Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Canada's Worst year ever? 1917 Canada's best 1967?

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 Snowdon 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 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! (I also agree that 1967 was the best year ever. I was 12. I lived in Montreal where Expo67 was happening. I wasn't well-off but Expo67 was an affordable and educational extravaganza, the last of its kind, I fear.

 Pierre Berton wrote a book about that year, calling 1967, just that. Well, he called it "The Last Good Year.")

1917, however, is the WWI year the Canadian suffragists (we didn't have any 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 ironic, considering these young men are either being sent to rot in HELL in the trenches or have just returned, sick.