Saturday, February 2, 2013

Weird War Stuff - Montreal 1917

Here is my facsimile of a flyer sent out during WWI by the Montreal Suffrage Association.
There's more I didn't put in. "Who nurse the wounded, feed the sick, supply the helpless and brave all danger? WOMEN.

Who see their homes destroyed by shells and fire, the little ones made destitute, the daughters outraged? WOMEN.

Who are sent adrift, all alone, no food, no hope, no shelter for the unborn child? WOMEN.

Who are called upon to make sacrifice and pay the terrible tax of war? WOMEN.

Can you tell whether that org is for or against war, for or against conscription? I can't.

I guess that was the point.

Yesterday I looked over the 1913-1918 minutes of the Montreal Council of Women to learn more about the Suffrage Association,  this short-lived and obscure organization that has become a mere Internet footnote in Women's History.

I didn't learn much. In fact it was all a bit confusing. But I don't feel bad, apparently even the President of the Montreal Council of Women at the time, Dr. Richie England, couldn't figure out where the Council stood on the war conscription issue and got herself into hot water.

Although Miss Carrie Derick and Mrs. Isabel Scott (called Mrs. John Scott) were on the Executive of the Montreal Council and also deeply involved in the Suffrage Association from 1913-1914, it appears other work, mostly war-work, soon took over their time. And because the Suffrage Association was 'autonomous' they didn't have to report on it at the Executive Council Meetings of the Montreal Council of Women.

(I assume all the info re. the Suffrage Association, the minutes, the constitution, etc. went into the poubelle of history.)

The only mention I saw about the Suffrage Association, (in my quick pass through of the MLCW minutes) was a mention by Derick that the Montreal Suffrage Association rooms were to be given over to the Civics Committee for their Election work. (The Montreal Council was involved in the era's Municipal Elections, as some women, spinsters, had the vote.)  And also that the Suffrage Association has asked by letter to be part of the Montreal Council of Women. (Kind of bass-ackwards. See below.)

And then, with the conscription crisis, the poop about woman suffrage really hit the fan. And soon the Montreal Suffrage Association that came in with a  (qualified ) bang, (a special insert in the Montreal Herald) went out with a whimper.

Divided by the Ballot Box is a paper about the Controversy.

Edith Nicholson, second right, in her Naval League Outfit, WWI.

Still, I was wrong to assume that Carrie Derick was a pacifist, just because she had earlier claimed in a talk war hurt women and children most.

Derick proposed many a motion supporting sending women out to recruit men and sending more young Canadian men to war.

I am a little perplexed (but not that much as I've read Vera Brittain's Testament of Youth) to see reformers like the women on the Council, who claimed that their raison d'etre was to protect children, so anxious to send children (in the form of 16 years olds) to their doom - but there it is. (Well, they were anxious to protect these young soldiers, too,  but not from the enemy, from the evils of drink and sex.

Resolved: that the MLCW, being fully cognizant of the many temptations in the way of our volunteers, we hereby petition the Provincial Government during the time of the present war, that the sale of liquor to soldiers be forbidden except if purchased under military authority

And then this odd resolution that confused everyone:

1916 Resolution: that the LCW is dissatisfied with the results of the present state of recruiting and believe that Canada should, without further delay, fulfill her pledge to send 500,000 men for the defense of the Empire, and and petitions government to take definite steps to extend the operation of the Militia Act for Home Defense... with just reasonable exceptions....

This resolution is what got Dr. Richie England in trouble. She assumed this meant the Council was for Borden's Conscription Policy - and apparently it meant something totally different. :)

PS..*that 500,000 number was about 1/8th the male population of Canada. Take the young and the old out of that equation and it seems as if they are keen on sending every able-bodied man in Canada.

Anyway, it all gets weirder, with (as I see it) some evidence in the minutes that it was the Canadian Council of Women who suggested to Borden that there be limited woman suffrage (because he'd lose the conscription election otherwise.)

Odd..I must re-read the notes and do further research before I can be sure.

I do have solid evidence that Carrie Derick was involved with the khaki league, so Edith Nicholson of Threshold Girl my Kindle ebook, likely met Derick doing War Work and not Suffrage work.  Also, a Miss Brittain on the Executive (not Vera:) lived at 9 Tower, next door to where the Nicholson girls had boarded at Mrs. Ellis's.

Anyway, I discovered something else strange, with respect to the mysterious Montreal Suffrage Association. In an earlier post, I wrote that I found it odd that the Montreal Council of Women, an umbrella group of women's organizations, spun off the Montreal Suffrage Association. I thought it was against their by-laws.

Well, funny. In the 1917 minutes, it is stated that the Canadian Council of women wants to create Housewives Leagues and Dr. Richie England says this cannot happen. That is should be the other way around. That Housewives Leagues should spring from the grassroots and then petition for admission to the Canadian Council of Women.

Ironic, ain't it?

There's a lot more that I find ironic in the minutes. Personally speaking, I find it funny that one of the women on the executive is the wife of a business partner of my grandfather the Director of City Services of Montreal who was aligned with the Montreal Tramways People a group the Council did not like at all and very actively petitioned against!

 Hmm. Can you spell M-O-L-E.