Tuesday, September 29, 2015

A Pivotal Day in Canadian History - One you haven't read about in history books.

A full page pictorial about the Canadian delegation in the Washington DC 1913 Suffrage parade in the Toronto World, Mrs. Flora Macdonald Denison's newspaper.


Beware the Ides of March, Mrs. Denison.

Well, it was a day or two before said date, in 1914, that a certain event occurred, an important one in Canada's history, but an event  that hasn't gone down in the history books, like, say, Julius Caesar's murder.

It was the date the Maternal (constitutional) suffragists of Canada led by Constance Hamilton of Toronto took over from the Equal Rights ("militant") suffragists, led by Augusta Stowe-Gullen and Flora Macdonald Denison.

And it happened  in Toronto.

Right now, I am writing a book, Service and Disservice, about the iffy involvement of the Canadian suffragists in the 1917 Conscription Crisis.

(This is the point where silly woman's history meets big important man's history. :) Oh, I'm being glib, and about rivers of Canadian blood, so not cool.


Service and Disservice is the follow up to Furies Cross the Mersey, my book about the British Invasion of Militant suffragettes to Canada in 1912/13.


I'm about to try to figure out how Flora McD and Constance Hamilton might explain this bit of history to us, as if they have been brought back to life.

 You see, my book is from a first-person point of view.

What else do you do when you write history? You bring people back to life.

That's why I'm writing this post. I'm trying to work things out in my mind.

The Toronto Globe has the clearest explanation of this mid-March coup 100 years ago.

The Canadian Suffrage Association was chartered in 1912 (but it was an organization started decades before by Emily Howard Stowe).

The CSA was a member of the august National Council of Women.

The Toronto Suffrage Leaders

In turn, the CSA had it own member organizations, suffrage organizations from around the country.

Who they were and how many of them was a bit of a mystery.

Two of these member organizations were in Toronto. The Toronto Equal Franchise League led by Mrs. Constance Hamilton, a Yorkshire-born society lady who had lived around the world and in the Canadian West, and the Toronto Suffrage Society, run by Dr. Augusta Stowe-Gullen, and Flora McD Dension and Dr. Margaret Gordon.

Flora Macdonald Denison, a working journalist, seamstress and self-supporting working woman, was President of the C.S.A.

The Toronto Equal Franchise Union was more Rosedale Society - and much newer.

It's no secret, Denison admitted it herself, the CSA executive kind of resented  these upstart suffragists, who were richer and of the maternal (social reform) variety.

What Denison resented most, I think, is that these Society Women felt they had a right to take over the Canadian suffrage movement, "with just a few weeks suffrage experience' by virture of their social position and all the good social work they had done before jumping onto the woman suffrage bandwagon.

So, in mid-March, 1914 the Toronto Equal Franchise League demanded that the C.S.A. hold an annual general meeting where officers could be voted upon and the Constitution ratified. They also demanded to see a treasurer's report and list of member organizations.

Denison, instead, kicked these women out of her organization. They had no right to tell her what to do, she said in the Press.

Some Toronto papers characterized the split as between 'militant' and 'non-miliant' factions of the suffrage movement. As Denison pointed out in a speech, the CSA hadn't exercised any militancy at all.

Inez Milholland, NY lawyer, led the parade in robes on a white horse carrying the colours of the WSPU.


They hadn't mounted one solitary march.

The closest they came to this any militancy was by attending a huge parade in Washington, in March 1913. Many leading Toronto Suffragists were in the Canadian delegation, including Mrs. Constance Hamilton.

(Mrs. Hamilton had to walk behind Denison and Stowe-Gullen in Washington and she didn't get to speak like the others,so maybe her pride was hurt. Maybe this was the last straw for her.)

The CSA had only pursued their suffrage goals through (boring) constitutional means, like letter writing.

One coup participant actually criticized the CSA for this, for being too stagnant. A case of damned if you do and damned if you don't.

It was true that Flora Macdonald Denison had visited Mrs. Pankhurst's suffragettes in England in August, 1913 and written about it, in vivid fashion, in her Toronto World column. (See a recent post.)

And, apparently, she had joined the WSPU herself. But it was no secret Flora MacD liked the Pankhursts. She had entertained Emmeline in her home on two previous occasions. Sylvia, too.

 (And Christabel would visit in November, 1914.)

One line in the Toronto Globe report makes me laugh: It appears the Toronto Suffrage Association (Stowe-Gullen's org) had had the audacity to hold a meeting in the summer of 1913, when the socialite ladies were out of town. LOL.

I guess that says it all.

As it happens, one year later, FATE had the audacity to start a World War when these uppercrust ladies were out of town, in August, 1914.

Constance Hamilton's new National Equal Franchise Union had no time to really get going; they had to postpone their first AGM from October to June, because the suffrage ladies of the country were busy trying to figure out how to conduct themselves during the war.

The NEFU meeting in June, 1915 was pretty low key and soon thereafter Constance Hamilton published a letter in the press saying she was putting aside suffrage affairs for Patriotic Work  until the end of the War.

Throughout the War, the NEFU  carried on in a helter skelter manner, random meetings, no minutes. This was ironic, considering their earlier criticism of Denison.

The pacifist C.S.A., under Dr. Margaret Gordon, worked diligently during the War to get the municipal vote for women across the country.

Flora's niece got to go too. 


Flora McD was moved upstairs at the CSA and became Honorary President. She also continued to be VP for the Toronto Suffrage Society.

But during the War Flora MacD had to find ways to keep herself afloat -  as no one would pay her to write. She sewed and washed dishes and turned back to her spiritualist roots at a retreat at Bon Echo, near Kingston, where she started a Walt Whitman club.

(For his particular reason her place in history has been devalued, I think.)

Denison's only son, Merrill, enlisted in the Army so, ironically, she got to vote in the 'fixed' 1917 Conscription election.  Borden passed a War Times Election Act just before said election, allowing only women with close male relations in the War to vote.

Constance Hamilton actually helped engineer this undemocratic War Times Election Act, using her position as President of the NEFU as her authority to speak for 'all Canadian women'.

And once the Act was passed, she loudly supported it in the Press and elsewhere, quashing any dissent in her NEFU.

She probably didn't get to vote herself as she had no children.

In 1919, Constance ran for Toronto City alderman (alderlady) and lost. She was described as someone with no profession. She ran again a year later and won, becoming Toronto's first female alder...person.

Neither the CSA nor the NEFU left behind any minutes, so there's no record there for historians to pick apart.

The Montreal Suffrage Association left behind their minutes, at Montreal City Hall, only proving (to me) that Constitutions and  minute books can be manipulated. But, that's another part of my story, the one about Carrie Derick, of Montreal, McGill Botany and Genetics Professor and President of the Montreal Suffrage Association between 1913 and 1919 and VP of the NEFU (supposedly).

