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.


(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.