Saturday, February 28, 2015

The First Women Tennis Players of Montreal (Possibly)


The Royal Victoria Tennis team. McGill website.  Lawn tennis was the first group set up by women at McGill. Dr. Grace Ritchie England, in the first graduating class in 1888, mentioned it in her valedictory speech. She also demanded that women be allowed into McGill Med School, defying President Dawson.



Scene 2:   The Jenkins Home.  A lower duplex in lower Westmount.  It is a ten room flat with a long narrow hall leading to a well-equipped kitchen, with a tiny postage stamp of a maid’s quarters off the kitchen, and a back door leading out into a very large backyard where even today, in the dead of winter, assorted white-wear hangs stiffly from a clothesline.

Mathilda and Penelope are in the only parlour in the place, at the other end of the house, staring at the street through a picture window and watching the snowflakes fall.

Matilda: We are all alone, I am afraid. The flu knows no holidays. My father says this is the worst season in years. He is out making deliveries, my brother is filling prescriptions, and my mother is working the cash at the pharmacy.

Penelope: All dressed up and nowhere to go.  Shouldn’t it be the other way around with your brother making deliveries and your father filling prescriptions?

Mathilda: My father likes visiting his clients; he thinks they appreciate it. They are impressed with his new Dailmer automobile. They wouldn’t like it so much if they knew my mother often filled the prescriptions herself. She has been well taught by my father.

Penelope: I get it. So we are left to watch the snow fall. What should we do?

Mathilda: Well, would you like to see the pharmacy? It’s not a long walk.

“Sure,” says Penelope, reflexively.  To be very poor is to be very bored, is what she is really thinking.

And yet when she gets to the Jenkins pharmacy, after slip-sliding down the hill towards St. Henri arm-in-arm with Mathilda, she finds it a very pleasant and interesting place to be.

There’s a long polished counter with a silver soda fountain machine; shiny maple cabinets lining three of the walls with waist-high displays of tonics and medicines set out like curiosities in a museum: essence of pepsin for indigestion; spirits of turpentine for the kidney; and even some feminine toiletries, witch hazel, rose water and other products, and over top of these counters, many glass-fronted cupboards stacked with large, brown leather-bound volumes.

The store gleams from all angles.

“Here’s one for you,” Penelope says to Mathilda leaning over a display cabinet. “Dr. Barker's Malt Extract. Puts Flesh on Thin People.”

“Well, here's one for you,” replies Mathilda. “Dr. Hammond's Nerve and Brain Tablets.”

The aroma in the room is over all sweet, cherry-scented, with something else more bitter mixing in, a smell Penelope can’t identify. She stops in her tracks and takes a long, conspicuous sniff.

“Sulphur!” says Mathilda, guessing her dilemma.


Mathilda’s brother, James, is tall like his younger sister, with the same high cheek bones and hazel eyes, but on the browner side. He is busy behind the counter, looking important in a shiny white coat.  

Penelope has met him in passing only a few times and eaten only one meal in his presence, Christmas dinner, with fifteen people around the table and James on the opposite side of it to her, so she never got to talk to him, not once.

Was he avoiding her? She had been wondering.

On this occasion, James, who is alone in the store, hardly acknowledges the girls as they take a leisurely tour of the shop. In fact he brushes by Penelope rather rudely on an important mission to shelve a large box of tongue depressors.

Mathilda sees that her brother is being rude (or something else) and says in a loud stage voice “Rouge de theatre. I didn’t know we stocked this. Do you think Mrs. Pankhurst would approve?’

Penelope answers, “I suppose. Why not? She seems a very pretty and fashionable woman and also a friend of the lower classes.”

“Mrs. Pankhurst?”  Mathilda’s brother blurts out.

“Yes, we heard her speak in January. We went with the citizenship class at the College,” answers his sister.

“Subversive, I would say. So my little sister is keeping secrets from me.”

“I’m not keeping any secrets.”

Then Penelope asks, “What’s subversive about Mrs. Pankhurst? She is in the spirit of true democracy.”  It is meant as a direct attack.

“Setting fire to post boxes?  Breaking windows?” James bellows.

“The WSPU has been driven to such acts,” Penelope shouts back.

“They were put in jail for peaceful demonstrations so they might as well get put in jail for genuine offenses.”

Penelope can hardly believe she is saying these words because these are Mrs. Pankhurst’s words, from her December speech. She didn’t realize how well she had been listening.

But what a joy to get a rise out of that rude, indifferent boy.

“And now they are torturing them with Russian treatment,” she adds for good measure. “Force feeding them.”

James, his colour rising, speeds around the corner towards the two girls, still holding a jar of navy blue liver pills. He is roused.  “They should be tortured,” he says. “They are anarchists and criminals and socialists.”

“They are political prisoners, fighting for freedom,” Mathilda says. “That awful man Winston Churchill promised that they would be treated as such, but it was a lie.”

