Thursday, October 29, 2015

A Canadian Family in WWI: FLU!

Marion Nicholson in her genteel white dress in 1911. She was boffo and rose to be President of the Protestant Teachers of Montreal during WWII.


Here's a letter from Marion Nicholson in Montreal to her Mother, Margaret, back home that alludes to two major WWI issues, the Spanish Flu and the Conscription Crisis.

Letter 31. Marion to Margaret.


May 25, 1917

39 York Avenue, Westmount


Dear Mother,

Your letter came this morning and I was glad to get it. I feel a little lost without Flora a comin' and a goin'.

 I intended writing you sooner but you will have to take the mentions since you did not get any letter.

Margaret was quite good coming in. Of course she did not sleep and wanted to make 'bad bad' every few minutes in the spittoon.

Flora met us and saw us safely home and she will tell you all the news so you will not have to hear it twice.

Friday, one week later.

I started this letter when Flora was away so you would have it last Saturday and now I doubt you will get it this week.

No doubt Flora has told you all the news.  The baby has been so sick all this week I have not done anything but sit with her for the Dr. does not allow her out of bed.  

Perhaps you can imagine better than most people what that means.

However, today, she seems better and had a sleep this afternoon and is asleep now. I hope for the night.

Hugh and Willie Ledden are making a garden. What success they will have I do not know. One thing may be sure, the 'beds' are straight and square.

I would prefer to have more in them, myself.

Everyone here, that is the Aunts and Grandma B are terribly worked up about conscription.*

All they say would fill a book and some of the sayings I do not find very deep.

I would like to tell them that they are not the only ones who have sons who will be called, or they may think that theirs are more to them.

I think myself that is a political move on Borden's part 'to hold his job' as the saying goes, but that does not alter the fact that the bill will doubtless go through.

Flora tells me that this is the day or rather night of the "big sing' as father says. I hope it will be a success. Then tomorrow night you go to Sherbrooke.

What gay times you are having. Do you intend visiting Montreal?


 Little Margaret Blair. Did she almost succumb to the Spanish Flu in 1917?

The two Mead girls called Thursday evening but did not stay long when they found Margaret sick.

Today Hope brought Margaret a doll's carriage. I don't know what I will do tomorrow to keep her in bed with that in sight.

I have half a promise, if I may use the term, of getting a little girl of about 13 years old to come in daily when school stops, so I am living in hopes.

Now I must thank you for the towels. They are all fine and I will 'settle up' for them when I see you.

Now I must close for this time,
Marion.

Mom, Margaret Nicholson of Richmond, Quebec.

Sunday Morning,

Your letter has just come in and been duly read.

If there are any eggs out there that I could get I would be glad. You could send me a crate (and I would be glad of a few) with Florence.

I manage fairly well, although the work is not always very thoroughly done. If Margaret would only keep well.

My sewing is my most troublesome thing at present. I have so very little for the newcomers' arrival.*

But as you say, a roll of wadding will do. I suppose I need not worry.

Auntie Kate gets my meat etc at the market which is a great help and also cheaper.

Margaret is writing something to 'dear Bandy'. I hope you will understand it.

PS. I made all the buttonholes in Margaret's pants and put lace on them and they are fine and fit so well. The buttonholes will not stand too close an inspection.

MNB (Marion Nicholson Blair)

*The Conscription Crisis of 1917. Borden promised Great Britain 500,000 new recruits which could only be secured by drafting the men of Canada. The election of 1917 was the Conscription Election.

 For this election, Borden gave some women the vote, but only women with brothers, husbands or sons in the war! Borden wanted only ‘patriotic women’ to vote in the election.

This ‘limited franchise’ idea in the War Times Election Act  was not popular in Quebec or out West. There were demonstrations in Montreal and riots in Quebec City and some hooliganism in Sherbrooke over Conscription.

*Marion is expecting her second child in August. Pregnancies were not talked about in the 1910 era. This might be misplaced propriety, but likely it is also superstition. Child mortality was huge in Montreal in the 1910 era.



Friday, October 23, 2015

Carey Mulligan's Suffragette Movie : An "Insider's" Review



 WSPU's Barbara Wylie came to Canada in 1912 to stir up trouble. Her beauty and fashion sense was all the Press could talk about. She soon gave up on Canadians and went back to England to help Mrs. Pankhurst. Yes, suffragettes were often very pretty, so the movie Suffragette got it right on that count!



"Go for the story, not the history." 

That was the advice a top author of historical fiction for young adults gave me a few year ago, and it's good advice.

That's what 'Hollywood" tends to do, anyway, which annoys some purists, but not me. 

As long as a film captures the 'essence' of the truth about an event or historial personage, that's all that matters, I think.

History textbooks are there for the rest, and these texts are full of errors and mistruths and biases, anyway. 

Yesterday, I went to a preview showing of the movie Suffragette, not a Hollywood movie, per se, a British movie with top drawer Brit actors (indeed, all my favorite female actors including Helena Bonham Carter and Romola Garai) and an extended cameo with American Meryl Streep.

The screenplay is by Abi Morgan, who wrote the Iron Lady, a movie I really, really enjoyed (and which a lot of people hated for its take on history). Morgan also wrote The Hour, a series I really like.

Suffragette's storyline plays around with the historical record,all right,  but in a rather strange - almost inverted - way. 

