Thursday, May 28, 2015

Miss Barbara Wylie in Toronto, Pretty Little Termagant

What's left of the September 1912 clipping from the Witness about Barbara Wylie's arrival in Montreal.


I've written a great deal about Miss Barbara Wylie, suffragette, here on this blog. She figures in my ebook Furies Cross the Mersey, the story of the British Invasion of Suffragettes to Canada in 1912/13.

The first time I heard her name (well, read her name) was when I found the Nicholson family letters and the yellowed press clippings saved by Edith Nicholson, one of which was about Wylie's Montreal landing on September 28, 1912.

The story was written in a semi-comical tone. Apparently all the reporters almost missed her, expecting a real battle-ax to de-train, but getting a tall, slim pretty girl, instead, and one attended by a male escort!

They interviewed her on the fly and asked her about a summer incident in England, where a suffragette threw an axe at Prime Minister Asquith.

"If it had hit him, it might have knocked some sense into him," she replied.

The reporters knew of Miss Wylie. She was one of three suffragettes who accosted Canadian Prime Minister Borden in London in August, demanding the vote for Canadian women.

This had prompted Borden is September, 1912 to ban suffragettes from coming to Canada. I guess the ban didn't work.

Wylie, from WSPU Magazine, September 1912, mentioning her trip to Canada. Her visit was official!

Anyway, as I start work on my sequel to Furies Cross the Mersey, Service and Disservice, about the Conscription Crisis and the involvement of the women suffragists of Canada, I started to read about Wylie's Toronto visit.

Wylie arrived in Montreal on September 28th, and she was invited to speak at a parlour gathering at Mrs. Kathleen Weller's Westmount home.

Mrs. Weller was with the Montreal Women's Club and would become a leader in the Montreal Suffrage Association 1913-1919 She also mounted the Montreal Suffrage Exhibition in February 1913.

(She was a closet suffragette sympathizer, who visited England in 1913 to learn more about the movement.)

The newspaper report from this Montreal meeting says the women were not convinced by Wylie, although Wylie wrote to Votes for Women Magazine saying the ladies  snapped up her copies of  said magazine and she also got 3 women to take out subscriptions.

Wylie later gave a rousing talk at the YMCA in Montreal, in November, a talk that is in Furies Cross the Mersey, but in between, in October, she  made a visit to  Toronto.

The trip didn't work out, apparently.

Her August meeting with Borden had made the front page of the Toronto Star. At that meeting she 'bragged' to Borden that she had been to jail.

The Toronto star covered her October visit in a condescending, mocking tone, as if Wylie was a curiosity of some sort, an angry, well-bred little girl.

Wylie was pretty, well-dressed and a 'college-girl' so they had to report about her, out of respect. They didn't have to like what she said, though.

And what she said was pretty incendiary, if the quotes are correct.

 (One article did mention that the British suffragists had reason to be upset and were being badly treated. A window-breaking suffragette was dragged into a Private Club and flogged, apparently.)

The Toronto Star claimed there were a few members of Pankhurst's WSPU in the Ontario city (Denison? ) but no suffragist in Toronto wanted to host Miss Wylie.

But Wylie did end up giving  a talk at the home of the Secretary of the Toronto Local Council.

In October, all told, Wylie spoke to Toronto reporters a few times and gave one public talk to a men's group.

Wylie was described as a "fiery young creature" and an "up-to-date and well-gowned avenging archangel."

She said: "I would as soon fill Parliament with a lot of Teddy Bears than with men."

Also: "So long as  you set all in a row, with your mouths open, you will get nothing. You need the termagant spirit."

 "I would carry a gun and not be afraid to use it and no jury in the land would convict me because it would be in self-defense."

"Any woman who sits down under the colossal wrongs of woman kind is damning her own soul."

In March, 1913 there was a famous suffrage march in Washington. Prominent Toronto suffragists participated. Speaking to the press about this march, Flora MacDonald Denison head of the Canadians Suffrage Organization, brazenly defended her support of the British militants and even Constance Hamilton, the non-militant Canadian suffragist, quoted from a letter of support she had recently received from Miss Barbara Wylie in a speech about the Washington march.

Wylie went back to England in May 1913, but not before a trip out West, where she had better luck with populace and even acquired a few supporters.

Back home, she was soon arrested in a protest in front of His Majesty's Theatre.

Here's the pic:










Sunday, May 24, 2015

TIFF and Beautiful Suffragettes and Furies Cross the Mersey

A cartoon from the Montreal Standard showing an average woman reading Votes for Women, Mrs. Pankhurst's Magazine.


Today I scoped the Internet to see if there was any more news about the upcoming movie Suffragette, starring Carrie Mulligan and Meryl Streep and a bunch of other great actors.

The answer is Not Much.

Suffragette wasn't shown at Cannes this year, but it may be shown at TIFF, the Toronto International Film Festival. If that's the case, I may have to visit Toronto in August.

For the first time for TIFF.

A blurb for Suffragette, distributed by Focus Films, said that Carrie Mulligan plays a working class mother who gets interested in the movement. Not totally unlikely, not in the UK, anyway.

The UK had a much broader and deeper suffrage movement compared to Canada.

In Canada, working class women were NOT invited in the suffrage movement, although in Toronto, at least one suffrage leader, Constance Hamilton, was talking in 1912 about getting a 'working girls movement' started.

Read my book Furies Cross the Mersey, about the British Invasion of Militant Suffragettes to Canada in 1912/13.

 Caroline Kenney, sister to famed Militant Annie Kenney..a Montreal teacher for a time.
 Mrs. Kathleen Weller, Montreal Suffragist with her daughter. (Odd, this was an old photo: her daughter was 19 at the time of the 1913 Woman's Suffrage Exhibition. Mrs. Weller was a 'closet' suffragette. She supported Mrs. Pankhurst and her militants but pretended not to most of the time.

Barbara Wylie. She came to Canada in 1912 to kick start a militant movement, but it didn't work. Or did it? Reporters were surprised that she was so pretty! So the 2015 movie Suffragette isn't lying when it shows beautiful suffragettes. 


My ebook explains, how back in those days, Montreal was the seat of power in Canada and therefore more conservative than Toronto. (Well, except for the institutionalized vice in Montreal.)

No working girls were invited into the Montreal movement, which was led by clergy, professors and elite women, mostly Presbyterians.  It's all there in my book Furies.

And the only mothers invited into the movement were members of the social elite, usually with grown children.

Indeed, the only young women members of the Montreal Suffrage Association (1912-19) were the daughters of older members.

In order to become a member, TWO members of the Executive had to approve.

However, this created a vacuum and one organization, the Montreal Equal Suffrage League, was accepting unmarried women.

That short-lived  and obscure organization accepted both militant and non-militant members and was co-launched by Caroline Kenny, British suffragette, and sister to famed WSPU militant Annie Kenney.

Caroline was about 30, unmarried and had come to Montreal in late 1912 to work as a teacher.

Her oldest sister, Nell, was her sponsor. Nell was married to Frank Randall Clarke, the City Editor of the Montreal Witness, and living in St. Lambert at the time.

The Montreal Witness was Pro Suffrage and Pro Temperance... but that paper also published hugely sensational headlines about Mrs. Pankhurst and her militants.

