Sunday, July 26, 2015

Those Militant Kenney Sisters in Montreal

Annie Kenney and Christabel Pankhurst, the most famous suffragettes after Emmeline Pankhurst.

I'm watching Team Canada play in the Women's World Cup Soccer right now, as I troll the newspaper archives for more info about the suffragists/ettes of Canada for my next ebook, Service and Disservice, the follow up to Furies Cross the Mersey. Both books are about the suffragists/ettes of Canada, especially of Montreal and Toronto.

  Gee, Canada has had three great scoring chances!

Funny, earlier this afternoon, I was treadmilling and watching the China/Netherlands match on TSN.

 At half time they aired a nice piece about a woman soccer pioneer in Canada (from McGill). The piece opened with a bit about women suffrage. "About 100 years ago Canadian women got the vote, but they weren't allowed to run until much later." Something like that. Cute lede.

They showed a picture of Annie Kenney and Christabel Pankhurst, that iconic one that's all over the Internet. The one at top.

I guess they couldn't find a pic of Canadian suffragists. Only one exists. Here it is, from the Toronto World. Next time use this one, TSN.



Oddly, just a few minutes ago I found some brand new information about the Montreal Suffragists, the subject of my ebook Furies Cross the Mersey.

I discovered that Nell Kenney was an active Suffragette in 1908 in England! She spoke at events in  Nottingham and Leicester.

Nell is the oldest sister of Annie (the famous  "working class" suffragette) and she moved to Montreal in 1909 and married Frank Randall Clarke, a former Daily Mail journalist and photographer.

I have their Montreal marriage certificate. I wonder why the couple married here and not back home in Britain. They first lived in Verdun and then moved to St. Lambert.

Many pictures of Nell can be found  in the Frank Randall Clarke's collection at the McCord Museum. Indeed, there is a pic of about 5 Kenney sisters in their Lancashire textile mill aprons.

Clarke took many photographs of visiting Royalty (Prince of Wales and Duke of Kent in their very fine threads) and also of the homeless men of Montreal during the Depression.

And Clarke and his wife took a cross-Canada tour in the 1920's for CP Railways and someone wrote her Master's Thesis on this. So if you want to see a picture of Nell, look here.


My ebook Furies Cross the Mersey has a scene with Nell and Caroline, another Kenney sister, who came to Montreal in late 1912  to live with her sister and stayed until 1915, working as a teacher and living on her own on Ste. Famille Street.

In December, 1913, Caroline founded the Montreal Equal Suffrage League, a very short-lived organization. I've written extensively about Caroline on this blog.

I've found four mentions of her in the Montreal newspapers of the era, one where she is founding the ESL and three others from 1914 where she is presiding over meetings. No mention of sister Nell, though.

I haven't checked the old Montreal Heralds, though.

But I never knew  Nell was such a tried-and-true suffragette. Indeed, she met her husband when he tried to save her from the police at an Asquith speech which she disrupted.

In 1912, she had two young babies, so no time for activism.