Saturday, May 11, 2013

Three Countries, Three Kinds of Suffrage Activism

Carrie Derick agreed to be President of the new Suffrage Association only under duress. I suspect she had militant sympathies, but as the first female professor at staid McGill University, she could hardly admit to her sentiments. Still, she used her authoritativeness to good advantage promoting a 'sane and reasonable' form of suffrage giving talks on topics such as "Suffrage and Biology."

But she would not likely have made a good militant leader because she wasn't good looking enough. Suffragettes (who were all about 'theatre' and photo-ops and giving speeches before male reporters)  had to be good-looking, so that said reporters couldn't run them down on that account. Derick's agenda was a bit murky. She was a eugenicist and wanted mental defectives taken off the street. Derick was the one responsible for getting Emmeline Pankhurst to speak in Montreal in December 1911.


Miss Derick missed the April 29, 1913 inaugural meeting on the Montreal Suffrage Association 'for good reason'. I first thought this was because she was organizing the Canadian Council of Women AGM coming up May 2, but she might just as well been down in New York, where a huge gathering of suffragists and suffragettes was happening, including a parade on May 2. She was noticeably absent from a May 1 reception at McGill's Royal Victoria College for the Council delegates.


I have begun my story Sister Salvation, about the Montreal Suffragist Movement with a scene in April 1913 in Professor Carrie Derick's Crescent Street parlour. Sister Salvation is the follow up to Threshold Girl and Diary of a Confirmed Spinster.

I have 6 elite Montreal women, Lady Julia Grace Parker Drummond, Miss Derick, Mrs. Hurlbatt of Royal Victoria Women's College of McGill, Mrs. Scott the WCTU affiliation, Mrs. Goodchild and Mrs. Fenwick Williams, deciding on the name of the new organization.

Mrs. Goodchild was the literature director of the Montreal Suffrage Association. She lived in St. Lambert, which leads me to believe she was the friend of the Clarke's - that is Frank Randall Clarke, photojournalist and his wife Sarah Kenney, sister to Annie Kenney, the British Suffragette. (I found a picture of her in Mr. Clarke's albums.. described as a good friend.)

So I make Mrs. Goodchild a spy of sorts..

And Mrs. Fenwick Williams, being a novelist is another sort of spy.

Mrs. Ritchie England, current President of the Montreal Local Council of Women, is not there... The Montreal Suffrage Association is to be a 'sane and reasonable' organization. How else can they get men like Reverend Herbert Symonds and Professor Dale on the bandwagon?  These men despise the militant suffragettes and only want women to have the vote to promote their conservative (anti-French) agenda.

I suspect that Carrie Derick, Mrs. Hurlbatt were militant suffragette sympathizers. Well, it is quite obvious, but they had to play politics.



This is a bit from the New York Times about the Parade. The lead in fact. When newspapers wanted to be Pro Suffrage they used feminine "fashion" language to praise the activists. This was to dispel the perception that suffragettes were manly.  Of course, there was a fair bit of woman on woman action going on in suffragette circles from what the modern scholars say. The lovely Annie Kenney being a case in point. In her memoir she claims to have spent an idyllic beach-side summer with novelist A. R. Wylie.

On May 2, 1913, there was a huge suffragette parade in New York, 10,000 strong (and that's by conservative anti-suffragist elements.) No doubt some Montrealers were there, as marchers or in the crowd. It was a peaceful demonstration, without the crowd-control problems of the previous year's parade.

At the same time, in England, Mrs. Pankhurst's WSPU was playing Cat and Mouse with the police.

Annie Kenney isn't here from May 2. She claims in her autobiography that she was the first to be released with the Cat and Mouse Act. She spent the next few months in and out of jail, and playing all kinds of games with the police, once dressing up as an old lady and putting two plums in her mouth to disguise herself. Caroline Kenney, her sister, was in Montreal between June and December 1913, at least and was active in the Equal Suffrage League.





A gathering of World Suffrage Leaders.. Is that Pankhurst at front?