These people are all 'characters' in Furies Cross the Mersey. Real life characters. You know that crazy line from the movies, "Based on a True Story." Well, I preface my book by writing: "Based on real historical characters. Some of these characters have had their stories embellished or re-imagined.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Maggie Gyllenhaal, Christabel Pankhurst, and Hollywood Ageism.




Maggie Gyllenhaal, one of my favorite actors is in the news for complaining at Cannes, or waxing philosophical, anyway, about ageism in Hollywood.

She says she was turned down for a job because she was 37 playing opposite a 55 year old man.

It's all pretty typical, of course.

I think Sally Field once waxed philosophical about playing Forest Gump's mom soon  after she played Hanks' love interest in another movie.

Hollywood is weird that way, even with actresses getting plastic surgery to look much younger than their age. Sally Field, today, looks just like Gidget.

But Hollywood is about male fantasy and a young man's fantasy is to be older, suave and respected by other men, and to have a young woman at his side, not his mother.

I must say, one of my favorite movies is North by Northwest, where Cary Grant plays opposite Eva Marie Saint.

Eva Marie Saint is still alive. Now, doesn't that tell you something?

But women were ageless in those days, I like to tell myself, sophisticated at 18.  It wasn't icky this May- December thing, back then. And Cary Grant was, well, Cary Grant. And lets face it, Eva Marie Saint is no saint in the film.

The poor did what they needed to to survive. Here's a bit from a record of marriage of  distant relations. When this working class couple got divorced in the 1910's for some reason, their kids were given up to other people, one daughter, Florida, going to my grandparents, who were wealthy.


From my research for my ebooks Threshold Girl and Furies Cross the Mersey, a lot of it looking at the 1911 census, etc, I can see that old men did marry young women back then and vice versa although most marriages were between people born within a decade of each other.

(My perception anyway.)

In the middle class, in Edwardian times, a man had to establish himself before being marriageable. And when he was ready to marry it was imperative to find a young woman with a good dowry to pay for a home and furniture for the first home.

And the young men had to 'ahem' get some sexual experience somewhere along the line - and since respectable single women were out of bounds, prostitutes were all they had access too.

Hence the problem of" the social evil' in the 1910 era, a main focus of social reformers and suffragists.

Hence the problem of brides getting a nice case of VD for a wedding present, as explained by Christabel Pankhurst in her 1912 book, the Hidden Scourge, a best-seller at the Montreal Suffrage Exhibition in 1913.

 Suffragists wanted women to have rights, all right, but they didn't want them to emulate the bad behavior of men. They wanted men to be become more like women, to stay pure, to stop whoring around.

(Well, it didn't work, did it?)

Hugh Blair (my husband's grandfather) was 35 when he married Marion Nicholson of Richmond, Quebec, who was 'an old maidish' 27. He married her against his parents' wishes. I think his 'other' fiancee, the one the parents preferred, was much younger, still under the protection of her mom.

In this case, Hugh preferred a worldly girl, as worldly as a girl could get in 1910, when any unmarried woman, even if she had a job teaching 50 students in the poor area of town, was considered weak and vulnerable - and in need of protection.

That's the middle class for you, kind of hypocritical.

The poor are more practical by necessity.

A while back a friend told me about his French Canadian grandfather, who married for a second time  in the 1930's, blending a family of 25 kids. When his second wife died, he married off each daughter 'the day she got her period.'

The Canadian census also shows that it is not uncommon, in 1912, for poorer men to marry much older women. Whatever worked for them and their situation.

A funny anecdote comes out of my story Furies Cross the Mersey, where I researched the Donaldas, the first women at McGill University in Montreal.

When women were first accepted at McGill in the 1880's, the Powers That Be weren't afraid of the 18 year old Co-eds falling for the other male students, who were,  after all, pimply young men.

They were only afraid that  the young men would get crushes on the girls.

That supposition seems ridiculous today...

And it's all about supply and demand. In a 1910 era letter I have on hand, an Old Maid teacher friend of Marion's says she is going out West, where you aren't an  Old Maid until 35.


Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Humiliation of McGill's First Female Full Professor

 Carrie Derick
 Emmeline Pankhurst
 Ethel Hurlbatt

In  1912/13, McGill Botanist Carrie Derick, Canada's first female full-time professor, was listed in the University Calendar after Mrs.Ethel Hurlbatt, Warden of Royal Victoria College, under OTHERS and not with the other McGill Professors.

Carrie Derick had been appointed a full-professor of Botany in June 1912, but she had been told by President Peterson that it was a 'courtesy appointment.'

This sad fact will have to go into my story, Furies Cross the Mersey, about the Montreal Suffragettes of the 1912/13 era, where I have two RVC students get into trouble trying to start a suffrage march, an act that would have been characterized in Montreal at the time as 'militant' and against the law.

Practically the ONLY suffrage headlines published in the Montreal newspapers were about Pankhurst and her WSPU's  acts of civil disobedience, threats of big violence, and acts of small violence.

From what I can see, Hurlbatt, Warden of RVC, was a suffrage supporter and closet suffragette supporter. Carrie Derick was too. Derick described British suffragists in the press as 'moderate' and the militant suffragettes as 'more advanced.'

In January 1912, after Mrs. Pankhurst's December 1911 speech in Montreal, Hurlbatt announced at the executive meeting of the Montreal Council of Women that she would offer 'citizenship' classes for anyone interested. (Her students?) Citizenship courses were code for woman suffrage classes in those days.

It was the Citizenship Committee of the Montreal Council of Women that mounted the February 1913 Woman's Suffrage Exhibit.

According to the minutes of the Montreal Council of Women, only one person signed up, and Mrs. Hurlbatt announced at the next Executive Meeting that she was giving up her suffrage activities on the Council due to 'work conflict'.

At the time I first read this in the minutes I assumed Hurlbatt quit because her pride was hurt. But now I suspect something different, something more political.

That's because, right around then the Montreal Gazette published an editorial calling Women's Universities "Suffragette Factories."

This was,  most probably,  no coincidence. RVC was the only Women's College in Montreal.

At the same January 1912 post-Panhurst meeting of the Montreal Council of Women, it was moved to start a suffrage association, 'to keep the interest in suffrage alive',  although Thérèse Casgrain in her 1972 autobiography claimed that Pankhurst's 1911 speech mostly inspired negative feelings on the Montreal street.

It took over  a year for the new organization to be born, and this interim period is when my own Furies Cross the Mersey story unfolds.

As it happened, militant suffragette Barbara Wylie visited Montreal in September 1912 and perhaps spoke to RVC students. A lot happened during this year including a fight between militants and non-militants for control of the suffrage conversation in the city.

When the new 'sweet' and  'reasonable' Montreal Suffrage Association was finally launched on April 1913, Carrie Derick was appointed President although, it was claimed, she took on the post reluctantly.

Carrie Derick had been President of the Montreal Council of Women from 1909 to late 1911.

It was Derick who proposed a motion at a Montreal Council meeting (in October 1911)  to have Pankhurst come to speak to Montrealers on their behalf  "So that we can hear the other side of the question."

