Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Presbyterians, Reformers and McGill

My YouTube video promoting Diary of a CONFIRMED Spinster, my new ebook on Amazon.com Kindle.

There was a giant water main break in downtown Montreal yesterday, seriously messing up the McGill Campus. The city's pipes are old, 100 years old or more in places,  and we've had some very cold and erratic weather. (The pipes burst in my country exburb area, too.) But this break was apparently caused by workers...

Lucky I went to McGill Friday, to the library,  to look up a book published in 1915 by the Montreal Council of Women that sums up its first 21 years of a service.

I don't get downtown often, but when I do I am struck by the people on the street and all the different languages I can hear, not just French and English.

I attribute this to the proximity of the McGill and Concordia campuses.

But the book I looked up on Friday reveals how "White Bread" McGill University was back in the 1910 era.

In 1910, the Montreal Council of Women was (still is) an umbrella group of social reformers, and although they thought of themselves as diverse, at the time they were mostly a group  of Protestant Ladies with social scientists and medical experts coming out of McGill - only one of whom was a lady, Botanist Carrie Derick, President of the Council in 1910. (She figures in Diary of a Confirmed Spinster.)

At least the Council was propelled by Protestant Reform Zeal, no question.

Dr. Barclay, an influential (and very conservative) Presbyterian Minister, hand-picked the Council's first President, Julia Parker Drummond. (He figures in my story too.)

As it happens, Carrie Derick penned a history essay for the book I consulted. She summed up all the good works the Council had done up until 1915. The Council was involved in a massive number of projects, from prison reform to milk stations to war work, so it is no wonder that some of their projects were on the 'iffy' side.

Derick, for instance, was interested in 'helping' mental defectives, which meant getting them off the streets - for now, and eventually out of the gene pool entirely.

And, I didn't know, the Council was interested in conservation of waterways! That fits in nicely with my other ebook Milk and Water, about Montreal in 1927 during a typhoid epidemic.

It was the era of the PURITY movement, pure water, pure milk, pure women (see Threshold Girl on Amazon.com Kindle) and a pure society meant controlling immigration. (Immigrants of a bad type,it was widely publicized, lured our children into prostitution and gave them drugs.) 

Dr. Atherton of the Civic Improvement League told the Canadian Club all about Montreal's drug-addled prostitutes in 1921 which led to the Coderre Commission into Police Impropriety and to my own grandfather, Jules Crepeau of Milk and Water, getting slammed, not for abetting prostitution but for allowing movie theatres to admit under age children, without guardians. And that was essentially 'a boy problem' not 'a girl problem' but the Prostitution issue was a great  excuse for cleaning up just about every aspect of city life, including City HALL corruption. 

(There's a 'serious social problem' always in the news today being used in much the same way. Can you think of it?)

Odd, my grandfather, as Director  of City Services, was on the Civic Improvement League Committee.

Diary of a CONFIRMED Spinster is about the first days of the US War on Drugs that was founded on racist beliefs caused by fear of immigrants. (I think.)