“Yes, political prisoners.”   Penelope can feel the blood rising to her cheeks, and not in all in bashfulness. “And he lied,” she repeats for emphasis.

It feels good to Penelope to argue so and James’ strong reaction, instead of making her cower, makes her feel very powerful.

Right then an old grey-haired couple ambles in and asks James for a bottle of the best tonic available for rheumatism.

The young pharmacist walks over to a cabinet and points them to Chamberlain’s Pain Balm.

Mathilda, just a bit befuddled, glances back and forth between the two hot-and-bothered young people in the room and then says to her fired-up friend, “Now don’t you have an excellent memory!  I thought you were asleep the whole time that evening, us sitting way in the back of Windsor Hall to hear Mrs. Pankhurst. You seemed so indifferent about it all afterwards.”

“There’s more to me than meets the eye, Mademoiselle Jenkins,” replies Penelope. “But I guess I do have a good memory.  It’s the only reason I pass at school, really. I don’t work very hard, or haven’t you noticed.”

The old couple ambles out still arm-in-arm, without buying the medicine.

James says to his sister “Poor dears. I don’t think they have the money. But I don’t think this medicine works either, so no loss to them.”

Penelope inspects Mathilda’s older brother closely, somewhat surprised to see that he is both compassionate and funny.  This bold stare makes him turn away  shyly. He glides back behind the counter and gets busy with his hands once again.

The girls prepare to leave. They wrap their scarves around their necks and point themselves toward the door.

On the way out, brushing against a display of fancy bow-ties, Mathilda tosses James, over her shoulder, a sly, subtle smile.  He pretends not to notice.


 Furies Cross the Mersey is available on Amazon.com Kindle. In a final chapter, the girls meet up with Caroline Kenney, a real British Suffragette who came to Canada in 1912 on the Virginian and then they get into big trouble...

Friday, February 27, 2015

What was a good salary in 1911 and 1921?

My Verre Francaise Amourettes pattern from my grandfather and grandmother, bought with City Money. 

Ancestors.ca is not only good for genealogy.

With that website I found some travel details of British Suffragettes Barbara Wylie and Caroline Kenney that I used in Furies Cross the Mersey, my ebook about the suffragettes and how they tried to invade Montreal in 1912/13 and how they got absolutely nowhere.

Today, just googling around as I watched ATP and WTA tennis on TV (it's all tennis all the time, which is nice because the matches are always in warm places) I looked up Edward Beck.

He's the intrepid Montreal Herald journalist who helped out the Montreal Suffragists in 1913 by allowing them to publish a special feature in November, 1913 - and who then got in a fight with them over who was to pay what.

He also is the journalist who set up my Grandfather in a sting in 1914, using a 'detectophone.' Grandpapa said he could get him some favours at City Hall for a price.

He was Assistant City Clerk at the time.

Beck published the story in his own newspaper. My grandfather sued and won, 100 dollars LOL.

Beck went on to work for the Pulp and Paper Industry.

Well, it's all on this blog.

What I just learned is that Edward Beck was making a lot of money in 1911. 3, 500 as Editor of the Herald. 



Ten years later, in 1921 he was making 7.500, a very good salary.  In 1921 he lived down the street from my grandfather on Sherbrooke Street West. Gosh! Before that he lived in Westmount, which in 1901 was not a ritzy place to live. The Golden Square Mile was.

My grandfather was making the money in 1911, although Beck accused him of supplementing it in grand style with graft.

My grandfather was making 10,000 a year in 1921 as Director of City Services.


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Family History: Stranger than Truth.

Tighsolas House of Light. Richmond Quebec. Threshold Girl and Diary of a Confirmed Spinster are based on letters belonging to the family that built this house


Were I 20 years old  and an aspiring novelist, I would join a genealogy writing class with older folk- and then steal like mad.

I say that because I belong to such a class that meets once a month. And the 'true' stories that come up, never mind the history, are amazing.

Family history can be extremely entertaining.

How about this one: Someone's ancestor was getting married. She laid out her wedding dress on the bed and the cat decided to have her kittens on it.

No bother! The family got a local department store to open - and on a Sunday, as they were wealthy and well-connected.

Great story, I think.

And there are many more.

Novelists, I imagine, get their stories from real life.

 Somerset Maughan did.

That's because really life is stranger than fiction.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Hairy Post about Fashion and the Academy Awards



Someone wore a hat on the red carpet last night and it got me to thinking about hats again.

Wait, it was a guy, J.K. Simmons and that doesn't count. I am thinking about women and hats and fashion, not men.

This isn't about Madmen.

Anyway, a few years ago, I recall, a woman celebrity dared to wear a hat on the red carpet and got some attention, but not the right kind of attention, so no one  has done it since.

Now, there women who still must cover their heads in public, Muslim women.

