Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Temperance, Chastity and Montreal Women

Crepeaus, with Jules, the Director of City Services in Montreal, in and around 1922 when the new improved Political Suffrage Committee was formed in Quebec. Jules Crepeau, the dad, had been caught in an embarrassing bribery sting in 1913.

Well, I'm getting closer to the truth about Thérèse Casgrain and her alleged relationship with the Montreal Suffrage Association (1913-1919). I don't think she had one.

I still have to check out her biography to be sure.

I went through the files at BANQ.

There is a Mrs. J.P. Casgrain who is a  founding member of the Montreal Local Council of Women, with Mme. Dandurand and a Mme Thibeaudeau and Julia Grace Parker Drummond and the other English Ladies. Before 1900.

But it can't be Thérése, because she was born 1896 and married in 1916,

Yes, she still could have joined the Montreal Suffrage Association in 1913 as a teen, as some sources say, but she would have been a Forget.

By 1908 this Mrs. J. P. Casgrain wasn't involved anymore with the Council, so sometimes before that the French ladies left to (likely) create the famous Fédération Nationale, that group that helped the Montreal Local Council of women with their advocacy work in the 1910 Municipal Elections.

According to the Minutes of the Montreal Local Council Council, the Fédération Nationale, along with the Women's Christian Temperance Union, helped the MLCW in this ambitious endeavor to pitch out the old corrupt regime and put in the new, their Reform Ticket.

"Self-seeking and dishonor, which would have been scorned in private life, long characterized the Municipal Government of Montreal," writes Montreal Council of Woman President, Carrie Derick in a 1910 article in the White Ribbon, the magazine of the Canadian Temperance Union.

(Well, in this article in the White Ribbon, she is careful to say  SOME members of the Federation worked on the campaign (in the French wards) Not all of them..)

My aunts circa 1920. Their Catholic upbringing kept them honest. Flo, left, was a big flirt all of her life.  Cecile, right, wanted to become a nun, but they wouldn't accept her because of her rheumatic heart.

As far as I can see, Thérése Forget (soon to be Casgrain) was nowhere near the executive of MLCW in 1913 when they spun off  the Montreal Suffrage Association, an action which, in my opinion, makes no sense.  But, as I said, that doesn't mean Forget-Casgrain didn't join the group. The Suffrage Association had, at its peak,  about 300 members, according to an era source. But these were mostly McGill students, according to another source.

The most reliable government sources on line say Casgrain started her suffrage advocacy in 1922, with a bilingual group, (that contained most of the Montreal Local Council Executive, Carrie Derick and Mrs. Scott of the former Montreal Suffrage Association, as well as Dr. Richie England, Mrs. Lyman, but also Idola St-Jean and Casgrain and to say the Suffrage Association disbanded is a little bit nonsense. It was the same people involved on the English side on this new Political Suffrage Committee.. Hmm.. Committee and not an Association, so at least they were being more honest about what they were.)

I've been writing about this Montreal Suffrage Association (1913-1919) lately on this blog.. I don't think it was much of an organization to start with, a top down thing, instead of a grass-roots thing, and then the war broke out, The BIG WAR,  and it became a war thing. It certainly wasn't 'an association' of any groups.

The other day I looked through the 1913-1919 minutes to see if anything was written about the Organization. Not much.  They lent their rooms to the Civic Committee for a municipal election, that's all.

Today, I looked at the minutes of the Sub-Committees, 1913-1918. Well, there are no minutes for 1915-18, but in 1918 there is a VERY STRANGE entry about the Suffrage Association.

Apparently, the MLCW exec received a letter from the Suffrage Association (ironically, made up of some of the very same people) asking for action on a problem related to prostitution and soldiers in Montreal barracks.  They wanted a woman's patrol rounding up the girls and "hygiene" classes given to the soldiers. (And when they say hygiene they don't mean condoms, they mean abstinence... Prostitution is where cleanliness CLEARLY becomes a moral issue...)

Now, I ask, 100 years later. What has that got to do with SUFFRAGE?  They certainly went off the rails.

And then in 1919 the organization was disbanded (with still only a partial federal franchise for women in effect because it wasn't until 1920 that Borden amended the Dominion Elections Act to include all Canadian women (who weren't Asian or aboriginal) and the monies left in the organization's coffers given over to the Mental Defectives initiatives according to one angry Letter to the Editor in the Montreal Gazette.

(The Montreal Suffrage Association has left behind no minutes of their own, but this sounds about right. Derick and the Montreal Local Council were beginning to work seriously on this iffy issue..)

By 'disbanding' the Montreal Suffrage Association probably shook off some unwanted members, allowing the Exec to manage things from a-high, until the new Committee was organized in 1921/22.

And then within a year of this perplexing recommendation about soldiers and sex  by the Suffrage Association there was this Committee of Sixteen created to study the VICE problem in Montreal (which reported to the Montreal Council)  and then in 1921 Dr. Atherton gave a speech to the Canadian Club about drug-addled prostitutes, and this set of the 1925 Coderre Inquiry, where my grandfather, the Director of City Services, was fingered...and where a certain policeman predicted there would be a catastrophe in a movie theatre one day, and then there was, in January 1927,  the Laurier Palace Fire.


That article in the White Ribbon, the one  Carrie Derick wrote was pretty self-congratulatory. Derick used the term "purification of City Hall" a number of times.

Ah, the P Word. Pure. I have my grandfather, Director of City Services in 1921-30 and Assistant City Clerk in 1910, wax philosophical about it in my play Milk and Water. "Pure? A word like that can mean anything to anyone." And I also touch on the Purity Movement in Threshold Girl, about the 1911/12 era in Quebec..

It just occurred to me, yesterday, as I rode the metro to Atwater to watch Quartet, a nice movie with Maggie Smith (again) that Edward Beck, my grandfather's nemesis, was the Managing Editor of the Montreal Herald in 1910, a newspaper very friendly to the Montreal Council of Women and the Montreal Suffrage Association.

He's surely mixed up in all this. Perhaps he went after my grandfather, the Assistant City Clerk in 1913, catching him in a sting, because he was angry Mayor Guerin of the Reform Ticket lasted only 2 years. (By that time he had his own Crime Rag, Beck's Weekly.)

Well, as it happens, the Fedération Nationale bowed out of helping the MLCW in the  municipal elections during the war (I saw it in the minutes)  but remained in favour of temperance.

So, I'm off on a Net search to try and  figure out who Mrs. J.P. Casgrain was. Back in a moment.... J.P Casgrain is a Senator whose son, a 24 year old real estate salesman,  was drafted  during WWI...  Therese Casgrain's husband was a liberal Senator, son of a physician.