Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Last English Mayor of Montreal (and how Emmeline Pankhurst may have sealed his demise)


Pages from my Grandfather's Montreal City Hall File. His post, Director of Services, created in 1921 was intended to streamline services in Montreal.


This is an age of too much information and I don't mean only the news media. (Yes, I couldn't help spending some time yesterday reading the lugubrious details about the Cleveland kidnappings and their happy (sort of) conclusion. The Cleveland Press had the best articles - no lack of quality journalists in that city, but I can't help wondering about the Cleveland police. Is this how people Poor Communities are always treated by the police, their pleas and reports not taken seriously?

Yesterday, I got down to writing my next article about the Montreal Suffrage Movement in 1913 - and how the sister of Annie Kenney, working class WSPU member, was likely involved. This article is for  September publication in a History Magazine with a July deadline.


Julia Grace Parker Drummond: Honourary President of the Montreal Suffrage Association.


I have files and files of information gathered over the past two years to refer to, including the information in this blog - and as it is the 100th anniversary of the launch of the Montreal Suffrage Association it all seems timely.

With the 100th anniversary of WWI there likely will be more venues for me to publicize Sister Salvation, the follow up to Threshold Girl and Diary of a Spinster.

Anyway I didn't get far in my first draft, because I have not explored one aspect of my story in depth: The 1910 and 1912 Reform Elections at Montreal City Hall, where the ladies of the Montreal Council of Women got together to get the spinster vote out and, consequently, their reform Candidate, Dr. Guerin elected.

(They were simply thrilled about the 1910 win. The rapture goes on for pages and pages in their Minutes.)

But they are not so happy in 1912. They did their part, they say in the handwritten minutes.

In 1914 Mayor Mederic Martin's populist party won back power and stayed in power until 1926.

There's not much on the Internet about the 1912 election but I had a brainstorm.

I have the book, Des Pouvoirs et des Hommes, about the Montreal Administration by Michele Dagenais of the University of Montreal. (I purchased it when researching Milk and Water about my grandfather, Jules Crepeau.) There's a nice photo of Grandpapa in the book!

I looked around and found the book(amazing!) in a cupboard. My standard poodle, when old and sick, had chewed the cover off.

Des Pouvoirs et des Hommes has but a few paragraphs on the Reform Elections, but that faction's quick demise is explained.

After a 1909 commission into corruption at City Hall (la plus ca change) a Board of Control was installed to take the decision-making power away from the Aldermen. The Board of Control was made up of Businessmen.

Then the Reformers won the 1910 election and a Dr. John James Guerin (the last English Mayor of Montreal before Mayor Applebaum)was installed in the big seat.

But the new way of doing things through this Board of Control proved cumbersome and city administration got bogged down.

Not only that but the Reform Party was seen as elitist and as favoring the West End (English)over the East End (French.)

By the 1912 election, Alderman Martin was already organizing the opposition.

In the 1912 election Guerin was out (I still can't figure out exactly why) and Lavallee, a banker was in.

The Montreal Council of Women minutes reveal Lavallee  was not their candidate.  Lavallee ran against a certain Senator Casgrain, who was indeed likely their favourite. Mrs. Casgrain (not a relation of Therese Forget Casgrain as far as I cans see) was a founding member of the Montreal Council of Women and subsequently a member  of La Federation St. Jean Baptiste (the French Reformers).


Dagenais says that the Reformers did not do much to improve Life in the City.

Indeed, they only fixed a few aqueducts and added a few parks.

This is priceless, because this exactly reflects the Purity Agenda. These Protestant Reformers believed pure water and fresh 'country' air could cure all ills of the body and spirit.


I went to the June 1913 Gazettes to see if could find more about Guerin's demise. (Did he have to go after attending Militant Suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst's speech in December 1911? Therese Casgrain in her memoirs says she recalls hearing nothing but BAD THINGS about the speech on the street, the French Street.)

I didn't find what I was looking for but I found this, an advert for a book by Gertrude Atherton, a 'must read' about the suffrage movement ! Now I have to read something else. Gee.

How appropriate.  Threshold Girl (my e-book) is named for a statement in Gertrude Atherton's 1912 Delineator article The Present Unrest Among Women.

In that interesting article Atherton claims she hates the sight and sound of a suffragette.


Instant classic. Not!

I found the book on Archive. org. though.

"The entrance of a British cruiser into a harbour of St. Kitts was always followed by a ball at Government House in the little capital of Basse Terre. Tonight there was a squadron of three at anchor; therefor was the entertainment offered by the island's President even more tempting than common, and hospitality had been extended to the officials and distinguished families of the neighbouring islands, Nevis, Antigua and Monserrat"



Here's the first lines from the beginning of Edith Wharton's Age of Innocence, a book that has lived on in popularity.

"On a January evening in the early seventies, Christine Nilsson was singing Faust at the Academy of Music in New York.

Though there was already talk of the erection, in remote metropolitan distances "above the Forties" of a new Opera House which should compete in costliness and splendour with those of the great European capitals, the world of fashion was still content to reassemble every winter in the shabby red and golden boxes of the sociable old Academy."