Tuesday, June 9, 2015

All about Suffrage in Canada in 1912 and the Invasion of British Suffagettes

In the 1913 era, the year before WWI started, it was hard to keep track of all the old and new suffrage organizations in Canada without a program. The newspapers even got them all mixed up.

Lately, I've gotten a little muddled, myself, between Montreal's Equal Suffrage League and Ontario's Equal Franchise League.

My e-book, Furies Cross the Mersey, is all about the British Invasion of Suffragettes to Montreal in 1912/13. Here's a free copy of the latest version..

Caroline Kenney, sister of Annie Kenney, the famed working class militant in Mrs. Pankhurst's army, came to Montreal in November, 1912 and did some rabble-rousing.

She spoke in March 1913 at the Hochelaga WCTU (in Stevenson Hall) and sounded too militant with her speech about the Evolution of Militancy. She spoke to the Jewish Community later that month and sounded just right. She was described as 'a suffragette of note.'

She visited Ottawa in June for a suffrage picnic and spoke with conviction if not 'word-eloquence' to the local 'association' whichever group that was. Ottawa had a Franchise League, a Suffrage Association and a Suffrage Society.

Her subject was Woman's Life from Cradle to Grave...

"Suffragettes will haunt Montreal now" says a headline. Prime Minister Borden banned them in August 1912, but they came anyway, alerting the press! Miss Barbara Wylie came as an ambassador for Pankhurst's WSPU and was feted by the Montreal Council of Women. Caroline Kenney came to visit her sister Nell in Verdun and was feted by no one, as far as I can see. The browning headline is about Wylie and was clipped by Edith Nicholson, my husband's great aunt.

She went to the US in September, saying she was a Montreal Teacher. (She likely was. She is listed as a teacher on the Protestant Board in 1915. I wonder if she knew the Nicholson women of Richmond and Montreal, the subjects of many other of my e-books. The women were militant suffragette sympathizers. I stick Caroline and my husband's great aunts side-by-side at a speech given by Miss Barbara Wylie, militant, in November, 1912 at the YMCA. You can do that with fiction :)

In December, 1912, a Montreal Gazette article says the Equal Suffrage League has been organized, with by-laws and officers. A Mrs. Leggatt is part of the group and Caroline is the Chair. The article says the organization has both militant and non-militant members, but that the official policy is for non-militancy.

Then any mention of Caroline stops. There are mentions of the Equal Suffrage League and their activities, war-related, or speech events (with males speakers) in the newspaper in the 1914 and 15, but that is all.

The main suffrage organization in Montreal in 1913-1919 is the Montreal Suffrage Association - led by Professor Carrie Derick and she is the main character in Furies Cross the Mersey. The book is really all about her, but features Wylie and Kenney.


As luck would have it, in 1915 a book, the Canadian Woman's Annual, was published summing up the state of social work in Canada - great background to Furies.

The directory contains a  short list of suffrage organizations, not at all comprehensive. (The Equal Suffrage League of Montreal is left out ) but it has  a quote by Ethel Hurlbatt, Warden of McGill's Royal Victoria College, also a character in Furies Cross the Mersey.)

"Women's Use of the Vote. The question is often asked, Do women use the powers and opportunities already given to them? With regard to this, it is of interest to quote the opinion of Miss Hurlbatt, Warden of Victoria College, Montreal. 'Many of them are doing so, eg. the Local Council of Women have thoroughly organized the city to bring out about 12,000 women voters to vote for good civic government at the civic elections.'"

In his book  Marching As to War, Pierre Berton, who succinctly sums up the suffrage situation in Canada in the 1910 era, while simultaneously writing the suffragists off as elitist and, yes, shrill, says that 22 suffrage organizations popped up between 1877 and 1918.

There were far more, I suspect.

After the list of about 30 provincial suffrage organizations the directory lists an anti-suffrage organization: Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage in Canada. Pres., Mrs. H. D. Warren; Vice-Pres., Miss Campbell, Mrs. H. S. Strathy, Mrs. H. C. Rae; Treas., Miss Barron; Rec. Sec., Miss Laing; Cor. Sec., Miss Plummer, Sylvan Towers, Toronto.

Talk about being on the wrong side of history! (Yikes, I just checked and Mrs. H.D. Warren was Chief Commissioner of the Girl Guides from the 20's to the 40's.)

 "This Association is formed to give those who are opposed to the movement in favor of woman suffrage an opportunity to express their conviction that such a measure would be against the best interests of the State. The Association takes an active interest in questions of civic, social and moral reform, and it claims that these can best be advanced without the extension of the parliamentary franchise to women."

The directory also contains a short description of the Montreal Women's Club.

 I've been looking to find such a document because the Montreal Women's Club was the biggest organization under the Montreal Local Council of Women umbrella and they were the group, under Mrs. Weller, that agitated for the start of a separate suffrage organization in Montreal in 1912.

Only about 11 of the 40 organizations under the Montreal Council of Women were for Woman Suffrage at that time.

"The Montreal Women's Club was founded by Mrs. Robert Reid (1892) promote agreeable and useful relations between women of artistic, literary, scientific and philanthropic tastes. To-day it is trying to assist in solving some of the many complex problems which affect childhood and womanhood, as regards industrial, educational, economic, civic and home conditions Pres., Madame Heliodore Fortier, 404 Metcalfe Ave.; Sec., Mrs. Alexander Murray, 29 Murray Ave., Westmount. Chairmen of Departments: Social Science Mrs. George A. Kohl, 297 Peel St.; Home and Education Mrs. Jas. Thorn, 4110 Western Ave.; Art and Literature Mrs. John J. Louson, 4250 Boulevard Ave., Westmount."

The directory lists two national suffrage organizations.

There was the  one led by Flora McD Denison from 1912-14 The National Suffrage Association. Denison was deposed for daring to support Mrs. Pankurst in England, who was on the warpath.

 Then Constance Hamilton set up a new national organization in March 1914, Canadian Union of National Suffrage Societies led by her and Carrie Derick and Lady Drummond!

One wonders why Derick felt a need to join this group. (Well, I checked and the MSA executive voted to join both National Organizations.)

She was already a VP of the National Council of Women and she claimed in a speech that it was the Montreal delegation that convinced the National Council to come out in favor of Women's Suffrage in 1912. Denison was part of that National Organization,too.

My Furies story ends at the special suffrage evening mounted by Derick for the May 1913 AGM of the National Council of Women.

Mrs. Ethel Snowden, moderate suffragist, is speaking. She calls Pankhurst and her troops 'cavemen'.

Carrie Derick was also President of the Montreal Suffrage Association (read all about that in Furies Cross the Mersey.)

The directory also explains the state of voting rights in Canada and the provinces in 1914. See Quebec at right.