Monday, July 20, 2015

Anti-Suffragettes and Pretty Militant Suffragettes


Inez Milholland, US suffragette. Montreal didn't have any young activists (by the design of the Montreal Council of Women, I believe)



"I do not like the women's vote
The reason why I cannot note.
But this I know and know by rote
I do not like the women's vote"


You have to like this little rhyme. Mrs. Philip (Ethel) Snowden, British Suffragist, used it in her speeches. She claimed it described the unintelligent mindset of the anti-suffragists in the US.

I have written Furies Cross the Mersey the follow up to Threshold Girl and Diary of a Confirmed Spinster, about the Montreal Suffragists and a British Invasion of Suffragettes to Montreal in the 1912/13 era.

In the last scene,  Edith Nicholson, (my husband's great aunt) goes to hear Mrs. Snowden speak, in May 1913 at St. Jame Methodist Church on Ste. Catherine West.

Edith is not impressed. Mrs. Snowden is not a militant suffragette. Indeed, in her speech Mrs. Snowden describes Mrs. Pankhurst's militants as 'cavemen.'

Mrs. Snowden was the wife of a M.P. at Westminster who was eloquent and beautiful to look at, so reporters liked to cover her speeches.

And if the didn't like what she had to say, they gushed over her other charms.

What I didn't know up until now is that this Mrs. Snowden was all of 27 years of age.


She still has roses in her cheeks, as one reporter described.

That would make her 3 years younger than Old Aunt Edie at the time.

In the US and Britain, many in the suffragette movement were youngish, in their early 30's.

 But in Canada, especially Montreal, the young were shut out of the movement. .

In fact, an unmarried working woman in her 20's was considered a helpless creature who needed the Montreal benevolent faction to find her a place to live, where she might partake of 'wholesome recreation' away from the ogling eyes of evil-minded men who might, you know.. (This irked the Nicholson women, independent action-oriented country-girls, especial boffo Marion,who didn't like anybody telling her what to do.)

Edith complained in 1910 letters of the horror of having to spend evenings alone in her room, because she couldn't find someone to go out with.

The Suffrage Movement in Montreal was taken over by well-connected matrons and their allies, the influential Men in Cloth.

Furies Cross the Mersey reveals why young people did in Montreal to try to get a piece of the action, even if they were enamoured of Mrs. Pankhust and her ilk.

I also noticed that in her speeches in the US, Mrs. Snowden, 'a moderate suffragist' was easy on the militant suffragettes. In some US newspapers she is incorrectly described as a suffragette, a militant.

The United States had a militant movement, you see. Canada did not.

Mrs. Snowden also spoke in Montreal in 1909. In some of her 1909 speeches, she praised Mrs. Pankhurst's genius, but described her militancy as 'a Frankenstein monster.'

In her 1913 speech, Snowden said the militants were doing a great deal to harm the woman suffrage movement.

In May 1913 the British militants were at the height of their civil disobedience, destroying government property to make a point.

Mrs. Pankhurst was in jail and the UK government had just passed a law to let Hunger Strikers out of jail to get better temporarily to recuperate, so that no martyrs would be created.

(The new movie Suffragette with Carrie Mulligan and Meryl Streep, very soon to be released, is apparently all about this "Cat and Mouse" period in the UK Woman Suffrage Movement.)


But then Emily Davison threw herself under the King's racehorse.