Derick was an equal-rights suffragist (a Donalda, early McGill graduate) but her professional interests made her a much sought after authority on eugenics, so she had much in common with the social reform suffragists, who supported her efforts to care for and control the 'feeble-minded' and who also believed her when she stated that 50 percent of prostitutes were mentally defective.


Right from the start, September, 1914, Derick plunged the MSA into war work. "We have been asking for our rights. Now it is time to do our duty." After the war, Derick gave a speech in Toronto where she said all wars are about economics.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Madame Defarge, Constance Hamilton and the Conscription Crisis


Toronto Suffragists March in Washington in 1913. Constance Hamilton, the leader of a provincial assocation, walked behind Mrs. Flora Macdonald Denison and Dr. Stowe-Gullen of the Canadian Suffrage Association.  Hamilton soon mounted a coup against Denison and started her own National Equal Franchise Union, that didn't do much during the War, but in 1917 she used her position to act as a spokesperson for Canadian women.


Well, in 1916, before he was forced to call the infamous Conscription Election, Premier Borden of Canada called for 500,000 new recruits.

The population of Canada in 1917 was 8,000,000.

I did the math, looking at the Census figures, and, yes, 500,000 was about every able-bodied man from 14 to 35 in Canada.

And if you figure they weren't allowing foreign born or people of colour into the forces, well...

In early August 1917 they held a Win-the-War meeting in Toronto, where they invited the women (with only two days notice, apparently).

The newspaper accounts make it sound very much like a religious-revival meeting, with testimonials and tears and no shortage of hysteria. Did you know Prussians were cannibals?


Constance Hamilton, of the National Equal Franchise Union, a national suffrage organization she started just before the war and which never really got going, used her position to give a keynote speech, saying she didn't want an election.

But, she was all for Conscription.  All the women of Canada were for conscription she said, perhaps overstating her authority to say so.

According to the Toronto Star report, you could hear the sound of knitting needles clicking all through the meeting a la Madame Defarge. (Women knitted socks for the men at the Front.)

I have to use that in my book, Service and Disservice, about the iffy involvement of the Canadian Suffragists in the Conscription election of 1917.

It's the follow up to Furies Cross the Mersey, about the British Invasion of Suffagettes to Canada in 1912/13.

Not sure how to use it; it's kind of an inverted metaphor. Or is it? Maybe these 2,000 women in attendance at the Win-the-War meeting, some accompanied by their limbless husbands and sons, were out for blood and revenge?

Anyway, at the same time, the Premier of Ontario took out a half page ad in the newspapers saying he needed 100,000 men to bring in the crop in Ontario.

(A little problem, here, obviously.)

Constance Hamilton tried to figure it out by starting a women's agriculture committee on the National Council of Women.

She had previously been head of the Immigration Committee, a subject she got interested in when she lived in BC and in Winnipeg with her husband, L.A. Hamilton, a legendary surveyor who had a street in Vancouver named after him.

They had no children together.

I have to wonder what Hamilton thought about the 'cannibal' accusation. She was a from a wealthy Yorkshire family and had spent time in Leipzig studying music and piano.

She even started a Bach Society in Toronto.

Anyway, it was at this Win-the-War meeting that Prime Minister Borden took Hamilton and the other Lady Leaders aside and asked them if they could go out and poll their membership to see if he'd win the election if he gave women the vote. (Note added later: It was at these meetings that Hamilton took aside 3 other women leaders to ask the to ponder Borden's telegram of the day before, asking them to poll. The four ladies met with Borden two days later in Ottawa.)

He told them to be discreet about it.

The answer came back NO. So Borden ended up giving only women with close relatives fighting in the War  the vote in the 1917 election, with the War Time Elections Act.

Constance Hamilton loudly defended the Act in the Press. The President of the other (more legitimate) Canadian Suffrage Organization, Dr Margaret Gordon, called it a "Disenfranchise Act."

Gordon wondered in the Press why women with men in the war were so keen on seeing other women send their men to die in war.

It was a good question, and it was answered by a mother of soldiers giving a speech at the Win-the- War meeting.

If more men went to war it would improve the chances of their own men coming back.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

A Cat-and-Mouse Suffrage Rally that Changed Canadian Politics.

Barbara Wylie. She was pretty and well-dressed, so she confused the Montreal Press, who thought all British suffragettes were supposed to be battle-axes. 


Read Service and Disservice: How some Canadian Suffragists influenced the 1917 Conscription Crisis. On Amazon Kindle.


The Carrie Mulligan/Meryl Streep movie Suffragette was released in October - and if you think that a tale about beautiful suffragettes playing cat-and-mouse with the police is a "Hollywood" fiction, you are wrong.

It really happened.

And the truth is stranger than fiction.

A few years ago, while working on my book Furies Cross the Mersey, about the British Invasion of Militant Suffragettes to Montreal in 1912/13 I traipsed over to the library at McGill to find a copy of Annie Kenney's 1930's autobiography.

Annie Kenney was Mrs. Pankhurst's First Lieutentant, a working class mill girl from Lancashire.

Two of her sisters, Nell and Caroline, lived in Montreal in the 1912 era and they got involved in the local movement. This, of course, intrigued me.

Well, the Kenney book tells a funny Cat-and-Mouse anecdote. Apparently, Annie Kenney once put on a grey wig and stuffed two plums in her cheeks to escape the police.

Very visual, eh? It would make a good scene in a movie, right?

As it turns out, all this crazy Cat-and-Mousing had an effect on the Canadian Suffrage Movement - and by extension on Canadian politics - and in a very specific way.

In August, 1913, Flora Macdonald Denison, President of the Canadian Suffrage Association, an organization started by the legendary Emily Howard Stowe, was in London, visiting with the militants.

In one day she attended two rallies. The first was at the London Pavilion, where she witnessed a very weak Annie Kenney speaking and where she also saw Mrs. Emmeline Pankhurst, who was on the lam, whisked away by police when she unexpectedly turned up. (Pankhurst had come just to meet with Flora McD.)

Denison then saw some suffragettes taken to a back room and heard violent noises and learned the next day that 'blood had been shed, by both suffragettes and police'.

That same day, Miss Barbara Wylie, her hostess (you can read about her in Furies Cross the Mersey) took her to the East End of London to a rally where Sylvia Pankhurst, also playing Cat and Mouse, was to speak.

Denison wrote a powerful description of the scene in her Toronto World column, a description that likely scared the bejeezus out of suffragists back home in Canada because she was deposed as CSA President soon thereafter and effectively pushed out of the Canadian suffrage movement.

Torontonian Constance Hamilton, a future Win-the-War fanatic, would launch her own National Equal Franchise Union and use her influence to help Premier Borden fix the vote in the 1917 election. Only women with close relations at the Front got to vote.

Canadian suffrage politics was a very complicated business during the World War One years and I will explain it all in my next book Service and Disservice. That ebook will be about the iffy involvement of all the Canadian Constitutional Suffragists in the 1917 Conscription Crisis, where they got plenty of youthful male blood on their hands.

