Monday, January 28, 2013

Isabella Scott and Women`s Rights in Quebec

My 3 newly published ebooks about Canadian women suffrage  (and much more) are bestsellers, 1, 2, and 3 on Kindle. 

Under my name anyway. 

Threshold Girl focuses on Flora Nicholson`s first year at Macdonald Teaching College in 1910-1911 and child labour in the textile industry, Milk and Water is about 1927 Prohibition Era Montreal Corruption and Scandal and Looking for Mrs. Peel is about Changi Women`s Prison in 1943 and Expo 67.

I haven`t seen one yet, but the new Canadian 50 dollar bill features portraits of the Famous Five and Thérèse Casgrain.

I discovered a scholarly paper out of the U.K. about The Famous Five and their fight for female personhood in Canada from the British Privy Council in 1929 (which happens to be THE Women's Rights Story in Canada because the Suffrage one isn`t pretty.) The author writes that one of the first people to congratulate one of these Westerners upon their win was Isabella Scott of Montreal. (Vivien Hughes, London Journal of Canadian Studies.)

The paper does not say who Isabella Scott is.

As it happens, the Edith Nicholson clipped a letter to the editor signed Isabella Scott, about the vote and Mayor Houde, likely from a later date. (I first thought a niece of hers had penned it.)

Heil Houde says the Headline, rather weirdly.

Sir- Mr Calder is such an inveterate joker that probably his tongue was in his cheek when he announced from Mr. Houde's platform that women in Quebec do not get the vote because they do not want it; that is to say, anything they wanted they would get.

But first we must ask him to explain why women turn out in such large numbers to vote in the Federal election, if the do not want the vote...

If we are unfortunate enough to get a man for Mayor who adopts the slogan "Go Home, young women," and therefore of their legitimate right to work for a living we will certainly be getting something that we decidedly do not want...

I now know who Isabella Scott was. She was the Mrs. John Scott of the Montreal Suffrage Association, Vice-President of the organization during WWI, who seemed to have taken over duties for Derick, as she was married with two sons fighting. She was also an active member of the Women`s Christian Temperance Union, a Westmounter, so it is no wonder she has not gone down in history as a promoter of Women`s Rights in Quebec with Therese Casgrain.

It seems she should have. After the Montreal Suffrage Association disbanded in 1918, she became the suffrage spokesperson on the Women`s Club of Montreal and later that organization`s President.

I have no picture of her, although I suspect there are one or two in the Montreal Council Archives.

Upon the death of Thérèse Casgrain, the Gazette ran a obit that erased Mrs. Scott from History and told a big lie.

Mrs. Casgrain did not organize the Montreal Suffrage Association.

Anyway, in 1921, Margaret Nicholson of Threshold Girl went to vote for the first time. She put down how she felt in a letter. But a little earlier she had written about a Liberal meeting in the Richmond Town Hall, where her neighbour Mrs. Montgomery brought up the sticky subject of Quebec votes for women.

Margaret Describes the Liberal Meeting

Wednesday, November 23, 1921

Dear Edith and Flora and Marion,

I thought I must jot a few things down while they are fresh in my mind. We had the Tobin meeting last night and Tobin was first speaker. . He made a very fine speech and said he wanted to thank his friend Mr. Crombie who opposed him in 1917 that  he did it convincingly and after the war returned to his party. "The Applause hearty and long." Then the Honorable Mitchell. His speech was grand.  He was speaking about the conservatives claiming they gave women the franchise. He said how Dougherty in the House argued that women were not persons. Said he had always been in favour of it. Just then Mrs. Montgomery who was in the center of the hall said the Quebec government thought they were not persons. Mitchell stopped and asked her what she meant. As she repeated he said, I will explain that Madam. Mr Ginn and myself were in favour of it but we did not want a minority to force anything in a majority that did not want it. Said Roman Catholic church did not want it. We were all disgusted at hearing her voice; I'm sure he did not like it. It was the only interruption at the meetings. I asked Mrs. Fraser to go. We were on the elevated. Father went with Mr. Ginn.  I do hope the Liberals will win out. Mrs. Farquharson takes no interest, but I will make sure she gets to the polls and votes for Tobin. Take care of the little ones. I am anxious to see them but must stay here until after the election.  I may be so sorry I will need a change.


Well, just the other day, there was a big Women`s  Rights  Story out of Quebec. It seems that common-law wives have the RIGHT not to accept alimony. It`s  a choice, not to get married and have children out of wedlock.  Over 30 percent in Quebec do it that way.

Funny, years ago, before I got married (and I wasn`t big into marriage, but we had a kid )I was under the impression, like many others, that common law wives in Quebec had more rights than in other provinces. Not true!  Lucky I married. I can get the half share of the 45 dollars we`ve accumulated over our 30 year marriage . And one of the dogs.