But we forget that Christian women had to cover their heads in public up to a short time ago. In fact, what some Muslim women wear today was common garb for Greek women and Christian women in the 5th century.

I strictly remember my Aunt taking me to Notre Dame Church in Old Montreal for a Latin Mass and sticking a kerchief on my head and securing it with a bobby pin. Ouch!


In 1937, Marie-Claire did a piece of hats and royalty, showing how the Royals have always been behind the fashion.


This was in the early 60's.  So she felt head wear had to be worn in church.

Now, I've spent the last 5 years researching the 1910 era and that era was all about hats. Hats were about status.

 Edith Nicholson, of Threshold Girl and Diary of a Confirmed Spinster, spent 7.00 on a hat in 1911 out of a paltry teacher's salary of 200 a year!

It was a big black shape with an velvet ribbon and pink roses.

She wore hats all her life, in to old age, but by that time, in the 50's and 60's, hats were OUT and hair was in. (Except with the Royals who are all about tradition. But the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate ,
doesn't wear too many hats, does she? I just Googled her in images and it's true, she's almost always bare-headed in her pics.



I googled Diana and it's half and half or maybe a little less than that leaning towards bare-headed.

I suspect this had to do with Hollywood somehow. And he red carpet. And the hair industry.

Glamour shots of sirens sometimes included hats, but the most alluring didn't, just lots of glistening golden goddess hair.

Hats suggest a degree of formality and these sexy shots were not going for that.

Yes, in the late 30's, smart little hats were 'in.' You can see the latest hat fashions in a move like The Women.

But since then it has been all about hair. (I'm thinking about Call the Midwife. The fashion conscious women didn't wear hats, did they, in the 1950's?

And the hair industry,well, we know what happened. Big Explosion.

And speaking of explosions, in the 60's there was one type of Herbal Essence, that smelled of something a cow might like, but now there are so many kinds, I leave the store without buying any.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

STEM and Early McGill and Strange Parallels to Today


I've discovered yet another strange parallel between life and work 100 years ago, in the 1910 era and today.

It's about STEM.

STEM stands for science, technology,engineering and math and there's a lot of talk about getting Canadian students into STEM careers, because that's where many of the top jobs will be the in future - and right now Canadian companies are having to look elsewhere, outside of Canada, for STEM workers.

And young women in Canada are choosing to stay out of STEM streams in high school, taking courses like humanities at university instead.

But, I've discovered that in the 1900 era, a Bachelor of Arts degree at McGill was not what it is today.
It was packed with 'science courses' math, geology, botany, chemistry. (There was a Faculty of Applied Science at McGill in the era.)

Over the years, apparently, it was women's preferences that turned a BA into something devoid of a decimal point. They preferred studying modern languages to science, apparently.

Over course, one must ask, what came first, the chicken or the egg?

The first women graduates of McGill, the Donaldas, despite their scientific training, were relegated to working in one profession and one profession only, as teachers, although they got the higher-ranked jobs, and you didn't need a university degree, in the early days, to work as a teacher, just a diploma.

In the 1930's, the Warden of Royal Victoria College lamented this sad fact.



A BA led to all kinds of careers for men, who were well connected with the professions. I'm guessing most graduates went to work in a family business.(That's also a big trend today among wealthier college grads, by the way.)

So, no wonder, women didn't bother taking the science courses.

Oddly, women who were trained in the "the New Profession of Housekeeping and Domestic Science," a diploma program started in the 1910 era to plunk those 'irritable' new women back into the home (or to train working class women to be domestics for the rich who were increasingly finding it difficult to find good help) eventually, sometimes, got to work in industry, what with their knowledge of nutrition and food processing.

That's just like today, where a plain BA or BSc, won't get you anywhere fast... Half of STEM graduates in the US do not work in  their field according to a 2014 article in the Washington Post.

Diploma programs, where you can train as a technician, are often a better choice if you want to work right away out of school in a profession related to your training,

 And these programs are far less costly than a university degree



Friday, February 20, 2015

Mothers and Martyrdom and Furies and a Conscription Crisis



Isis, Mary and the WWI mother-goddess. (The last is from an advert for a biscuit, I think.) NOT BONNE OVER HERE is the Nicholson Family Letters from WWI


During WWI, the Mary as Martyr trope was used often as documented in the book Mother of Martyrs: Mothers of Heroes by Suzanne Evans.

Mary didn't show up until around 400 AD. And then the Protestants during the Reformation did their best to destroy her image.... but her memory lived on, even in Protestant spheres, or they could not have used her in WWI.



Letter 31. Marion to Margaret. (From Not Bonne Over Here)


May 25, 1917

39 York Avenue, Westmount


Dear Mother,

Your letter came this morning and I was glad to get it. I feel a little lost without Flora a comin' and a goin'.