Ironically, Denison was eligible to vote: her only son, Merrill, signed up in 1916.

Premier Borden banned the militant suffragettes from coming to Canada in 1912, but they came anyway. Barbara Wylie came for a year long cross-country tour in September 1912.  Caroline Kenney came over in November, 1912 and stayed for four years and started her own Equal Suffrage League. This REALLY scared the Canadian suffragists. 

Here's an excerpt from Denison's Toronto World Column, August, 1913

The crowd was filed with poorly clad women, but also was made up of 3/4 men, apparently. (This suffragette business in the East End was more about class, I guess.)

Syliva P had turned up disguised in a 'grand woman's clothes' and then peeled them off to reveal her humble dress of khaki. (Very theatrical.)


"What Sylvia Pankhurst had to say, she read from a paper. She had arranged, if it were possible, to escape the police, to take refuge in a small baker's shop directly opposite the hall. She said the police were many, but the men of Bow and Bromley were more and if they believed her cause to be right she believed they would protect her. The audience was a difficult one to manage, but to a man they shouted they would protect her.

First the nurses and two of these other women half carried her. Then a half dozen big strong men locked arms about the center group and then another group around them. They had a flight of stairs to go down before reaching the street. When they were about at the street door, the fire hose was turned on by policemen who were outside guarding the entrance. This caused a commotion. A girl dressed as Miss Pankhurst hurried up a side street with many of the crowd protecting her, the police followed and in the meantime, Sylvia Pankhurst was being put to bed in the humble bedroom of the poor baker's shop in Bow.

A spray of water made me turn around and the hose had become disconnected and a two and a half inch stream of water was fast flooding the hall. Miss Wylie and I started to leave the hall. Cries on all sides were "Heaven bless the angel." "Praise the Lord she has escaped." "Curses on the government."

When we got outside, the police were trying to disperse the crowd. The automobile of the WSPU was standing in front of the hall and Miss Emmerson asked me to get in. Miss Wylie thought it might be dangerous but I thought if a young woman like Miss Smith could drive the car through such a crowd, I could at least be a passive spectator, so I got in amid the cries of "We'll not let the police touch you."

As a matter of fact, the police had no wish to touch anyone. They were busy assisting women with babies, old lame men and protecting anyone who needed them in a terrible crush."


Well, you could imagine how Canadian Suffragists felt when reading this. Most thought that a peaceful march down the street was too militant. 




Mrs. Emmeline Pankhurst in Montreal in WWI 1916

Mrs. Pankhurst and her Serbian Diplomat in the Montreal Daily Mail, 1916. She dressed nicely, didn't she?


Mrs. Emmeline Pankhurst spoke in support of the War Effort in Montreal, on February 28, 1916.

She spoke at the Princess Threatre in support of the Serbs.  She brought along a Serbian diplomat from Britain.

She was on a North American Tour and had had trouble getting through at Ellis Island. 

They didn't realize she had become a war supporter, I guess.

The diplomat spoke too. He said the War was not Serbia's fault.

In her speech, sponsored by the Montreal Equal Suffrage League, a small organization founded by Caroline Kenney, Annie Kenney's sister, Pankhurst praised women in the war effort; the women in Europe; the women in Canada and even the women  in the US, although they weren't in the war yet, and not suffering for the cause.

She saved the best for the Serbian women:

"Spoke of the magnificent devotion of the Serbian women, how they made clothes, tended the sick and wounded, and even fought side by side with Serbian men."

Caroline Kenney, sister of militant Annie Kenney, came to Montreal in 1912 and stayed for a while, trying to create a militant movement here. You can read about her in Furies Cross the Mersey. I am the one who figured this out.

I am right now writing my book Service and Disservice, about the iffy involvement of the Canadian suffragists in the 1917 Conscription Election.

There was no mention of this speech by Pankhurst in the minutes  of the Montreal Suffrage Association. No surprise, that, as her speech was sponsored by their annoying, more militant rivals.

There is no mention in February in the minutes of the Montreal Council of Women (as far as I can remember.)

But in December, Mrs. Hurlbatt, Warden of McGill's Royal Victoria College, and Miss Derick, President of the Montreal Suffrage Association resolved to raise money for the Serbs as explained in Mrs. Pankhurst's speech.

So, they were there, I guess.

Hurlbatt was so successful raising money, she was given a commendation by the King of Serbia after the war. 

I saw it in her papers at McGill.

No mention of her earlier Suffrage advocacy in these fonds, though. She had been active in the movement since she arrived in Montreal in 1907. Like so many Montreal suffragists, she defended Mrs. Pankhurst and her militant troops in her speeches, but in a sideways way.

She had many friends in the suffrage movement, both constitutional and militant, back home in England.

Hurlbatt figures in Furies Cross the Mersey, my book about the British Invasion of Suffragettes to Canada in 1912/13. So does Caroline Kenney.

Caroline Kenney left Montreal in 1916 to go and work as a Montesorri  teacher in the US with a sister. Since she was a teacher in Montreal in 1915,  I suspect she was still in the city for this talk.


Saturday, September 26, 2015

Delving Deeper into the Lies around the 1917 Conscription Election


Gee, the crabapples are still hanging, lush and heavy, from the top branches of the tree outside my 'office' window, even though the maple leaves are starting to turn colour.

Very nice to look at.

I gave the tree fertilizer this spring and it was a great summer for growing things, plenty of sunshine and rain.

I need something pretty to meditate upon, to rest my tired eyes: I'm writing my ebook Service and Disservice about the messy involvement of Canadian Suffragists in the 1917 Conscription Election in Canada - and it's soooooo complicated.

I keep having to go back over my notes and hundreds of snips of newspaper reports and minute books and scholarly theses, particularly Carole Bacchi's 1980 work, Liberation Deferred.

I did that just now. Bacchi nailed it for the most part, especially about the rift between the Equal Rights Suffragists and Reform Suffragists of Toronto in 1913,  but I'm going much deeper, cuz I can.

I have the same newspaper clippings Bacchi consulted back in the day, and many more she didn't. She didn't have Internet, after all,  or just an embryonic form of it, if I recall.

(University Profs sent emails to each other long before average people could. I had some friends at Queens')

Now, I've already written a ROUGH draft, almost stream of consciousness.

I'm writing Service and Disservice from a first person point of view and just letting it flow, as if I am being channelled by the dearly departed ladies, is good for style.

Torontonians Flora MacD Denison and Constance Hamilton are two  of the five suffragist characters in the book.  I need to get into their heads.

Anyway, no doubt Bacchi saw this article: Denison Defends Canadian Suffrage Association in the Toronto World, late March, 1913. Denison wrote for the Toronto World.

The headline was taken from the bit below: Possibly only way to avoid militancy is to give Canadian women the vote. Very scary, right? A threat, right?

