Tuesday, September 30, 2014

A Frightening Statistic!

We circled a Sunfish on a tour of the Maine Coast near York on Saturday. "Look! Sea life."

According to a very scary headline in the Guardian yesterday, the WWF says that 50 percent of wildlife on Earth has died out in the last 40 years.

Since I was in college.

Too scary to contemplate. It makes one sick.

Here's the article.

We went to Ogunquit for the beautiful warm weekend. I used to go to Maine as a kid and I swear the sea shore had a lot more life back then, in the air and on the ground.  I used to collect sea-shells. Now, nothing.

But 50 percent more life? Or is it 100 percent. Some commentators said it's 10 percent. But whatever it is, it is too much.

My artsy shot at Sunset, Perkins Cove.

Lighthouse. York. Cape Neddick Light House.

This bride and groom lucked out weather-wise. It could just as well have been stormy. But that's good too, I guess.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Jefferson County History and Furies Cross the Mersey

This story caught my eye yesterday: A school board in Denver, Jefferson County, wants all history courses to promote 'respect for authority.' Here's the Time Magazine article.

Here's a Twitter line of discussion mocking it.#JeffcoSchoolBoardHistory

It's not as if History in High Schools hasn't been propaganda since forever, here in Canada and in the US.

Are Marguerite Bourgeoys, Jeanne Mance and Laura Secord the ONLY important women in Canadian History? My high school history book, Canada Then and Now said that was the case.

Apparently, American students feel the kind of thinking exhibited by Board Officials is anti-American because America was built on dissent.

I've just finished writing an e-book about the 'inert' Suffrage Movement in Montreal, Quebec, in the 1910 era.  It's called Furies Cross the Mersey and is available here on Kindle.

This story has never been told before because it has been censored from the Canadian history books 1) because it is a woman's story 2) because it has ugly elements and 3) it is about civil disobedience by WOMEN, oh my.

That Canadian suffragists liked to say back one hundred years ago that America has a thriving suffrage  movement because they are a country that has long been promoting civil liberties. (I actually use that as a plot device in my book, my characters go to New York in May 1913 to participate in a huge suffrage parade.)

Canadians on the other hand were conservative and 'on the make', only caring about money.

The reason the Brits had a vibrant suffrage movement, according to some back in the day, was because they had a lot of spinsters who needed something to do.

Barbara Wylie, British suffragette getting arrested in England in 1913. She came to Canada in 1912 and got nowhere.

This Jefferson County proposal, if it goes through will only serve to cause a great divide in the citizenry. That's what I think.

After all, everything is available on the Internet, so curious kids can look up everything. Only the dull and indifferent will chose to wear blinkers.

So much for schools promoting critical thinking skills

Monday, September 22, 2014

Peaceful Protests Then and Now Hippies and Suffragettes

A cartoon from 1912 published both in the WSPU Votes for Women and in the Montreal Standard newspaper showing that average women were interested in the Militant Movement.

With hundreds of thousands participating in Climate Change Protests and Marches across the world, yesterday, with quite a few of them in Quebec, I thought I'd talk about 100 years ago, when Suffrage parades were happening everywhere except in Canada and especially not in Quebec.

 Furies Cross the Mersey, is my ebook about the stuffy Montreal Suffragists  in the 1913 era.

The plot centers around this question: Why did Montreal suffragists shy away from participating in any marches or parades.

Not all women who took part in the suffragist parades of the era were bomb-throwing militants... Not in Britain and not in the US.

Many peaceful constitutional suffragists picked up a placard and marched down the street.

(I saw yesterday on Twitter that some people were referring to the marchers as 'hippies.' I found this amusing. Anti-suffragists did exactly the same thing one hundred years ago, referring to the marchers as hysterical women, or silly women, etc. The very term 'suffragette' was meant to diminish the women in the movement, but the WSPU merely adopted it.

On May 3, 1913 10,000 campaigners marched peacefully down New York's Fifth Avenue, led by a beautiful woman lawyer, Inez Milholland, on a fine chestnut horse.

Parading was legal in Britain and the US and even in Montreal (if news reports of the time are correct).

But I have not found one hint in any archive to suggest anyone of the Montreal suffragists ever thought about organizing a peaceful march.

So why was this? Why did Montreal suffragists seem to equate militancy to marching and stick to 'a quiet education of the people' holding public lectures, giving out pamphlets at certain high profile events, writing letters to Prime Minister Borden.

In June 1912 garment workers took to the street, led by the American Garment Workers Union. I saw a report of it in the Montreal Gazette and I put it in my book Threshold Girl.

So union demonstrations weren't illegal in the era either.

I have to figure this out, because in my story I will have two women college students at McGill's Royal Victoria College try to organize a parade and then get into a spot of trouble and then, finally, succeed, sort of.

Ethel Hurlbatt, their strict Warden, is a suffragist and militant sympathizer, but she has to be careful about what she says and how she says it, because she could lose her prestigious position.

Caroline Kenney, sister of militant suffragette Annie Kenney, came to Montreal in 1913 and tried to stir up a militant movement, but she did not succeed!

Although parading wasn't illegal in Montreal, there was a bylaw about illegal assembly and that bylaw could be interpreted in any way police saw fit. (It had been around since the 1800's and was still around in the 1940's and is likely still around today.)

If they decided that a peaceful march could incite violence, they could stop it.

One 1903 headline claims the police have been ordered to shoot people on sight if a certain demonstration happens.

And since the idea of woman suffrage was not at all popular in Montreal  in 1910 (except among certain Protestants) and since the most aggressive and illegal acts of the militant suffragettes in Britain were all the people read about in the papers. well...

(On top of that, there may have been a special by-law about women assembling in public. I have to check that out. There were funny laws aimed at women in those days, all relating to prostitution.)

As I've written before, in 1912 Premier Borden passed a law making it illegal for British suffragettes to come to Canada. And still they came.

Barbara Wylie, one of Emmeline Pankhurst's troops, came to Montreal in September 1912 and met with the ladies of the Montreal Council of Women.