 I intended writing you sooner but you will have to take the mentions since you did not get any letter.

Margaret was quite good coming in. Of course she did not sleep and wanted to make 'bad bad' every few minutes in the spittoon.

Flora met us and saw us safely home and she will tell you all the news so you will not have to hear it twice.

Friday, one week later.

I started this letter when Flora was away so you would have it last Saturday and now I doubt you will get it this week.

No doubt Flora has told you all the news.  The baby has been so sick all this week I have not done anything but sit with her for the Dr. does not allow her out of bed.  

Perhaps you can imagine better than most people what that means.

However, today, she seems better and had a sleep this afternoon and is asleep now. I hope for the night.

Hugh and Willie Ledden are making a garden. What success they will have I do not know. One thing may be sure, the 'beds' are straight and square.

I would prefer to have more in them, myself.

Everyone here, that is the Aunts and Grandma B are terribly worked up about conscription.*

All they say would fill a book and some of the sayings I do not find very deep.

I would like to tell them that they are not the only ones who have sons who will be called, or they may think that theirs are more to them.

I think myself that is a political move on Borden's part 'to hold his job' as the saying goes, but that does not alter the fact that the bill will doubtless go through.

Flora tells me that this is the day or rather night of the "big sing' as father says. I hope it will be a success. Then tomorrow night you go to Sherbrooke.

What gay times you are having. Do you intend visiting Montreal?




Below: the Minutes of the Montreal Suffrage Association where they send a Resolution to Borden against Limited Conscription but where they say they 'warmly' approve of National Compulsory Service...1917. (Carrie Derick, later denied the Montreal Council of Women was for conscription, saying they were apolitical. )  Of course, the reason women wanted National Compulsory Service was to ensure their own sons had a better chance at surviving by sending out someone else's sons.


Furies Across the Mersey:How Canadian Women got the Vote, my storyboard video documentary. Read Furies Cross the Mersey here on Amazon.com

Carrie and Cristabel, and that Wylie Woman

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 womanhood 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."

When are Women like Bees?


This is a capture of a 'scene' from A Soul on Fire, by Frances Fenwick Williams, published in 1915.

It's a dinner table scene taking place in sophisticated English Montreal circles. Frances Fenwick Williams was Press Secretary of the Montreal Suffrage Association in 1915. So, she knew of what she spoke, perhaps exaggerating a tad :)

When I first read this paragraph, I assumed that FW was using the names Christina Bankhurst and Windholme Churchham for Pankhurst and Churchill out of fear of being sued or something.

How could anyone not know the name of Winston Churchill?

But this is 1915 and clearly Fenwick Williams is mocking the ignorance of people with a pronounced opinion on Woman Suffrage.

I imagine that in that era, Pankhurst's name was more recognizable by the Anglo Man and Woman on the Street than Winston Churchill's. Pankhurst gave a speech in Montreal in December, 1911 at Windsor Hall. It is a pivotal moment in my story Furies Cross the Mersey, available on Kindle.

Much in the way most Montrealers today won't recognize the name Ed Milliband, even in the age of Internet. (I hope I spelled that correctly...:)

Now, Winston Churchill had spoken in Montreal, too, in 1901, also at Windsor Hall. He was lecturing about the Boer War and promoting himself to the world.

The reporters said 'Sir Randolph's son has a way with words' or something to that effect.

Cartoon mocking Borden's ban of suffragettes in 1912


In 1912, Prime Minister Borden of Canada visited London to discuss NAVY issues and was accosted by three British Suffragettes, including Miss Barbara Wylie, who demanded votes for Canadian women.

Soon, the suffragettes were banned from entering Canada, branded as undesirables. They came anyway. Read Furies Cross the Mersey.

It is likely this ban was invoked because Borden had invited Prime Minister Asquith and Churchill to Canada.

Churchill was afraid of the suffragettes, in large part because they were going to take away his champagne..



 Clipping saved by my husband's great Aunt Edie about the February 1913 Montreal Suffrage Exhibit that was all about happy families.

The Montreal Herald and the Suffragettes - and Untold Story





The inscription under the statue of Edward VII in Phillip's Square, Montreal. Here's a video of the place.


Funny, we don't really look at statues or monuments. They are a kind of 3-D wallpaper. And we only read the inscriptions when we are tourists, or thinking of making a documentary.

I went to Phillip's Square a while back to 'scout' some images for my documentary on the Montreal Suffragists. 

"Phillip's Square is ground-zero of the Montreal Suffrage Movement," I said to my husband, who came along with the dog. He's the professional news editor, but he would have preferred to stay home on his day off and paint the moulding on our stairwell.

If he had been listening  he might have asked, "Does that mean there was a famous rally or riot there?"

And the answer would have been NO. An unequivocal NO.