 But it's the part in parentheses I am curious about. Why did she say "for there are many English here?

A few paragraphs before she claims that some people distrust the 'new organization" as in Constance Hamilton's brand new National Equal Franchise Union, because it is full of foreigners (Westerners, I imagine) and Englishwomen. (Ie. Denison and Stowe-Gullen are Canadian-born.)

Ironically, Denison is the one accused of being too militant, of supporting Pankhurst, yet, is she hinting, here, that the upstart NEFU is more likely to get militant, as that org has many non-Canadians?

Hamilton herself was a Yorkshire Brit whose parents immigrated to B.C.

 Or is Denison alluding to the English Suffragettes who have invaded Canada. ( I wrote about them in Furies Cross the Mersey, on Kindle.)

Not many of these English suffragettes were in Canada in 1913, but Caroline Kenney was in Montreal with her own militant-friendly Equal Suffrage League and Denison knew about her, she mentioned in a recent speech that there is a new, third suffrage organization in Quebec.

And my other big problem to solve (it's at the crux of the matter) is what REALLY happened in 1917, during the Conscription Election between the Canadian Lady Leaders and Premier Borden.

Everyone lied about it! And Borden specifically told them to be discreet.

Below I have a letter The Montreal Suffrage Association sent to the Fédération St Jean Baptiste saying they were going to organize a deputation to Ottawa (the the Local Council, their parent body) to ask Borden for the vote. May, 1917.

(Clever Carrie Derick wanted to use all their good war-work to push for the vote.)

In the letter, the MSA says they hope representatives from the the Western Provinces will come. No mention of Ontarians.

That's because, as the MSA minutes show, the Toronto Suffragists, particularly Mrs. Hamilton's NEFU, didn't want to go with the Montrealers to Ottawa, because it was  'a time of crisis'.

And, yet, the 1918 Report of the  NEFU  in the National Council Yearbook clearly states that they had intended to go to Ottawa but didn't because, in June, Borden promised to give Canadian women the vote.

LIE!


(The MSA delegation didn't end up going  for the same reason.)

Why does Mrs. Hamilton go out of her way to lie here?

If I can figure out why, I might be able to tell her story much better.

I think she was already in private secret talks with Borden over what to do with the Women's Votes at the time. By rewriting recent history she covers that up. She was after all a leader in the Win-the-War Movement.

(Of course, Hamilton may have resented the Quebeckers wagging the dog, so to speak, as  hers was the National body.)

Funny, because in the same yearbook, the Montreal Council of Women doesn't give any report at all, and that is unusual. They'd rather say nothing than lie, I guess.



Friday, September 25, 2015

Two Toronto Suffrage Adversaries in 1913/14

Toronto Suffragists march in the Washington, DC parade in 1913. Flora Macdonald Denison led the group, as President of the Canadian Suffrage Association and Constance Hamilton walked behind. 


As I write the first part of my story Service and Disservice - about the iffy involvement of Canadian suffragists in the 1917 Concription Election, I continue to do research.

Service and Disservice is a follow up to Furies Cross the Mersey- about the British invasion of suffragettes to Canada in 1912/13.

I am writing from a first person point of view, so I need to get into these suffragists' heads.

I downloaded a copy of Mary Melville Psychic, Flora Macdonald Denison's 1900 novel, that is nicely written, and which reads a bit like Frances Fenwick Williams' 1915 novel A Soul on Fire. (Fenwick Williams was a Montreal Suffragist.)

Interesting line from Mary Melville:


And I'm re-reading Whitman. Haven't read his poems since university.  Denison started a Whitman Club at Bon Echo, a retreat near Belleville where she stayed during WWI.

In my book, I'm at the point where Denison, easily the most interesting character in Canadian Suffrage, is fighting for her political life as President of the Canadian Suffrage Association.

Her adversary is Constance Hamilton of the Toronto Equal Suffrage League, who wants more power as a Canadian suffragist.

Young Constance

Constance Hamilton, I discovered, was the daughter of a Yorkshire UK doctor, but may have lived in India (at least her father worked there) and certainly studied music in Germany.

Her family moved to BC, where her father ran a sanitorium.

She married well, a civil engineer who was high up in the CPR and who became an "Honorable' at one time.

Constance had no children of her own.

In 1914, Hamilton launched the National Equal Franchise Union, her own Canadian suffrage organization, taking 1,000 of the CSA's members with her.

Flora Macdonald Denison was married to a travelling salesman, whom she was with when he was still married to his first wife.  She had one son, Merrill.

She was the breadwinner of the family, usually. The couple separated for good in 1914... just at the time of my story.

In December, 1913 Denison  published a column in the Toronto World, trashing the hypocrits in the Canadian Suffrage Movements who didn't want working class women to participate.

She said women who dress poorly and can't speak well have just as much right to vote as any other women in Canada. She had visited in August 1913 with the Suffragettes and attended a suffrage meeting in the East End of London, where Sylvia Pankhurst, looking weak and pale,  spoke.



Denison was soon moved 'upstairs' at the Canadian Suffrage Association to  the the Post of Honourary President. Dr. Margaret Gordon took over from Denison and during WWI took the CSA in an entirely different direction from Hamilton's NESU.

Gordon worked for municipal voting rights across Canada during WWI and Hamilton worked for the Patriotic Cause, putting aside the suffrage fight - and making it quite clear in letters published in newspapers and in the National Council of Women's New Century Magazine.

"The war has reached such a serious and critical stage that I feel I am in no way justified in using my own and other women's energies and means on behalf of the suffrage cause."

Denison kept her hand in suffrage issues, while sewing clothes and washing dishes to survive, by writing a pamphlet, Women and War for the CSA's 1916 Annual General Conference and commenting on Mrs. Pankhurst and her "martyr's voice" in the Bon Echo newsletter.

Hamilton was in favour of starting a 'working women's suffrage group' the newspapers reveal, before the war, anyway, so she was not necessarily an elitist. She went on to be Toronto's first female alderman.

It was Constance Hamilton, among a few other women leaders, who gave PM Borden the permission to create a War Times Election Act during WWI, an Act that permitted only women with men in the war to vote in the 1917 Conscription Election.

Hamilton defended this War Times Elections Act in the newspapers, as expedient.  It was what had to be done to win the war... and that was her stated priority.

Pacifist Dr. Gordon of the C.SA. replied to Hamilton,  calling the Act, effectively,  'a disenfranchisement act.'

Pacifist Flora MacD Denison, ironically, got to vote in the Conscription election. Her only son, Merrill, had enlisted in 1916.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Suffragette Season at the U.K. Parliament. No swine remarks..

I learned about the Suffragette Events in London in October on Twitter.


Apparently, it's Suffragette Season at the UK Parliament in October, to coincide with the release of the Carrie Mulligan, Meryl Streep movie Suffragette.

I know I'll like the Suffragette movie because I loved Iron Lady, a movie also written by Abi Morgan.

