Sunday, April 28, 2013

Militants in Montreal!

Annie Kenney. A young Pauline Collins could have played her, I imagine.

Sometimes there's an excuse for writer's block.

 I blamed it on the weather, our lousy Spring, but the sunshine has arrived in Montreal. We probably have too much sun. There have been few April showers.

Yes, I blamed it on our bleak month of March, but the real reason why I couldn't get down to the business of WRITING was because I could not answer the key question on which my story pivots:

Why was Edith Nicholson, of my e-book Threshold Girl , that prim and proper Presbyterian, all for the militant suffragettes in 1913?

But now I've answered my question: she was likely involved with the Equal Suffrage League, a rival Suffrage Organization in Montreal. Her name isn't listed in the membership log of the Montreal Suffrage Association.

Yes, yesterday, I discovered, through Internet research, that there was a rival suffrage organization existing in Montreal during WWI and that one of the principals was Caroline Kenney, sister of Annie Kenney, the highest ranking WSPU Working Class Suffragette.

Wait. I found a bio of Caroline online: It says she went to US as a Montessori Teacher in 1916. But it looks like she first landed in Montreal! Maybe she landed with Emmeline Pankhurst in 1916! No, I have newspaper evidence she was in Montreal in December 1913 (see last post) chairing a meeting of the equal franchise league. So she went to Rome to study with Maria Montessori in 1914.

Another sister (the eldest Kenney sister, Sarah) was here in the city too,  married to a certain Frank Randall Clarke. She'd been here since 1908.

There's scant information on Caroline on the Web, but plenty about Annie Kenney and Jessie Kenney (both suffragettes) and also about Frank Randall Clarke, Sarah's husband, a left-leaning working class jack-of all-trades, writer, artist  and social reformer in his own right.

(The kind of social reformer frowned upon by Montreal's elite.)

(From McCord Museum, Creative Commons license.)

The McCord Museum features some Depression Era photos of Clarke's, of homeless men.

There are fonds in Clarke's name at McGill - all relating to his studies is social psychology. There's a bio:

Frank Randall Clarke came to Montreal (with his wife Sarah) in 1908 and worked as a photographer with the Montreal Star and as City Editor and Copywriter at the Montreal Witness. (He had worked for the Daily Mail in the UK.)

In 1915-20 he worked as an insurance salesman. All this while volunteering for the Canadian Patriotic fund.

Later on he worked to establish unemployment insurance in Montreal. He went back to school and studied psychology under W.D. TAIT at McGill - his interest, industrial psychology.

Tait was a pioneer of social psychology. So Clarke 'committed sociology' I guess, way back when.

So, this Frank Randall Scott appears to have been a working class social reformer, who understood that not everyone has 'connections' and good education and that 'the right attitude' can only take you so far.

On the 1911 Census, Frank and Sarah live in Verdun and have a 1 year old girl Beatrice. He lists his profession as journalist and he makes 860 a year. (His wife Sarah was likely born in Saddleworth Yorkshire and likely worked in a cotton mill there. That's how it happened for her younger sister Annie)

I could look at his fonds at McGill but they are concerned (it says) entirely with applied psychology and vocational guidance.

How interesting!  And a fact not in the McGill bio,  Frank Randall Clarke had three sisters-in- law who were suffragettes!

The fonds that would be of interest are at the University of East Anglia in the UK.  The Kenney Fonds.

Clarke's daughter, Dorothy, of Montreal deposited her documents there in 2002, to add to the Annie Kenney fonds.

According to information online, someone is already investigating the Clarke Family of Montreal. In what context, I wonder.

Is this researcher also interested in Montreal's almost forgotten 'militant' Equal Suffrage League, that promoted Votes for Women in Montreal beside the (slightly) more famous Montreal Suffrage Association?

The Equal Suffrage League, I see,  seems to have had some trouble getting attention in the Montreal newspapers, despite the fact Clarke was City Editor of the Witness, which covered all the suffrage news. And what's a militant organization without media attention?

What I learned about that mysterious organization has come out of  the Toronto and Ottawa papers mostly.

I suspect, had the war not broken out, this Equal Franchise league would have sponsored parades and such in Montreal and got some attention, in the Montreal Witness at least. The Montreal Gazette of the period contained few photographs.

Instead The Equal Franchise League sponsored speakers to come to Montreal,  including Mrs. Emmeline Pankhurst in 1916. She spoke on behalf of the women suffering in the Balkans - and then Carrie Derick and Mrs. Hurlbatt of McGill's RVC started fund-raising for the cause.

(In my story, this is where Edith might meet Mrs. Hurlbatt.  Edith worked under her at RVC from 1920.)

From a Saskatoon newspaper, a bit about a Montreal meeting of the Equal Franchise League during the Conscription Crisis. Mrs. Weir?