These 'reasonable' and 'peaceful' Montreal suffragists were clearly interested in the militant movement in England, but they couldn't admit it publicly.

Some newspaper reporters were invited to a living room meeting with Wylie and about 40 Society Ladies. A Gazette account says that the women were decidedly not impressed  with Wylie.

And yet Wylie says (in a letter home to Pankhurst) that she sold out her copies of Votes for Women Magazine and also sold three subscriptions.

Who bought these subscriptions? I'll have to guess.

It was a dangerous thing to be a suffragette in Montreal in 1912.. so that's why the young protagonists in Sister Suffragette will have so much fun.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Downton Abbey, Masterpiece Theatre, Upstairs, Downstairs and My In-Between Stairs Story

A relation of mine has recently binged (a bit late) on all the Downton Abbey episodes, and, of course, she loved the program..

And now she's reading the Nicholson Family Letters and my e-books based on them and she told me, "It's just like Downton Abbey!"

Sure it is.

It's the Canadian Downton Abbey, neither Upstairs, nor Downstairs, but in-between stairs; the story of middle class women in 1910 Montreal.

When I first read the Nicholson Family letters, I knew nothing of the Edwardian Era in Canada (or the Laurier Era as it was called.)

Now, I know a lot.

Oddly, in 2005, I had yet to see Upstairs, Downstairs. I was away at college when that popular serial showed on Masterpiece Theatre in Canada.

So, I learned all about the Edwardian Era, belatedly, through my letters. The era of Shirtwaists and Suffragettes, even in Canada. Well,not suffraGETTES, so much.

My latest e-book, Furies Cross the Mersey, is the story of the 'inert' Montreal Suffrage Movement.

"Inert" is the word used by Carrie Derick of the Montreal Suffrage Association in a newspaper article.

Furies Cross the Mersey is a bit more Downton than the other books I wrote: I have some rich characters, including Julia Parker Drummond.

Last week I binge watched Shoulder to Shoulder, the 1975 Masterpiece Theatre serial about the Suffragettes, there  are 6 episodes.

The first episode is rather slow, introducing the Pankhursts and their 'boring' middle class life and all the issues around woman suffrage, but the serial builds to a powerful climax with the start of WWI.

I believe were they do redo Shoulder to Shoulder, they would begin with some 'militant' action to catch viewers' attention.

Even Masterpiece Theatre cannot afford to bore anyone from the beginning. Downton Abbey started with a family crisis I understand, in 1912 with the Titanic going down.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Fact Checking Old Television Serials: Shoulder-to-Shoulder

I can see by the list of characters on IMDB that the movie Suffragette with Carrie Mulligan and Meryl Streep is not about the WSPU, per se. The Women's Social and Political Union or "the Suffragettes."

The only historical characters in this movie appear to be Emmeline Pankhurst, Emily Davison and Lloyd Georges.

The rest are fictional, I think.

Years ago, upon finding a stash of about 300 family letters from the 1910 era, I contacted one of Canada's leading author of YA historical fiction.

She bluntly told me to 'to forget the history and go for the story.'

I was more than a little surprised.

As it happens, I've just been watching the BBC's Shoulder-to-Shoulder, the 1974 mini-series that  focuses on the WSPU.

 It's a real history lesson, I tell you.

Shoulder-to-Shoulder features all the principal players, Emmeline Pankhurst, her daughters Sylvia and Christabel, and other militants like the working-class union organizer Annie Kenney,

But this series is a pleasant history lesson in that the dialogue isn't heavy-handed as the writers try to explain to the audience,all that happened back in 1900-1914 with respect to the suffrage movement in Great Britain.

I did find an error in the 4th episode, tho.

It's 1912 and Emmeline Pankhurst and Fred Pethwick Lawrence  have been let out of Holloway Jail after going on a hunger strike.

A scene has them both in a car in front of Pethwick Lawrence's country mansion. They are met by a bailiff who says the government has repossessed his house for non-payment of debts (legal bills and fines).

"Where are we going to stay?" asks Pankhurst.

"With friends," replies Pethwick Lawrence.

He soon sails for Canada with his wife.

I had thought that Pethwick Lawrence had his house confiscated while he was in Canada. So I checked the on-line sources, and I am right!

This episode of Shoulder-To-Shoulder shows the Pankhursts in October, 1912, expelling the Pethwick Lawrences from the WSPU over a policy clash.

This must have happened in between October 7 and October 14. The October 7 Votes for Women has a bit by Emmeline Pethwick Lawrence about the Canadian Trip.

The October 14 edition has the nasty notice above. The Pethwick-Lawrences were the editors of the WSPU's Votes for Women magazine. From then on the WSPU organ was The Suffragette.

I can't find that magazine anywhere.

The Pethwick Lawrence's continued publishing Votes for Women as a separate suffrage magazine.

I was right, so I didn't have to change a word in  Furies Cross the Mersey, my story of the Montreal Suffrage Movement. (I mix fact and fiction, too, in this story, but in separate chunks.)

According to this October 7, 1912, Votes for Women article, Pethwick-Lawrence did not hold a press conference upon arriving in Canada because he was still too weak from his hunger strike.

Whether he met with anyone from my story, or stayed in Montreal for any time, I can't tell.

He travelled under the name Fred Lawrence.

I do know that the Pethwick-Lawrences passed through the city in early July, 1912, plunk in the middle of my story.

 Soon he was in British Columbia, recuperating at his brother's home. Apparently, his sister-in-law led the local W.S.P.U movement, whatever that means. No doubt he met up with the WSPU's Barbara Wylie when she went out there after spending October, 1912 in Montreal, stirring up trouble.

(It's all in Furies Cross the Mersey.)

Mrs. Pethwick Lawrence wrote this about the Canadian suffrage movement in the October 7 edition of Votes for Women.

In Shoulder-to-Shoulder a very young Bob Hoskins plays a sympathetic working man.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Rocky Horror Suffrage Show, in the back row.

