Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Eugenics, McGill University and Carrie Derick

                                                     This is from MacLean's 1910.



A friend of mine, a writer, author, professor and painter, wants to write about her  ancestors one day - just like I do in my e-books.

That's when she gets the time.

Her ancestors were Russians who came to Canada around 1900-1910 to farm out West.

They were very rough, she says. Indeed, she believes one of her female ancestors may have murdered her husband by poisoning. Great story!

I'm jealous. All I have is my grandfather's bribery scandal from 1914 Montreal to write about. He was Second Assistant City Clerk at Montreal City Hall and local reporter, Edward Beck, entrapped him, also hoping to bring down the 'corrupt' regime at City Hall.

I wrote about dear Grandpapa in Milk and Water (about Jazz Age Montreal -where he was involved in the infamous Laurier Palace Movie Theatre Fire ) and will write more about him in another e-book, a sequel to Furies Cross the Mersey, an ebook I just put out, the story of the British Invasion of Suffragettes to Montreal in 1912/13.

My friend's genealogy certainly flies in the face of the Jukes/Edwards study from 1910, the study used by eugenicists to prove people are born bad.

Jukes, supposedly,was a scoundrel who gave issue to hundreds of like losers and Edwards was a fine man whose descendants were all scholars and gentlemen and 'pure' women.

This silly study, based on two people and anecdotal evidence, would be hilarious save for the fact it was widely cited, printed up in the last chapter of the 1911 Ontario Hygiene Reader and spoken about with authoritativeness in various talks given by Miss Carrie Derick, McGill Botanist and President of the Montreal Council of Women, as well as Vice President and Education Chair of the National Council of Women. Derick knew all about Mendel and his pea pods,after all.


Carrie Derick. As Education Chair of the National Council of Women, she influenced School Policy across Canada for decades.

My Furies Cross the Mersey story reveals that the Purity Movement of the 1910 era was strongly tied into the Suffrage Movement.

That's why there will never be a Heritage Minute about Furies Cross the Mersey. It's too ugly a history, although important to know because History Repeats Itself.

Still, not everyone agreed with the eugenics philosophy, especially out West.

MacLean's Magazine ran a story in 1910 about Western immigrants that included graphic descriptions of their wild off-work parties (apparently, some guy got his ear bitten off) but the article said these people were to be refined by the education - and justice -  system. In short, their kids would save them.

This eugenics push was an Eastern thing, made popular at McGill and really all about urban immigrants.

Remember, the policy in Canada at the time was to keep out those Mediterranean types who flocked to the cities and embrace only those hardy northern types, with British Yorkshiremen and such being most welcome.

As I pored over the Montreal Gazettes from November 1913 to March 1914 to learn more about my grandfather's bribery scandal and the Municipal election of that time, I was gobsmacked by something else,  a daily dose of racism on the first page of the newspaper in the form of the Index....When a black person, Italian or Pole committed  a crime his ethnicity was always stated, with no name.

And the editors used tabloid tactics to get the readers' attention.The Index entry didn't say So and So Crime: page 5. It said such things as "Negro laughs as he is convicted of Murder."

I also found an editorial from that period ranting about all the crimes committed by "a certain group of immigrant - and everyone knows who it is."

The group's name isn't mentioned, so I'm not entirely sure what group was meant. Italians, I suppose. They seemed to be getting 'the crime a day' treatment in the press.

So no wonder the women of the Montreal Council of Women were into Social Purity - and  determined to protect young women in the city. (It, still, ALWAYS comes down to protecting young women, doesn't it?)

The newspapers scared them with these stories, daily. (The Jewish Community appeared to be mounting an offensive in the Press: "Unspoken McGill policy makes it harder for Jewish students to be accepted." No, kidding.)

Of course, all the political stories were about crime, too, but crime of another sort, institutionalized crime.

(The newspaper and industrial magnate Hugh Graham was in court all the time during this period, defending himself from one charge or another, but that was, I imagine, like Greek Theatre to the average citizen, like watching the gods on high fight among themselves...)

Needless to say, this kind of thing, this distortion of events in the press to slur the reputation of one group or another, to deflect attention from the gods on high, doesn't happen today, right?

Today, we're  much too media literate and politically savvy to fall for such low brow titillation and tawdry journalistic tactics. Right?