Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Purity Movement, City Hall and the Suffragettes

Everything had to be Pure in 1910.

In my ebook Threshold Girl, about a student in the 1910 era, I include a mention of the Woman's Suffrage Society of Montreal which is not to be confused with the Montreal Suffrage Association.

Apparently in 1910, when the Robertson's Royal Commission was visiting City Hall for deliberations on the new Technical School, a Mrs. Hammond Bullock of said Society interrupted proceedings by asking why there were no Women on the Commission and why there were no women allowed into the new technical school.

From the Gazette report, Robertson brushed her off.

Maybe Mrs. Bullock was a little on the militant side...as in 'noisy'... she didn't throw a brick at Robertson or anything. (She appears to have left for Rome to study the Montessori Method and then opened a school Boston in 1913 unless there's another Mrs. H. Hammond Bullock in the era.)

In Catherine Cleverdon's book on The Canadian Suffrage Movement, from 1950, one of a total of (get this) two, yes 2,  books on the topic she says Bullock's  Suffrage Society was short lived and ineffectual and then Cleverdon claims that  an effective society was established in 1913 (referring to the Montreal Suffrage Association). I must go back and check if Bullock's Society was a member of the Local Council of Women in 1910...That would be interesting.

But it can easily be argued that the Montreal Suffrage Association, with McGill Prof Carrie Derick as the first President,  was short lived, too, as it lasted five years and just as ineffectual...except as an affiliate of the Canadian Council of Women, who  paved the way for woman suffrage in Canada by condoning (perhaps even suggesting) limited woman suffrage during the 1917 Conscription Election despite the fact the majority of their membership was against this (cynical?) exercise. (From what I can see...and I may be wrong. But then why aren't there any Heritage Minutes about them..Snicker)

The difference was the Mrs. Hammond Bullock was no Carrie Derick, which  is to say she was no politically savvy Quebecker, understanding the nuances of the politics of Quebec. (French Canadians were wary of the Technical School for Men, as they had their guilds and such. Hmm. I never thought of this before, but Robertson's Committee maybe only managed a meeting at Montreal City Hall because there was an English Mayor, Dr. Guerin.) 

 In Threshold Girl I have naive Flora Nicholson ask Mr. Robertson the same question at her , inspired by what she heard at a Montreal Council of Woman meeting.

No Fool She is the title of the Biography of Derick by Margaret Gillett which I can't find anywhere, but the title seems to fit.Derick was no fool

That's why Derick let the suffrage thing go during the war from what I can see. Bigger fish to fry. (And then came the Conscription Crisis.)

This note came out in the newspapers just a short time after the outbreak of WWI. Even then the newspapers didn't get the name right. Funny.

I've been writing about the birth of this Montreal Suffrage Association in 1913, a weird birth, where the Montreal Council of Women, an umbrella group of women's advocacy organizations 'spun it off ' which makes no sense according to the Council's by-laws and mandate.


Well, I just checked. Amazon says there are 8, 400 or so books on Suffrage available today.. I wonder if that means man suffrage too. I put in Woman Suffrage and 17,000 books came up.

Woman Suffrage Movement in Canada is a problematic issue, you see. It's either a subject that is too boring (why would anyone, see little ole ME? write about a short-lived ineffectual organization?)or unpleasant, with its ties to  the Women's Christian Temperance Union, the Social Purity Movement (eugenics), and the Conscription Crisis.

On that note, yesterday, I found two bits relevant to this blog post in the archives of the Montreal Council of Women.

1) a resolution where they asked the Technical School to open up the Chauffeur's Class to women.

2) a letter of apology from Carrie Derick to Mrs. John Scott (from 1910 era). That year the Montreal Council of Women, led by Derick, was effective at getting the Reform Slate elected to Municipal Government and they were very proud. Derick gave a lot of interviews, apparently. But Mrs. Scott, who was the Women's Christian Temperance Union's rep was upset that her organization's role in the elections was given short shrift by Derick in the press. (Derick probably knew what she was doing if she didn't highlight the fact in the press.)

 So Derick wrote Mrs. Scott saying she did not underestimate the role of the WCTU in the election and that the WCTU, as well as the Federation National (St. Jean Baptiste) a French MCW, were key to the Reform Victory at City Hall.(During the war the Federation National would bow out of helping the MLCW in their election endeavors.)

The World WCTU magazine, the White Ribbon Bulletin contained a long article praising the efforts of the LCW in the municipal elections and trashing Montreal City Hall Culture.

(Mrs. Scott went on to lead the Montreal Suffrage Association with Derick (she had two sons in the War) and even after the Association was disbanded in 1918 she continued on as a suffrage advocate in Quebec, but  her efforts were essentially erased from the history books, from what I can see. That WCTU taint I guess.)

Read my other ebook Milk and Water about Montreal in 1927, the era of American Prohibition.

In 1913 the Council invited to a speaker to help clean up City Hall. Their reform ticket of 1910 lasted 2 years.

Derick gave up her post as President of the Montreal Council in 1912 and only reluctantly took on the Presidency of the Montreal Suffrage Association. But she did a lot of war work from 1914-1918 and also started work on what was to become a favorite issue, mental defectives.

Here's something else from the war time Minutes of the Montreal Council, showing how this particular 'social hygiene' issue (and I'm sure Derick had good intentions) tied into the Purity Movement.


A  Dr. Russel talked to the Council about Defectives and suggested the LCW take these steps:

1) obtain an efficient inspection of immigrants;

2)take a census of Protestant schools

3)push for compulsory education

4)appoint a competent psychiatrist to juvenile court


5) educate the public in regard to the huge cost to the Dominion of mental defectives and insane people and their relation to crime and vice.

Even smart, politically savvy people can get caught up in the zeitgeist of the times.