Patricia Quinn in Rocky Horror in 1975. She also played Christabel Pankhurst in Shoulder-to-Shoulder about the same time.

I've polished off all of the Foyle's War episodes on Netflix in record time and was going to start all over again on Episode 1 from 2002, but I first I checked to see if Shoulder-to-Shoulder, the Sian Phillips vehicle from 1974, was available.

Well, no. Of course not.

But it was on YouTube, a blurry pirated copy, so I watched the first two episodes, "the Pankhursts" and "Annie Kenney."

I've just finished my e-book Furies Cross the Mersey about the British Invasion of Suffragettes to Canada in 1912/13 - although I will continue editing it at my leisure.

A newspaper clipping about Suffragette Barbara Wylie that Edith Nicholson, my husband's great aunt clipped. This got me started on the path of researching the Montreal Suffragists!

I didn't see Shoulder-to-Shoulder back in October, 1975 when it debuted in North America for the exact same reason I didn't see the original Upstairs, Downstairs. I was at school and didn't have a TV.
I watched the entire series of Upstairs, Downstairs for the first time 4 years ago, and loved it.

(I saw I, Claudius back in the day and LOVED it. I also saw the Duchess of Duke Street back in the day and LOVED it.)

I imagine I would have loved these other programs.

Shoulder-to-Shoulder is based on a book and Sian Phillips was perfect for the part of Emmeline because she looked just like her.

The actress who played Annie Kenny, Georgia Brown, wasn't true to type, I don't think. She had strong features when Annie had delicate features.

Annie Kenny was apparently a firebrand, a girl driven, but the actress plays her as kind of sweet and naive,

Her sister, Caroline figures in my book. Caroline came to Canada in 1913 to stay with her older sister Nell who lived in Montreal and she tried to fire up Montreal womenhood over suffrage.

The first suffragettes of the W.S.P.U are described in Shoulder-to-Shoulder as kind of naive, but I wonder if that is true.

They are also portrayed as promoting the poor and working class, but I don't think that is entirely true.

The Montreal suffragists claimed they wanted to help the poor, too,  but they promoted middle class values all the way.

Read my book, Furies Cross the Mersey.  It's kind of scary.

Well, we'll see how these famous and brave women are portrayed in the upcoming Carrie Mulligan movie, Suffragette. It is to be released in the UK in the New Year. I wonder if that is a good sign.

The actress who plays Christabel in Shoulder-to-Shoulder also was in Rocky Horror Picture Show. Now, that movie I saw in 1975, of course. I was in college, after all. Rocky Horror's values were pretty much opposite to the suffragettes'.,

An enormous amount of research went into by ebook, Furies Cross the Mersey. I even tracked down a copy of Annie Kenney's 1930's autobiography at the McGill Library. She doesn't mention that her sister Caroline went to Montreal. That info I found in the newspaper archives.

This article from the Sept. 1912 Montreal Standard was clipped by Edith. I transcribed it  9 years ago. Lucky for me,  because it fell apart on me. I have only the headline left! (I wonder is she saw Shoulder-to-Shoulder. She died in late 1977, and she was blind by then.)

I don't know if Barbara Wylie is mentioned in Shoulder-to-Shoulder. Maybe. She is mentioned in Mrs. Pankhurst's 1913 autobiography My Story.
Barbara Wylie Comes to Montreal 1912

Margaret's Clipping: September 28, 1912. Montreal Daily Witness (abridged for space).

Miss Barbara Wylie, the English suffragist, whose visit to Canada has aroused so much interest and speculation as to what it may eventually lead to, arrived at Place Viger Station at 3 o'clock yesterday afternoon, but looked so unlike one who had twice been in prison and was willing to fight again for 'the cause' that the small group of newspapermen waiting at the gate had a hard time finding her, and actually let her walk past.  Miss Wylie (it turns out) is a tall really beautiful looking woman with every appearance of refinement and intelligence above the ordinary. She spoke intelligently of the suffrage movement, explaining the larger significance of the demand for votes for women and what she called 'the absolutely unjust, cruel and disgraceful conduct and trickery of the Asquith government.  She spoke as a highly intelligent woman burning with the conviction that her cause was right. She also showed plainly a spirit of resolute intention not to give up the fight for minute until the battle had been won.  This was evident from her tone and voice and the way she threw back her head as she spoke of the conflict and the reasons why they should succeed.

She was going to join the Canadian suffragists in asking Mr. Borden and his government to grant the vote for women. "If the government will not grant the demand, will you encourage suffragists on this side to adopt militant tactics? asked a Witness Reporter.

"The Canadian women are quite able to look after their own case," was her evasive reply.

"What about the hurling of the hatchet at Mr. Asquith," asked another reporter.

"It never touched him and even if he had got a crack in the head, it might not have done him any harm.  It might have pounded a little sense into him," was Wylie's reply.

Asked if there was a deeper meaning to the movement.

"Women will never be respected nor hold the place and influence they should have as long as they are denied the right to vote.  We also want to exert an influence on legislation such as public health and social questions, which we think are more important than commerce and the things that men think most important."

Thursday, September 18, 2014

A Little Bit of Explosive Local History

Not quite Abbey Road, but sometimes the most dull and dreary little crossroads has a big story behind it.

This is a sleepy corner I pass every few days on my way to play tennis in a nearby community. I have to be careful, because it is also where the High Road meets the Low Road and the Railway Tracks and some drivers do crazy things there, like forget to stop or signal.

These days, there's nothing but a few bungalows, a bunch of farmer's fields and a slew of fast-food outlets between where I live and where I play tennis, but one hundred years ago there was a large community there built around a factory, a munitions factory.

I learned this last week. I binge-watched Foyle's War on Netflix, about WWII, and one of the episodes was about a girl who got killed working in a munitions factor.

I mentioned this to my husband saying, "I guess it was dangerous to work in those factories," and he replied, "One of those blew up near our house, in WWI."


"Yes, at Dragon."

"Where the heck is Dragon?" I asked.