But it was the next  MCW President, Dr. Ritchie England, who picked up Pankhurst at the train station in December 1911 and got snapped by the photographer from the Montreal Star.

This same 1909-1912  period was when Derick was de-facto Chair of the McGill Botany Department, at first helping out the ailing Chair, Dr. Penhallow, and then after his death in 1910 taking over for him.

Derick clearly was a woman of high energy.

But in June 1912, McGill appointed an American as Chair of the Department, over Derick, who was expecting the appointment - as unprecedented as it was.

Dean Walton of the McGill Law School lobbied the other McGill Governors on her behalf but to no avail. I will postulate in my story that her suffrage advocacy was the reason why she wasn't hired as Chair with 3,000 salary.

It's not such a stretch. Suffrage was a very controversial issue in Montreal in 1912/13, even at McGill.

Dean Walton would be appointed Honourary Vice President of the new Montreal Suffrage Assocation.

He would talk at the inaugural meeting of the Montreal Suffrage Association, saying "Only imbeciles lunatics  and women didn't have the vote."

Funny, Margaret Gillette in We Walked Very Warily, her book about women at McGill,  says Hurlbatt said the same thing.

I have to revisit the minutes of the Montreal Council from 1910-1913, but especially for 1912, to remind myself exactly what was happening at that time...for my story.

(I had notes, but they are locked inside a broken hard-drive.)

I just realized Derick's McGill drama must be part of my suffragette story.

While two naive young girls try to start a parade in imitation of the Americans (not realizing how different politics are in Montreal) Derick will be humiliated at McGill - being told by the President that her full professorship is only 'a courtesy' post - and one without a seat on Faculty to be  listed in the McGill Calendar under the Warden of RVC (who did have excellent education qualifications).

I can only speculate about how Miss Derick felt at the time.I guess I also will have to speculate about the relationship between Dean Walton and Derick.

It's sad about Derick's courtesy posting. My research reveals that she was a savvy politico.

During the 1917 Conscription Crisis she steered her Suffrage Association clear of all controversy while  Dr. Ritchie England, a brilliant woman of principle,  had her name dragged through the mud for supporting Sir Wilfrid Laurier.

Miss Carrie Derick understood Montreal (and Quebec) politics and she had a most modern way of playing with words, of 'spinning' events in the press.

The only 'taint' against Derick is her support of eugenics, but then McGill was eugenics central in the 1910 era. That part of her resume would have been a big plus, I imagine.

Furies Cross the Mersey

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Infamous Game-Changing Laurier Palace Fire ---and My Family's Connection


Some motion picture houses in turn of last century Montreal.

I've written a great deal about the era in Montreal on this blog,  but in the 1910 era the very proper Nicholson Women of Threshold Girl, my ebook,  attended the traditional theatre.

The Nickel was too lowbrow, although somewhat exciting. It wasn't until 1917 and WWI that they regularly went to 'movies' and actually referred to them as such in letters.

In Milk and Water, about Montreal in 1927, motion pictures figure more strongly.

In 1927, there was a fire in a Ste Catherine E  cinema (the Laurier Palace) where 70 children died. My grandfather, Jules Crepeau, as Director of Services was somewhat implicated.

Because of that fatal fire, Montreal became the only jurisdiction in North America to ban children in cinemas, until 1967, with a slight relaxing of the rules after 1962.

It was one of the few times the French and the English, the Protestants and the Catholics could agree on something.

In Europe and North America, children had been going to motion pictures, attended and unattended by 'adults', since the beginning of the era.  Many parents felt these places safer than the streets, with all the messy traffic, although the moral reformers did not.

From what I have read, in the Prohibition Era, children under 20 made up the largest proportion of movie patrons. And although there was a law against under 17's watching unattended, plenty did. Mostly boys as is it happens, and it is mostly boys who died in the Laurier Palace Fire in January 1927.


In 1964, I vividly recall watching the MUSIC MAN in a church basement, ST. Malachy's church on Clanranald. It was a  special family viewing and I sat cross-legged on a cold concrete floor.

There were killer fires in theatres in the US too (These places were firetraps in general) but no such laws were enacted.

This must have truly hurt the revenues of the theatre owners in Quebec. Jewish owners.

My grandfather's brother,Isadore Crepeau, was the VP of United Theatre Amusements. In the 1927 era, that company was building the huge expensive motion picture palaces in the West End such as the Empress on Sherbrooke West.

That company often fought in court with the Provincial Government over the Lord's Day Act, even before 1927. Monsieur Ouimet of Ouimetoscope fame did, too.

Conventional theatres that showed plays with live actors had to close on Sunday, movie houses were exempt.

My grandfather was accused by a certain Temperance Type, W E Raney, testifying about Montreal corruption in 1926 at the US Senate Hearings into Prohibition, of pulling the strings of the police Chief, and of allowing theatres to stay open illegally, even ones that let in children unattended.

This was only a few months before the fire but the accusation was never brought up at the Laurier Palace Fire inquiry.

Cops, apparently, were given free tickets for their children to convince them to turn a blind eye to transgressions. I read that one Constable lost three children in the Laurier Palace Theatre fire and that underscores the point.

Who went to movie houses? The kids of the working class. The inquiry into the fire acknowledged this. It's the only entertainment they could afford. The Catholic Church joined with the Presbyterian types to get this unique law passed, jumping on this tragic event opportunistically. Both churches had lost a lot of their "customers" to the motion picture show since 1908 or so. Monsieur Ouimet said Sunday was his best day.

(Ironically, the Catholic Church was a big investor in the new Nickelodeons in Montreal.)


I heard a Brit reminisce about early movie houses on BBC Radio Four. It seems, that in many cases, kids were the only ones who could read so their parents and grandparents, often immigrants, wanted the kids there with them.

As is well know, 1927 saw the first Talkie, the Jazz Singer.

Today, Quebec has very lax laws. I don't know if kids go alone..well, they do but in groups at the Cineplex.



Irony. My mother in law, born 1917, tells me that she and her sisters and friends got into movies underage by dressing up like grown women, makeup and all. And by behaving properly, too. I don't think that's what the Moral Reformers had in mind....(Law of Unintended Consequences.)I found a picture of her dated 1929, and she did look very grown up. I was startled. They had no 'teenagers' in those days.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

The Jewish Question in Montreal Schools 1913



Education in Quebec is always a sticky issue, especially when concerning money and language.

But I'm living in the past, 100 years ago, when it cost money to go to school, elementary and high school, let alone college and when the issue in education in the Protestant sector was "the Jewish Question."

I am writing Biology and Ambition, about Marion Nicholson a teacher in Montreal in 1909-1913, the follow up the Threshold Girl (about her younger sister Flora in 1911/12 when she attended Macdonald Teachers College) and available on free ebook, and Diary of a Confirmed Spinster, about her older sister Edith, who was a teacher at French Methodist in Westmount in the same era.

The ebooks are based on real letters, but I am weaving into them political issues. Marion's political issue is this Jewish Question and I have been reading up.

In 1909, an MLA, Mr. Finnie, introduced a bill in the Provincial Legislature, allowing for the Directors of the Protestant Board of Education to be elected rather than appointed.

