Tuesday, June 2, 2015

When Flora McD Denison saw the 'real' Suffragettes, weak and starving

Denison in black, with Canadian Suffrage Delegation to Washington Parade 1913.


It's cold this morning, 9 degrees and it is going down to 3 tonight before bouncing back up to seasonal weather with lots of sunshine.

I'm watching the French Open Tennis and working on the last bits of research for my ebook, Service and Disservice about the Canadian Conscription Crisis in 1917.

But I worry for the nest of two robin chicks near my porch. The chicks hatched last week in 29 degree weather and now this.

When I first peeked into the nest I saw a downy mass of pulsing protoplasm. I thought the chicks were deformed. But I saw the parents feeding them and then, soon after,  I caught a glimpse of two rather large pterodactyl heads with beaks wide open reaching towards the sky and I realized I didn't know that much about Mother nature.

These chicks should fledge soon. I am keeping the cat inside. I read that only 80% of robins live to adulthood.

So I'm spending these rainy cold days watching tennis and preparing to write my ebook about the Canadian Suffragists and their iffy connection to the Conscription Crisis and the 1917 election, where Prime Minister Borden gave the vote only to women who would vote for his Union Party. (Not democratic at all!)

 I'm sifting through all my computer files, poring over them at random.

If Don Draper had get creative inspiration for his Coke ad by oming on the gloaming, I can get it sifting through zillions of docs and gifs.

For the first time, I learning in depth about the Toronto side of things. My first ebook about the Canadian movement, Furies Cross the Mersey, is about the Montreal Suffragists.

Emmeline Pankhurst and Carrie Derick, President of the Montreal Suffrage Association.
Caroline Kenney

Furies Cross the Mersey  is about how the British Suffragettes, Barbara Wylie and Caroline Kenney, came to Montreal in 1912/13 to stir up the suffrage pot - but found Canadian suffragists to be very wary, even timid.

Barbara Wylie also traveled to Toronto, in October, 1912.

 In TO she said, "If you stand in a row with your mouths open you will get nothing. That's why you need the termagant spirit."

She mixed metaphors here. Maybe she should have said 'raptor spirit'.

Still, Miss Wylie was a great speaker and a beauty too, and a lady too, so VERY well dressed, so the Press paid attention to her.

Caroline Kenney, like her more famous sister, Annie, in England, was working class and she got hardly any Montreal Press attention. She tried to start her own suffrage organization in the city, the Equal Suffrage League, in December, 1913. It was to be a rival to the elite Montreal Suffrage Association.

Yesterday, I read up some more on Toronto's Flora Macdonald Denison, my favorite Canadian suffragette; indeed, in my opinion, the ONLY Canadian suffragette.

I even found a picture of her at the Washington, March 1913 suffrage parade with the Canadian/Toronto delegation.

And I found one of her columns in the Toronto Sunday World, a brilliant thing, where she described some other Canadian suffragists as hypocrites, in that  they wanted the vote for women but didn't want any working class girls involved in the their movement,

Later, in October 1913, Denison visited the Real Suffragettes in London, a guest of the gracious Miss Wylie, whom she likely met in Toronto. Denison wanted to learn more about the working-class side of the movement.

Wylie brought her to a meeting where Mrs. Emmeline Pankhurst was  supposed to show up.

Mrs. P. did show up, looking very weak, but was quickly spirited away by police.

Annie Kenney showed up too, tiny and frail from her own hungers strikes in prison.

THIS SUFFRAGETTE STUFF WAS SERIOUS BUSINESS. I hope the movie Suffragette with Carrie Mulligan explains all this.

Denison admits in her column that  she was afraid.  She knew at the time that by-standers can get caught up in these meetings and even seriously injured.

Undaunted, Miss Wylie insisted she attend another meeting in the East End of London, where Sylvia Pankhurst was speaking.

By this time, Denison admits, she had seen enough for one day.  She went with Wylie anyway and saw a very weak Miss Sylvia Pankhurst being carried to the podium - and lot of grungily-attired  suffragette supporters in the seats.

These suffragettes were playing Cat and Mouse with the police. They were supposed to be on house arrest while they recovered from their ordeals in Holloway Prison. The Powers that Be didn't want to create any more suffragette martyrs, like Emily Davison.

Flora McD Denison was head of one of the two Canadian National Suffrage Organizations of the day, but she soon  had to quit her post because of her support for Mrs. Pankhurst and her ilk.

But a lot of Canadian suffragists supported Pankhurst, secretly, anyway.  I suppose, pointing out that many of her fellow Canadian suffragists were hypocritical didn't help Denison's cause.

But hypocrites they were.

(In order to become a member of the Montreal Suffrage Association (1913-19) a person had to be nominated by two members of the Executive and approved by ALL of them. This Executive was made up of prominent clergymen, McGill Profs and middle-to-upper class Protestant society women.

 Imagine! The Clergyman, especially,  on the MSA Executive detested Pankhurst's suffragettes and thought young unmarried women were wild and in need of protection from society  - and from their own impulses.)

Then, again, Mrs. Denison was quoted in the newspapers saying the British suffragettes have good reason to shoot Prime Minister Asquith. Not smart!

Read about Miss Barbara Wylie's speechat the  YMCA in Montreal in my ebook, Furies Cross the Meresey. In that speech, Wylie employed a tennis, rather than a birdie, metaphor.

It was a speech that was quickly shut down because two men in the audience, one a lawyer, started arguing.

Talk about a VERY timid Canadian suffrage movement.