"In-between here and Rigaud," he said. "It's long gone."

So I looked up the story online.

Sure enough, Dragon was a company-town that sprung up in 1907 near here, around a hosiery factory, Curtis and Harvey.

When war broke out that company started making munitions and the facility, worth 3 million dollars, blew up one day in 1917, on August 18th, to be precise, at 7 a.m. in the morning.

There were many explosions that morning, "shaking the area like earthquakes," as different sections  of the munitions factory caught fire and exploded.

Employees' homes farther away also caught fire, and even some local farm houses.

"The village of Dragon looks like a volcano had opened it up,"said the AP newspaper report the next day. "The ground for a mile around is strewn with melted metal and boilers, machinery, etc."

(For all I know a piece of shrapnel landed in a nearby forest, and it's still  in my backyard today.)

According to newspaper reports, 350 men (and women?) worked in the area affected. When some men ran out, military policed tried to stop them, it was reported.  Some of these workmen jumped an electric fence to safety

According to one account, the munitions plant was made up of 150 small buildings (or just a dozen or so, if you believe another source) I guess for this very reason.

 (Lots of secretiveness around these places back then. Hard to get information, I imagine.)

 The first explosion was in the building that contained nitric acid, but all the buildings, a dozen or 150 or in-between, were razed in the explosion.

The first reports said 17 to 25 men were killed.

War is hell, I guess. (This is a very Foyle's War style story, featuring the IFFY and secretive side of wartime activities on the home-front. And who knows what the 'real' story is: but then, sometimes an explosion is just an explosion.)

There was a note of true heroism, as well, if you want to believe what you read.  A train was parked at Rigaud, a mile or two away, and the engineer was ordered to stay there but word came that there were three railway cars filled with explosives near the fire, so the engineer took matters into his own hands and rode the engine down to the fire and hooked up the loaded cars and got them away safely.

The area in 2008 from the Hudson Historical Society website.  

The factory was where that winding river, La Raquette, meets the railway tracks.

There's no mention of this explosion in the Nicholson Letters from WWI, Not Bonne Over Here.

In 1917 father Norman was working on a dam in  La Loutre, pretty dangerous work.

In 1918  Norman was working at Rand Drill in Sherbrooke, as an inspector at a munition's plant.

And, before that, around 1910,  he had worked as an inspector on the TransContinental Railway as it was being built in Quebec and Ontario. One time, near Cochrane, Ontario, he was almost hit by a boulder that was being blown up to get it out of the way for the new tracks.

In the era, it was well-known that railway work was exceedingly dangerous, even for young men, but Norman was 60ish.

I guess, for Norman, getting blown up was always a worry.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

All Voters are Considered Equal, but some More Equal Than Others (Circa 1913)

The 1922 bi-lingual Committee struck to win the vote for Quebec women.

All men are created equal, but some more equal than others.

It's Orwell from Animal Farm and the line is emblazoned on my brain, probably because we studied the book in the 9th grade when I was 14, a very impressionable age.

I wasn't alone, the line caused a buzz at school, almost as much buzz and the bare boobs in the BBC production of Casanova.

That line applies very much to my current project, Furies Cross the Mersey, an ebook that I've just published on Amazon about the British Invasion of Suffragettes to Montreal in 1912/13.

THAT I didn't learn about in school. No one did. Up until a few years ago, I didn't know when Canadian women got the vote.

The suffrage movement in Canada was basically censored in high schools back in the 60's.  Well, it still is.

Our Canadian history book, Canada Then and Now only had a few female characters: Marguerite Bourgeoys, Laura Secord, Jeanne Mance. There was a bit about Bodicea in the Canadian Reading Development Series we used.

By the 1960's there had only been one book written about Canadian Suffragists and is a 1940 Master's Thesis by an American, Catherine Cleverdon - and she used newspaper accounts.

She didn't interview any former suffragists alive at the time.

The Cleverdon book and one other from 1989 (by McGill student Carol Bacchi, who soon moved to Australia to teach) is still what most scholars refer to when they write about the Canadian Woman Suffrage Movement.

But, very lately, the Internet has changed all that.

Anyway, this famous Orwell line applies to my story because  in 1913 the elite ladies of Montreal started up a Montreal Suffrage Association, but any new members had to be approved  by two members of the Executive, most of whom were clergymen and McGill Profs.

I know for a fact that my husband's great Aunt Edith Nicholson didn't join, her name isn't in the membership book in the archives at Montreal City Hall. But, then, she was all for the militant suffragettes. She said so in a letter home. (Edith is a character in Furies Cross the Mersey.)

Ironic, no? Wanting women to have universal suffrage, but not allowing most of them to be part of the process of  winning it?

There are reasons for this, of course. This being one:

It's all in my story, every detail.

When the Montreal Council of Women decided in 1912, shortly after Mrs. Pankhurst came to speak in Montreal in December, 1911, that they'd spin off a Suffrage Association (against their by-laws, by the way) they resolved to hold a public meeting.

In December, 1912 they held that 'public' meeting, but it wasn't very public. If they were being honest they would have admitted "We are going to hold a public meeting for all our good friends."

Here's the notice. Does it sound that anyone can attend? No.. but that's the way they wanted it.

So, when this Beatrice Forbes Robertson spoke, on December 12, 1912, she spoke only to a group  of Protestant Leaders.

Odd, because in her speech she said that POOR WOMEN ESPECIALLY NEED THE VOTE.

Read Furies Cross the Mersey on Amazon.com.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Carrie Derick, Census Mistakes, and Stories Maybe Missed

I found Miss Carrie Derick, the subject of my story Furies Cross the Mersey, on the 1901 Canadian Census, listed as a lodger.  Misspelled Cary Derick.

She is listed as a university lecturer, making 1000 a year, a very good salary. Her sister is a teacher, so also works.

I can't tell the street, but it is in St. Antoine Ward. (No doubt near McGill.)

She is not living with her boss :) Dr. Penhallow, who is listed a a lodger somewhere else.

LODGER. Hmmmmmmm.

