Monday, May 13, 2013

An American Suffragette and Inspiration to Montrealers

This in American Suffragette Inez Milholland, about to lead the 1913 suffrage march on Washington. It's from a Public Domain Wikipedia picture. This year, a group of women, sponsored by the American Women's History Museum, walked in her footsteps to remember her. No one
 (except me) has bothered to commemorate the inaugural meeting of the Montreal Suffrage Association also 100 years ago.  Too touchy.)

I must have heard her name before because I had watched Iron Jawed Angels, where Julia Ormond played the young woman.

I read her name the other day as I perused the news report of the next suffrage parade, in New York on May 2, 1913.

Inez, on another horse, a fine chestnut,  and in less evocative costume, a riding habit, led that parade as well.

She wore feathers in the colours, green, purple and black, of the WSPU. The Militant Suffragettes from England!

I also read her name as I re-read the minutes of the Montreal Suffrage Association for 1913, where Mrs. Fenwick Williams suggests that Inez Milholland, well-known New York lawyer, be brought in as a speaker. Eureka!

Here's my proof that Mrs. Fenwick Williams was a closet militant!

Inez Milholland was not brought in as a speaker. Instead, a person representing the World Purity Movement was brought in.

As I have written extensively on this blog about the Montreal Suffrage Association.

The MSA, founded in, April 1913 was a conservative organization, whose main goal was to clean up Montreal City Hall. At its inception it was described by Lady Julia Parker Drummond as a 'sweet and reasonable' association concerned with educating the public.

It is very likely that some of the women on the Exec had militant sympathies, even perhaps (likely) President Carrie Derick.

But the men, Reverend Herbert Symonds, Reverend Dickie, Hugh Pedley etc hated the militants. At the April 26 press conference and official launch of the organization one of the men suggested it would be better if the militants starved to death in jail.

In 1918, a strange request fro the MSA was made to the Montreal Local Council of Women (who had created the Montreal Suffrage Association and against their own by-laws).

The MSA  requested that the MLCW look into the problem of  prostitution at Montreal barracks. The MLCW  sent the Montreal Suffrage Association back a note, saying they would rather that the Suffrage Association look into it more extensively.

This communication was a bit of joke, because the female members of the Execs of the two organizations were essentially the same people.

I'm guessing this particular request was from  Dr. Symonds (Honourary Vice President of the MSA) who would very soon lead the Committee of Sixteen, a group investigating VICE in Montreal. (Their investigation would lead to the 1925 Coderre Inquiry, where my own grandfather was implicated.)

 Or perhaps it was at Hugh Pedley's request. The man had given a slate of lectures called Tempted Montreal, (or something like that) about all the bad places in town. He particularly hated the theatre.

Now Prostitution doesn't have that much to do with suffrage, although all suffragists in Britain, the US and The UK were concerned with the Social Evil, as they called it and Christabel Pankhurst wrote a popular pamphlet about the Scourge of VD exclaiming Votes for Women: Chastity for Men (which was the big seller at the Montreal Suffrage Society Literature Bureau.)

But this shows how OFF-message the Montreal Suffrage Association got during WWI.

Indeed, it was Dr. Richie England President of the Montreal Council of Women who got into huge trouble during the Conscription Crisis for openly supporting Laurier, who (I think) was in favour of a country-wide referendum to deal with the issue of conscription.

The Council had  passed a resolution in favour of conscription (although they later denied it by saying they were only in favour of the Military Service Act, which they said wasn't the same thing as Borden's Conscription Act...and this despite the fact the word "conscription' was written in the minutes.

She almost got impeached.

Ah, Quebec politics. Always that extra-bit of complication.