Montreal suffragists in the 1910 era didn't rally or riot or march, they wrote letters, rented booths at events and had open houses at their various headquarters, always near Phillip's Square. UPTOWN it was called in those days. 

 (And theirs was not a populist movement, all members of the Montreal Suffrage Association (which had been spun off from the Montreal Council of Women) had to be nominated by a member of the Executive and approved by the Executive.)

As as I have written before on this blog, Phillip's Square was the women's square with its churches, department store, Birks jewelers and the Montreal Art Association Building.. (A new art gallery would be built on Sherbrooke in 1913, I believe.)

Now, were I doing a radio show for BBC Radio Four, where they care about history, I would approach this statue and inquire about the 4 different statues at the base.  Are these Amazon women suffragettes? No of course not. They are a group of women symbolizing our four founding nations, apparently.


Actually, this statue symbolizes prosperity. I figured with the cornucopia.

These women are our four founding nations..

A beautiful face, for sure. But has anyone really looked closely?

Anyway, on that topic. I recently bought the bio of Thérèse Casgrain, suffragist icon in Quebec, to see what she said about her early days in the movement. 

In the bio, written in 1972, she says that it was in 1917 after she had helped her husband win his Liberal seat in the infamous Conscription Election (the subject of my documentary) that she was approached by Julia Parker Drummond and Carrie Derick (who were both associated with the Montreal Suffrage Association). She said she soon was off to Ottawa to give a speech.

The book I bought second-hand happened to contain a 1974 Maclean's article about her where it says that it was only after the 1921 Election, where she helped her husband, that she was approached by a group of suffragists to join the battle. (So history gets 'rewritten' from the beginning... or is it just a mistake by Macleans?)

Hmm. Interesting. The 1974 article suggests or implies it was in 1921 that Casgrain got her start in advocacy, but it does not preclude that she got introduced earlier to the same suffragists. Words are like that, they can be slippery. 

It might seem a silly point, but frankly, I was surprised that she had anything to do with the Montreal Suffrage Association as that group of women had had an open argument in the press with Mayor Martin over the proposed Montreal Tramways Contract.. and she was a Forget who benefited from said 40 year contract. (And besides, these MSA women  were kinda racist  or should I say, very much into "social hygiene" a loaded concept. They had a number of Protestant churchmen on their board.)

As I wrote earlier, the membership book of the Montreal Suffrage Association does not include her name and she is never mentioned in the minutes..although, I believe her husband, Pierre, is mentioned as a potential speaker.


St. James Methodist, near Phillip's Square, where the National Council of Women held its AGM in May 1913 and where Mrs. Snowden, moderate suffragist, spoke (again) perhaps in front of Edith Nicholson, who was sorry she wasn't a militant. All this is in my ebook Furies Cross the Mersey.  Here's a free pdf copy. Funny, I just found a bit from a 1913 International Suffrage Bulletin, describing this event. It claims that St James Methodist is the biggest church in Montreal (maybe) and that Carrie Derick, President of the Montreal Suffrage Association, is the first woman Chair of a University Department. Not quite. She was turned down for the position of Chair of Botany at McGill in June, 1912 and given a courtesy appointment as full professor instead. It's all in Furies Cross the Mersey



Me and another statue, more famous. Location, location, location. 1992 fountain, a newbie.




The Montreal Herald Building. The Montreal Suffrage Association held one meeting in the place, in October 1913,  when they were friendly with Edward Beck, Editor, who allowed them to write up a special suffrage section in his newspaper in November 1913.

The MSA and Beck  soon fought over who was to pay for the section.

 In return for the favour, the Montreal Council of Women came out against the Montreal Tramways Deal with a formal resolution...a deal  BECK despised and condemned in a huge one page rant in the newspaper, where he claimed certain Montreal Newspaper factions were corrupt and in the grip of City Hall.

Genealogy, WWI and Mysterious Photos


It's early Sunday with freezing rain out there and, to my disgust, I have just eaten a pain au chocolat left over from Christmas with my morning coffee, instead of doing the 5 Salutations to the Sun I promised myself to do each morning before I eat BEFORE I look at my Twitter feed or my morning emails.

Instead, I opened my blogger statistics to see that someone read an old post with this picture. The Woman in Black is what I called her back then, even though I suspect her frock is really red.


I didn't know who she was (there's no name written  on the back) but I thought she must be a well-off friend from the confidence in her pose and the frilly dress.

Then I thought I might write another short blog post about her, again this morning, focusing on her popular pompadour hairstyle. 


Well, funny how things happen! (It must be all the Tibetan Bells  I've been listening to lately.)

I went to my emails and opened one from a California cousin, Bob, married to a grandchild of Marion Nicholson and Hugh Blair, my husband's grandparents, who figure largely in this blog.

The family is of Isle of Lewis stock; crofters thrown off the land in the Hebrides and forced to come to Canada.