On the 1901 census, Penhallow is listed with a woman, Sarah, a year or so younger with the same last name. Wife? Sister.

 If Penhallow wasn't married then it puts a little bit of a different tint on the relationship he would have had with Carrie Derick, doesn't it?  Or maybe he wasn't the marrying kind.

Let's see if I can find if Penhallow had a wife.


His Wikipedia page doesn't mention a wife and it says he 'allegedly' had a mental breakdown in 1909, Yikes! That really changes my story, well, if the story were about David Pearce Penhallow, but it's about Carrie Mathilda Derick.

Derick took over for Penhallow when he had this breakdown, doing his job for three years, but then she didn't get the post in 1912 when the post was filled.

 The  new Chair of Botany, a Professor Lloyd,  made 3,000 salary.

In 1901, a Louise Derick lives with Carrie Derick, very likely her sister.

In my story, which takes place in 1911/12/13, Miss Carrie Derick has a housekeeper. In 1911 she lived on Bishop and was making 2,000 dollars a year.

I know, because her 'uptown' address is indicated on the minutes of the Montreal Local Council of Women and in many other places.

This Bishop address could have been a boarding house too, but I chose to make it a comfortable home. She's 49 in 1911, after all. And making 2,000 a year.

She didn't get on the 1911 census which, to me, suggests she lived on her own and just wasn't at home in June 1911 when the Census Man came around. At a boarding house, the landlady would have given her name most likely.

Carrie Derick

In 1901, university lecturer (and lab demonstrator) Carrie Derick, lodged with a few other 'teachers' and another university lecturer, it seems, a man, James Henderson. At least she was getting the same 1000 dollar salary!  In 1900 she gave a report under the auspices of the National Council of Women saying that teaching was a 'bleak' profession. She had plenty of friends in the biz.

She gives her religion as Anglican, or Church of England. The Derick's of the E.T were of Dutch and German background.  She likely spoke German because she attended the University of Bonn.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Furies Cross the Mersey

About the British Invasion of Militant Suffragettes to Canada in 1912

Starring Emmeline Pankhurst
Barbara Wylie
Caroline Kenney
Carrie Derick
Octavia Ritchie England
Frances Fenwick Williams
Robert Borden

and the ladies of the Montreal Local Council of Women

Friday, September 12, 2014

Foyle's War, Moral Ambiguity and Binge Watching British TV Shows

Barbara Wylie, British Suffragette who came to Canada in 1912 to stir up trouble. What British character actor could play her, when they dramatize my book Furies Cross the Mersey.   Maybe a big star like Emily Blunt? :)

Last year my sister-in-law recommended the British TV show Foyle's War with Michael Kitchen to me, but when I checked on Netflix it wasn't there.

Too bad, I thought at the time, and then forgot all about it.

Well, the Foyle's War is there now on Netflix.  (I heard it first on Twitter.)

I've been looking for a good television program to binge on; I can't bear to watch some of those gritty shows like Breaking Bad, the ones my husband likes, too violent for me - or should I say too graphic.

And I'm up to date on Downtown Abbey and I have watched Parade's End from last year one too many times.

So this Foyle's War on Netflix  is just what the doctor ordered.

It has all those Brit character actors we know and love, from Pride and Prejudice in 1995 to Parade's End last year, and I can finally put a face to all those BBC Radio 4 drama voices.

And the first few episodes featured attractive young new talent that has gone on to greater film fortune, like James McAvoy and Emily Blunt.

Anyway, Foyle's War is a detective drama (not usually my favourite genre) in an historical period piece framework. WWII era.

And it is a program that has every right to be aired on the History Channel, because the show goes out of its way to tell the smaller,unknown stories of WWII, that is, in between the highly improbable murder mysteries that always have two or three seemingly separate incidents in a small city come together at  the end,

Anti-semitism is explored a great deal, for obvious reasons, but one aspect of this topic doesn't ring me as true.

At least one episode had ordinary citizens engaged in passionate debates about the plight of the Jews in Europe.

Everyone of my parent's generation I talked to about this over the decades, asking them, for instance, why they allowed boatloads of Jewish refugees to be turned away from Canadian shores, every one said "We didn't know. No one talked about it."

Passionate parlour discussions, pro vs con,  might have been a good thing back then. It's when otherwise good people turn a blind eye that horrible things happen.

I wonder what my grandchildren will hold me accountable for in 30 years as in "Why didn't you..." There's so much to choose from. "Why didn't you save the birds, the bears, the planet," is a pretty good guess.

Well, Foyle's War, the  ITV drama does deal with shades of gray, moral ambiguity - almost every episode.
The Guaranteed Milk Bottle, a relic from 1910 era Montreal, when pure milk was important. My story Furies Cross the Mersey tells about the Milk Stations of the era.

I have reached episode 11 already, in just two days, in between editing my 1912 story about the Montreal Suffragettes, an untold tale rife with moral ambiguity, Furies Cross the Mersey.

It's hard to film a period piece in Canada, even if anyone wanted to.

We don't have any old places.

Vankleek Hill in Eastern Ontario is a good place to film a 1910 era story that takes place in a country town.

The Mile End area of Montreal  is also from 1910 era, it was a new suburb back then.

But the area around Dominion Textile and the Lachine Canal  that was a bustling industrial center in 1910, now looks like a bombed out war-zone, or it's been gentrified.

(Anyway, to make my suffragette story marketable, I would have to turn it into a detective story, with zombie suffragettes solving murders, sending messages to modern citizens through tablets and smartphones. )

And, as has been well-documented,  the grand homes on Sherbrooke, the center of the Golden Square Mile in 1910 Montreal, have mostly been torn down. That process started in the 1930's and reached its peak in the 1970's, with the destruction of the Van Horne Mansion. (Sir William Van Horne, a Governor of McGill Univeristy, figures in my story.)

 Soon I'm going to have to find another new television show to watch if I keep up this pace.

Maybe I should be out doing something to change the world for the better rather than binging on TV serials. What a concept!

