Friday, January 25, 2013
Do-Gooders and My Grandfather
The Bureau of Social Hygiene.. Hmm.
I'm reading the Committee of Sixteen's Report on Vice in Montreal, published 1920. It's on Archive.org. The leaders of the Committee were all the usual suspects, Dr. Symonds (an Anglican) et al. The Presbyterians and Methodists, influential leaders in the Protestant Education Sector but a few Catholic organizations too, English Catholic from the looks of things.
The social reformers wanted to clean up City Hall and everything else, to make the world PURE and Clean and Wholesome - and the Protestants, who were evangelical, also wanted it Protestant, of course! I'm being cynical of course, many just wanted equality among peoples, really.
This very report is where my two stories, Threshold Girl and Milk and Water come together!
Threshold Girl is about my husband's female ancestors, Flora, Edith and Marion Nicholson teachers in the 1910 era. Milk and Water is about my grandfather, Jules Crepeau, Director of City Services of Montreal in the 1920's.
The Montreal Council of Women was involved (one of the Group of 16) as well and Edith Nicholson was involved with the group, or at least she was active in their woman suffrage arm, which I am researching for my doc on the Canadian Suffrage Movement.
But this Report, well. It's very interesting.
Somehow a study on Prostitution and the Police made in 1919 20 (Post-war and this is no coincidence, as prostitution flourished where there were soldiers camped) and reported on in front of the Canadian Club in 1921 by one Dr. Atherton, ended up incriminating my dear old grandfather in 1925, but with respect to allowing underage girls and boys into movie houses (mostly boys) and then it all got mixed up with the Prohibition debate in the United States at a Senate hearing in 1926 and printed up in the New York Times.
Canadian Temperance types were mad. They had made the deal with the Borden Government and supported conscription and the slaughter of their sons, expecting that Prohibition would come out of it, and, then, Quebec got in the way.
(I doubt my grandfather was involved in Prostitution. His wife, my grandmother Maria, would have beat him over the head with a broom and sent him back to de Bullion Street!)
And then there was the infamous, game-changing Laurier Palace Theatre Fire.
Movie houses figured in some of the Report's Recommendations. But this was not unusual. In the US there were many people, including the editors of the Ladies' Home Journal, who did not like the motion pictures. But Quebec had unique factors in play then as it does today.
All those good intentions and yet 80 years later.....Establish a morals commission..hmm.