Bob from California is going through more Nicholson family  memorabilia, left to Hugh and Marion's youngest son, Robert, whose wife just died.

He, too,  has many family photos with no names written on the back. He is wondering about Christian Ledden, Hugh's mother, or Grandma B. as Marion Nicholson Blair referred to her in WW1 Letters.


He asks me, in the email, if I possess any photos of Christian. I do not, at least I don't think so.

But, I think to myself, I do have a picture of the daughter, Hugh's sister, somewhere....oh yea, in the book Not Bonne Over Here.


Then it occurs to me, with an effortless insight as clear as the breaking dawn, that the Woman in Black is the very same woman as in that picture.

 It's been staring me in the face all along, but I never put it together. Perhaps, I knew it all along at the subconscious level. 

So, FUNNY how things happen!

I wonder how many other answers to life's mysteries are staring me right in the face, but I've yet to put two and two together. 

Many, many, I suspect.

 I was right about one thing: The Blair's were, indeed, well-off. 

Too bad they were angry at Hugh for marrying Marion Nicholson, a respectable but penniless teacher.

When Hugh died in 1927, the Blair Brothers abandoned the family. (Well, one brother stayed in touch.) 

Undaunted, Marion went back to work as a teacher and rose to be President of the Provincial Association of Protestant Teachers, a large and powerful and effective teachers union.

She wheeled and dealed, finding benefactors among her many well-to-do friends so all over her children could go to McGill University.

And she fought hard for pensions for teachers, dying of a heart attack before she could earn one herself.
Marion by Notman.

1917 wartime letter from Not Bonne Over Here alluding to a close call with the Spanish Flu.


39 York Avenue, Westmount

May 25, 1917

Dear Mother,

Your letter came this morning and I was glad to get it. I feel a little lost without Flora a comin' and a goin'.

 I intended writing you sooner but you will have to take the mentions since you did not get any letter.

Margaret was quite good coming in. Of course she did not sleep and wanted to make 'bad bad' every few minutes in the spittoon.

Flora met us and saw us safely home and she will tell you all the news so you will not have to hear it twice.

Friday, one week later.

I started this letter when Flora was away so you would have it last Saturday and now I doubt you will get it this week.

No doubt Flora has told you all the news.  The baby has been so sick all this week I have not done anything but sit with her for the Dr. does not allow her out of bed.  Perhaps you can imagine better than most people what that means.

However, today, she seems better and had a sleep this afternoon and is asleep now. I hope for the night.

Hugh and Willie Ledden are making a garden. What success they will have I do not know. One thing may be sure, the 'beds' are straight and square. I would prefer to have more in them, myself.

Everyone here, that is the Aunts and Grandma B are terribly worked up about conscription. All they say would fill a book and some of the sayings I do not find very deep.

I would like to tell them that they are not the only ones who have sons who will be called, or they may think that theirs are more to them.

I think myself that is a political move on Borden's part 'to hold his job' as the saying goes, but that does not alter the fact that the bill will doubtless go through.

Flora tells me that this is the day or rather night of the "big sing' as father says. I hope it will be a success. Then tomorrow night you go to Sherbrooke, what gay times you are having. Do you intend visiting Montreal?


The two Mead girls called Thursday evening but did not stay long when they found Margaret sick.

Today Hope brought Margaret a doll's carriage. I don't know what I will do tomorrow to keep her in bed with that in sight.

I have half a promise, if I may use the term, of getting a little girl of about 13 years old to come in daily when school stops, so I am living in hopes.

Now I must thank you for the towels. They are all fine and I will 'settle up' for them when I see you.

Now I must close for this time,
Marion.





Tennis, Sex and McGill University

Donaldas with their hair down in their nighties, from the Old McGill Yearbook, 1900... from McGill website. This picture must have proven, ah, interesting, to the male students.


When the first women were accepted as students at McGill University in Montreal,  no one worried about them falling in love with their male counterparts, only the other way around. They worried that the young men might fall in love with the young women.

In Victorian times, I guess, it was considered improbable that a young woman would find a young man attractive: after all, women were looking for men to protect them. (Something like that.)

Middle class women, it seems to follow, were supposed to fall in love ONLY with men Mummy approved of, men who had established themselves in life and who could take care for a wife.

Seems funny, nowadays.

I imagine the males at McGill were a bit afraid of the Donaldas, who were boffo pioneers after all.

The two genders did mix, however.

Here's a bit from Old McGill 1900, about the Women's Lawn Tennis Club. McGill women had their own tennis club from 1889 onwards.


Thirty Donaldas played tennis on the 'very good courts.' I wish I knew where these courts were located. I had to make it up for my story Furies Cross the Mersey, about the British invasion of militant suffragettes to Montreal in 1912/13 that has two characters who are Donaldas, one of whom loves tennis!