The movie recasts working class women as the heroines of the British suffragette movement, while weaving them into all the well known (iconic) suffragette events.

Thus, all the cliches of class/gender oppression are thrust front and center in this movie, when the movement, even in Britain, was more about maintaining the social order by keeping people (poor people and rich men) from drinking too much, for one.

Yes, the British had a very wide and very deep suffrage movement, one that included working class women, but it was first and foremost a middle and upper class movement, and that goes for Pankhurst's militant suffragettes.


That's what scared the 'establishment' men: their own wives, sisters and, OY, even mothers,were the ones going out in their finest shirtwaist suits and big hats to smash windows...with hammers, I believe, not rocks, in the case of Oxford Street.

A resolution passed by the Montreal Suffrage Association condemning the force-feeding of British Suffragettes. The MSA was ambivalent about militancy. At their inauguration in 1913, they promised to be sweet and reasonable and a clergyman on their Board said it would be better if the suffragettes starved to death in jail.

Of course, this Pankhurst militancy is what got the most attention - and that was the purpose of it. There were plenty of Constitutional Suffragists in England at the time.

These upper and middle-class militants were the women who were angry at their men, angry for not being allowed to control their own money, or their children or their own destiny. Angry at their men's drinking and whoring ways, too, I imagine, as the double standard loomed large in their lives.

After all, Christabel Pankhurst wrote a pamphlet: Votes for Women: Chastity for Men.

And single middle class women just wanted to have more fun outside of their low-paying work and society wasn't into that. They were supposed to live piously and act respectably, even if they had no family responsibilities.

Working class women, I suspect, had more autonomy. They earned money, after all, and helped keep the wolf from the door. With their large families, they generally didn't have the time to engage in social activism, or the energy left over after a long, long LONG day at work.

But, now, what I liked about the movie Suffragette. 

The acting, for one. It is all A-plus and I'd give Anne-Marie Duff as Violet Miller an A - plus plus for her role as a feisty beleaguered older wife, one of the London laundry factory workers who are the focus of the film.

Carey Mulligan as Maude Watts gives a laudable, if low-key performance, in the lead role. Her main character,a laundress and  loving wife and mother who has been molested in the past by her boss, is both tough (she has to be) and vulnerable - and quite 'ordinary' in so many respects, which is refreshing. No Norma Rae, she.

Her slow converstion to the cause of suffrage comes to complete fruition when she is thrown out of the house by her otherwise caring husband and  brutally cut off from her young son, an act that seems to me to be more middle and upper class, but hey.

Sarah Gavron, the director, gives us lots of close-ups of Mulligan's face, showing that her beauty is much more than skin deep. None of these characters, rich or poor, can be seen to wear make-up. It's 1912/13 after all.

And although I worried Meryl Streep's 'cameo',where she plays Mrs. Pankhurst, would be hokey, it was not. It was touching, bordering on magical.
The Suffragettes were HUGE news in Canada; that was the problem for Constitutional Suffragists.

Pankhurst, famously, was a fabulous dresser. Most of the middle class suffragettes were careful to dress fashionably: after all, it is just too easy to diss - and dismiss- a woman on her appearance. 

But my husband may have nailed the problem when I asked him, in the car driving home, how he liked the movie.

"It was fine," he said. "Although I thought it was going to turn into a labour rights movie, so I was surprised. I thought the lead woman was going to jump up on a table screaming STRIKE!"

"There were plenty of strikes and stuff in the era," I explained to him, "but not associated with the suffragettes. And all led by men. 

(As far as I know.)

The summer of 1911 had record heat and that provoked many union strikes, if I remember right. (A few years ago I read Juliet Nicholson's The Perfect Summer 1911.)

Sylvia Pankhurst, famously, started a movement in the East End of London, but if I recall my Shoulder-to-Shoulder, Emmeline wasn't into it.

And Sylvia split from Emmeline because she didn't want to be militant.

(I just lately wrote a post here about a Sylvia Pankhurst rally, in August, 1913, recorded by the Canadian Suffragist, Flora Macdonald Denison for her Toronto World column. 

 That same morning,  Denison had attended a rally where Emmeline Pankhurst showed up and provoked police action. 

Denison's column reveals that the British Suffragettes behaved as wildly as portrayed in the Suffragette movie - and then some.

 And Denison stated something else interesting, the meeting in the East End, where a very weak Sylvia turned up disguised in a fancy costume like a rich woman and then peeled off her clothes to reveal a plain khaki dress, was mostly attended by MEN. 

That makes sense, doesn't it? Working class men didn't have any use for the Status Quo.)

Now, there was, indeed, a working class woman high up in Pankhurst's militant movie, Annie Kenney, Pankhurst's First Lieutenant. Kenney was a former Lancashire mill worker (and union activist). But, Kenney's autobiography reveals hers was a quirky upbringing. She read Emerson in the nursery. You can read a period biographical article of Kenney here, from the Montreal Mirror.)

(Kenney's sister, Nell moved to Montreal in 1909, with her lover, a journalist who saved her from the police at a suffragette rally. Read about it here. Her sister Caroline tried to start a militant movement in Montreal, but to no avail.)

BTW, Absolutely NO working class women were allowed into the Canadian Suffrage Movement.