On October 7, you can get a suffragette-themed tour of Parliament. There's a Suffragette Soiree too, where you can go back in time and watch iconic suffrage scenes re-created by actors.

It's lucky that there are no iconic suffragette scenes featuring barnyard animals. These militants were very theatrical, but they never got around to that. I don't think. Maybe one of them said "MPS are all swine." They certainly said similar things.

Don't feel bad for the MP's. People called the suffragettes all kinds of ugly things: vinegary viragos, harpies, nut-cases...even, ah, suffragettes. Yes, that term was meant to be derogatory, as in "silly little women."

Too bad I won't be there in England to enjoy these events.

This is the ONLY pictures of Canadians Suffragettes marching that you will ever see. They were suffragists, really, Maternal Suffragettes mostly, all from Toronto, marching in the Washington DC, 1913 parade. I suspect this parade, where Constance Hamilton of the Toronto Equal Suffrage League had to walk BEHIND Constance Hamilton, President of the Canadian Suffrage Assocation, changed the course of Canadian history. Constance soon started her own national suffrage organization and then conspired with PM Borden, during the WWI,  to wangle a way to get his Union Government  re-elected playing on women's fears for their own sons away at War.

Denison, who was soon ousted as President of the CSA, tried to paint the problem as English women against Canadian women. Hamilton was born in Yorkshire. Hamilton, accused Ontario-born Denison of being too pro-Pankhurst. Very weird.


I doubt my ebook Service and Disservice, about the Canadian suffragists and their iffy involvement in the 1917 Concription Election, will be used next year for our150th anniversary of Confederation celebrations. (Are they still on?)

That's taboo history, here, well-understood my scholars, ignored by the school textbooks.

That's why no one in my generation can tell you when Canadian women actually got the vote, even if they are well-read.

(My experience anyway.)

Must say, I didn't know until lately. It was in 1917, by the way.

Only women with men at the War Front got to vote. Very nice, right? And so democratic. And the saddest thing is, most Canadian suffragists were all for this War Times Election Act.

A suffragist may have given Borden the idea.


 It will all be explained in Service and Disservice. If you can't wait, read my most recent blog posts.

Service and Disservice is the follow up to Furies Cross the Mersey, about the British Invasion of Militant suffragettes to Montreal in 1912/13.

The Suffrage Play, How the Vote was Won, was put on by the Montreal Suffrage Association in Sept 1914, just as WWI started. The production raised 100 dollars for the Patriotic Fund.

One of the players was Caroline Kenney, sister of famed British militant Annie Kenney. Caroline infiltrated the Montreal Suffrage ranks in 1912/13 and tried to start a militant movement, with real live marches and such. Imagine!

Yes, a couple of dyed-in-the wool suffragettes, one of them of the working class variety, came to Canada in the era. Both of my ebooks, available on Amazon.ca, explain.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Proof Positive there were Militant Moles in Montreal during WWI.

A patriotic cartoon in the South Shore Press, the St. Lambert newspaper, in very early WWI. The  local newspaper was full of war propaganda stories and photos of war, too. I hope I can find a picture of the suffrage play, How the Vote Was Won, put on in September, 1914. It's a long shot, but still worth going to the Archives in Ottawa to find out.

I am writing Service and Disservice, about the Canadian suffragists and their iffy involvement in the 1917 Conscription Election. It is a follow up to Furies Cross the Mersey, about the British Invasion of Militant Suffragettes to Montreal, Canada in 1912/13.  

The 'maternal' suffragists of Canada did not allow the feisty young unmarried equal-rights suffragettes into the national movement, but some of them managed to sneak in.


Yes, I guessed right.

Caroline Kenney, sister of WSPU militant suffragette Annie Kenney, did participate in a suffrage play in Montreal put on by the Montreal Suffrage Association, an organization that promised at launch to be 'sane' and 'reasonable' and to 'go about a quiet education of the people.'

Caroline had launched her own more militant local organization in December, 1913, the Equal Suffrage League. She was the one (probably) who threatened to hold a 'suffrage tramp' from Montreal to Ottawa in the Spring of 1913, that forced the Montreal Anglo Elite women to start up the MSA, a very exclusive club where, to become a member, required an endorsement from two executive members.



The MSA was an organization made up of  elite women and men; stodgy men, mostly professors and clergymen, all of whom simply DETESTED Mrs. Pankhurst and her militant suffragette troops.

One clergyman said at the launch press conference, in March, 1913, that he hoped the suffragettes starved to death in jail.

And, yet, there were many women on the Board of the M.S.A. who greatly admired Mrs. Pankhurst and the militant suffragettes, mostly in secret.

Some of these women admired the militants A LOT, like author Frances Fenwick Williams, Press Secretary, and Mrs. Kathleen Weller, Literature Committee, the wife of a prominent 'transport and electricity' man, who appeased the fear-mongers and mounted a successful suffrage exhibit in Montreal in February 1913, by making it all about red valentines and sweet suffragette chocolates and sunny jonquils.

On the surface, anyway. In the basement you could hear debates and find the latest feminist literature for your personal library.

It was Frances Fenwick Williams who put on the suffrage play "How The Vote Was Won" using the St. Lambert Players. The Gazette claimed the acting was very good.


That was my clue.

Annie Kenney's older sister, Nell,  a former British suffragette, lived in St. Lambert with her husband. Frank Randall Clarke of the Montreal Witness.

How The Vote was Won was just the kind of play the clergymen on the MSA board were afraid of!



But it was put on as a fundraiser for the Patriotic Fund right at the beginning of WWI, so, I guess, they hardly could complain.


Above: A character speaks for the anti-suffragists in How The Vote Was Won. Below: A woman speaks her side. (from Hathitrust.org where you can read the whole thing.)


I know, for a fact, because it is in the minutes of the MSA, that the production was planned before the declaration of War in Europe, in February, 1914 by a group called the Fidelis Players, who wanted the MSA to back it, but the Executive refused. That society was run by Miss Brittain, a spinster teacher member of the M.S.A. but not on the executive.

I suspect if war hadn't broken out, Montreal might have had a genuine militant suffrage movement. Maybe.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Montreal Suffragists and the Conscription Crisis - personally speaking

Edward Beck, pictured above, didn't like my grandpapa, Jules Crepeau, Second Assistant City Clerk at Montreal City Hall in 1914.  He called him a grafter and set up up in an elegant bribery sting designed to make sure the Mederic Martin camp didn't win the Municipal Election. But they did anyway. Don't mess with the big guys. My Grandfather was a little guy who was aligned and very useful to the Big Guys. He would end up Director of City Services in the 1920's. Beck possibly was just a pawn of Industrialist Lorne McGibbon.


The other weekend I took a train and the subway (the tram!) into Montreal, Point St Charles, to watch a little outdoor play about Carrie Derick and her fellow Donaldas in 1912 when Biologist Derick was awarded a courtesy post at McGill making her the first woman full professor ever in Canada.



