Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Sirens and Suffragettes





Promo for Diary of a CONFIRMED Spinster, my ebook on Amazon kindle, about Love and Loss in 1910. A TRUE (ish) story.

A picture of my Aunt Flo, in Army Uniform. She worked in Recruiting. You see, she was very attractive to men, bilingual, so they sent her out all over Quebec recruiting young men into the army.

She was  a siren, essentially.

Now I found this bit from the Minutes of the Montreal Local Council of Women 1916...

The chair announced that the meeting was called for recruiting purposes. That the National Council had recommended the work. That Mary Williams was anxious that women of Montreal shall help more especially by appealing to the women to let their men go!

The meeting was held May 15 in the Ritz Carleton. How Ritzy, instead of a church basement or the YWCA. I guess this kind of war work deserved special consideration.

Well, they weren't thinking of women as sirens, because that kind of thing was unthinkable to these mostly Puritanical Protestant Ladies.



Now, around that time, Marion Nicholson of Threshold Girl, my ebook on Amazon, was a stay at home Mom (she was middle class, so duh) and she wrote this to her father: She has just moved to York Avenue in Westmount

June 17, 1917


We have a very nice yard at the back of our "new house" as Margaret says, which is all fenced in so that when we get good weather, if we ever do, I will be able to let her out there to play. We took one corner of it for a small bit of farming, and put in beets, onions, carrots, lettuce and radishes.  I do not know that they will be a great success, at any rate we made the trial.

Every vacant lot around the city has been utilized for gardens and I think it is more common to see people out digging and planting in these gardens than in a small town like Richmond.

Surely all these gardens producing it ought to makes some difference in the cost of certain products that is, if they all amount to anything. Some I think are making their first attempt.

You were asking where York Avenue is? Well, it is a short street that runs West of Victoria Avenue and is just below Western ave. In fact you could almost say it is a continuation of St. Catherine as St. Catherine ends at Victoria Ave and York starts just a little bit north of it in the same direction.

We all like the house and location very much, it seems to be so much nearer the city perhaps because of better car service, for the St. Catherine cars and the Windsor Cars go past our corner.

Flora's school closes Thursday and she will be going home then. I am trying to persuade Mother to come in for a visit then and leave Edith and Flora to look after things at home.  I don't know that she will for she seems to think that when you are away that she must be right there or things would not get properly looked after.

Last Sunday, Benny Woodburn and his wife and little boy came in to call. I am quite near to the Mead's and Irene Field and Hugh's Aunts live on this street only a few doors away, so I have quite a little company.

There is a lot of talk here about conscription and the French are more than excited about it. I am not well enough versed in the political affairs right now to form an opinion but it seems to me that it is only a scheme of Borden's part to keep the party in power, for a great many will be afraid to oppose it.

Whether it is for the best or not, I do not know, but personally, I hope it will not go through. It seems so different when you know that it will take some of your own people. 

Now I have written quite a long letter for me and I do not think there is much news in it  but I send it with my love and I hope it will find you feeling well and not having to work so hard.




I wonder if she was thinking of her husband. Hugh Blair was 35 and married with kids, but with that 500.000 men goal of Borden's, he certainly was being considered. Even Marion's 67 year old father had to register "for national purposes."

  (Still, Pierre Berton, in Marching as to War, says it was fairly easy to get out of going. And Marion's brother, a bank clerk out West, avoided the draft and he was 28 and single! Maybe that's why our soldiers were generally so young.


Well, anyway. Today, I got up trying to figure out how to find out if the 200 Free Tickets given out to hear Mrs. Pankhurst speak in 1911 were given to Mrs. Hurlbatt's RVC students.

Looking through the online snippets (scholar and book) I realized that Carol Bacchi's and Cleverdon's two books on Canadian Suffrage are essentially the only books cited in papers and such on the subject. That's too bad, because if they got things wrong, so did everyone.


I also discovered that I am not the first to figure out the Canadian Suffrage Movement's tie to the Social Purity Movement. Bacchi wrote a 1978 paper called Race Regeneration and Social Purity:  A study of the social attitudes of Canada's suffragists.

McGill Library has a lot of her papers, but not this one, from what I can see.  But her PhD thesis on the subject is available in their thesis library.

They may have the journal itwas printed in.

Now, earlier, I showed how the Gazette's obit for Thérèse Casgrain said she founded the Montreal Suffrage Association. (Her Wikipedia entry says "She led the Quebec Suffrage Movement prior to WWI.) Quelle nonsense..WHOOPS!!  A Casgrain was listed as a  speaker for the MLCW at the time.. her husband, maybe.

I found one book that does claim she joined the association at 17. I would love to find some evidence of that. (Her bio?) The association was overwhelmingly English.. and mostly McGill Profs and students, as a French scholar wrote. (How did she know? I want to find out.)

Now, I think I have found some original 'dirt'.... Casgrain was a Forget, who owned the Montreal Tramways, and at the time the Montreal Local Council was doing all it could to stop the contract to the Montreal Tramway..and as I have written, the Suffrage Association was spun off from the MLCW and had many of the same officers. (And that in itself makes no sense, that was not the Council's mandate.)

The Usual Suspects on the Exec of the Montreal Suffrage Association. Except: Mrs. Hayter Reed was a witty and beautiful socialite (older now) wife of C.P. exec who lived in various C.P. Hotel towns, Ottawa, St. Andrews... and Mrs. Frances Fenwick Williams was a writer, columnist for a short time at Daily Mail (well, that's a short lived paper) and author of Soul on Fire, a book about a girl wrongly accused of being a witch, 1915, that was reprinted in 2010.. as a 'classic." Must read it. Must learn more about her.

From what I can see, this book was not reviewed in the Gazette (maybe wrong) but it was in the New York Times.