Friday, February 15, 2013

Undemocratic Suffragists? I think so.

This is a clip of the constitution of the Montreal Suffrage Association, 1913-1919, that has gone down in history, well, Canadian Women's Studies history, as an important organization.

I've been disputing this on this blog and now, after finally finding and reading the minutes and such, I still think it was a shady organization.

The association's mission statement is a simple open-ended one: the object of the association is to advance the cause of woman suffrage. 

Point four is an example of shadiness: Any member may become an ordinary member by nomination of the Executive Committee and election at a general meeting.

What's that about?

Considering that the Executive Committee of the Montreal Suffrage Association is the same group that guides the Montreal Local Council of Women, with a few McGill profs and dear author Mrs. Fenwick Williams. (Mention is made of that in the Minutes, actually.)

Really! Here some women are clamouring for the women's vote - believing in democracy, but it appears their organization isn't very democratic at all.

Oh, it goes through the motions of good governance, but basically the exec does what it wants. It's a tool for Carrie Derick, mostly, to promote her interests, even though the story goes she took on the Presidency of the MSA reluctantly.

That's  my opinion anyway and I'll explore it more before I write the untitled wartime sequel to Threshold Girl and Diary of a Confirmed Spinster my ebooks on kindle.

I mean, it wouldn't be the first time a social-advocacy organization is driven by one powerful personality.

And considering that this Montreal Suffrage Association was started up after Emmeline Pankhurst was invited to speak by the Local Council (at Carrie Derick's suggestion) and her talk was a great success, although they had to give away 200 free tickets.

The reason for starting a Suffrage Association was 'to keep the interest of suffrage alive' after this event where they had to fill the seats themselves.

No, there wasn't that much interest in suffrage in Montreal, except among the Protestant evangelicals, who wanted women to have the vote so they could turn back the clock in a time of convulsive change and promote Traditional  Protestant Values.

So they likely meant interest within the press, because of course Panhurst's speech was covered. How could it not be? (By the English Press, not sure about the French.)

The list of members exists, and it amounts to about 250-300. You can't tell who joined when. But at the first meeting there appears to be problems with the membership committee and just ONE suggested potential member.

 Edith Nicholson is not on the list. (I am a little surprised.)

Nor are Marion and Flora and this despite the fact they lived in the city, were keenly interested in Suffrage, cutting out clippings and going to see Mrs. Snowden speak and also Barbara Wylie. And they were Protestant Evangelicals.  It's true, they were for the militant suffragettes, but so what? Or, maybe that was the problem.

So why aren't they on the list , I have to ask. They lived near Miss Mabel Brittain, teacher on Tower. Edith got to know Miss Derick and Miss Hurlbatt (the warden of RVC and a principal in the Montreal Suffrage Organization although not on the executive) somewhere along the line, but when?

I'm going to carefully read the notes..

The auto show. The Montreal Suffrage Association set up a booth at the auto show which sounds counter intuitive.  They say in the minutes it was a success, but no details. The M.S.A. did a lot of  war war in 1913-1919, and according to the minutes, they kept their noses clean with respect to the 1917conscription crisis, staying true to their principles.

But Carrie Derick was their President, as well as Honorary Life Member and Education Committee Leader on the Montreal Local Council of Women as well as V.P. of the Canadian Council, whose executive supported (if only secretly) the War Time Elections Act, according to the minutes of the Montreal Council of Women.

Anyway, I had to laugh a bit. Early in the minutes there's a mention of Edward Beck, editor of the Herald. He's the one who offered to publish a special suffrage issue in 1913. The same Edward Beck, who tried to capture my grandfather in a bribery sting a little bit later.

The suffrage insert was published I assume (and the Montreal Suffrage Association even held a monthly meeting in the Herald Building) but soon after a rift developed over money. Beck wanted the Council to pay him 250 (which would have been half their money) and they wanted 90 dollars.

And soon Beck would no longer be at the Herald. He'd start up Beck's Weekly, a crime tabloid, entrap my grandfather, Jules Crepeau, the Director of City Services, and then write it up the whole business  in flowery Detective Novel Style.

A weird line to scratch out. They mention they want to subscribe to Votes for Women, the Pankhurst publication, WSPU. Then a note that the association is non-militant is scratched out. That's what Lady Drummond assured the press at their launch press conference in April. (It took a year to organize the association as Pankhurst spoke in December 1911 and shortly after they decided to spin off this org.

Bringing in speakers was a PR device, not very lucrative.Selling pamphlets was profitable.The tried twice to get Anna Howard Shaw, but she couldn't make it.

What does militancy mean in this context? It means being loud, throwing bricks and flour at politicians, staging a lot of parades and such. It means GETTING PRESS ATTENTION at all costs and then when arrested, making the most of it!

The Montreal Suffrage Association was all about Press Attention too, but the newspapers of the time didn't print many photographs... so what use would it have been to stage events. They would have had to count on reporters being good enough to paint Word Pictures.. (I just thought of that... Actually, I think only the Tabloid press had lots of real pictures, the French Tabloid Press.)

So any Montreal Suffragettes would have had to take their own photos and put them in their own magazine. Expensive. (I think I will go back in time and suggest this.)

A few British Suffragettes mentioned Bombs Next Time... but alas.