My husband, a news editor, also thought the Suffragette movie was too grainy.That didn't bother me at all.  I feel the soft diffuse cinematography contrasted nicely with what was, essentially, a film about violence and strife in a very dirty time, even if we like to romaticize the Edwardian Era these days.

Most people then were poor, sick and living in filth, in London and in Montreal. (Montreal was worse, apparently.)

I missed the big hats, though.

 1912 was the year hats reached ridiculous heights, but working class women couldn't afford such finery.  Feathers for hats could cost in Canada from 1 dollar to 100 dollars, about 2 months salary for a teacher! Thus big hats were about status.


(It peeved middle class people when Italian factory workers in the US used their talent with cheap remants to dress up 'too high'.)

Sarah Gavron's slow almost sleepy directing pleased both of us.

One aspect of the Suffragette film surprised me. It was claimed that the English Powers That Be kept tried to quash news items about Pankhurst in the London Press, lest they inspire more women to militancy.

There were plenty of suffragette headlines in the Montreal Press, often squeezed between the fashion and entertainment columns.  (And the Montreal Gazette and the New York Times shared a newsfeed.)


Mrs. Pankhurst's autobiography, My Own Story, written in 1913! is available on Archive.org.

You can watch Shoulder to Shoulder on YouTube, with about a 1000 other videos about the suffragettes, including mine, about How Canadian Women Won the Vote. (It wasn't pretty either, but no rock-throwing.)

At the end of the Suffragette movie, there's a scroll revealing when various countries won the Vote. ( New Zealand first, Saudia Arabia, soon, apparently.)

The Montreal Saturday Mirror, a short lived tabloid from 1913 aimed at Upper Crust Women in Montreal, showcased Mrs. Pankhurst and Annie Kenney, her working class 'First Lieutentant.'

Canada is not on the list.. Maybe they couldn't figure out when we got the vote. In 1917, 18 or 20?

Answer: In 1917, when women with men at the Front got to vote. In 1918, most women except those unpatriotic types, ie, non-whites,etc.

In 1920, when every woman got the right to vote

My husband's great grandmother, suffragist Margaret Nicholson, got to vote for the first time in 1921 and she was simply THRILLED. 'How I love this country," she wrote in a letter to her daughter.

But many of her middle class neighbours didn't even bother to vote, her letter reveals.










Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Suffragists, Youthful Energy and Trudeau's Big Win

This is a not so-secret message from Frances Fenwick Williams to Kathleen Weller, in the Saturday Mirror, telling Weller how to join the new Montreal Suffrage Association.  It's from 1913. 

The Mrs. Lyman Weller has to contact is the daughter of Reverend Scrimger, President of the Presbyterian College, who sent college students into the slums of Montreal in 1912 to take down statistics and information, so afraid was he that the State would take over the Church's job, helping the poor.

 Another prominent Minister, Barclay, in 1913, was in a messy debate over Jewish parents being on the Protestant School Commission. Barclay didn't want this to happen, even if Jewish students at some schools made up 80 to 90 percent of the population. 
Only that year, 1913, did they allow Jewish teachers in the schools to teach, with Scrimger saying schools must keep their Christian character and that the Old Testament was to be taught by Protestant teachers only.  

Reverend Barclay was afraid that Jewish teachers would convert Protestant students to their faith. He called them infidels and thieves but had to backtrack, saying that 'Infidels were still my brothers.'The Jewish community leaders reminded the man that it was Protestants who were evangelical.
This is just to show you that the Montreal Suffrage Association was run by social reform types, even if some equal rights types, like Weller, got in.
I really should not be writing this blog post: I should be working on my ebook, Service and Disservice, about the Canadian Suffragists and their very iffy influence on the 1917 Conscription Election, the follow up to Furies Cross the Mersey.
But, it's not an easy topic. Indeed, it is very complicated. And I just don't have the creative energy I once had.
I'm older, you see.
And I writing the book from five points of view so I have to get into the head of each lady involved: Flora Macdonald Denison, Frances Fenwick Williams, Kathleen Weller, Constance Hamilton and Miss Carrie Derick.
And that's tiring. It's a bit like acting.
Right now I am working on the first draft of Constance Hamilton's bit. I decided to make this Toronto social reform suffragist totally unapologetic about her ways and have her take full credit for the War Time Elections Act of 1917 that gave the vote ONLY to women with men at the Front.
I suspect that Constance Hamilton had a great part to play in this game-changing debacle, but history says that it was Nelly McClung or Arthur Meighan who thought the plan up.
Even back then they blamed these two people.
But, that's because Hamilton was a savvy political player - and hid her exact role. Methinks, anyway. She went on to become the first female alderman of Toronto.
Carrie Derick of Montreal, I suspect, also had her part to play, although she totally covered up her tracks.
She, too, was a clever one.
Youthful energy. As I've written a lot on this blog, the suffragists of Canada were scared to death of young women's energy and their 'idealism' which had the power to bring changes about - and they didn't want that.
The Status Quo was serving them very well. They only wanted women to have the vote to counter-act all the social evils (sic) caused by industrialization like mass immigration and migration to the cities.
Wild, Hysterical, Exciteable. Suffragette energy scared people. So the suffragettes put their prettiest speakers on show and made sure they dressed in the latest fashions. Mrs. Pankhurst was gorgeous, tiny and tastefully dressed, too. So that confused people.
In many ways, that is what frightened men and women about the Suffragettes: so much energy! The British  allowed young unmarried women into the movement. Christabel and Sylvia were young and unmarried.
So was Barbara Wylie, who came to Canada in 1912 to convert Canadian women to the cause.
Well, we've just made a youthful and very energetic and idealistic man Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau so maybe Canadians aren't as afraid of youthful energy as they once were.
Trudeau ran on a platform of change and early analyses suggest it was 'new voters' who got him his majority. New voters: young people and immigrants.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Trudeau's Liberals, Nanas and Suffrage Marches (just another day at work for me.)


