Wednesday, July 8, 2015

The Voice of the Martyr in WWI

Mrs. Pankhurst spoke in Toronto Canada on two occasions before the start of WWI. She visited in 1916, recruiting in Toronto and talking on behalf of the Serbs in Montreal.


Here is proof that Flora Macdonald Denison, Toronto journalist, continued to be active with the National Suffrage Association, even after she was kicked out as the President in 1914.

The following  article is from the 1916  Bon Echo Sunset, a literary magazine Denison edited.

 Denison is discussing Mrs. Pankhurst. She says that Mrs. Pankhurst is an effective wartime speaker only because she has been a martyr in peacetime - so the mothers of Canada, who must give up their sons to the war, can relate to her.

Denison, supposedly, was ousted as President of the NSA because of her vocal support for the militant Mrs. Pankhurst.

This article, I'm assuming, is in the public domain. Flora Denison died in 1921.

...."What a difference whether one is for or against the government.

Before the war the world was ringing with the name of Mrs Pankhurst, because she had the courage to defy the British Government, break its laws, get imprisoned, hunger strike, thirst strike and sleep strike,  and do all manner of outrageous and difficult things –get herself punished so that she was time and again at the very doors of death.All for what reason?

For Democracy’s sake – that she might have a say in the Government that made the laws that governed her.

Her daughter, Christabel, had passed her legal examinations, but could not practice her profession because of her sex.

Mrs. Pankhurst was acknowledged by all to be a woman of the rarest ability.

Refined and gentle, but with a volcanic force and fire that swayed vast audiences to do and dare and sacrifice for her cause.

Surely she had a real grievance – the British Government not only denied her the right to vote, but had even denied her the right to petition.

The boasted democracy of England was but a name when it came to their women.

They were being flung in and out of prison- ghastly victims – under the “Cat and Mouse” Act.
War is declared against Germany –WHY?- because of German autocracy, because German ideals are ‘might makes right’ and England says ‘right is might.’

England calls for all the Empire’s sons from all colonies to come fight for Democracy, to help keep the flag of freedom waving.

Help – and the Empire – rallied around the flag.

Then Mrs. Pankhurst, English first and Democrat second, called a truce. She was pardoned and she has been with the government ever since.

Twice before Mrs. Pankhurst had been in Canada; she loomed large both in Canada and the United States.

She gave an impetus to women’s suffrage that all must acknowledge and that now nothing can stop, and her very name was anathema in government circles.

Today, she is in favour with the government. She is fighting with them and not against them.

From 1916 Toronto Sunday World Newspaper.

It is an easy role that she is playing now.

But is the government, today, any less guilty today in its attitude toward its women?
Premiere Asquith says, “Two years ago we did not know we had such a wonderful woman.”

He knew right well (and no one knows better than he how wonderful is Mrs. Pankhurst) but did he give her the vote then, and has he given her the vote now, after acknowledging the country’s debt to them?

What has this all to do with Mr. Hearst, Premier of Ontario?

Well, the other day, the Canadian Suffrage Association waiting on Mr. Hearst.
The deputation was received ‘graciously’ – whatever that may mean.

Dr. Margaret Gordon was armed with 40 referenda,including Toronto, on the basis of awarding married women the vote on the same basis of widows and spinsters..

Dr. Stowe-Gullen showed conclusively that the organized women of Canada wanted the vote,there being only one dissenting organization in the whole Dominion.

Dr. Margaret Gordon, a staunch Conservative, wanted the Ontario government to do the big thing, since the Ontario women had done such noble and self-sacrificing work.

Flora Macdonald Denison (me)reminded the Premier of how eulogistic the men of Canada were about the women now the war has broken out.

Mr. Hearst said that Mrs. Pankhurst had done more to popularize the suffrage since the war than she did before, and that he would give more for unorganized opinion than organized.

As a matter of fact, if Mrs. Pankhurst had not been known before the war, anything she has done since would simply have made her one of thousands, not one of millions.

No,Mr Hearst, it is the martyr’s voice from Holloway Prison that has made her the power she is now for the Conservative government, since the war.

Why do we not hear of Mrs. Millicent Fawcett, a brilliant scholar and head of all the Constitutional Suffrage Associations in England, while Mrs. Pankhurst never had but a handful of followers?

Mr. Asquith always praised Mrs. Fawcett’s lady-like demeanor, but he never gave her the vote.

He refused Mrs. Pankhurst the right of petition, and Mrs. Pankhurst made him the laughing stock of the whole world, dodging down coal shoots and over back-fences trying to escape her.

When she needed help for her democratic ideals, he threw her into jail.

When he calls for help for his democratic ideals, she calls a truce and helps him.

And it is not that England is right, but that Germany is more wrong and of the two evils, Mrs. Pankhurst must choose the least, and that is all."




 Read Furies Cross the Mersey, the story of the British Invasion of Militant Suffragettes to Canada in 1912/13. The follow up will be Service and Disservice, about the Canadian suffragists during the war and the Conscription Crisis.