Oddly, a new series of the Foyle's War is coming out in 2015, 13 years after the first one.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The 100 Percent Hero? Doesn't Exist.

My temporary cover for Furies Cross the Mersey, by book about the Montreal Suffragettes. It's full title is Furies Cross the Mersey: the Very Ugly Story of 1912.

All the history talk these days is about this Franklin Expedition and the boat they found.  This will enhance our Arctic Sovereignty, the government is saying. And it is apparently a great exercise in 'nation building.'

What? Is this about all about oil, agaaaaaain?

Anyway, a funnier and more interesting article, from the Huffington Post, came my way yesterday.

 It was about saving printer ink (that extremely expensive commodity, even more costly than oil, although some inks are made with petroleum distillates, I think.)

Apparently, if everybody chose to use certain unfrilly fonts, enormous amounts of printer ink would be conserved.

And, if Canadians chose to use American style spelling, a great deal of printer ink would also be saved.

I thought this was especially funny, because I just finished my book Furies Cross the Mersey  and 90 percent of my errors, according to the Word Spell Check Program, were English spellings...

Here's the first bit of the first chapter of the story, to show you what I mean. Of course spell check doesn't catch typos.. and that's my next task.....I print the pages out in draft to save on ink.

And I don't have any colour ink in my printer.

July 1912.

I am trying to picture in my very modern mind’s eye how it all might have unfolded way back when in July 1913. In Montreal, Quebec, where I now live, but in the era of shirtwaist suits, Model-T Fords and suffragettes. 

The Post-Edwardian era, the Pre-WWI era, the post-Laurier Era in Canada.  

The era BBC Radio Four has recently referred to as  The Birth of Now.

But first I envisage a be-speckled woman, past middle age, seated in an armchair by the window in a small parlour, 100 or so kilometers away in farm country. 

The woman seems tall and solidly built yet trim, with a strong, attractive neck over narrow sloping shoulders; there’s a gentle spray of silver in her mahogany brown hair;  her eyebrows are pronounced and arching over a perfectly oval face; she has a nose too large that is slightly hooked, a straight slash of a mouth with nice full lips, and more than a mere spark of intelligence in her large wide-apart, almost doleful brown eyes.

She is sitting alone in the reception room of a relation’s small house in a remote corner of the Eastern Townships of Quebec.  In Clarenceville, Quebec to be specific.

Her gaze is turned toward the picture window looking out onto the street.

The armchair where she has parked her posterior is part of a three piece walnut parlour suite purchased from the 1900 Eaton’s catalogue, a plebian set displaying the generous curves and elaborate carvings popular back in the day. 

The suite still has its original upholstery, a floral motif in French silk, with large hairy dark gold blooms on a still invigorating fuchsia background.  

10 years with the same home d├ęcor is not a long time in the country where things move so slowly.

The woman vaguely notices that the material has faded in a few places, despite great efforts by the housekeeper to shade it from the sun with thick brocade drapes drawn over the picture window that faces West onto the town’s main street.

This afternoon the drapes are pulled wide open for the woman’s pleasure.

She, herself, is draped rather conservatively, in a bottle green linen dress in what would be described on the era fashion pages as ‘a smart and serviceable style.’

The top or ‘waist’ is in the ‘mannish’ style, but ‘in a slightly decorated way’ not nearly as severe as the mannish shirtwaists worn by younger working women, these days, as a symbol of their emancipation. 

There’s even a touch of lace at the top of the bodice. 

The sleeves are three quarters and turned up and if in readiness for some kind of hard work.

The skirt is without buttons, pleats, French knots, or scallops.

The dress is probably new, there’s no fading at the hem or thinning at the elbow.

This is an outfit that attracts no attention at all, nor does it detract from the woman’s carefully curated persona.

She has chosen to wear dresses like this from instinct. 

As a professional woman, of a certain age, there are no instructions manuals to show her what to wear. 

She is the pioneer, after all, a one-off of sorts, a kind of five-leaf clover of her sex.

A cup of black tea in an exquisite green and gold cup has been placed by her beside a stack of magazines on a two-tiered side table from the same turn-of-the-century Eaton’s catalogue.

The woman is spending this summer afternoon catching up on her reading: The Botanical Gazette; the Record of Science; the Journal of the Microscopial Society. 

So, she is a scientist! And a lady scientist, at that!


This is my introduction Miss Carrie Derick, M.A.  who, in July 1912, had just been turned down for a the post of Chair of Botany at McGill University.

 She was a remarkable woman in many respects, but her story isn't all light and roses.

 She was an exceptional achiever and as Education Chair for the National Council of Women she had a profound influence on schooling in Canada for decades to come.

But she had some very iffy ideas and she was, like so many, a strange contradiction.

In March 1913, when my story closes with the launching of the Montreal Suffrage Association, she gave a scary speech at the Montreal YMCA about eugenics.  

It was reported on in the papers.

In her speech she quoted a popular study, Jukes/Edwards, that 'proved' that unsocial behavior was inherited. (It was printed in the 1911 Ontario Hygiene Reader.)

This was a woman who fought for women's rights, and yet she couldn't see that this nature/nurture study was seriously flawed.

I had no choice but to include the speech in Furies Cross the Mersey.

Of course McGill University was eugenics central in Canada back then. 

There's no such thing as a 100 percent hero - if you don't want to white-wash history.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Timing is Everything, When it comes to life (and publishing)

Marion, second left, at McGill Normal School in 1905, I know because she wrote about taking this pic in a letter home. She hated the final print, said the pretty girl at left chose it.

Timing it is everything.

Earlier, I wrote a post on this blog, comparing the lives of Nella Last (a Lancashire homemaker) and my grandmother Dorothy Nixon (a Colonial Brit in Malaya but born in County Durham) and I showed how five little years difference in their births, 1890 and 1895, made a HUGE difference in their lives, despite their similar circumstances.

That's because of  WWI.