In those days most of the Board Members were clergyman. (It is always said the Catholic Church had too much power in Quebec in the old days(keeping the people down) but so did the Protestant Clergy. The difference being the Protestant Clergy promoted education, as their constituency was more elite.)

There is a heated debate and a Commissioner, Dr. Barclay slurs the Jews and has to backtrack a bit. Also P Mackenzie, the member for Richmond ( and a 'friend' of the Nicholsons) seems to argue against the bill.  Finnie and his supporters say that the Board has to have more businessmen. Most Board Members are Clergymen. He brings up to recent fires in Montreal Schools (one in Marion's Royal Arthur in 1909 and one other one where a teacher and some students died.)

It is a private members bill and is quashed early on. Those for the bill, Finnie and others, claim that the clergyman are just trying to save their good jobs.

But during that period, apparently, a lot of fear mongering happens, saying that Jews will take over the Board and change the Christian character (at least two schools in Montreal are overwhelmingly filled with Jewish students.) And that Jewish teachers will be allowed to teach and they too will start preaching their religion in the schools. (The Canadian Jewish News reminds people that Jews don't proselytize like the Protestants do.)

Anyway, by 1913, Jewish Teachers are allowed to teach. The Board has consulted its lawyers (Greenshields!) and they said it is legal as long as Jewish Teachers don't teach Bible Class.
(From Images Montreal)
The New Royal Arthur, Canning and Workman in Ste. Cunegonde or Little Burgundy. The school was built in in the 1860's, but partially burnt in 1909, when Marion was a teacher, but in January when empty. Her mother remarks, " I read about the fire. Is that your school? It is so lucky school was out."

A Dr. Scrimger is all for the bill. He is a preacher very familiar to the Nicholsons. He preaches at Macdonald when Flora is there and she remarks upon it to her father.

I see by reading the papers that the Jewish Question of Representation on the Board was still going strong in 1965 when I was at school.

Anyway, this story will be edited into Marion's actual letters. She doesn't mention it. Oddly, none of the 1909 letters I have mention the typhoid epidemic either. It killed people in Westmount and Ste. Cuengonde, so both Edith and Marion must have been aware. I'll have to add something about that. My play Milk and Water (taking place in Montreal in 1927) covers that issue well.

Another thing Marion didn't talk about directly in letters was about the classroom. I guess that was confidential. Too bad, I'd like to know what went on.

The only time in a letter she remarks on students is in 1906, her first job, as a summer teacher in a town in the ET. She says she has two new students, the dirtiest people she ever saw and both dunces. She names them and asks her Dad if he knows the family. Beginner's mistake, I guess.

I will put the letter in the book, changing the names and place. It speaks to why teachers didn't want to work in rural schools.

In the same letter she mentions she is bored to death because there is nothing to do and she asks Mom to send some needlework, 'fancywork.'

When she starts work in a city school, there's no  time for such things. 50 children. And plenty of outside distractions, like Dominion Park and the Nickelodeon!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Naturalism, Realism and my Furies


 British Suffragette Caroline Kenney, sister of famed militant Annie Kenney, came to Montreal in late 1912 to start a militant movement in Montreal - but she claimed to be looking for a job as a teacher. (She did work as a teacher on the Montreal Board in 1913-15) Read Furies Cross the Mersey on Amazon Kindle.



I am reading Colette's first novel, Claudine at school, and she (Colette/Claudine) talks about the first books she read, her mom's books.

And she talks about Emile Zola. Her father didn't want her to read Zola but her Mom gave her a few of his less spicey novels.

Then I looked up the definition of naturalism vs. realism...Zola vs. Tolstoy.

Naturalism supposes that humans are just a higher form of animal, apparently. I thought it had more to do with depicting everything in great detail, like Zola does.

Realism is merely writing about real people in realistic scenarios.


I call Furies  a docu/novel, because it is based on (and contains) historical documents. One third of it is, anyway. 

Another third is based on family letters. (Can't get more realistic than that.)

And another third is pure fiction, with a Hollywood story-line and a satisfying and happy ending, although the by-the-book romance FURIES contains does not end in marriage.

The story line based on family letters ends in marriage because that is what actually happened. My husband's grandmother, Marion Nicholson, got married to Hugh Blair in 1913. Their entire up and down courtship is detailed in these 300  letters.

But, in Furies Cross the Mersey, as it happens, I do try to stick some Darwinian elements in. How could I not? Carrie Derick, the star of the story, was a McGill Botany and Genetics Professor, who gave talks all over the country citing Darwin and Mendel, etc. in support of her eugenics theories.

And I do make some of the Ladies of the Montreal Council of Women sometimes act like animals, with all their chatter, while looking like flowers, with their big hats and other adornments. My kind of naturalism.

And I do have Carrie Derick bump into a table with a baboon's skull on it...a tip of my hat to Darwin, in a scene at McGill Principal Peterson's home.

Sir William Van Horne, apparently, played a trick on Peterson once, with a simian skull. 

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

TOO MUCH INFORMATION


Here's a picture my son took the other day hiking in New Zealand. Surreal landscape,like in a movie.

I got up early today and looked to see if there was any commentary online about  the penultimate episode of Madmen, only to discover that a zillion paragraphs have already been written, many by 'top' critics and and listed on Rotten Tomatoes.

Betty Draper finally gets some respect, and for dying.

All this prose about just one episode of one television program.

I know this is the Information Age, and I love nostalgia about the 1960's as much as anyone, but, hey, real life still happens.

At least for now.

Media critics need to get out there and take a hike. And so do their readers, like me.

Like my son did last week. He was inspired, of course, by Lord of the Rings.

Here's a link to my 1960's story, Looking for Mrs. Peel, in reference to another iconic TV Show.


Monday, May 11, 2015

Book Mentors, Book Reviews and Best-sellers, then and way back when

Colette, third right, in her small hat in 1913, ahead of the fashion, of course. This was from a 1937 Marie Claire, comparing Royalty and Celebrities and their fashion sense. Royalty was always behind the times. Colette was hired to write a beauty column for Marie Claire upon its launch, but she never made her deadline, so Marcelle Auclaire the Editor took over and wrote all the features in the first few issues herself.


I'm reading Claudine at School in French, Colette's first novel, attributed at first to her husband Willy.

I do like Colette.

I downloaded the novel from Gutenberg, but somehow I wish I had the hard copy. (You can download a novel or an ebook, but you can't download a book, right?)

Reading on a Kindle or an Android lends itself to grazing, I'm half-way through about 3888 ebooks I've downloaded from all over the place.

Once again, I checked out the Internet, to see what books were best-sellers at the turn of the Century. Claudine at School was written in 1900, but not a best-seller.

I noticed that the books (yes, books) I read in my late teens and twenties were American best-sellers from the 1920's to the 1940's.  My mother had recommended them to me! Just another instance where having a mentor is important.

And then there were the ads for the Book of the Month Club in all the magazines.

The books I read in my 20's comprised the classic literature of today, Virginia Woolf et al.

 I think I got the New York Times Review of Books back then, too.  I read a lot of current bestsellers like the Secret of Santa Vittoria and Breakfast of Champions.

So it goes.
My grandmother drew herself in her cell at Changi and left behind a memoir I used in my story Looking For Mrs. Peel.