This is how I want to feel Tuesday, the day after the 2015 Federal election. This is a NANA by Niki Saint Phalle from Expo67.

1967, Canada's best year ever.

I don't know how I felt seeing it for the first time at 12, but this image seems liberating these days.

I'm working on my book, Service and Disservice, about the 1917 Conscription Crisis,still being played out these days each Federal election, especially in my riding, Vaudreuil-Soulanges, where it looks like the Justin Trudeau's Liberals are leading.

The Suffragists of Canada had a big part to play in the fiasco and not just Nellie McClung as reported by historians. None of this was covered in Canada, Then and Now, the grade 8 history book I was using right at that time.

I'm poring over all the clips I have of news items and getting things straight in my head: it's all very complicated.

This fountain is at Place Ville Marie in Montreal. When I was 12, I ventured into Montreal from Rosemere with a friend to attend a huge rally there for Pierre Elliott Trudeau. In 1968, I guess.  Imagine. I couldn't even vote! I recall, we started at the front, but got pushed to the back, there were so many people there.


Yesterday, I realized that the Montreal Suffrage Association announced its imminent launch on February 29, 1913, just a week or two after someone (Caroline Kenney) threatened to organize a suffrage 'tramp' from Montreal to Ottawa in the style of Rosalie Jones' Pilgrims, who walked from New York to Washington in late February, early March to attend the huge parade there.

These pilgrims received a lot of press for their actions: they were very theatrical, after all.


So, my 'fictional' bit in Furies Cross the Mersey, where I have a group of Royal Victorial College Students try to start a march on the Mount Royal Club, is not far from the mark.

The only difference, I have their march come after the launch of the Montreal Suffrage Association.

As I've written on the this blog, the Montreal Elite did not want any young, 'excitable' women in their suffrage movement.

You couldn't join their organization unless TWO members of the executive OK'd it. Two, not one. And the MSA executive was made up of Millionaire wives, Clergymen and McGill Profs.

Read Furies Cross the Mersey here.

As it happens, there was a Canadian delegation at the Washington Suffrage Parade, made up of matronly Ontario suffragists, including Flora Macdonald Denison of the Canadian Suffrage Association and Constance Hamilton of the Toronto Suffrage League who would soon split off from Denison and create her own National Equal Franchise Union. Hamilton would be instrumental in allowing Borden to 'fix' the 1917 Conscription Election.
Ontario Delegation to March 3, 1913 Washington Suffrage Parade.


I'm going to a preview of the movie Suffragette on Thursday. Yea!

I hope I'm feeling as happy as that NANA then.
Jackie Kennedy at Expo. Very glamourous. I saw Bobby Kennedy there, or at least his hair as he was surrounded with body guards. Alas, not enough of them.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

A Female Feud that Changed Canadian Politics Forever

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. 

The Carrie Mulligan/Meryl Streep movie Suffragette is about to be released tomorrow (I'm going to a preview tonight)  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.

Constance Hamilton and her 1,000 followers, all social reform suffragists, called themselves "progressives" in the newspapers- but they weren't. These women wanted to 'clean up' society of what they saw as unpleasant elements to return it to its former state, centered around a man, a pious wife, and his small, white family.

These women were upper crust for the most part and the Status Quo had served them well.

 The equal-rights suffragists, followers of Emily Howard Stowe, were referred to as the "Old Guard" in the newspapers. But, ironically, it was these were women who saw change as an inevitable part of society. Women were coming to the cities to work, so let's deal with that instead of thinking of ways to get them to go back to the country, etc.

(Of course there was over-lap and inconsistencies between the groups on various issues, as exists today in our Politics.)

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.

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. 

Saturday, October 10, 2015

A Personal Act of Thanksgiving.

My butterfly Madonna.

I scoped the Internet the other day for an image of the Madonna, Mary with butterfly wings. Couldn't find one. I even put in foreign languages.

Found a lot of pictures of Madonna the singer and all kinds of lovely images of Mary, but none with butterfly wings.

So I created this one, as a Thanksgiving exercise. The Madonna is in a shrine at Rigaud, Quebec.

I spent some time in the basement trying to find my grandmother's Mary that passed down to my aunt and when I got it 15 years ago, all cracked and such, I decorated her up in many colours.

I don't know where she is, tho.

The butterfly Madonna is meaningful to me, because when I was a tiny girl, about three, and going through a frightening time, I saw a giant yellow Monarch butterly on the fence and it spoke to me, saying everything will be all right.

I lived in farm country, lots of milkweed. Lots of grasshoppers, too if I recall. Remember them?

Not all that far from where this Madonna is today. Just down the river. She could fly there.