I have written an interesting ebook about Derick (Furies Cross the Mersey) covering the same territory and I'm working on another (Service and Disservice) about the WWI years and the iffy involvement of the Canadian suffragists during the 1917 Conscription Crisis.

Not an easy tale to tell. Even the scholars who have written about it tend to make errors in their papers.

You see, people didn't tell the truth back then, during the War, so it's doubly hard to figure out what went down 100 years later.

To make things worse, there's a Big Wig side-bar I'm attaching to this little feminist tale that is steeped in mystery and murk. The story of the Montreal Tramways Contract.

Martin, who was considered a joke candidate in 1914 would be Mayor until 1928 with a hiatus in 1922-24.(OOPS...I'm thinking Donald Trump.) The newspapers portrayed him as a baboon.

Cartoon of Hugh Graham and his chicken and eggs, aldermen on his side.

And the scandalous story involves my grandfather, who was Assistant City Clerk in 1913 - and the Montreal subway.

Now, when the Montreal Subway, ah Metro, opened in 1966, my brothers and I spent a lot of time riding it for fun.

It was a pretty, clean subway. It cost 10 cents to ride, I think.

Today, it's $3.25 I think.

The reason I have to put the story of the Montreal Tramways into my Suffrage and Conscription Story is that the Suffragists of the Montreal Council of Women got all caught up in that controversy, too.

That's because one Edward Beck, Editor of the Montreal Herald in 1913, got them involved by giving them a special suffrage insert in his newspaper, in return for their condemnation of the Tramway Deal.

Beck simply hated the City Hall and this proposed 40 year Tramways Deal, because his former boss, Hugh Graham of the Montreal Star, standed to make millions from from the deal.

Or maybe Beck, like grandpapa, was just a pawn of industrialist Lorne McGibbon, a former partner of Hugh's who had had a falling out in 1912.

The Toronto newspapers say as much, that this is feud or vendetta between McGibbon (owner of the Herald until 1913) and Hugh Graham.

The papers describe McGibbon as a business man of many interests. I found only Rubber and Mining interests on the web.

And I also found a very interesting 1916 news report about this McGibbon giving a rousing recruiting speech, saying they must get the 500,000 men for Borden. (Canada only had 8 million people, imagine!)

McGibbon also says that Montreal Companies are seriously thinking of hiring only ex-soldiers. So that would be an interesting insert into my story Service and Disservice, where the Social and Moral Reform Ladies are working so hard to raise money and roll bandages, but also very proud of how some young women are taking over men's jobs during the war.

A small character in Montreal history, but he figures big in my story Service and Disservice, maybe. (Later: Actually, the Internet records that McGibbon caught TB and used his money to fund a TB recovery hospital in Ste. Agathe, the famous one on the hill we passed on trips up north.. my parents always pointed it out.)

(Opponents said this Tramways Deal was about some people making millions and then funnelling some of the ill gotten gains into the coffers of certain, see Liberal, political parties.)

A few days before the Special Suffrage Issue of the Montreal Herald was published, in late November, 1913, with a greeting from  Christabel Pankhurst in Paris, Beck (McGibbon) published a full page rant against the Montreal Tramways Deal, in huge bold print!

The Tramway Company’s Brazen Demands! was the headline of the full-page editorial/rant in 16 or 18 point.

“It is well-known that the tramway company has City Hall under its thumb and it can work its sweet will with the people working there.”

It is known to have an alliance with a sector of the newspaper industry, stifling public opinion.

The President of the Tramway and several of his henchmen occupy seats in the Legislative Assembly and unblushingly vote away people’s rights.

Luckily, the Daily Mail and Toronto World, newspapers that were also against the big industrialists of the Laurier Era, printed long-winded explanations of the genesis of this controversial deal.

Apparently, it all started in 1910 when a company was launched to build a Montreal subway. Well, the Tramways people (Rodolphe Forget, one of my grandfather's relations) didn't want that.

They created a counter proposal about improving tramways in the City, but first they wanted a 40 year contract.

A certain Monsieur Robert, a MNA in Quebec, took control of the tramway company in 1912. Hugh Graham was aligned with him.

The funny part is, I only need to write a few paragraphs about the deal in the book, but even for a few paragraphs, I have to understand it.

That's because Beck caught my grandfather in a bribery sting in late March,1913, a few days before a municipal election, and the suffrage ladies of Montreal were VERY BIG into these municipal elections, because spinster and widows with property could vote.

Indeed, their interest in Woman Suffrage stemmed from one successful intervention in the 1910 Municipal Election.

The Social Reformer Ladies (both the English and the French)  worked hard to 'purify' City Hall in 1910 and now, in 1914, they English side hoped to do it again. They also passed a resolution condeming the Tramway Deal, not exactly a social reform issue.

The French Women (La Fédération St Jean Baptist and Mme Gerin Lajoie) bowed out of the 1914 election and I suspect this is the reason why.

But no cigar, as they say. After all, Martin was a tobacconist.

Mederic Martin got in as Mayor...Rodolphe Forget's candidate... and my grandfather survived his little embarrassment to be the functionnaire who announced to the Press at City Hall late on April 2, 1914, that Monsieur Martin was the new Mayor of Montreal.

Sweet Revenge.

If was Honorable Perron's law firm that got my grandfather out of trouble and Perron also benefitted from the tramway deal.

And Rodolphe Forget's daughter, Thérèse Casgrain, would end up leading the charge for Woman Suffrage at the Provincial Level in Quebec. (Her 1970's bio didn't mention any of this. She married in 1917 and lunched with Sir Wilfrid.)

 (My poor Grandmaman. She must have freaked out during that week! Maybe she kept herself busy making all those tourtieres. She did her own cooking and cleaning, even when they were very well off. Why they needed extra money, I don't know.)

Emmeline Pankhurst and Carrie Derick. Possible the least idle ladies in history.



Mederic Martin would resent the meddling of the Montreal Council of Women or these "idle women" as he dared to call them in the Press. He had to publically apologize. These Protestant women were many things, but they were never idle.
Grandpapa. No idler either. He had total recall memory, I think..He would rise to be Director of City Services and then be pushed out by Camilien Houde, over another CONTRACT flip by the Big Guys. La plus ca change. I wrote about it in Milk and Water.

P.S the William Fong bio of  McConnell touches on this Dictaphone affair, but doesn't pretend to understand it. The tramways deal is explained, but it takes pages and pages.

A Real Suffragette Love Story - with a happy ending too.



The Suffragette Movement is a 'romantic' movement, in that we've romanticized these social activists, to a degree.

It will be interesting to see how Carrie Mulligan/Meryl Streep's new movie, Suffragette, will deal with history. The movie is slated for release in October.

We forget how much these suffragettes were feared and loathed in 1912/13 by many people, even by those people who wanted women to get the vote.

