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.