Saturday, February 23, 2013

Wartime Elections act and Beautiful Actresses (or the Roots of Pastagate)

A scene from Everywoman a popular morality play of 1910 that used beautiful young actresses in sensual clothing to say women shouldn't be preoccupied with beauty and clothes! Sort of like today's anti-war movies that are full of exciting battle scenes!

No Pasta or Rigatoni? Hamburgois instead of Hamburger? Macdonald instead of Macdonald's. Pretty silly and sinister too because it allows citizens to behave badly and think it is OK.

Like the orderly at the Valleyfield Hospital a few years ago who was fluffing my 90 year old Father in law's pillow and when he said "Thank You" which wasn't easy for him as he had had a stroke, the orderly said, Qu'est ce que vous dites? And he replied, "Thank you." And she asked again. And he said "MERCI" and she smiled and winked at my husband and me. 

She didn't realize she was abusing her patient. She thought it was funny.  I had to believe this 'attitude' was institutionalized. My father in law had complained that a nurse had told him "You are 90. You should know French by now. " But he had had a stroke, so we couldn't prove anything and, all considered, we didn't want to rock the boat.

I found a copy of the letter head for the Montreal Suffrage Association.  They used Old English Font which is ironic if you think about it, but appropriate too, because these people (mostly) wanted women suffrage to take the world back to a 'better' time.

As they didn't have a stable address, the minutes showed they moved around, from the Edinburgh Cafe to rooms on University to the McGill Redpath Library, it contains no address.

Just a list of the Executive.

Carrie Derick, President and her address on Crescent.

Then the Executive: (for 1917)

Mrs. John Scott
Mr. C.M. Holt
Mrs Lansing Lewis
Mrs. Peeble Macintosh
Mrs. W. Oliver Smith

Miss Grace Fairly Alexdra Hospital

Miss Eleanor Shanly Hon Recording Sec.
Mrs. J.Homes MacIntyre on St Famille

Honorary President. Julia Drummond

Hon Vice-Presidents

Rev. Dr. Dickie
Dr. Richie England
Rev. Dr. Pedley
Miss Helen Reid
Rev. Dr. Symonds
Mrs. H.W. Weller

As I wrote before, all the Usual Suspects.

These Honorary positions, I assume, were non-elected.

Mrs. Peeble MacIntosh was President of IODE. Mrs. Oliver Smith was married to a Square Mile Man, there are pictures in the Notman Collection of the Oliver Smiths.

Mr. Holts and Lewis are lawyers.  Mr. Lewis is the person sent off in 1917 to find out more about the wartime elections act, coming up.  He reports at a meeting, saying that Borden says it will be 'to honor those women who have men at the front' and because of 'urgent news from the West."

The exec wants more: they will ask Sir Ames for a copy of the Act and for the Hansard notes of the debate. (I haven't seen them yet. The debate was only four days apparently.)

The fact that the Exec wants to ask Sir Herbert Ames for the Act says everything.

Reverend Pedley (Emmanuel Church) is the man who gave a series of lectures in the 1910 era called Tempted Montreal, which included a talk about Mercenary Theatres and Promiscuous Patronage. He wasn't even talking about the Cinema. He had it out for the Theatre so he was especially prudish.

The man is learned and in the talk discusses the history of theatre from the Greek times and then laments the current state of affairs.

"What of the drama, today," he asks, "with its false ideas of life, its portrayal of vice in attractive fashion, its bringing of men, women and children into contact with the unclean?"

And this guy was on the Exec. of the Montreal Suffrage Association.

Anyway, more importantly, the Montreal Suffrage Association drew up a resolution condemning the wartime elections act.  They sent it to Borden and Borden replied saying something like this:

"You don't understand my problem!  I have to deal with the laws of naturalization as they exist. And the election is coming up, so I don't have time to change these laws that allow women to become British Citizens easily through marriage.

There is a strong feeling among the women of Canada that it would not be wise to give universal woman suffrage at this time. (SIC SIC SIC.. because as I have written it was only a few key representatives of women's groups who said this to Borden.)

Do you want to give the vote to a woman not born British?

And then he goes on to say it's all so complicated he can't work out a resolution that would be legal.

And then he goes on to say that by giving the vote to women with relations at the Front he is allowing them to vote for their relation, men at the Front fighting for Canada, men at the Front fighting in the British army, men in German Prisoner of war Camps.

And then he says he will give all women the vote later on, when he has changed the laws and made it harder for immigrant women to be naturalized. (He might even put in an education requirement, he says.)

And he says he knows there are thousands of women without relations at the front who are working hard for the war effort.

Of course, all this gets around the real issue, the problem of French Canadians who for the purposes of his re-election are lumped in with those foreign-born.


Anyway, I am starting to write Sister Salvation, the follow up to Threshold Girl and to Diary of a Confirmed Spinster, about the Nicholson women in WWI, good Presbyterian women, (who loved going to the theatre! and during the war to the 'movies')but who had no close relation in the war so who didn't have a vote in 1917.

I think I will start off with Edith at a Recruitment Fair in the new Art Gallery in 1917, afraid that a boy from home is going to show up and ask her about her 'slacker' brother Herb. How Humiliating.

Edith was a suffragist and suffragette sympathizer, who went to all the talks by famous suffragists and who cut out all kinds of clippings, but she never joined the Montreal Suffrage Association.

But then again she was all for the militants....

Recruiting Exhibition WWI Montreal. (McCord Museum photostream on Flickr, Creative Commons)