But I've just uncovered a TRULY romantic Hollywood-Style romance about one  of Mrs. Pankhurst's troops.


And, yea, it's got a Montreal angle!

I've written an ebook, Furies Cross the Mersey, about the British Invasion of Militant Suffragettes to Montreal in 1912/13.It's available on Amazon.

Mrs. Pankhurst visited Canada on two occasions to speak. She made just one visit to Montreal, in late 1911.  She was the guest of the Montreal Council of Women. Carrie Derick, Past-President, had requested that she be invited to the city, 'to hear the other side of the question.'

Barbara Wylie of the WSPU came to Canada in early September, 1912 and stayed until 1913.  In her speeches, Wylie  bragged about having been to jail.

The pretty suffragette traveled all the way to British Columbia, during a winter of record cold.

 Then she returned to England and became the spokesperson for Mrs. Pankhurst for a while - and then she got arrested in a protest in front of His Majesty's Theater in London.  You can read all about her Canadian escapades in Furies Cross the Mersey.

Caroline Kenney, sister of prominent militant Annie Kenney, came to Montreal, Canada in December, 1912 and stayed a few years.

Iconic Image of Annie Kenney and Christabel Pankhurst.

I'm the one who figured this out: no biographer had done so before.

 I write about Caroline in my Furies book, too, and will write more in the follow up, Service and Disservice about the years 1913-19 and the Conscription Crisis of 1917.

Caroline came to stay with her older sister Nell in St. Lambert. I have seen her immigration documentation. She intended to stay in the country and work as a teacher.


While in Montreal, she helped found, in late 1913, the Montreal Equal Suffrage League. It was to be a group made up of militants and non-militants.The ESL didn't get much press. Caroline, herself, gave a couple of talks upon her arrival, to a Jewish Group and to the Women's Temperance Union.

She got bad press for her first talk, about the "Evolution of Militancy." Militancy was a very dirty word in Montreal and Canadian suffrage circles in 1912/13, even though many, many women sympathized with Mrs. Pankhurst's WSPU.

Caroline's sister, Nell, had immigrated to Canada in 1909 and married Frank Randall Clarke, a journalist, late of the Daily Mail of London.

 I figured out that Nell Kenney had acted on behalf of Mrs. Pankhurst's militants in 1908 in England. There are mentions of her meetings in Votes for Women Magazine.

And, just lately, I read an account of that romantic 'suffragette' story I told you about.

 Lyndsey Jenkins, an Oxford scholar, soon to release a new biography of prominent British Suffragette Lady Constance Lytton (and now researching the Kenney Family) sent me a certain biographical document saying that Frank Randall Clarke met Nell at an election rally for Lord Asquith, one she disrupted on behalf of the suffragettes.

The police fell on Nell hard, apparently. (Naturally!)  And who came to her rescue? A young reporter covering the Asquith speech, one Frank Randall Clarke.


Clarke fell in love with the suffering suffragette, followed her to her 'safe haven' in England and ...well... the document says he married her in England.. but, that's not right.

I have seen their marriage certificate. They came to Canada in 1909 and married here in Montreal.

It seems that they had to get out of England quickly.

Now, isn't that romantic? Reeealllly  romantic? Hollywood-style romantic?

I'd say so.

I see nothing in the newspapers to indicate Nell worked for the suffrage cause while in Montreal, but by 1913 she had two infants.

Frank Randall Clarke's new place of work, the Montreal Witness Newspaper, was for woman suffrage, but covered the British Suffragettes in the most sensational way! See the pic at top.


Still, I can see from the membership list of the Montreal Suffrage Association that St. Lambert, a community of Anglos south of Montreal Island, was an enclave of suffragists. The MSA had lots of members from that place. (The MSA, upon launch in 1913, promised to be peaceful and reasonabland to go about a quiet education of the people.)

 That seemed weird to me at first.  Why St. Lambert, of all places?

Now, I know why. A dyed-in-the-wool militant suffragette moved there in 1912-13, at the height of the movement, at the height of all the controversy.

Anyway, Frank Randall Clarke became a prominent social activist in Montreal, lobbying for better labour conditions, and the author of the biographical document assumes that Nell helped him along.

His fonds are at the McCord Museum in Montreal. They include photos of the Royal Princes on their Montreal visits, wearing suits so sleek, so finely threaded, they shimmer, and also pictures of homeless men during the Depression sleeping in their rags on park benches.

Whatever, Frank Randall Clarke appeared to adore his wife all through their time together. They had more children.

Nell accompanied Frank on a cross-country assignment  of behalf of CP Rail in the 1930's. A McGill Thesis was written on the project by Ann Lynne Becker. You can read it here.

What's a dining room table documentary?




A documentary about the Kuala Lumpur Book Club, made on my dining room table in real time.

A side-bar to Colonial History, the KL Book Club has gone down in history as a purveyor of sleazy literature to thrill starved planters' wives, but it was much more and my grandmother was the secretary/librarian for a long time.


The beginning of Looking for Mrs. Peel available on Amazon in Kindle. 





INTRODUCTION:

"All Things are Connected" Chief Seattle

The year 1967 has been described as The Last Good Year, by Canadian historian Pierre Berton,  also as The Year That Changed Cinema, by Time Magazine, as well as the Best Year Ever in Pop Music by, well, just about everyone.

In and around Anglo Montreal, that memorable year, radio was the communications medium of choice for young people. Kids listened to the likes of Buddy Gee on CKGM, Dave Boxer on CFCF and CFOX's Charles P Rodney Chandler on their chintzy transistor radios and kept track of the respective weekly hit lists.

One of the most popular new DJ's was an import, a former British merchant marine sailor named Roger Scott also on CFOX. In late May of 1967 Scott aired 'pirated' tapes of the Beatle's Sargeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Album, before it was officially released. My older brother was mightily impressed.

In the US it was the Summer of Love and the Summer of Race Riots -two facts I couldn't ignore because my British father preferred getting his news from American Walter Cronkite, on the CBS television station WCAX Montpelier Vermont - and as was the norm, we had but one black and white tv.

But these same heady Expo months were also a time of tension in the Middle East with Six Day War where we came close to nuclear war ….again... and 'the tipping point' for Vietnam and a time when decisions were made that 'signaled the end of Britain's' imperial adventure'.*
According to Historian Matthew Jones, in 1967 the British wanted to pull out of 'East of Suez'(Singapore, Malaysia and the Middle East) entirely. While school children from Victoria to Gander were learning the words to CA NA DA, Bobby  Gimby's  giddy centennial year signature song , the Americans were putting pressure on the British to stay. President Lyndon Johnson even bribed them, offering to back the pound sterling and "solve all your financial problems."* So, if Lyndon Baines Johnson appeared to carry the weight of the world on his shoulders, as he rode that long long escalator up past the kitschy photographs of Marilyn Monroe and Humphrey Bogart in the American Pavilion at Expo 67 on his official visit, that's because he did. (* Matthew Jones' Decision Delayed Historical Review.)