I can make the same case comparing Carrie Derick, and Marion Nicholson Blair (my husband's grandmother) who both figure in my NoCumentary (half fiction have facts) Furies Cross the Mersey, the story of the Canadian Suffrage Movement in 1912.

(I'm in the final stages of editing the book and hope to put it up on Kindle when the movie Suffragettes with Carrie Mulligan and Meryl Street is released.)

The entrance hall to one of the tony row houses in the Prince of Wales Terrace on Sherbrooke. Principal Peterson lived in one of these stunning homes so I have Carrie Derick sit here waiting for a meeting with him after she's been told that the position of Chair of Botany isn't hers. 

Carrie Derick was born in the Eastern Townships (ET) of Quebec. Like many of  the smart and ambitious women of her era, she went to Normal (Teachers) School.

She excelled at academics, so upon graduation she got a post as a principal in a school in a country town.

But the idea of this dead-end existence didn't sit well with her and she enrolled in college at McGill University in 1883, one of the first women students,  and won the gold medal with the highest marks ever, and went on to study in Europe and get posts at McGill, first as lecturer, then as as Assistant Prof and later, in 1912, she became Canada's first ever female full professor.

Furies Cross the  Mersey tells her story along with the story of Montreal's 'inert' suffrage movement.

Professor Derick was the leading suffrage advocate in the city and in 1913 she was appointed President of the Montreal Suffrage Association. Well, she appointed herself.

(The odd term 'inert' was used in the Gazette to describe Quebec's suffrage movement, in a 1913  article about the launch of the  Montreal Suffrage Association. I have little doubt that was Derick's own term.)

Marion, too, was offered that hellish job as principal in a small rural community upon her graduation from McGill Normal School in 1906. I have the letter.

The District Commissioner says some of the young students are rough, but he knows she can handle it.

She turns the Principalship down. (She's already witnessed a fistfight between an older student and a principal at her first job.)

Marion's family doesn't have the money to send her to McGill as a Donalda, but that doesn't matter. By 1906 there's an immigration boom in Montreal and a growing need for new teachers in the city.

As early as just 5 years before, in 1900, getting a job as a teacher was an iffy proposition. Derick, herself, wrote in a 1900 National Council of Women Report that teaching held bleak prospects for ambitious young women.

 "However, it must be said that the teaching profession is overcrowded, and the prospect cheerless. Teachers are overworked and underpaid and there is comparatively little hope of advancement for even the best trained and most talented Canadian woman teachers." 

The Nicholsons, Norman and Margaret, Edith and Marion and some relation or neighbour, 1910 circa.

As it happens, most Donaldas, despite their BA's from McGill, ended up as teachers, usually principals, but in the city.

Even as late as  the 1930s'  teaching was about the only option for McGill's female graduates who had to or wanted to work.

Men with the same degree went into the professions, but the women graduates didn't have the contacts these men had.

What's extremely ironic, those women who received diplomas in homemaking at Macdonald College had more career options as the century progressed as the industrial fields opened up

They had practical training..

Here's something else ironic: today in the Guardian online newspaper is an article about a man who wrote a WWI book about his ancestors from information found in box.

My Ancestors Live in a Box about Duncan Barrett who has just published a book called Men of Letters:


10 years, when I found the Nicholson Family Letters in an old trunk, I got some publicity in the West Island Gazette, but no one has been interested since.

My husband's ancestors are women, though and, worse, they are English Quebeckers. Few people want to promote this kind of history in Canada, I guess.

Except me.

Or maybe I went about it badly. I got the publicity, put the letters on a website (that got a lot of traffic from schools) then wrote four books.

Threshold Girl - about Flora Nicholson's year at MacDonald Teacher's College, with a social welfare theme.

Diary of a Confirmed Spinster: About Edith Nicholson's lost love in 1910.

The Nicholson Family Letters, from 1911 to 1913 edited.

Not Bonne Over Here, the WWI letters.

And soon Furies Cross the Mersey, a much more complex story, about the Montreal Suffrage Movement and Professor Carrie Derick's very bad year, 1912, at McGill.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Cavemen and Suffragettes and Furies Cross the Mersey

Well, this ad comes from the June 1913 Montreal Witness. Chapman's Bookstore was obviously the choice of the Evangelicals in Montreal...The Rev. Hugh Pedley was one such man and he also was on the board of the newly formed Montreal Suffrage Association. He gave a series of lectures in the era on Sinful Montreal...He especially hated the Theatre.

The Association kept their literature bureau at Chapman's, for a while anyway in 1913. Then they moved it to the Edinburgh Cafe, run by four spinster sisters from the Orkneys.

All this goes to show that the Suffrage Movement in Montreal in 1913 was closely aligned with the Protestant Evangelical movement.

No news for me here.... I'm finishing up a book, Furies Cross the Mersey, about the Montreal Suffrage Movement, the follow up to Threshold Girl and Diary of a Confirmed Spinster. 

The Witness's from 1913 include a mention of my grandfather, Jules Crepeau.  He would soon be caught in a bribery sting, mounted by one Edward Beck, the  Editor in Chief of the Montreal Herald and have to litigate his way out of it. The Montreal Evangelicals despised CITY HALL and worked hard to Clean up the City, getting deeply involved in the City Elections, getting the Spinster Vote out.

My play Milk and Water is about another 1927 scandal involving my dear Grandpapa

Miss Edith Nicholson, my husband's great aunt, was out of a teaching job in the 1913 period. She had just quit her post at Westmount Methodist, a boarding school that converted Catholics to Protestantism.

 Her problem, she was a  teacher without diploma and most jobs available demanded a diploma.

She would soon get a job at St. Francis College in Richmond...A case of WHO YOU KNOW more important than WHAT YOU KNOW!

She had to take as summer course in Lachute in the summer of 1914.

I don't exactly know what she is doing in Montreal in 1913... but in a May 3 letter to her mother she says "We are going to see Mrs. Snowden speak, but she is not militant and for this I am very sad."

This is the last scene in Furies Cross the Mersey.