Yesterday, I saw something come across Twitter (SQUIRREL!) that advised e-book authors to be sure to get recommendations before they published any ebook online.

Fine and dandy. But I don't see how getting your friends to give you book 4 stars means anything.

Here are my e-books, based on Canadian Social History from 1910 period.

Furies Cross the Mersey, about the 1912/13 invasion of British Suffragettes to Montreal.

Milk and Water: about Montreal City Hall in 1927, during the era of American Prohibition.

Diary of a Confirmed Spinster about the Rossmore Hotel Fire in Cornwall in 1910 and the sad life of a teacher.

Threshold Girl, about a college student in 1910.

Not Bonne Over Here, family letters from WWI, covering all the bases and points of view.

Looking for Mrs. Peel - about WWI and Malaya and Expo 67.

(I must say, I'm still reeling about last night's Madmen and how the doctor ignored Betty Draper when he diagnosed her with cancer, only wanting to talk to her husband. I can't say male doctors treated me any better over the years, the few times I had to go to them.

When I was 30 and went to the doctor thinking I might be pregnant, he laughed at me, suggesting that I wanted a baby so much I was imagining things.. IDIOT!!! And that was 1985.

"Have you ever been pregnant before?"
"No."
"Well, then, how can you tell you are pregnant now?"
"I feel unlike I've ever felt before."

Today, of course, I can't get any appointment for weeks, even with  my so-called family doctor, so I just don't bother.





Sunday, May 10, 2015

French/English Politics and Eugenics Fever


In my ebook Furies Cross the Mersey, I  include a scene where Dr. Adami, McGill medical man,  tears into the ladies of the Montreal Council of Women in very rough fashion.

Furies Cross the Mersey is about the British Invasion of Militant Suffragettes to Montreal in 1912/13.

Adami doesn't want them heading the planned October, 1912 Child Welfare Exhibit of which he is President. He insists that the City Improvement League, a bilingual group, heads it.

"All you think about is the suffrage," he says at the April, 1912 meeting.

President Grace Ritchie England and Past-President Carrie Derick and the others are most upset.

True story. It's in the Minutes of the Montreal Council of Women.

Today I am researching the follow up to Furies, called Service and Disservice, about the years 1913-1919.

The Conscription Crisis.

I know a great deal about the Child Welfare Exhibit. I found the brochure at CIHM (Canadiana.org) many years ago.

I also found a pamphlet by Adami on How to Raise a Family with the Nicholson Family Letters. ( I have since lost it. He sounded like a quack to me back then before I knew who he was.)

The Yearbook of the National Council of Women for 1913 has a few pages about the exhibit and so do the English newspapers of the era.

But today I found a report that explains Adami's very rude visit.

In September 1911, in the Tribune, a Montreal newspaper serving English Catholics, Dr. Atherton of Montreal calls out to the Catholic community to participate in the upcoming Child Welfare Exhibit.

(The exhibit was long in the planning, and based on similar exhibits in Chicago and New York. Montreal in the 1910 era had the highest rate of infant mortality in the Western World, apparently.)


No doubt they approached the French Catholics too and they refused to participate. That's why Adami shouted out at the Montreal Council meeting, accusing the MCW of being all about suffrage and temperance and into things that turned off the French factor.

No kidding.

How about eugenics, Dr. Adami? Carrie Derick's pet project was eugenics. She prepared the "heredity' screen for the Child Welfare Exhibit. (No doubt it had a bit about the ridiculous Jukes/ Edwards study. )

 Adami was a proponent of eugenics too. Apparently, McGill University was eugenics central in Canada in 1910. That's according to the Oxford Book of Eugenics.

Funny, the Chicago and New York Child Welfare Exhibits didn't seem to have eugenics displays but the Pittsburg (I think it is) Child Welfare Exhibit was specifically called the Child Welfare and Eugenics Exhibit.

Now, in my book I have Dr. Ritchie England  counter Adami by saying the Council has an excellent relationship with the Federation St Jean Baptiste, the French Women's Umbrella Group.

True, the two groups teamed up in 1910 to help put a Reform Ticket in at City Hall. They did this by getting out the spinster vote.

They also teamed up on February 1912 for that election, with less sterling results.

But, in 1914, the Federation bowed out of the elections. It is explained in a short note in the MCW Minutes.

Did the October 1912 Child Welfare Exhibit have something to do with it?

Madame Gerin-Lajoie's notes for a speech. She was a talented writer in both languages, even if her English Grammar wasn't great. She spent a lot of time pleading with Catholic leaders all over the world to let women have the vote,to help children mostly, but she had to bow out of the movement when her Monsigneur Roy (from my family tree, as it happens) told her to.

In Therese Casgrain's autobiography from the 1970's she claims to admire Dr. Ritchie England but says nothing about Carrie Derick.

Derick advocated birth control to eliminate 'defectives' from the gene pool. She is the reason there was a 'secret' classroom in my Montreal Elementary School in the 1960's with a few Down's Syndrome students and such. We saw them occasionally, walking in the hallway, but never mixed.

Friday, May 8, 2015

All I Want is a Room Somewhere, on St. Famille in Montreal.

St Famille in Montreal. Still a street with lots of rooming houses or "stylish" lodgings.  In 1910 it was feminist central, I think.

In early May, 1913 the National Council of Women held their Annual General Meeting in Montreal at St. James Methodist Church.

Their Suffrage Evening is the last scene of Furies Cross the Mersey, my e-book about the British Invasion of Suffragettes to Canada in 1912/13.


Mrs. Ethel Snowden, moderate suffragist was the speaker. She called Mrs. Pankhurst and her militant troops 'cavemen.'

At the same AGM, Mrs. MacNaughton, President of the Montreal Art Association and also on the Executive of the Montreal Council of Women, gave  a talk on ART.

This is from the Yearbook of the National Council.

EVENING RECEPTION.

After a reception tendered to the visiting delegates by the Montreal Local Council, Dr. Ritchie England, President of the Montreal Local Council, took the chair, and an address was given by Mrs. MacNaughton,  President of the Woman's Art Association of Montreal who spoke of the growing interest in art in Canada, and briefly outlined what the women of [Montreal were endeavoring to do to encourage art in its various forms.

She laid especial stress on the modern drama as showing concentrated pictures of society which could not be obtained by looking at life in the mass. Such dramatists as Brieux, Galsworthy, Hauptmann and Shaw were treating some of the vital problems as were dealt with by the National Council. Drama leagues were being formed to encourage the best plays, and it was hoped that ultimately Canada would have a chain of municipally owned repertory theatres presenting sterling companies in serious drama.  Mrs.  MacNaughton advised those who could not see such dramas to read some of the splendid plays which were being written today.

 Miss Eliza Ritchie, Ph.D., in her address on "The Artist and His Public," spoke of the isolation of the artist of to-day as compared with his predecessors of the classic and middle ages, when every craftsman was an artist. The public should take the trouble to learn what real beauty is before attempting to criticize the artist. On the other hand, the public have a right to select the artist's subjects, although it must allow him to express his own individuality and his own conception of these subjects. 