Malaysia, the 15th country to sign up for the World's Fair - in July '64 (plot 3320 Ste Helene's Island) didn't have a pavilion in the end. They had pulled out; perhaps because Singapore had been expelled from the Malaysian Federation in 1965 ( to quell the unrest between the Chinese and the Malays) and couldn't come up with the money. Tunku Abdul Rahman Malaysia's first PM had visited the Expo site in '64.

One wonders what Bobby Gimby felt about all this: the so called Pied Piper of Canada, a former CBC musician and bandleader, and a Canadian cultural icon, is reported to have composed them an unofficial anthem, Malaysia Forever, and earned his whimsical moniker, on a visit to Singapore in '62.

The song itself is steeped in mystery; no former colonial or expert in Malaysian studies I have reached has ever heard of it. Negara Ku has been Malaya's (Malaysia's) national anthem since 1957.


Looking For Mrs. Peel:  A Play (All Rights Reserved 2010 Dorothy Nixon)

with new information on the Double Tenth Incident at Changi Prison (Civilian Internment Camp) during WWII. Based on a true story. Dialogue by people is recreated by me, generated from my -or my grandmother's -point of view and is speculative and not intended to cast anyone in a bad light.
Based on a true story, as they say, or a 're-imagining of a mostly true story with some fictional elements based on historical memory and record, personal memory and family myth.'

"The keynote of this whole case can be epitomized in two words: Unspeakable horror. Horror, stark and naked permeates every corner and angle of this case from beginning to end....Opening speech for the prosecution. Double Tenth Trial as reported in Malaya Straits Times."

A Tale of Simple "Worth" or the Gypsy's Warning

"Cross my hand with silver pretty lady, if you'd see,
What the future holds in store for you and how soon you will be free,
Cross my hand with silver (if you have none don't be shy)
I'll take it out in food or booze (or Gordon's Special dry)
Just cross my hand with silver or call at Cell Fifteen
With any simple offering, (be sure you are not seen)
No cumshaw ever comes amiss but if you have it handy
The fates show true benevolence if first well laced with brandy,
The lines engraved upon your palm are clear as mud to me,
There's fame and food and fortune and a journey on the sea
But a lurking danger threatens and a white-haired lady frowns, (It isn't Eve or Nella and it isn't Mrs. Chowns.)
Fate draws a veil across the name, but one thing's plain to see,
The danger is averted if you put your shirt on me."

Scene One : Nixon Living Room. Montreal,  November  1967

SOUND: Television, (Murdersville episode of The Avengers TV Series) someone being dunked in water and crunch of eating.

British man on TV: (sx water) You could spare yourself this Mrs. Peel. (sx splash) You know what we want (sx splash) Who knows you are here?

Martha: Dorothy , dépeches-toi,  come say goodbye to your grandmother. This is your last chance to see her. She’s leaving for the airport very early tomorrow morning

Dorothy : (sound  of crinkling of cellophane bag, crunch of crackerjacks being chewed)

Martha: And, adjust the rabbit ears on the TV for Heaven’s sake!  All that interference.  Mrs. Peel's face is covered in snow!


MUSIC: Red Rubber Ball. The Cyrkle 196

Mary Riter Hamilton and the Beaver Hall Group of Painters from Montreal

Nora Collyer Landscapes, clipped off Google. 

I've been writing about art for a New York City based organization and this week, for International Women's Day, I wrote about Women and Art.

Which got me to thinking about Montreal artists, again.

I've written here about Mary Riter Hamilton, the Canadian Impressionist painter. In my book, Diary of a Confirmed Spinster, (based on Edith Nicholson's situation in 1910) I have Edith faint in the Montreal Art Association building at Phillip's Square. She sees a picture called Maternity by Riter Hamilton, a picture of a woman breastfeeding - and it suddenly hits her that she will never marry or have children.

.Image result for maternity riter hamilton tighsolas
Riter Hamilton in Maclean's 1910

Anyway, Riter Hamilton was famous in her day. Maclean's did a piece on her. She had been to Paris and even exhibited at one of their salons. She is quoted as saying she doesn't paint 'grotesque' things like so many of the other impressionist painters.

Riter Hamilton today is practically forgotten, but it appears a group of women artists, Montreal artists, is enjoying a resurgence of popularity.

I'm talking about the Beaver Hall Group, that was started up by A Y Jackson, but which included many women who worked out of the Montreal Art Association Building. (Diary of a Confirmed Spinster has an exact description of that place. I found it in a McGill Thesis.)

Years ago the National Film Board did a film about the Women of the Beaver Hall Group, By Women's Hand.

(It's not available for viewing online.)

There's a Wikipedia listing about them too. (Always important. This past International Women's Day a group of artists had a Wikipedia-thon, out of MoMA in NY, adding listings about women artists to that website.)


There's a new book coming out in December 2015 about the Group, coinciding with an exhibition at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts,  The Beaver Hall Group: 1920's Modernity.

Some of the paintings by this group are selling for goodly amounts, I can see.

Take Nora Collyer, a Montrealer who painted the Eastern Townships. I can see that her impressionist (and expressionist) paintings are selling very well - and she painted a lot of them. One sold for over 60,000 lately.

Collyer has a Wikipedia listing, too.  She was born in 1898 and died in 1979, a contemporary of Flora Nicholson of Threshold Girl, who also painted but didn't bother painting around her home, Tighsolas. Too bad!

If I were to put pictures on my Tighsolas Books (all about a family in the Eastern Townships) I would use Collyer's. She sure captures the essence of the place.

Many artists of the Beaver Hall Group painted the city, which is nice. "Women paint what they know. They don't have to go up North," said Anne Savage, another member of the group, in an interview later in life. She was, of course, referring to the Group of Seven and their masculine mystique.

Oddly, Collyer was more popular in the first half of the century. The National Gallery exhibited her works in 1969. Collyer was still alive then. She died in 1979.

Perhaps this had something to do with the evolving politics of Quebec. This Beaver Hall Group was mostly English. Possibly...Or maybe this is because Serious Women Painters just get no respect, which was the subject of my article for the NY organization.

My own Aunt Cecile attended the Beaux Arts in Montreal in the 30's and won first prize. (I have her medal somewhere.)

Oh, here it is. 1936 Cours Superieure Premiere Prix.Oil painting.


She painted mostly religious still lifes. Lugubrious stuff.   She had technique but, apparently, a teacher said she had to go out and live a little.  As far as I know she was part of no group. She was French Canadian. She spent a lot of time in Ogunquit, though.

A ripped painting of Aunt Flo by my Aunt Cecile. Aunt Cecile painted 'before the times' instead of with the times or ahead of the times.  That's why I have so many art nouveau vases. She hated them and gave them to Flo who gave them to me.