Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Suffrage and Eugenics, Forgotten Herstory


In my ebook Furies Cross the Mersey, I  include a scene where Dr. Adami, McGill medical man,  tears into the ladies of the Montreal Council of Women in very rough fashion.

Furies Cross the Mersey is about the British Invasion of Militant Suffragettes to Montreal in 1912/13.

Adami doesn't want them heading the planned October, 1912 Child Welfare Exhibit of which he is President. He insists that the City Improvement League, a bilingual group, heads it.

"All you think about is the suffrage," he says at the April, 1912 meeting.

President Grace Ritchie England and Past-President Carrie Derick and the others are most upset.

True story. It's in the Minutes of the Montreal Council of Women.

Today I am researching the follow up to Furies, called Service and Disservice, about the years 1913-1919.

The Conscription Crisis.

I know a great deal about the Child Welfare Exhibit. I found the brochure at CIHM (Canadiana.org) many years ago.

I also found a pamphlet by Adami on How to Raise a Family with the Nicholson Family Letters. ( I have since lost it. He sounded like a quack to me back then before I knew who he was.)

The Yearbook of the National Council of Women for 1913 has a few pages about the exhibit and so do the English newspapers of the era.

But today I found a report that explains Adami's very rude visit.

In September 1911, in the Tribune, a Montreal newspaper serving English Catholics, Dr. Atherton of Montreal calls out to the Catholic community to participate in the upcoming Child Welfare Exhibit.

(The exhibit was long in the planning, and based on similar exhibits in Chicago and New York. Montreal in the 1910 era had the highest rate of infant mortality in the Western World, apparently.)


No doubt they approached the French Catholics too and they refused to participate. That's why Adami shouted out at the Montreal Council meeting, accusing the MCW of being all about suffrage and temperance and into things that turned off the French factor.

No kidding.

How about eugenics, Dr. Adami? Carrie Derick's pet project was eugenics. She prepared the "heredity' screen for the Child Welfare Exhibit. (No doubt it had a bit about the ridiculous Jukes/ Edwards study. )

 Adami was a proponent of eugenics too. Apparently, McGill University was eugenics central in Canada in 1910. That's according to the Oxford Book of Eugenics.

Funny, the Chicago and New York Child Welfare Exhibits didn't seem to have eugenics displays but the Pittsburg (I think it is) Child Welfare Exhibit was specifically called the Child Welfare and Eugenics Exhibit.

Now, in my book I have Dr. Ritchie England  counter Adami by saying the Council has an excellent relationship with the Federation St Jean Baptiste, the French Women's Umbrella Group.

True, the two groups teamed up in 1910 to help put a Reform Ticket in at City Hall. They did this by getting out the spinster vote.

They also teamed up on February 1912 for that election, with less sterling results.

But, in 1914, the Federation bowed out of the elections. It is explained in a short note in the MCW Minutes.

Did the October 1912 Child Welfare Exhibit have something to do with it?

Madame Gerin-Lajoie's notes for a speech. She was a talented writer in both languages, even if her English Grammar wasn't great. She spent a lot of time pleading with Catholic leaders all over the world to let women have the vote,to help children mostly, but she had to bow out of the movement when her Monsigneur Roy (from my family tree, as it happens) told her to.

In Therese Casgrain's autobiography from the 1970's she claims to admire Dr. Ritchie England but says nothing about Carrie Derick.

Derick advocated birth control to eliminate 'defectives' from the gene pool. She is the reason there was a 'secret' classroom in my Montreal Elementary School in the 1960's with a few Down's