 I've written a lot, in recent posts, about the Montreal Art Association and the Beaver Hall Group of Painters. The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts is going to have an exhibition in the fall featuring the Women of the Beaver Hall Group, so I just had to look these women artists up on the Internet.

The Art Association building figures bigtime in my story Diary of a Confirmed Spinster.

I know that the Women's Century, the magazine of the National Council of Women, wrote about the Montreal Art Association during the WWI, an article I will have to consult for my follow up to book to Furies Cross the Mersey, Service and Disservice, about the 1917 Conscription Crisis.

I'm just amused to see that Mrs. MacNaughton (who was also a suffragist) cited George Bernard Shaw as a playwright to watch.

Yes, he dealt with the issues of interest to the Social Reformers, but not exactly in the way these ladies thought appropriate.

I see that  Pygmalion was written in 1912, but only produced later on in 1914, so MacNaughton likely hadn't heard the story.

But Mrs. Warren's Profession had made waves and caused lots of trouble when first produced, I think in 1906..... and Major Barbara had also been written and produced by that time, too.

Anyway, Mrs. MacNaughton, that year, started an Art Guild and its offices were at 82 1/2 St. Famille.

St Famille is also the street where Caroline Kenny, suffragette and founder of the Equal Suffrage League in Montreal  lived while she worked as a teacher on the Montreal Board. Caroline was the sister of famed militant Annie Kenney.

Quite a few teachers lived on St Famille from what I can see from a 1917 report on Education in Quebec. And the YMCA also had a hotel for working women on that street. It was one of three hotels for women run by the YMCA.

 This one of St. Famille took in working girls who could pay their own way, but I am sure there were still plenty of rules.

Caroline lived at 25 St. Famille I can see from the Educational Record, but I don't know if that place was the hotel or a boarding house.

Whatever, that street seems to be Woman Central in 1910... Good woman central, if you know what I mean.

St. Famille runs only  a few blocks, but today one side of the streets is apartments (and lodgings) and the other is turn of the century or earlier homes.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

The Difference between a Suffragette and a Suffragist


"There is no suffragette movement in Canada. There is only a movement for the enfranchisement of women." Letter to the Editor of the Montreal Witness, March 1913.

Beautiful militant Barbara Wylie came to Canada in 1912 to try and stir things up. She did not apologize for the 'hurling of the hatchet'  at Asquith in England in the summer, saying it might have knocked some sense into him.

If you enter the term "Suffragettes Canada" into Google, you get a lot of websites about the Famous Five.

But that's wrong.

The Famous Five were suffragists, in that they did not organize marches, speak in very public spaces, throw bricks at windows, etc. They were not militant suffragettes, like Mrs. Pankhurst and her troops.

All you should get when enter the term "Suffragettes Canada" into Google are  links to my blogs :)


 That's because I have written a book Furies Cross the Mersey, about the British Invasion of Militant Suffragettes to Montreal in 1912/13.


Back then most knowledgeable people in Canada understood the distinction between suffragist and suffragette. And it was a critical distinction, too.

When the Montreal Suffrage Association launched with a news conference in March, 1913, President Carrie Derick promised the Press that the organization would be engaged 'in a quiet education of the people.'

And this despite the fact she was a closet supporter of Mrs. Pankhurst's militant suffragettes.

Derick brought  Emmeline Pankhurst to Montreal to speak at Windsor Hall in December, 1911, "to hear the other side" of the suffrage question.

Mrs. Ethel Snowden, a British moderate, had been brought in to speak in 1909.

Derick considered the movement to be divided into 'the moderates' and the 'more-advanced.' It is written up in the MSA minutes.

The MSA's official line "a quiet education of the people"  meant that they were going to distribute pamphlets and sponsor a few speakers at the YMCA. That's all. Oh, and post a few signs.

Women Suffrage=Better Health for Children.

NO MARCHING. No public displays. (What good would that do, anyway? The newspapers didn't have photographs and the Montreal Movement didn't have any young and attractive members to fascinate and confuse the men of the press. They did not allow such 'restless' women to join their organization.

 (Furies is all about some McGill students who dare to organize a march, down Sherbrooke, to the Mount Royal Club.!)

In March, 1913 these same British Suffragettes were getting into big trouble in the UK, setting fires and such.

Soon, in June, in England, Emily Davison, would throw herself in front of the King's Horse and become "the First Suffragette Martyr."

This was the headline in the Montreal Witness, an evangelical newspaper that was all for the suffragists (and women getting the vote) but against the militant suffragettes, sort of.

Back then, suffragists believed that if women got the vote, all those social evils so beloved of the male sex (sex outside of marriage, prostitution and alcohol)  would be eliminated.

Suffragists didn't want women to become free and easy like men. They wanted men to become 'pure' like women.


Carrie Derick writes to French Canada suffragist Madame Gerin-Lajoie. In 1910, they joined forces to put a Reform Slate in at City Hall. In 1914, Gerin-Lajoie bowed out of election campaigning.

Derick referred to the 1910 purge as a "purification" of city politics. The Purity movement was all about Protestant values.

Carrie Derick and the other ladies of the Montreal Suffrage Association agreed with this purity  ideology,  although they also were interested  in giving women more power over their lives.

(There were a lot of men on the executive of the MSA, mostly professors and clergymen.)

These Montreal suffragists  wanted single women to be able to choose a good career for themselves and they wanted married women to have more economic power and protection.

A handful of them actually wanted to empower poor people. Oh, my!

At least two women on the MSA board, Mrs. Kathleen Weller and Mrs. Fenwick Williams, claimed later on that they had visited the UK in 1912 and 1913 to work with the militant suffragettes. At the first meeting of the MSA, Fenwick Williams suggested that "New York lawyer" Inez Milholland be brought in as a speaker.

Milholland was the beauty who led the Washington and New York parades on horseback, the first time on a white horse, in a while robe, with her hair down around her shoulders, and carrying the green, purple and white colours of Pankhurst's WSPU.

There were Canadian representatives in both parades, mostly from Toronto. Mrs. Constance Hamilton and Flora Macdonald Denison marched in Washington. No Montrealers, from what I can see.

The non-militant suffragists of Canada were a diverse bunch, and this all came to a head during WWI, with the Conscription Crisis.

My next book "Service and Disservice" will be about that time.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Daycare in 1910, an Employment Center for Domestics Really

A card from the Old Brewery Mission belonging to the Nicholsons. This type of women wasn't wanted at the Montreal Day Nursery, apparently.


A few posts back, I wrote about the Montreal Day Nursery, a group that was a member of the Montreal Council of Women, but one that didn't get too much mention in their minutes.

I thought the place sounded rather progressive, but I was wrong,

It was a place that took in children of 'worthy women', mothers who had been deserted, widowed or their spouses were sick, so the women could work.

But as it turns out, a book by Donna Varga on the history of daycare in Canada was written in 1997 and Varga says that the Montreal Day Nursery was a placement center for domestics and domestic day labour.

So it was a charity with strings attached.

The hours were tailored to meet the needs of wealthy employers, not the women.

A worthy woman was one who could clearly work as a domestic, so really needy women weren't accepted.

Varga  gives an example where some unkempt children were brought in, cleaned up and told to leave. Clearly a woman who couldn't keep her own children clean couldn't work as a domestic.

