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."