Mrs. Snowden's speech was reported in detail in the May 6 Montreal Witness.  I use the line in the headline. "Mrs. Pankhurst's troops are Cavemen."

The newspaper supported woman suffrage, but not the militant kind as this hysterical headline from around the 10th shows.

Reverend Pedley may have hated the Theatre, but Edith Nicholson and other Witness readers LOVED it! She and/or her sisters went to see Polly of the Circus, the Merry Widow  and Everywoman. Everywoman was a morality play, warning young women against the dangers of vanity, featuring beautiful young actresses in gorgeous robes. 

The motion pictures (the five and ten cent picture shows) were lowbrow for them in 1913, but by 1917, the war years, the Nicholson 'girls' were going to 'the movies' (as they now referred to them) regularly. Everyone in their social group was.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Fighting Words from a Suffragette

A newspaper clipping saved by Edith Nicholson from September 1912, upon British suffragette Barbara Wylie's arrival in Montreal. The reporters, apparently, almost missed her. They expected a battle-ax to detrain and instead were met with a lovely looking young woman. :)

Miss Wylie walks to the speaker’s platform, confidently, her heels clicking like a foot soldier’s on the hardwood floor.

Her eyes look bigger and brighter than on the other day at the college. Could that be kohl around the lids? And rouge de theatre on her cheeks?

The pretty suffragette begins by describing the events of 1912 with respect to the WSPU, Mrs. Pankhurst's Women's Social and Political Union: How the year began with 19 women in Holloway Jail.  How Emily Davison Wilding was brought to trial in January for setting fire to a pillar box. How Asquith went back on his word with respect to the Conciliation Bill while Mrs. Pankhurst was on tour in America. How several hundred women broke plate glass windows in the West End of London. How police raided the offices of the W.S.P.U. in March and arrested the Pethwick Lawrence’s. How Christabel Pankhurst escaped to France.

How Mrs. Pankhurst made a speech about ‘the argument of the pane.’

Once her list is complete she speaks in earnest.

“We women have nailed our flag to the masthead and we can no longer retreat with honor, so we will go on and never falter, until women have received the vote on an equal basis with men.”

The hall erupts in applause, Edith and Marion and Penelope and Mathilda’s wild hand-clapping is as enthusiastic as any in the audience.

‘I encourage you Canadian women to gather in thousands and go and see Mr. Borden. Use all ‘ladylike’ constitutional methods first." Edith Marion Penelope and Mathilda laugh loudly with most everyone else. "And should these fail, then I think that the Canadian women should be as willing to show an unselfish and high spirited constant devotion to the cause of liberty as the women of England.”

There is more loud applause, but rumble of discontent rises from the back of the room.

“Women did not object to making themselves conspicuous in tennis or golf and they should not be afraid of it in the cause of liberty for women who are enslaved.”

Wylie from Votes for Women, in an article discussing her trip to Canada.

Miss Wylie hits a high note on the word enslaved and it is almost too much to bear for the women in the audience. They send out a loud raucous roar.

Penelope’s colour rises to a deep red.

She imagines herself leading a suffrage parade down Sherbrooke, with tennis racquet in hand. She yells out, “Yes, liberty!”

Wylie acknowledges her comment with a nod and continues, “Of course, we shall never win the moment by physical force. We cannot turn ourselves, and go out in the thousands like the Serbs with our guns. What we can do is to express ourselves, our moral force, our physical force, in some way the people understand, even in putting a stone through a window, which may be a most righteous, heroic and religious act.”

The room is in awe, but an old curmudgeon in the back disrespectfully breaks Wylie’s witchy spell.

“But militant methods are absolutely wrong and have actually prevented women from getting the vote,” he says. He continues, “Despite the fact you are charming in personality, I call on the Montreal audience to express its disapproval of militancy and all it stands for.”

There are loud boos. And a few cheers, mostly of the baritone variety.

Dr. England intervenes from the Chair.

“Mr. Holt.  Miss Wylie has been asked to speak as a guest of the Montreal Council of Women and to state her views. It was not our intention to pass any resolution for or against militancy. But, kind sir, since you have brought up the issue, we must allow Miss Wylie to reply.”

Miss Wylie replies, pointing an accusing finger at the man: “You, sir, are the same kind of man as some of the cabinet ministers of England who express sympathy with the objects but feel that it would have come about had it not been for militancy.”

“I imagine,” replies Mr. Holt, “that comparing me to a cabinet minister is placing me very low down in the suffragette scale.” He gazes around the room waiting for a laugh that does not come.

“Let me give you an example,” says Miss Wylie.  A man stuck in a rut on a dark road may gather a lot of sympathy from passersby but if he pulled his horse across the road, he might get abuse and no sympathy, but he might get out of his own rig to get out of the rut.

Applause from the front. Boos from the back.

Another man rises to his feet to say that he is in support of militancy. That the easy peaceful methods are like a stage coach, the militant like an automobile which proceeds by a series of explosions much more quickly.

“Miss Wylie has advocated constitutional methods first,” he says. “But if a need arises for militant methods I would be willing to take part in the shame and opprobrium that would come to those who fight so that my mother and sister could vote on an equality with myself.

Yet another man leaps forward from the back to express his regrets that the man should express these sentiments.

Dr. Ritchie England cuts short his comments by declaring the meeting closed.

She is out of her depth here and knows it.

Miss Wylie looks as if she is not quite sure what has happened.  Heated arguments are de rigueur  at her speeches in England. Why not a little rowdyism? Who’s going to pay attention otherwise? Certainly not the press.
Excerpt from  by Dorothy Nixon,Furies Cross the Mersey 2014. All Rights Reserved.

A social note about a talk Wylie gave in a private parlour to a small group of Society Women in Montreal, before her YMCA talk. This bit says the women weren't impressed. In a letter to Votes for Women Wylie said she gave away all of her copies of Votes for Women, sold three subscriptions and set up a talk at McGill's Royal Victoria College. My story Furies Cross the Mersey includes a fictional description of this talk. The scene above is adapted from the report in the Montreal Gazette.