk. I cannot begin to tell you what we already have seen. I went to a Harvest Home supper at the Presbyterian Church with Fred's wife Minnie. Also a prayer meeting. Haverstraw is 35 miles from here. You should have seen the mess getting our piano up through the third story window with ropes this morning. Strange, we forgot the bird. You can keep it. It is a good singer. The weather is just lovely here. I had my windows open the whole day. I have on my white shirtwaist. We are all fine. Hope you are the same,
Sarah Pray, Union City N.J. 1900
Thank you sincerely for your invitation but I am afraid I shall have to decline. What an inconvenience it is to be so impecunious one has to deprive themselves of so many pleasures. The C E convention has been underway a few days and has created quite a little excitement. There are so many strangers in the city. The meetings have been very good. I have gone to quite a number of then. Saturday night went to the denominational rally in Orskine Presbyterian Church and the atmosphere was redolent with the 'shorter catechism' and scotch stories, but I enjoyed it all the same. The city is quite gay now, the shops with fall goods and the places of amusement all open. I have made myself a red velvet turban and you can imagine whether it was loud or not. The millinery is very gay this season. Most of the straw hats have been culled in. The roughrider hats have been popular but are on the wane.
Jessie Beacon. Montreal, 1899
I am glad to hear you had such a nice visit to Boston. I'm sure it was a treat to see Norman and Alice. How is Aunt Margaret and has she fully recovered from her broken limb. So Henry Watters has graduated as a doctor. Glad to hear. I thought we were going to have a doctor in the Nicholson family. You may plan, but it does not always go as we would like. I saw an item in the paper saying Herb is going into the bank. He will get along. Some day be President. Has Edith finished her business course. Will she go away to get a position? Well, I suppose you have heard about Sarah and all the business - back to Sarnia in July. Currie would not be satisfied here or anywhere. He went all the way out to Colorada, stayed only 10 days, spent 100 dollars. He thought no place like Sarnia. What a dreadful man. Sarah has a miserable life to live. He groans and grumbles. Says he will not live long. He weighs 189 and eats and sleeps well and I don't think there is much the matter with him. Sarah is very slim and in poor health. I don't think another spell of the asthma will go well with her. The girls are really no help. They are nice children but I cannot like them for they do not seem to care too much for their mother. I do miss them for they were here all the time. I guess I am to spend my days here by myself. I did hate to part with Sarah. She did not want to go back. Too much pleasure here. Someone to tell her troubles to. I hope you will write to her often. I hope you can come visit this fall. I cannot see why you cannot. You can go to Boston and New York..Give my love to all the children. Tell Edith is she will get married, I will come to the wedding.
Your sister Christina
Howell Indiana, 1905
Dear Cousin Norman
I now take my pen in hand to write to you. I didn't write you before now because I wanted to get settled. That place they sent me to the day that you left, I only stayed one week. I didn't want to kill myself just yet and the work was too hard so I didn't stay and I came here one week ago. The work is hard but I will try and stay. Don't like to be changing. I am on Beacon Street near Jordon House if you remember the day we went to Corey Hill. All your cousins are here. Christy MacDonald came to Boston. She and cousin Effie Nicholson are near here. I hope you got home all right and that you found all there well. Cousin Effie Nicholson was here, Murdo's daughter, but she did not like it and went back to Lowell. She said that Kenneth got home safe. When are you coming to Boston the next time?
Brookline Mass 1892
My dear Mrs. Nicholson,
I arrived safely in New York on Wednesday. My son John met me so I was all right. I had a nice visit in Sherbrooke . I took dinner with Mrs. Streeter and spent all day and all night with Mrs. Davidson. Yesterday John took his wife and me out for my first automobile ride. I was nervous at first but soon got to enjoy the ride. Today my niece and I were out shopping. What a great city this is. I heard from my friend Mrs. Morrison. I expect to go to Scotland with her. John got my ticket today.
Your loving friend,
East Brooklyn NY 1906
My dear Maggie
I am glad to hear you are both spared. I do wish I could see you and your dear little baby. I know it is just as sweet as ever it can be. I do love her dearly for her mother's sake. Now Maggie, I do think you are rich. I don't think there is anything more you can wish for. How you must love your dear little baby. It is an angel spirit sent to you to train up. I would have written sooner but I feared all was not well, I had not heard from you.I got so anxious. Now dear, you must tell me what the little pet is called. I am sure Nicholson is very proud of her. I can draw a home picture of you nursing your little treasure and your husband sitting by you. I hope you are going to get nice and strong soon.
1884 St Andrews
My dear Mrs. Nicholson
Like yourself I have been very busy lately, but it is a busy season and everyone seems to be hustling just now and complaining that the days and nights are too short. As usual I have done a lot of shopping, not so much for myself, but commissions for friends. And there are such crowds and so many temptations to linger in the shops. Life at 96 goes on in the same monotonous way. The same kind of work day after day, home at six, dress and go out with only a little variety in the ways the evenings are spent. With the same hash served up every day, the only variety being that sometimes it is worse. (I got a fly in my porridge yesterday.) However, there is always some consolation to be got out of grumbling. I have such a nice girlfriend in 96, I have not had one since Ada, but the problem is she is going out to Vancouver to keep house for a bachelor brother in about a month and I shall be by my lonesome. We both go to St Martin's and appreciate the superiority of our doctrinal views. So Mr. Troop has been approved by a Presbyterian. I would not be surprised that a higher authority, even than that, was pleased with the life he leads. But it takes some people a long time to know that they have a good thing, the same kind of prudence that makes them wait until they hear a joke fired from a cannon before they laugh. And now Mrs. Nicholson I must close and to work, for we are busy at the office.
Yours Jessie Beacon.96 Union Ave Montreal 1899
Dear Cousin Maggie,
Well, I left Montreal at 7 o'clock and reached Plattsburg. Remained over night and went on the 11 train. Got to Port Henry at 12 42 and remained there until 2.30 as the train to Minerville was delayed. There I learned that a terrible accident had happened at the mines. One man had been killed and two others badly injured by a blast exploding at the wrong time. It seems that a number of blasts were fired at the same time as is usually done. One did not go off and the men came to it and having by some way not definitely known, set it off while attempting to remove the charge. At any rate, it went off, blew the head off one man, James Tait and injured George Baker and Thom McClellen. Baker has one hand partly cut off, his right arm broken, shoulder bruised, right eye destroyed and may lose the left. His face is so burnt with powder and filled with gravel that he is beyond recognition. I went to see Baker and Mrs. Tait as soon as I got home.
The funeral of Tait was held Saturday at his home and such a funeral will long be remembered. Tait was a Protestant, a Scotchman. I knew him and had visited with him when he had got hurt while at work. His wife is RC but doesn't go to church. They said they must get McLeod. I had buried a man, a friend of his, and no one would satisfy her but me. Well, I conducted the funeral services. Such a funeral. The Laborer's Union turned out to a man.There must have been 150 teams. I know not how many, from Minerville and Millbrook, over a mile. Tait was so badly mangled that Mrs. Tait and the five children were not allowed to see him. This was terrible for Mrs. Tait. She became hysterical and required four strong men to hold her back from the coffin at the house and again at the grave. She would scream out, Poor Jim Poor Jim and they won't let me see him. I wish I was dead. I wish I was with Jim… I called on her today. She is calmer, but seems dazed and wrings her hands in grief. I am so tired today, having had to write so much in such a hurry.
Norman McLeod 1901
Minerville New York