That's how I recall it, anyway.

I didn't have TV in those days and I didn't get read to a lot, so I don't know how  this came to me, but it did.

Anyway, I want this image on the web, so I write about it here on a website about the suffragists.

Friday, October 9, 2015

McGill, Cotton and the Kenney's of Suffragette Fame


Emmeline Pankhurst beings whisked away at a suffrage demonstration in the UK.


In 1909, Miss. Hurlbatt, new Warden at McGill's Royal Victoria College for Women,addressed a women's club in Montreal on the issue of woman suffrage.

   Hurlbatt says she is against  militancy, yet she certainly appears very sympathetic to Mrs. Pankhurst's Suffragettes.

Hurlbatt figures prominently in Furies Cross the Mersey, about the invasion of militant suffragettes to Montreal in 1912/13..

And once again, in this 1909 speech, the cotton mills are mentioned, British cotton mills, as a reason why women want the vote.

On the Canadian side, it was said by some that the 'textile interests' were against woman suffrage (not because of worker-rights) but because they thought if women got the vote, then they would use it to have the Canadian tariffs on British and American cotton dropped so that they could get cheaper dresses.

Now, 1909 was the year Nell Kenney and her journalist husband, Frank Randall Clarke, moved to Montreal and got married in the city.

Nell Kenney was the sister of militant Annie Kenney, and like her, a former Mill girl  and militant suffragette.

1909. Sarah "Nell" Kenney marries Frank Randall Clarke at All Saints Anglican in Montreal. Drouin Collection

This is from the Montreal Gazette, 1909:

"If I might make a suggestion as to the work in Montreal, I would advise a revival of interest in the Canadian organization, but I would also work by other means than these. I would recommend the formation of women’s suffrage discussion circles in various societies throughout the city, let us say in connection with various churches and clubs. By this means we should be educating women to an understanding of the whole question in a way and upon a scale which could not be achieved by the action of the Women’s suffragette society, because you would be reaching those who have not already expressed themselves in favour of the movement. What we need today is to educate opinion. Those who act noisily in Great Britain are doing so because the work upon women’s suffrage lines has not been wide enough. The lesson for Canada is to awake in time and work for your needs. Do this before there is put upon Canada a condition of change in which women suffer in the labour market the intolerable grievance of the need of dependence upon themselves. Let us on this side of the Atlantic be forewarned and forearmed; begin our education early, and pursue it constantly, so that we may win by constitutional methods which need no turbulent influence behind them.

This expression of opinion was uttered by Miss Hurlbatt, warden of Royal Victoria College at the close of an address she delivered yesterday on Women’s Suffrage before the Social Department of the Montreal Women’s Club, which was very largely attended, those present including ladies representing all lines of thought in the city. Mrs. S. C. Marsan, President of the Department, was in the chair.

Miss Hurlbatt commenced by motioning the fact that the press gave full reports of matters connected with woman’s suffrage, and that the magazines also printed articles on the same subject. It seemed, therefore, that the women of Montreal should be in possession of a very fair knowledge of the general lines of the subject. Nevertheless, there was no very widespread or organized movement in Montreal, but there was a national society, the Dominion Women’s Society, headquartered at Toronto. It could not be said, however, that much active work was carried on in Montreal or in Canada as a whole. But some of the women in Montreal were turning their attention to the subject, for the reason that it had become a matter of practical politics in the Dominion, and that it was believed that it would inevitably advance, because it was a result of better education and greater liberty of action which had been accorded women in the nineteenth and twenties centuries, and it could not be logically opposed, in view of the changed conditions under which women lived. "

Ethel Hurlbatt, McGill. Her fonds at McGill have nothing about her suffrage activities. But she does work for the Serbs during WWI, a pet project of Emmeline Pankhurst's- and that is mentioned.

 In 1909, with moderate suffragist Mrs. Snowden speaking in Montreal, her students acted as ushers. But, in January 1912, the Montreal Gazette ran an editorial saying that women's colleges were a hot bed of suffragette activity and soon after, Hurlbatt cooled her suffrage activism with the Montreal movement, citing 'work pressures.' She came back on board during the War and afterwards, with La Ligue des Droits de la Femme. That will be explained in Service and Disservice, my book about the 1917 Conscription Crisis and the iffy involvement of the Canadian suffragists.

Speaking of the militant suffragette movement in England, Miss Hurlbatt expressed the hope that there was no one in her audience who did not lament the noisy and violent proceedings of the last two years, but who did not likewise more truly lament the circumstances which had driven women to adopt these violent measures. It could not be thought Mrs. Pankhurst any of her followers really rejoiced in any of these noisy methods; they must feel it to be a waste of energy and a marring of women’s development. The lesson to be learned from the militant movement was not to condemn or despise the women who, at great sacrifice of feeling and inclination, took part in these demonstrations, but so to labour that these things might not be forced on other countries. Miss Hurlbatt then briefly referred to what had led to this form of propaganda, and said that within the last four years women had been the victims of violence. It was not until deputation after deputation had been refused a hearing and hundreds of women had been sent to prison on trumped up charges; not until they were excluded even from the street by the erections of barricades and not until every other way was barred that women in the early stages of this campaign had to resort to stone-throwing and the means use by men on the slightest pretext. It must be remembered that these women had not the means of commanding a hearing which men had and they looked upon the struggle as vital..

