Wednesday, February 13, 2013

A First Time Voter in Canada 1921...

In this December 1921 letter, Margaret Nicholson tells her daughter about how it feels to VOTE in her first election.

"It did not feel degrading in anyway," she says. I always have wondered why she used that term... perhaps it was because of the War.

 Here are the two flyers from the first election, one for Tobin, the Liberal Candidate and one for Azarie Lemire, the PC candidate. The Liberal one says "The woman are particularly welcome to come and here the issues of the day discussed." The Conservative says "French and English speakers."

I only recently learned that women first got the vote in 1917 during the war. That is the widows, wives, sisters and daughters of men at the front got the vote.  Then in 1918 eligibility was expanded a bit. And only in 1920 did all women get the vote.

I am not figuring out how this felt for the Nicholson women, who had no men at the front. They were Anglo Quebeckers and at least one article in the Gazette said they should be ashamed of themselves, more than French Quebeckers, because they had all the facts before them.


I have the Nicholsons 1914-1920 letters make no mention about how they feel about the Wartime Elections Act.

There is some talk of conscription, with comments that the Frenchmen are up in arms. And yet they didn't want their people going to the Front either.

You see, they weren't of mainland British stock, they were Isle of Lewis Scots. There were many people of Isle of Lewis Scot descent in Richmond Quebec in the era.

That's why the local newspaper printed this story no doubt.

Margaret, a long time suffragist, clearly registered to vote. In Montreal according to the reports, women in west end areas were more likely to register than in East End. (What a surprise!) Of course, in other provinces, it was easy to make a female electoral list, they already had one for the provincial elections.

Men were also ignorant of the electoral laws. Many turned up to vote on December 6  without proper certificates and were turned away.

Anyway, I am talking the wartime letters and fashioning them into a story involving the Canadian Suffragists, who were, for the most part, very conservative. As a follow up the Threshold Girl and Diary of a Confirmed Spinster

I think I will start it off in the Edinburgh cafe, across from St. James Methodist (and around the corner from McGill's Royal Victoria College for Women and near Birks Jewellers, the Henry Morgan Department Store and the Montreal Art Association, a very female corner.

That's where the Montreal Suffrage Association kept their materials. According to a newspaper report, when an Association of Salesman and Publicity Men had its meeting there, the men read the material on the wall and decided to change the name of their group to the Association of Marketers and Publicity Persons so that women who might like to join wouldn't feel left out. (How so very 1970's of them!)

(According to the article, one of the banners on the wall said "Equal suffrage = the Lowest Infant Mortality Rate" so it is clear the Association was a maternal one.)

The Montreal Suffrage Association also had a room across the street on University, where every Thursday night they did Red Cross Work.

The Montreal Suffrage Association was one weird organization, from what I can see... and I can't see much because their minutes don't exist...(I'm still looking.)

That organization was spun off from the Montreal Council of Women in 1913, which makes no sense as the MCW was an umbrella organization.