Friday, July 17, 2015

Who's Who in 1910 - When it comes to Women

Madame Albani, the Internationally famous French Canadian opera singer from the 1900 era. The Nicholson women heard her sing in 1906. I have a playbill.

I recently  found a copy of a 1910 Canadian Who's Who and on one of the first pages I saw this Madame Albani,  otherwise known as Emma Lajeunesse of Chambly, Quebec.


 Julia Grace Parker Drummond

So I decided to scan the book to see how many other Canadian women were included.

First, I tripped over tp the D's to see if Julia Grace Parker Drummond, the wealthy Montreal social advocate, was listed there. She is!

Her husband, George Drummond, former President of Redpath sugar, isn't there because he had died the year before.

Julia Grace  has a long listing. "One of the founders and first President of the Canadian Women's Club of Montreal. Then her many leadership positions are listed.

 Lady Drummond is portrayed in my e-books Threshold Girl and Diary of a Confirmed Spinster,

I then looked for Carrie Derick, the McGill University scientist and President of the Montreal Council of Woman from 1909-1912.

She was listed as well, as Assistant Professor of Botany, McGill. Carrie's Story is told in Furies Cross the Mersey




In 1912 she would be made a full professor, Canada's first female full professor, but the post would be somewhat symbolic as she got no raise in salary or extra duties.

Derick's many academic accomplishments are mentioned: Gold Medalist at McGill, first female faculty member at McGilll 1891, but the listing  leaves out her McGill Normal School teaching work.

(Now, THAT says something about how low in people's esteem the teaching profession was generally held.

In fact there are no educators listed in this Who's Who, despite the fact there were quite a few women prominent in that field.)

Then I proceeded to go through the entire book, from A to Z,  to see how many other illustrious Canadian females are listed.

Taking a rough guess, there is one woman listed for about every three pages of men listed, with about 10 listings to a page.

So 1 in 30 on the 1910 Canadian Who's Who is a woman.

And often the woman is of little accomplishment like Mrs. Valance Patriarche, a literary dilletante from the looks of it.

In fact, it seems any journalistic credentials got a  woman into the Canadian Who's Who.

A few articles published here, a few poems there, that's all it took.

Nellie McClung is listed, but only as a minor writer. Lucy Maude Montgomery, who published Anne of Green Gables in 1908, isn't there at all.

Francis Fenwick Williams, the Montreal author who was on the Montreal Suffrage Association Board of Directors in 1913-1919 and who wrote Soul on Fire in 1915, isn't there.

For an actress to be listed, she has had to have won international acclaim, or at least American acclaim. (Some things don't change.)

And that pretty well goes for the other females listed. Hence the listing for Madame Albani, who apparently was a favourite at London's Covent Garden.

Mary Riter Hamilton, the impressionist painter, isn't there, either. Only one woman painter is on the list and that's  Mary Ella Dingham. Education Paris, France and Italy. Exhibitor in many European and North American exhibitions. President of the Women's Art Association of Canada.

And, of course, Emily Carr isn't there either. She was in France in 1910, I think, perfecting her technique.

There's one nurse on the list and one professor of Philosophy at Wellesley College: Miss Eliza Richie, daughter of a Supreme Court Judge in Nova Scotia.

Only one woman doctor is listed (if I counted right)  and no lawyer, although there was one famous woman lawyer being written about in the era magazines, Mabel French. I've a post about her on this blog.

And there's a a missionary, working with her (more famous) husband.

And a couple of musicians who have performed internationally including Miss Evelyn Street, Second Violinist, American String Quartet of Boston.

And just like today, there are Canadian-born women who have made a mark entirely in the US: Miss Annie Diggs of London, Ontario, worker for temperance, chairman of D.C. People's Party and a Suffragette in Kansas. Writer of short stories and a lecturer in sociology.

Why is this interesting in the context of Threshold Girl story?  Because in 1910, it was widely believed that a young woman could enter any profession she desired, although most 'sensible' women wanted to be mothers and wives.

It was widely proclaimed that all doors were now open to women and that no more barriers existed to a woman's career ambitions.

Even Carrie Derick wrote this into her 1912 report  to the Royal Commission on Industrial Training and Technical Education. in her capacity as President of Montreal Local Council.

Magazine articles of the day liked to feature heady stories about women making, say, 10,000 dollars a year, when the 'average' salary for a man was 1,000 dollars a year.

And just like today, pretty actresses were often written about in magazines, but in real life they were both put on pedestals and vilified as one step above a prostitute.

The two women scientists I saw in the Who's Who, Carrie Derick and someone else whose name escapes me, were both botanists.

 I suspect botany was considered a soft science because of its association with flowers and art.

A bit from a Montreal Gazette special feature on Flora in Canada written by Derick but without a by-line.

In Threshold Girl I bring this up...as Flora Nicholson likes to draw so does well in botany.

But Carrie Derick's botany background (and her understanding of Mendel's genetics and pea pods) gave her a great deal of street-cred in a very iffy area, eugenics.

She gave many public lectures on the subject in the era and as Education Chair of the Canadian Council of Women in the 1920's and 30's she went on to influence for decades how "mental defectives' were treated in many  schools across Canada.