Furies Cross the Mersey: A Story of 1912 (School Marms and Suffragettes Book 6)

Two young women in crisp white duck middy blouses over long ankle length skirts, black kerchiefs at their necks, white laced sneakers on their feet and large wooden tennis racquets on their laps, sit on a bench and await their turn on the court.

“Warm up!” orders a lady coach from the back of the court.

“Yes, Miss Cartwright,” the girls answer in tandem.

They stand and begin stretching out their legs. 

One girl is tall and slim-boned, the other shorter, with a trim muscular build and broad coat hanger shoulders that make her waist, uninhibited by stays for the time being, seem smaller than it is.

The tall girl has medium dark brown hair with few highlights tied up in a bun and pale skin, because she is an indoor, studious type and the shorter girl has long strawberry-blond hair laced with golden threads and because she is an outdoor type her hair is tied back in a ponytail.  She also has applied a liberal amount of Hains Skin Balm to her face to protect her skin from the sun and wind.

The shorter girl has blue eyes, an upturned nose and a pink rosebud mouth; the tall girl has hazel eyes, on the greenish side, a broad face with prominent cheekbones, a long tapered nose and a wide mouth with thinnish lips and beautiful straight teeth as white as milk.

The tall, serious girl is Mathilda Jenkins; the shorter golden girl is Penelope Day.


They are strangers to each other. They have just been slapped together for the first time, in the very first P. E. class of the year, an absolutely random act that will have serious implications for the future.  I promise.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

A Woman Scientist Pioneer from McGill


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.

No.

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.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Canadian Flag Day and a Boy Named Bunga

Bunga makes yams with his mom. The portrayal was based, I've lately discovered, on a movie about the Orang Asli.  Visits from other Lands portrayed Bunga as living in a nuclear family, but he lived in a tribe. So many people came to my old website looking up Bunga and Yams that I made this little YouTube video. My grandparents were British Colonials in Malaya and my father was born in Kuala Lumper in 1922.


Last night my husband and I cozied up to watch the Canadiens Maple Leafs hockey game at the Forum, ah, at the Molson Center. On TV of course.

I'm no longer a hockey fan, but my husband is. Oddly, in childhood I was a fan as I had three brothers and he wasn't as he had two older sisters. He had to explain to me why the announcers were in Halifax. "It's what they do today, to promote hockey to all the 'little town's across Canada."

During the opening ceremony they had a bit commemorating the 50th anniversary of the 'new' flag.

I wasn't really paying attention as I was texting on my Samsung.

"Why is the Canadian flag waving on the ice at the Molson Center. Looks seditious," I joked.

"It's the 60th anniversary of the flag," replied my husband.

"60th? How can that be? I'm 60 years old. I remember when it came in."

"50th?" he replied. "I said 50th." (Oh. Oh. Hearing lapse.)

"Well, that makes more sense," I said, "except, wait, I was ten years old 50 years ago and I thought the flag came in when I was in high school." (Oh. Oh. Memory lapse.)

"Well, maybe it was in the fourth grade. It has to be... I guess."

Yes, I guess I was in the fourth grade when the new Maple Leaf flag came in.

I don't recall too much of the debate about it, whether to put a beaver or moose or loon on the flag :) but I do recall being asked to choose in the classroom between three versions of the maple leaf flag and I chose the three leaf one. I recall feeling let down when the other one was officially chosen.

Oh, well.

I can see now that the simpler the flag the better...

Grade Four. That's Bunga Year. Bunga is the Malaysia pygmy aboriginal we Protestant Canadians learned about in OUR FIRST GEOGRAPHY LESSON EVER.

I've made a YouTube video about it, that is very popular. I'm not the only Canadian or North American boomer who remembers Bunga.




It's odd for me, because Bunga was from Malaya (which had just become Malaysia) and my father was born in Malaya and he was no Pygmy. He was a strapping 6 foot 3 Yorkshireman.

Alas. Back in the 60's things were kept simple for elementary school kids. What Cuban Missile Crisis?

Now, I see this morning that a Canadian flag is waving on the Google Doodle, as least for Canada and that there's a link to a lame story that says Canadians are happy and think we have the best country in the world. I won't bother reading it. It's Canada National Flag Day!

This Ra Ra all reminds me of another textbook we had in the fourth grade. It too was used all across Canada. Up and Away, part of the Canadian Reading Development Series. It was used to sell Canada to Canadian children from sea to shining (now plastic-choked) sea.

It portrayed a post-war rural Canada, lots of bears and, yes, beaver. And, even though the text was used well into the 70s, it portrayed a very White Bread, Dick and Jane, Spot and Puff kind of world.
It contained a poem called Canadian Born by Pauline Johnson.

We first saw light in Canada, the land beloved of God;We are the pulse of Canada, its marrow and its blood;And we, the men of Canada, can face the world and bragThat we were born in Canada beneath the British flag.