The Nursery Minutes have no information of protocol or child-care procedures, which makes the author thinks these aspects weren't important to them. ( I agree. If protocol was discussed at meeting it would have been in the minutes.)

The daycare could have 90 kids one day and 40 the next. The staff was pretty small.

Anyway, the fonds for the Day Nursery are in the Toronto Library with the fonds  for the Technical School.

I'll have to go and make a visit.


Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Montreal City Hall, Reporters, and Murky Business Deals

My grandfather's City Hall File.


It seems we are an hierarchical beast.

Studies show that citizens, even of a democracy, aren't particularly jealous of people in higher classes, even if these elites are making money way out of proportion to their service to society.

People are jealous only of those individuals whom they consider equals, and those people are making more than they are, then they get pissed off.

Kind of sad, but it explains a lot. And it keeps the peace, as long as our bellies are full. We are all 5 meals or so away from rioting in the streets.

This brings me to Edward Beck, Montreal Herald Editor in Chief in 1910.

He hated my grandfather, Second Assistant Clerk at City Hall, so, in 1914, he set him up in a bribery sting.

A big Tramways Deal was unfolding at the time and he had Burns Detectives from New York pretend to be an interested party, ready to part with a few hundred to secure favour with certain aldermen.

Beck hated that 40 year Tramsway deal so much, he published a full page rant, in various bold types, in the Herald, around November 17, 1913.

He sounded like a madman, or, at least,  a very mad man.


He caught my Grandfather, Jules Crepeau, in 1914, when he was no longer Editor of the Herald.

 I guess that November rant was one editorial too far.

Beck published the details of the sting in his own short-lived tabloid Beck's Weekly, a rag with one purpose:to embarrass City Hall.

I wouldn't know about these flowery articles dissing dear Grandpapa  but for the fact they were republished in the Toronto Sun.

Beck wrote:



Beck later describes City Hall as 'a sweet scented sink hole of pollution' - giving me the distinct impression he was also an unfulfilled mystery writer.



This sounds personal, doesn't it? Even if the sting wasn't strictly really PERSONAL, as far as I know. Beck hated everyone at City Hall and McConnell and Hugh Graham.

The truth is, Beck was a pawn in a war among the big industrialists of the era. My grandfather was, too, no doubt.

But, still, it all sounds so personal... and I can hazard a guess as to why. All I have to do is look at the 1911 Census.

Beck, at the time, was making $3,000 a year,  a good salary for the era. And so was my grandfather.

But Beck was jealous that my grandfather was 'doubling' his salary by taking bribes. That's what he accuses my grandfather of doing in his newspaper reports.

(My grandfather, at the time, had 3 children in their tweens and teens. His wife, Marie Roy, was a capable habitant woman, daughter of a Master Butcher so she brought a big dowry to her 1900 marriage.

I don't think she liked to live high...Indeed, in the 1920's, when Jules was Director of City Services, she did all the cooking and cleaning herself in their three story greystone on Sherbrooke West, taking in wayward girls from the nuns for extra help :)

Of course, maybe Jules had mistresses. Most men of his ilk in the era did.

As it happens, Edward Beck had to leave the newspaper biz after he lost the slander lawsuit against my grandfather.

The judge had him pay out just $100 in retribution. LOL. (After all, the Burns Detectives had caught my grandfather on 'tape'...with their detectaphones. I'm guessing that evidence wasn't admissible.)

Beck then went to work for the Pulp and Paper Industry in PR. His offices were in the Harpell Building in Ste Anne de Bellevue.

In 1921 Beck was making 8,000 a year, a little less than my grandfather, so he did OK.

And I strongly suspect he continued penning articles against Montreal City Hall during this time, but only anonymously.

When my grandfather got his big job as Director of City Services, in 1921,  Beck must have been mightily pissed off! He died in 1930, but not before seeing my grandfather brought down by Camilien Houde that same year.

So Beck died a happy man, no doubt. Although he likely wasn't pleased with the fact my grandfather negotiated for himself a HUGE life pension of 8,000 a year.

I don't know if my grandfather, making 10,000 a year, took bribes in the 1920's. I do know that he got so many 'presents' at Christmas my grandmother filled an entire room with them. The gifts from the Chinese community were especially impressive. I have a nice piece of silk still - and other relations have a teak table and a dragon mirror carved from wood.

There were enough cigars to last my grandfather and his son a year! She gave most perishable stuff away to Catholic charities.

British-born Edward Beck.

I'm writing all about this Beck/Jule's story in a sequel to Furies Cross the Mersey (the story of the British Invasion of Militant suffragettes to Montreal in 1912/13.) This book, called Service and Disservice (for now) is difficult to write -even if I've done the research.

It will also cover the Conscription Crisis and the story of how the suffragists of Canada were manipulated by Borden into supporting  Limited Franchise for Women

The story of the business/ politics of Montreal in the era is VERY murky.

(I wish my grandfather had kept a diary. All I have is news clippings from the French papers.)

The big industrialists did all kinds of strange things, and even seasoned historians have had trouble unraveling the story of all the big financial deals of that time, the Tramway Deal and the Water and Power Deal to name two of the biggest.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Ladies Prefer Big Hats (or whatever is in fashion)

Sad Mary Pickford in her New York Hat 1912..She was Canadian as was Mack Sennett, who was from Richmond, Quebec. Anito Loos penned the script for the Musketeers of Pig Alley, a 1912  movie short they were both in.

I was watching the much longer 1953 movie Gentlemen Prefer Blondes on TCM yesterday, a case of 1000 channels and nothing to watch but oldies but goodies, at least until evening with Call the Midwife, Mr. Selfridge and Madmen (good episode!)...

And I thought about Anita Loos - so looked her up on IMDB etc to see that she also scripted The New York Hat for Biograph, the short with Mary Pickford playing a small town girl who longs for an expensive $10.00  hat in the local shop window,  and the Minister buys it for her with secret money he has been given just for her and the town gossips assume he is having an affair with her.

Small town life in 1912.

Read all about the Canadian version in Threshold Girl, my story based on real family letters. Edith Nicholson and hers sisters were from Richmond, Quebec and Edith's father, Norman, did business with Sennett's father, Sinnott, in the 1880's.

Hats are a big in my stories, too, figuratively and literally.

Edith Nicholson, missionary school teacher, paid 7.50 for a hat in 1911 and she was making but 200 dollars a year as a teacher without diploma. It was a big black shape with flowers. (See below, embellished, like my story about her.)

She lived  in the big city of Montreal by then and bought it at uber fashionable Ogilvy. Her sister Marion was making much more money as a teacher with diploma on the Montreal Board, but she paid only $6.50 for her hat, a small shape with blue violets.

Edith sad in her big hat from 1911. In Diary of a Confirmed Spinster I explain why she is so sad in this picture.

Anyway, Anita Loos had a long career and a longer life. She did her most famous work, most enduring work, later in life...or so it seems to me.

Perhaps she had to wait for cinema technology to catch up to her talent.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Daycare 100 Years ago in Montreal


Many years ago, I transcribed part of a March, 1913 Montreal Witness Letter-to-the-Editor signed E.B.   from a yellowed clipping kept by my husband's Great Aunt Edith.

