Sunday, July 26, 2015

Eugenics, Widow's Pensions and Equal Rights




In my ebook, Furies Cross the Mersey, about the invasion of British Militant Suffragettes to Montreal in 1912/13, I take the liberty of making McGill Professor Carrie Derick the driving force of the Montreal Council of Women during that time, even though she had stepped down as President in 1911.

After doing the research it was obvious to me that Carrie Derick, Past-President, ran the show back then, even if current President Dr. Grace Ritchie England chaired the meetings.

The other day, I found a snippet in a 1914 document that further supported my suspicions.

In the Women's Annual, a summary of Social Work in Canada in 1914, there's a chapter on Married Women's Rights, a focus of the Montreal Council who often petitioned Quebec Premier Lomar Gouin on the issue. I believe a delegation was sent to Quebec City in 1917.

In the section on Rights in Quebec, there's a very snarky bit. It reads that the Montreal Council is more pre-occupied with controlling the feeble-minded than with the issue of Widow's Pensions.

Eugenics, and the 'care' and control of the so-called feeble-minded, was very much Carrie Derick's baby. As Education Chair of the National Council of Women in the era, her influence was wide-spread and long-lasting - and not necessarily pretty.

 I include a speech she gave on the subject at the end of Furies Cross the Mersey. 

In 1919, upon the dissolution of the short-lived Montreal Suffrage Association (1913-1919) someone (probably a Mrs. Fenwick Williams) writes a letter to the editor of the Montreal Gazette complaining about said dissolution and asking why the monies left over are going to the cause of 'feeble-mindedness.' Carrie Derick was President of the MSA, although she left most of the lobbying during the war to others in the organization.

British Suffragettes came to Montreal in 1912 and 13, Barbara Wylie and Caroline Kenney. Emmeline Pankhurst spoke in Montreal in 1911, invited by Derick and the Montreal Council of Women. The Montreal Council of Women feted Wylie and presided over a meeting where different factions in the audience almost came to blows. The men, anyway. They had nothing to do with Kenney, who founded the rival Montreal Equal Suffage League in late 1913.

Married women's rights was very much a concern of Dr. Ritchie England. She ran for Parliament  in the 1930's on the platform. She lost. Her opponent called her a very smart lady but said the issue of Women's Rights was more a Provincial issue.

Anyway, this will be the focus of my next ebook, a follow up to Furies Cross the Mersey, that will take off where the other left off, in late 1913... and then come the War Years and the Conscription Crisis.

Maybe I will call the book Service and Disservice. Tentative Title. Just thought that up now.

This is  a better known story than the first  (although still not widely known) but also a very complicated one. When it came to the sticky, emotional issue of Conscription in WWI, the female Social Reformers of Canada got all tied up in their own lies.