Touching on some of the grounds which women’s suffrage had been defended, Miss Hurlbatt contended that women had for all time been workers, creating and supporting the home by their domestic industry. These industries had been removed into the factory and the workshop and women followed their labour. Women had always been essentially concerned in politics as consumers, as well as producers. When a woman entered a factory she became more conscious of the influence of politics as it affected her labour. And she was affected by changed conditions of the state. The cotton spinning and weaving industries were now mainly in the hands of women, and they thought they would suffer if tariff reform were introduced in England.They desired to express themselves in this matter and protect their industry, and they believed that no action on their part without the vote would protect their action."

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Trouser Government

Frances Fenwick Williams, Montreal novelist, was originally from Nova Scotia.

 She was a writing Jack-of-all-Trades. Aren't we all? 

She wrote two novels, some poems, lots of satirical pieces and articles on just about everything. In her later years she taught writing.

She was the married (but separated) daughter of a Montreal stock market executive.

In 1913, she joined the Montreal Suffrage Movement. She figures in my Furies Cross the Mersey, giving a Pro-suffrage speech at the Montreal Suffrage Exhibit in February 1912.

Mrs. Fenwick Williams gave a lot of speeches on Women's Rights in the era, and unlike the mostly Maternal suffragists of Montreal, she was an Equal Rights  suffragist - and a bit of a rogue, although she fell in line nicely with the UNION forces during WWI, calling for more recruits at any cost.

Both of her novels, the Arch-Satirist (1910) and A Soul on Fire (1915) are online, and although the books have their fine moments, they are very difficult to digest in one swallow. No Georgette Heyer, she.

But. I found a 'patriotic' poem she wrote during WWI that is quite beautiful. Perhaps that was her real calling.

And I found this bit, too, in a small local rag aimed at the "Anglo-Elite" of Montreal.

It's a role-reversal satire about woman suffrage: and it was written in June 1913, six months before Nellie McClung thought up the same kind of thing for her mock parliament.

It features Fenwick WIlliams' signature style.


Ad advert from 1913 for the Edinburgh Cafe, the headquarters of the Montreal Suffrage Association for a time in 1914.


Trouser Government


Some people were for giving a few men the vote. “Why should men who are really intelligent and able be represented? they asked.

“Of course we can’t let in the rabble, but men who have a stake in the country should be represented.”
“Nonsense. Men hang together. Give the college men the vote and they will be demanding that the dock-hands get it, too. And then, mark my words, they will want to be members of Parliament.

Fancy living under trouser government.

That rather settled it.

For men who were by habit hard-drinkers and hard-swearers, smokers, and in many cases, makers of dubious jokes, for such beings, I say, being admitted to the legislature “reeking of the bar and the smoking salon” as one woman put it, was clearly incompatible with the dignity of the Mother of Parliaments.

Moreover, men did not care about politics and would be more likely to sell their votes for a glass of beer.
They might even go drunk to the polls.

And as for Parliament: why would would naturally rely upon their charms to win the votes of susceptible women, and would rely, when they got into Parliament, upon their physical strength.

They would, in consequence, ignore the authority of The Speaker;when they got hot in argument they might even threaten each other with their fists; and Parliament, instead of being a deliberative institution, would become a bear-garden.

It was even rumoured that in a far, distant and cold Canada, where men did have the privilege of sitting in Parliament, these disorders had actually occurred.

Men had gone so far as to shake their fist in the Speaker's face and insist on speaking against a ruling.

“There,” said the people of Happy Parallel triumphantly,”now you see the results of allowing men to leave their proper sphere.Even the women in the Canadian Parliament were not sufficient enough to quell these riots by calling out their inconsistency with all the pretentions to self-government and dignity.”

“There are no women in the Canadian Parliament,” explained an authority.

“Oh, then, of course, you can’t wonder at anything,” said the Happy Parallelers, laughing consumedly at what they thought a mere traveller’s tale.

For how could anyone imagine a land ruled solely by men?

Men with mutton-chop whiskers and pipes and high collars crawling up to their ears.

Absurd!







Have you heard the one about the MIlitant and the Pacifist?

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. 

The Carrie Mulligan/Meryl Streep movie Suffragette is about to be released,in a few dats - 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.

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.

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. 

Have you heard the one about the poet and the dying soldiers?





Here's a bit about Montreal's Edith Wharton, who was a suffragist and suffragette sympathizer back in 1910-1919, but who also supported the very undemocratic Wartimes Election Act of 1917 that gave the vote only to women with men at the Front.

Frances Fenwick Williams was a Montreal author and suffragist who will figure large in my booService and Disservice about the 1917 Conscription Crisis in Canada - and the iffy involvement of the Canadian suffragist movement.


It's the follow up to Furies Cross the Mersey, about the 1911/12 British Invasion of Suffragettes to Montreal, an invasion Ms. Fenwick Williams helped bring about, I suspect.

I've written about Ms. Williams a lot on this blog. She was clever and nervy - an outlier who was part of the social elite but who made fun of these people in her books.She was the daughter of a Montreal stock market official and from a distinguished Nova Scotia family.

Her second novel, A Soul on Fire was published in 1915 when she sitting on the Executive of Board of Directors of the Montreal Suffrage Association, although she wasn't a social reformer like her co-members.

