Friday, July 24, 2015

McGill Co-eds then and now

1899 Donaldas. From McGill Archive Website. McGill yearbooks.

Yesterday, I added yet another line to Furies Cross the Mersey, my story about the British Invasion of Suffragettes to Montreal in 1912/13.

I have Carrie Derick crack a smile during a speech that happens right at the end of the story.

She is telling the assembly, during a May 5, 1913 suffrage evening in St. James Methodist Church, about  her fellow Donalda, Octavia Grace Ritchie England, and how she defied the Principal of McGill, William Dawson, a famed geologist, during her 1888 Valedictory speech, demanding that women be allowed into McGill Medical School.

But Derick is really thinking about two younger graduates, whom she has just put on a train to New York City -after they tried to mount a suffrage parade from McGill to the Mount Royal Club on Sherbrooke.

It's here in Furies Cross the Mersey. A free download.

 Prime Minister Borden banned the militant suffragettes from coming to Canada, but still they came, even alerting the press.

 Earlier in the book, I have Carrie Derick have a genuine laughing fit, when she just learns about the girls and their plans. It's a kind of catharsis.

She has had a very hard year. She fought for and lost the position of Chair of Botany. (It's all in Furies Cross the Mersey.)

I got a lot of the information from a 1989 speech given by McGill Professor Margaret Gillett. The speech was about Derick and her fight for respect at McGill.

In 1989, Gillett says, there is only one Chair at McGill, and that of 'a very small department..'

Well, today, the Principal of McGill is a woman, Suzanne Fortier, and a scientist also, a geologist!