Friday, September 11, 2015

Squalor and Luxury and very Strange Publications: Montreal in 1913

A column by Frances Fenwick Williams from 1913 in a short lived tabloid, the Saturday Mirror,aimed at the upper crust women of Montreal. How strange is that?

A Montreal Woman in a hareem skirt, all the fashion in 1913. This is just how I imagined Frances Fenwick Williams and how I described her in my book Furies Cross the Mersey that ends in May, 1913. Service and Disservice, the follow-up will start in June, 1913.

Strange how things happen.

In November 1913, the newly formed Montreal Suffrage Association published a "Special Suffrage Insert" in the Montreal Herald - edited by Miss Carrie Derick, the President.

They had been offered the space by the Editor, one Edward Beck, a man who hated City Hall and was especially upset about a controversial proposed 40 year Tramway Deal.

I think he wanted to get the ladies of the Council to denounce the deal publically - and they did, eventually.

A couple of years ago, I went to the National Library archives to see the insert.

I took notes and wrote a few blog posts here; but I didn't record an important part.

You see, Christabel Pankhurst, exiled in Paris, wrote a few paragraphs for the insert. A greeting I think, as in Greetings from Paris.

Even at the time, this struck me as strange. The Montreal Suffrage Association launched in March, 1913 and had promised to be 'sane' and 'reasonable' and 'to go about a quiet education fo the people'.

It was clear from this insert, that the Montreal Suffrage Organization (made up of McGill Profs, Society ladies and clergymen) had something of a split personality.

Well, this week, I decided to get around to writing the first chapter of my next ebook Service and Disservice, about the 1917 Conscription Election in Canada.

The book begins in June, 1913 and goes to 1918 - where Canadian women, with some exceptions, won the right to vote. The suffragists of the nation were deeply involved in that shameful episode of Canadian History.

I worked for a few hours and devised a potential opening the other day, then slept on it.

Today I planned to get back to work.

"Too bad," I told my husband. "I wish I had kept a record of that Christabel greeting. I don't feel like going back to Ottawa.:

And then it occurred to me that the Herald might have been digitized and put online lately. (So many new items are on the web.)

I entered some keywords and found a BANQ page (that's the Quebec National Library) with some small bizarro newspapers, partially digitized.

No Montreal Herald. but the Montreal Witness was there. That paper is online elsewhere.

And then I scrolled down the list of mostly French newspapers until I got to an oddity called The Saturday Mirror, described as 'a magazine of the Anglo Elite'.

The Saturday Mirror, it seems, ran for just a short time from February 1913 to June 1913.

I'd never heard of it, but, my gosh, what a find for me!

It is as if someone up there is telling me, "You can't start your book without seeing this."

Right away I found many articles about the militant suffragettes, all quite sympathetic, too.  Remember, Mrs. Pankhurst and her troops were up to a lot of trouble in 1913.

I decided to check for the masthead.

I found only a small bit in an upper corner of the 6th page or so. Edward Beck owned the newspaper!!

For a few months in 1913 Edward Beck had two jobs. Why? Because he wanted to complain about the Tramway Deal unimpeded, I guess. Otherwise, this Saturday Mirror was full of feminine features. The Tramway Controversy was the only 'male' news topic it discussed.

That's Edward Beck, the intrepid Editor of the Herald, who caught my grandfather, Jules Crepeau, in a bribery sting in early 1914 during the municipal elections, because my grandfather, Assistant City Clerk, was attached to the BIG GUYS who would benefit from the Tramway Deal.

I am putting that business in my first chapter.


And then I read more of the elegant little  tabloid, that is very girly with a feature on the fine houses of Montreal, lots of fashion and some society notes - and even a column called The Feminist: A Twentieth Century Women's Page.

I zoomed in on the feature - but before I even got close enough to read the by-line I guessed whose name was printed there; Frances Fenwick Williams, Press Secretary of the Montreal Suffrage Association and closet militant suffragette support. (Well, not so closet it seems.)

No one else in Montreal would have had a column so titled. (She is the only columnist with a by-line in the paper.)

So, Edward Beck and Frances Fenwick Williams knew each other well.  ( I wonder if they were more than friends :)

 She was a married woman, estranged from her husband, and she had done work for the Herald as well. Later, she would have a column at the Daily Mail, the only newspaper in Montreal that would print Beck's colourful but lurid expose about my grandfather.)

Now I could get on with the first chapter of my Service and Disservice story. I will call it A Tale of Two Cities: A Tale of  Women Journalists and have Flora Macdonald Denison of Toronto and Frances Fenwick Williams of Montreal narrate and set the stage for the War Years, where the suffragists of Canada got all confused about their aims and responsibilities.

George Adami's beautiful home is featured in one Saturday Mirror, but not Julia Parker Drummond's.

  Adami  was a social reformer and professor in the Medical Department of McGill. Adami is featured in Furies Cross the Mersey, about the Invasion of British Suffragettes to Montreal in 1911/12. He hated the suffrage women and didn't want them involved in his 1912 Child Welfare Exhibit.

 Below: A Montreal slum. The problem of the slums is covered in an issue. That was a big concern of the elite ladies of Montreal. Funny how they juxtapose the two items, magnificent house, hovel.

(I have someone make a similar remark in Furies.  The women of the Montreal Council are gathered in Julia Parker Drummond's stunning library to discuss their contribution in the upcoming Child Welfare Exhibit. "We are going to discuss tenements and squalor in one of the most beautiful homes in the entire country?" asks one lady.)

The place I lived in in the 1960's looked more like the one below than above, although it was a 1930's brick construction in NDG.

Tomorrow I am off to the Joe Beef Market in Pointe St Charles where Peggie Hopkins is mounting a play about Carrie Derick and other Montreal Pioneering Women.