Frances Fenwick Williams, about 30 years old, was an 'equal rights' suffragist, not a 'maternal' suffragist.

 She was married in 1910  but was estranged from her American husband.

Being married gave FFW the right to be a member of the MSA.  Young single women were not invited into the Montreal suffrage movement. They were too 'excitable.'

FFW was a bit like the famed American author Edith Wharton, if you think about it, but she was not nearly as good a novelist. A critique of her 1915 novel, A Soul on Fire, claimed the characters didn't resemble any  in real life.

Hmm. Ivy Compton Burnett was a Dame Commander of the British Empire, Post-War novelist and member of the Women's Writers Suffrage League.  FFW went to London in 1912 to visit with the suffragettes. And, then, she joined the very 'sane' and 'reasonable' Montreal Suffrage Association, as a kind mole.

FFW liked to give speeches. She was an able debater at the February, 1912 Montreal Suffrage Exhibit. Her speech is in my book Furies Cross the Mersey. And she's a main character in Service and Disservice.

During  the 1917  Conscription Crisis, she was there when Borden needed her, giving a speech in Montreal on the first day of December, a day after riots in Sherbrooke, Quebec among other towns.

Borden deliberately pitted English Quebeckers against French Quebeckers during that year's election.

"I am a suffragist, a socialist and half a soldier," she told the 100 ladies assembled at the 1917 rally. She also said she had no political affiliation but was for the Union government because it was the closest thing you can get to a non-partisan government.

She said anyone against the Union Government and Conscription was a  "Traitor to the Dead."

(Grace Ritchie England, Montreal born President of the Montreal Council of Women, stumped for Sir Wilfrid Laurier and suffered an impeachment hearing in 1918 for her troubles. Sir Wilfrid, as leader of the Opposition, said he'd give women the federal vote in 1916, probably forcing Premier Borden to do the same. He also cautioned that giving women the vote wasn't going to bring about all the good things people thought; nor was it going to bring about all the bad.)

At least FFW wasn't a hyprocrit like so many of the other suffragists during WWI.

In 1913, she wrote a piece in her column The Feminist, called Women and War  stating: "It is generally believed that since women don't take part in military actions that they are opposed to war. It would be a similar thing to say that since men don't take part in Spring Cleaning, that they are opposed to it."

But she also wrote this 1917 war poem that seems to show two enemy soldiers dying together.

Before Verdun
By FRANCES FENWICK WILLIAMS

No prayer can help, no agony atone,
As I came into life I go  - alone!

Another man is lying by my side,
Another, caught in death's fast-brimming tide.

Mine was the hand that struck his life away,
And his the hand that laid me low today.

Yet now, as nearer draws the dreadful end,
He seems to me a brother and a friend.

What is he thinking as his life ebbs fast?
(How lonely each poor soul is at the last!)

If I could hear him speak before he dies I should not feel so desolate,  but he lies,
Silent and spent.

His lips grow slowly white.

I hate to look upon the piteous sight!



(There's more.)

Have you heard the one about the eugenicist and the Prime Minister?


Carrie Derick of the Montreal Suffrage Association who managed to stay out of trouble during the Conscription Crisis by making ambiguous statements in the Press, rather than ambivalent ones.

In June, 1917 the Press was reporting that Prime Minister Borden was likely going to give Canadian women the vote for the next election. So, a huge deputation of suffragists from all around Canada, who were about to descend on Ottawa, cancelled their plans.

By September, 1917, it was clear only women with men at the front, brothers, sons, husbands, would get to vote.

What happened in between?

Well, that narrative will provide the climax of the book I am working on, Service and Disservice, a follow up to Furies Cross the Mersey.

Furies Cross the Mersey covers the Canadian Suffragists from 1910 to 1913 and Service and Disservice will cover the WWI years.

Mrs. Pankhurst and her troops figure in both books, in spirit and, occasionally, in body.

According to Pierre Berton, in his book Marching As to War, what happened was that Arthur Meighen, Borden's Right Hand Man, met Nelly McClung out West and she warned him that many women living out there would not support Conscription.

Berton claims McLung was the one who floated the idea of some kind of limited franchise.

Borden could have limited the franchise to women who had been in Canada a certain length of time,  but then Quebec women would get the vote and that was no good either, in the minds of Win-the-War types.

And some weren't shy about saying it, either.

So, on Augusts 2, 1917, at the Win-the-War meetings in Toronto, Borden  took a few Women's leaders aside (leaders of the WCTU, IODE, The National Council of Women and the National Equal Franchise League run by Constance Hamilton) and asked them to poll their Canada-wide membership to see if women would support his Union Government and, by extension, his Conscription Bill if they were allowed to vote.

The Leaders did just that and the answer came back a resounding NO.

I recently read a hairy account of these very Win-the-War meetings in Toronto in the Women's Century, the organ of the National Council of Women.

It seems the women leaders were only given 48 hours notice, which means that inviting them was a last minute decision on the part of the Borden Government.

A few speakers were invited especially to 'educate' the women. One woman who had three sons at the Front was blunt about why Conscription was necessary: to increase the odds of her own sons surviving.

Not a very noble reason, if you think about it. More of a selfish one.

