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,

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.