And it portrayed us as a Daddy Country to other countries... Kind of ridiculous, or bass-ackwards, but hey.No wonder I had so little respect for my Polish neighbours, even when they expressly told me that their rich culture spawned Copernicus.

Today, the Harper government is struggling with how to promote a distinctly Canadian culture, outside of hockey. It's War of 1812 all the time, it seems. That despite the fact the Brits, at least, see the War of 1812 as a scuffle between them and the Americans.

I also found it kind of funny that last night they talked up some Canadian sailors who had just come back from 6 months patrolling the Black Sea...considering the number of Russians on the Canadiens and other NHL teams. Operation Reassurance was 'to keep a close eye on Russia,' remember.

 Extending that thought process, maybe David Clarkson should have been given a hero-biscuit instead of a 5 minute penalty and game misconduct for slamming Sergei Gonchar's face into the boards and injuring him.


Read my books about Montreal in 1910, Threshold Girl, Diary of a Confirmed Spinster, and especially Furies Cross the Mersey, about how the British suffragettes invaded Canada in 1912/13 and got nowhere.



Friday, February 13, 2015

A Tale of Two Women Scientists


These are beautiful botany drawings by Dutch artist Maria Sybilla Merian from 1730. During the Scientific Enlightenment women were kept out of the new field of science in general  - with the exception of Botany.

After all, looking at flowers was a genteel thing and one didn't need a formal education to document what they looked like, just an observant nature and some drawing ability. (And if women could embroider flowers, they could certainly draw them.) The importance of Merian's work: she went to Surinam to document 'new' species.

I've written a great deal on this blog about McGill Botanist, Carrie Derick, who happened to be a Canadian feminist pioneer and the first female full professor in Canada.

Just recently, I completed a final draft of Furies Cross the Mersey, a book about Carrie Derick and her role as lead suffragist in Montreal in the 1911/1913 era. I include a note about Merian. I have Derick owning two prints of hers, framed in her living room. That is made up, but I got most of my info from Margaret Gillett's little book on Derick, No Fool She.

Carrie Derick was President of the Montreal Council of Women from 1909-1912 (the era of my e-book Threshold Girl) and the President of the Montreal Suffrage Association, founded in 1913 and dissolved in 1919.

Also in 1912 she was appointed Full Time Professor of Botany at McGill, a 'courtesy' appointment as she had been turned down for the position of Chair of Botany, even though she had been acting as de facto Chair for 3 years.

She continued to be education chair of the National Council of Women - and she used her authority as a Botanist to promote eugenics, which is why there will never be a Heritage Minute about her, although there is a street named after her in Verdun. No question, some of her beliefs were quite scary: you can read about them in Gazette articles from the era. She gave lots of talks on the subject.

Still, it must be understood. Eugenics, in 1910 was very chic. 

McGill was eugenics central (according to the Oxford book of Eugenics), The Ontario Hygiene Reader for high schoolers had a chapter on eugenics, or choosing your mate well, and the 1912 Child Welfare Exhibit in Montreal (mounted by top citizens, English and French, and attracting hundreds of thousands of people) had a eugenics display. The NY exhibition, held a year before, made no mention of eugenics, but many of the smaller US exhibitions did, the Pittsburg Exhibition in 1913 calling itself a child welfare and eugenics exhibition. 

Google News archives shows that eugenics was discussed through the 20's into the early 30's and then stopped. I wonder why? (Well, we know why.)

There were two types of eugenics, positive, where a young person was told to choose his/her mate well, or negative, removing 'defectives' from the gene pool.. and of course the definition of defectives was left to the individual.

One funny article from the thirties I found has a lady decrying that young girls only are looking for a guy with a nice car and a 'life of the party' face and not worrying about genes.

There's a book of Derick's posted on archive.org... a collection of Botany articles published in the Montreal Herald in 1900.

The Nicholsons of Richmond read the Herald, so it is very likely that Edith Nicholson 'met' Carrie Derick through her work long before she met her in the flesh at McGill in the 1920's. In my story, their paths cross at suffrage meetings.






By C.M.D!!! Did they not want to say this was written by a woman?? I think so. The preface says these drawings are from the pen 'of a well known botanist of high standing'...No wonder Derick got into feminist activism, as the case of 18th century  Merian reveals, women Botanists were not such an unusual thing.



              Carrie Derick writes a note to French Canadian suffragist Marie Gerin Lajoie on McGill Botany Paper

                                    This is a more scientific paper, autographed by Derick.


 A drawing from Flora Nicholson's 1911/12 Nature Diary for Macdonald Teachers College. I don't know if she ever met Derick (through her sister Edith) but in my e-book Threshold Girl I have her attend a meeting of the Montreal Council of Women.

Flora refers to the dowdy Miss Derick as the woman who studies flowers but does not wear them on her hat.


More of Merian's work.