The letter was in reply to an earlier Witness article penned by one Reverend R L. Ballantyne that had criticized the Montreal suffragists, describing them as vain women only seeking notoriety.

The Letter-to- the-Editor strongly supported the suffragists (but not the militant brand) and described them as women interested in 'sex equality' and also interested in procuring legislation affecting the home.

The anonymous signature was cited as proof the writer wasn't just attention-seeking.

I published the letter here a few posts ago.

Today, I went through all the 1910 era news articles I have on hand, clipped by Edith Nicholson of  Furies Cross the Mersey, an ebook about the British Invasion of Suffragettes in 1913.



I realized that when I first  transcribed the E.B. Letter-to-the-Editor, I left out a very interesting part.

Apparently, this Reverend Ballantyne had criticized more than those women seeking the vote. He had slurred all the 'idle' society ladies who sat on committees instead of taking care of their own families.
.

This E.B. writes in reply, "If Mr. Ballantyne would acquaint himself with serving in committee rooms means he would not be so ready to conclude that it is all vanity and vexation of spirit.

"Take the Montreal Day Nursery, for example. That is an institution conducted by a committee of ladies, where their less fortunate sister ladies can leave their babies,and little children sure that they will be safe and well looked after all day, while they, the mothers, go out to work and earn a living for themselves and the children and keep the family together.

"There are usually from 75 to 100 children in the nursery, that means that a correspondingly large number of women are being set free temporarily to help themselves without resorting to charity.

"Mrs. Ballantyne says that these women are always queens of the home, but it sometimes happens that due to desertion, drunkenness, idleness or misfortune of the man who should provide for this family, the queen must descend from the throne while she earns the wherewithal to pay for a home to be queen in."


Daycare, in 1910!  How interesting.

In 1910, few men in Montreal made enough to support a family. (The target salary for raising a family in dignity was a whopping $1,500 dollars a year.)

The 1911 census tells the tale. Most working class men were unskilled day labourers, former agricultural workers, working irregular hours. (They call it zero hours today, I think.) Their pay was paltry, 200 to 400 dollars a year.

So, their wives had to work outside the home, too, arranging for the care of their children the best they could.

Older sisters were often taken out of school to take care of younger siblings.

This is one of the reasons that Carrie Derick, in 1912, told the men of the Royal Commission on Technical Training and Industrial Education that the Council wanted the  mandatory school age to be raised to 14, so little girls wouldn't become "domestic drudges," but nowhere in her deposition did she suggest daycare could provide a substitute.

...I checked the Gazette  and it is reported that 400 babies and children used this Day Nursery on a regular basis in 1913 -  so, for some women, it wasn't only a stop-gap measure. About 20,000 children in all used the service that year. The nursery accepted only 'worthy' women, tho. I wonder what that means.

Well, I can only guess.

Miss Hurlbatt, Warden at the Royal Victoria College, is the only person from the executive of  Montreal Council of Women involved with the Day Nursery.

This isn't  a pet project of the Montreal Council, from what I know. I don't think anyone, even at the Council, believed married women should work.

It's interesting: the Yearbook of the AGM of the National Council of Women lists the Montreal Day Nursery as a member of the Montreal Council with a Mrs. Learmont President. The listing reads: Day Nursery/Technical Training.

Technical training for women was at the radical end of the feminist-demands continuum. Although most feminists, including E.B. believed women should have equality and be able to enter the professions just like men, they were referring to bright, ambitious spinsters.

If lower class women had to work, domestic work or factory work (depending on your ideology) was considered appropriate. Middle class women could be teachers (mostly) or stenographers. Shop girls fell somewhere in between.  Edith Nicholson studied to be both a teacher and a stenographer in the 1910 era. Stenographers made a lot of money, especially the male ones.

Few believed women should be trained for the skilled trades.

Hence those lame Home-Ec courses in the 1960's in Montreal Schools...where girls sewed and cooked and boys did woodwork.

It wasn't until the 1980's that Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney pledged universal daycare during an election campaign. (If I recall.)  It never came through.

In 1910, the Council ladies were very  concerned with the financial and legal rights of married and widowed  women, petitioning Quebec Premiere Gouin on the issue. This was President Ritchie England's favorite cause.

The Day Nursery Charity is blessed by Reverend Barclay, a prominent Presbyterian Clergyman, the person Flora hears preach at Macdonald College in 1912. He was head of the Protestant Education Committee in the era and got into hot water arguing against Jewish teachers working with the Montreal Board, a board with  many many Jewish students.   In 1913 this was changed.

(Wait. I found a book with info about the nursery! It was a placement center for domestics. A worthy woman was one deemed able to work in someone else's house...)

Oh, and another patron of the Day Nursery  was one Mrs. Stanley Bagg, the ancestor of a person in my genealogy writing group and a Mrs. C.C. Ballantyne. (Maybe this is a family feud.) Another article, from 1954, says the Montreal Day Nursery is overwhelmed with demand. It is still up and running and getting press in the 1970's.




Friday, May 1, 2015

1917, Canada's 'Worst Year Ever?' I agree!

War Work instantly takes precedence over Suffrage Work in Montreal. August 1914.

When WWI broke out, the Ladies of the Montreal Council of Women were out of town.

 It was August, you see. August, 1914. And society types were out of town in the month of August in 1914.  It was too hot in the big, bad city.

This is all written down in  a little book from 1915, the 21st Anniversary publication of the Montreal Council of Women, a little volume I scanned a while back at McGill- while taking notes with my Samsung Note.

21st Anniversary?

I'm glad I have these notes as I am now embarking on a follow up to Furies Cross the Mersey, my story about the British Invasion of Militant Suffragettes to Montreal in 1912/13.

I've tentatively called this new ebook Service and Disservice.

My Furies story ends in March 1913, with the New York City Suffrage March and in May 1913 the AGM of the National Council of Women in Montreal.

Mrs. Ethel Snowden of Great Britain,  who is the guest speaker, calls Mrs. Pankhurst and her troops Cavemen and Edith Nicholson, my husband's great aunt, yawns! THE END.

Now, I'm researching that gap year 1913-14, when the Canadian Suffragettes were gearing up for major national action on the suffrage front...in a rather disorganized way, but hey.

And then war broke out, and all prior-priorities went out the window.

An article was sent around my Twitter feed yesterday, claiming that 1917 was Canada's worst year ever.

I agree!

That's the year the Canadian suffragettes got all caught up in their hypocrisy and lies - and some good intentions, too.

That's the year of the Win-the-War meetings, where Premier Borden and his right hand man, Arthur Meighan, manipulated the suffrage ladies of Canada by playing on their fears for their own children.

We are all vulnerable to this kind of thing: it happens today all the time.  That's why we must have stories like this one out there; stories that are not pretty. They serve as warnings to us all.

Not all public history can be feel-good.


Below, the ladies of the Council start a Khaki League to help out the soldiers. Carrie Derick, President of the Montreal Suffrage Association leads the cause...The ladies want to supply 'wholesome' recreation (as well as clean laundry and convalescent care) to the soldiers...so ironic, considering these young men are either being sent to rot in HELL in the trenches or have just returned, sick.