Thursday, April 25, 2013

Why no movie about Emmeline?

I wonder. Why has no one ever made a movie about British Suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst? 

She's got a stamp and statue in England. A mini-series, Shoulder to Shoulder, was produced in the 1970's but that's it. Meryl Streep could do her.

Today's date: the 25th of April, 2013.  It's the Centenary of  a  press conference announcing the launch of  the Montreal Suffrage Association.

Still, it's NOT an especially important date in history. I  doubt even our local news will have a short 20 second voice over to commemorate.

(I just checked. There's no Google Doodle commemorating the event either!)

I know for sure that 100 years ago the founding of the  Montreal Suffrage Association was reported on in the Montreal Gazette, a conservative establishment newspaper, and also very likely in the Montreal Herald and Montreal Witness (two journals very much for woman suffrage).

Julia Grace Parker Drummond - Her money came from Sugar.

Julia Grace Parker Drummond, Honorary President of the new Association and Montreal's most prominent Society Lady, assured every one in attendance that day that the new Montreal Suffrage Association would be a 'reasonable' organization.

The new MSA didn't want to associate itself with the militant suffragettes in England, especially since said militants were behaving very badly in April 1913 (and their actions were widely reported in the Canadian press).

It's all rather ironic, because the MSA was founded (it is claimed in the Minutes of the Montreal Council of Women) after Mrs. Emmeline Pankhurst gave a speech in Montreal speech in December 1911.

The women of the Local Council wrote in the January 1912 minutes that they wanted  'to keep the interest in woman suffrage alive.'

A very strange strike-out in the May 1913 minutes of the Montreal Suffrage Association.

In  the next few days following this press conference these militant actions  would only escalate in the U.K..
Even Winston Churchill was afraid!

McGill Law Professor and Dean F.P. Walton was a speaker that day and he claimed that  the militants in England had hindered the chances of English women to get the vote in their country and that the MSA "must roundly and firmly dissociate itself from the methods used  by the British Suffragettes."

The  President of the new Montreal Suffrage Association, Miss Carrie Derick then told reporters "she felt honoured to be involved in a society that represented such a great step forward in Montreal's social work."

She agreed this work could only be carried out in 'wise and sane' form. Then she gave one of her famous lectures on the history of the suffrage movement in Montreal.

Dr. Grace Ritchie England, President of the Montreal Council of Women, chaired the meeting which took place in Stevenson Hall of Emmanuel Church.

Dr. Herbert Symonds, of Christ Church Cathedral, an honourary V.P. of the organization, spoke on the religious aspects of the suffrage movement, invoking St. Paul, as per usual.

A Rev. Dr. Young spoke last and declared that it would be better for the movement if the suffragettes starved to death in jail.

Murmurs of "No No" were heard in the crowd.


A few days later, on April 29, the Montreal Suffrage Association held its first Board Meeting at the Redpath Library at McGill.

Few of the above local 'celebrities'  were there: Even President Carrie Derick missed this inaugural meeting but 'for good reason'.

She was likely helping to organize The May 5 Suffrage Evening at St. James Methodist where Mrs. Ethel Snowden, a British Suffragist was to be keynote speaker. (Or she was in New York for the giant suffrage parade.)

The National Council of Women held their AGM in Montreal in May 1913. Carrie Derick was a V.P. of that national organization; her dossier was Education.

Mrs. Snowden, a non-militant British Suffragist (and wife of a Labour MP at Westminster,Philip Snowden) was speaking in Montreal for the second time. (She had been here in 1909.)

In her speech, she called the Suffragettes "cave men."

Unemployed school teacher  Edith Nicholson, of my e-books Threshold Girl and Diary of a Confirmed Spinster, was in town visiting her sisters. She wrote a May 2 1913 letter to her mother in Richmond, Quebec saying: "I am thinking of going to hear Mrs. Snowden speak, but she is NOT militant and for this I am very sad."

It's odd that a prim and proper Presbyterian school teacher would be for the militants, don't you think?

Dr. England and Mrs. Snowden from the Montreal Witness

The Montreal Witness, a pro-suffrage, evangelical newspaper, (and also the newspaper of choice for Edith's family along with the Montreal Herald) provided complete coverage the National Council of Women's AGM.

In these May issues, mixed in with all the articles about the pressing Business of the NC of W, were sensational headlines about the suffragettes in England who, as it happens, were in full war-mode, protesting the arrest of Emmeline Pankhurst with civil disobedience and more.

Fashion and Good Works: Women's Responsibility

Back at home, over and above the 'trending' suffrage issue,  prostitution and "mental defectives" were two key preoccupations of the Women Reformers. 

Carrie Derick, a McGill Botany Professor, was especially keen on doing something about 'the feeble-minded' out there in society- as keen as she was on getting women the vote.

In 1914, in her book My Own Story Mrs. Pankhurst defined militancy as continued, destructive guerilla warfare against the government, through injury to public property.

She was jailed for the bombing of Lloyd George's home at Walton-on the Hill

Her imprisonment was followed by 'the greatest revolutionary outbreak that England had witnessed since 1832."

But soon a Great War broke out and all was forgiven Mrs. Pankhurst. (The violent actions of the suffragettes paled in comparison to the horrors happening in the trenches.)

Also, Pankhurst was now a high value asset to the British.  The little lady  was a terrific speaker and great motivator and fundraiser. (Obviously.)

 In 1916, she traveled to Montreal and spoke at Princess Theatre on behalf of the Serbs. The Equal Suffrage League, started by Caroline Kenney, sister of British militant Annie Kenney, sponsored her. The League is a forgotten bit of Montreal history, a militant or at least militant sympathizing organization. The League tried to start a real suffrage Tramp from Ottawa to Montreal in March 1913, o serve notice on Premier Borden, It didn't happen.

Her particular interest: raising money for the Serbian women and children involved in the conflict.
The Montreal Suffrage Association got right on it. Mrs. Ethel Hurlbatt, the warden of McGill's Royal Victoria College and a vocal suffragist (with suffragette sympathies) got especially involved. After the war the King of Serbia awarded her with a special commendation that remains in her archived file at RVC.