"If we don’t send men to the front, we can’t get back our boys who are there. Those men who have kept our home and our liberty for us."

A "great war veteran" said:

“What we want is a union, a common platform of sacrifice and duty to be distributed all over the country."

So, these Social Work women got all caught up in the emotion of it and then, later on, the suffragists among them got caught up in their own ambivalence/hypocrisy.

Some suffrage leaders had to backtrack, claiming publically that they OPPOSED limited franchise on principle, because many among their membership did.

The minutes of the Montreal Council of Women show that they supported WWI from the start. The yearbooks says, "most women were away in the country when war broke out' but they soon got their act together and started a Khaki League, to provide soldiers with convalescent care, clean laundry and 'wholesome' entertainment. Miss Derick was appointed President.


Most Suffrage leaders had long expressed their support of Conscription, but in Montreal, the Local Council was forced to say in 1918 in the Press that it never supported Conscription, not technically at least. It supported Mandatory National Service for both men and women.

Their minutes show otherwise. In 1916 the MSA Executive passed a strong resolution in favour of Conscription and sent it on to the National who sent it on to all locals, who voted on it  16 yes to 11 no. It was even referred to as "the Montreal Resolution." LOL.

Still, President Grace Ritchie England stumped for Wilfrid Laurier in the 1917 election and suffered an humiliating impeachment hearing for her efforts.

Mrs. Torrington, the President of the National Council of Women, also had an especially hard time of it. She too was chastised for speaking (and writing letters to the editor) on behalf of the entire MCW membership on these touchy political issues when she hadn't been given the mandate. It was easy to see why she did, though.

The Woman's Century Magazine printed another article in September, 1917, revealing that an official resolution was passed by the National Council of Women protesting against Borden's Dominion Franchise Bill - and sent to his office.

Then the article immediately goes on to explain why Limited Franchise is a very good thing. Did you know that many POW's caught by the Allies were Canadian Germans fighting for the enemy?  Did you know that 'foreign' women voted in greater proportion than British born or Canadian-born women, in the provincial elections?

"The greater is hidden in the lesser" with this Dominion Franchise the author of the article, suggesting  the Suffragists of Canada had found a way to trick Borden into giving women the vote, one parcel at a time.

(Borden told the lawyer for the Montreal Suffrage Association, Lansing Lewis that this Limited Franchise was a way to let fighting men vote, through their relations. Lewis bought the explanation but the MSA Executive still passed a Resolution condemning the bill.)

Whatever excuse worked.

I have a letter Borden sent to the Fédération St. Jean Baptiste in Quebec, in reply to their letter of protest. Borden says he is busy with war work, so is sending her a copy of another letter he sent to another group.

The PM sounds very frazzled in this letter. "Don't you realize how hard it is for me?" he writes. "Would you want a woman who had been in Canada just 3 months to be allowed to vote, because she married a British Subject?"

In the Press, he was claiming that "the Women of Canada support my Dominion Franchise Bill."

He wasn't exactly lying, was he?

Have you heard the one about the Reporter and the Suffragette?



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.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Where were you in 72?


My husband is only one year younger than I am, but he might as well be from a later generation. He lived his childhood in a bubble.

Whenever I ask him about an iconic moment in th 1960's, he appears oblivous.


"Where were you when Kennedy was shot?" I ask. "I dunno." "Where were you when Henderson scored for Canada in 1972?"  "I dunno."

OK. He lived in the ex-burbs and was the baby of the family. His closest sibling was 7 years older, and, apparently, she had to go sit in the car to listen to teenage radio.

Otherwise it was CJAD, old folks radio, all the time in his house.

I saw that because yesterday my husband found some disky thing that was full of info from a laptop that faded to black many years ago.

I went through the files and found a long radio aircheck of  CFCF radio, Dave Boxer at Belmont Park, probably from 1968.

(Years ago I had used something similar as a soundtrack for this YouTube video.)

Radio defined teenagers in the 1960's, of course.

I also found two theses that I didn't remember I had: one about Toronto in the Great War and the other, in French, about Quebec in Great War.

Terrific. I am just getting to writing my book Service and Disservice, about the Concription Crisis and the iffy involvement of Suffragists from both of these cities.

I could use this summary background to orient myself more fully.

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

No radio back then in 1910. Marconi was just getting his radio waves experiments going. I found an article in Technical World: Marconi wanted radio to even the playing field, socially.  CFCF was "Canadian Marconi. Canada's First, Canada's Finest.

In 1910, if you wanted to be entertained, you went to the silent movies, the Orpheum Vaudeville House or to church, to hear a rousing sermon.

While I was reading through these complicated theses, my husband was visiting with old classmates gathered for a reunion.

He told me this when he got  home:

The host of the affair, a young man, said, "You know, I have a picture of us, upstairs, taken just as Henderson scored."

"You do?" said my husband, very surprised. "Where were we?"

"In your parent's basement, " the man replied.

Well, that was a surprise!

My husband's family had a nice colour TV, in the basement,a Motorola Works-in-a box deal. He figures that's why his friends were all at his house.

Here's a 1972 advert for the same TV. Youtube

I, by the way, was in the student lounge at Loyola with two people who I am linked to on Facebook, but haven't seen in person in decades.

 Chock full of smoke the place was and when Henderson scored, kids threw their chairs up into the air, very dangerous.