Friday, April 29, 2016

Suffragettes and Double Agents


Militant Suffragette Sarah Nell Kenney is buried in Mount Royal Cemetery in Montreal, beside her husband, Frank Randall Clarke, a newspaper man. 

The  couple came over to Canada in 1909 and married here. Their record is in the Drouin Collection. (If I am right, a Salvation Army nurse served as a witness.)

 A story I was told says Frank protected her from the police at a suffragette rally where she was bothering Mr. Asquith. How romantic! They lived in Verdun, in south central Montreal,  for a few years and then moved to south shore St. Lambert.

Nell never got directly involved with the suffrage movement here in Montreal. 

Well, look at all the babies she had all in a row! 

Her sister Caroline came over to stay with her in 1913 and stayed until 1916. Caroline tried to start a militant suffrage movement here, the Montreal Equal Franchise League.  The Powers-that-Be in Montreal, Clergymen, McGill Profs and Society Lady/Social Reformers launched the Montreal Suffrage Association in 1913. It was decidedly non-militant.

 Well, the men on the board said it was non-militant. The women, including President Carrie Derick, weren't so sure :) Some of the women, like author Frances Fenwick Williams, were suffragette double-agents.

Of course, Nell and Caroline are  the sisters of famed suffragette Annie Kenney, Mrs. Pankhurst's working class First Lieutenant. I've written about it all in Furies Cross the Mersey and Service and Disservice. 



Here's a bit from Votes for Women, June, 1908






Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Truth and Denial and WWI Conscription



Young socialite and future social reformer Constance Hamilton of Toronto.


In WWI, the women  of Canada, or their representatives, came out for Conscription long BEFORE Premier Borden and his Union Party cronies, or so it seems.

November, 1916. “Re: Conscription and expression of sympathy: That the LCW is dissatisfied with the present undemocratic method of recruiting and believe that Canada should without further delay fulfill her pledge to send 500,000 men for the Defence of the Empire and petition the government to take definite steps to extend the operation of the Military Act for Home Defence to overseas, with just and reasonable exceptions.”

 Carrie Derrick of the Montreal Council of Women, who wrote up the resolution and sent it on to the National Council (where it was approved by 11 locals, and turned down by 7) refused to admit it.

This "Montreal Resolution" was  described in the Press across Canada as a Conscription Resolution.



Still, Derick  would say, just  a year later, that the Montreal Resolution wasn't about Conscription (although the word Conscription was written into the MLCW minutes and even underlined). How could the resolution be about conscription when conscription wasn't yet a party plank? she asked.

Good question.  Derick was very good with words, a truly 'modern' politician.

Back in January, 1916, Premier Borden of Canada had returned from England and called for 500,000 new Canadian recruits. This is a huge number considering that there were only 8 million people total in Canada.

His goal, to use moral persuasion to get men to enlist.

The National Council of Women  soon passed a resolution to use moral persuasion to get women to 'let their men go.' It is written in their New Century Magazine.

 In the period, Borden often sent emissaries to tell the National Council ladies that the Women of Canada simply were not doing enough for the war effort, despite all their bandage-rolling and fund-raising.

"Too many Canadian women were of the joy-riding spirit,' these government men said.


Then, at a November 1916 Board meeting of the Montreal Local Council of Women, something provoked Miss Derick (the Past-President) to propose that resolution in favor of Conscription and have it sent to the National Council for country-wide approval.

Only, 8 months later, in late July, 1917, did Borden start talking in the Press about conscripting men into the forces. (From what I can see online.)

A few days after that, on the 29th of July, 1917, Mrs. Constance Hamilton, Toronto-based head of the Women's Section of the Win the War Committee, held a special emergency meeting of the National Equal Suffrage Union (her circa 1914 suffrage organization that had been 'on hold' since 1915) and passed a rousing resolution, printed up in the newspapers, against holding an election but strongly in favor of Conscription, and in favour of denying 'foreigners' and 'slackers'  the vote in any upcoming federal election, should there have to be one.

Hamilton published this statement juxtasposed  with another rather colourful resolution sent into the meeting by rogue elements (not President Derick) of the Montreal Suffrage Association described as "an organization that represented women across the province"  also boistrously  in favour of conscription and Borden's Union Government, but with no mention of slackers.

"We heartily support the policy of the Borden Government for a Union Government to enforce conscription and to ensure vigorous prosecution of the war but we regret a General Election during the war. Is Canada going to fail? Never! If we break faith with those who die 'They will not sleep though poppies grow in Flanders Field.' Canada's honor is at stake, she must not fail to carry on to break faith with our brave fighting men and glorious dead."

In September, Borden, who in June had hinted about giving all Canadian women the federal vote, created the War Time Elections Act,awarding the vote only to women with men at the Front.

Constance Hamilton was elated: after all, this limited suffrage measure was basically her idea. (Read Service and Disservice). 

Carrie Derick, who also was a VP of Hamilton's NEFU, was incensed, as she had been fighting hard to make sure all Quebec women got the federal vote in any future election.

The Conscription Election was held in  December 1917, pitting Laurier's Liberals against a Union Government made up of former Liberals and Conservatives. There were riots in Quebec, as well.

The Union side won. Conscription passed.

In October, before the election, Carrie Derick tried to get the Montreal Local Council of Women to denounce the War Time Elections Act, speaking for a full hour at the Board meeting in question, but to no avail.

She did get the Board of the Montreal Suffrage Association, where she was President, to pass a resolution condemning the War Time Elections Act, with a few members dissenting.



Borden wrote her MSA back a letter saying "You don't appreciate the position I am in . Would you want women who have only been in Canada a few months to vote?

It was never about Quebec women apparently. Yea. Right.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

No Pride and Prejudice but Juicy in other Ways



Elegant Sherbrooke Street in Montreal in 1910 era.


The Arch-Satirist, the 1910 novel by Montreal author Frances Fenwick Williams, contains some sassy prose but it lacks for a plot or at least for some plot twists.

The novel is primarily a vehicle to explore the modern mating-game (interesting enough) but through the women characters' dialogue. The book is  all Tell and no Show.

And, although the story takes place in Montreal, there is little local colour. Mount Royal is described and that's about it.

All description is of female features, Their looks. Many of the women in the novel have a wonderful complexion, so either women were more careful with their skin back then, or their diets were better, or it's a lie, because the up-and-down climate in Montreal is not condusive to great skin.

These are 'society' women, so maybe they were, indeed, the careful type.

So much for my review of a  forgotten novel, one that is not nearly as good as Pride and Prejudice or La Grande Sophie.

Nonetheless, I like to think of FFW as Montreal's Edith Wharton.

The plot of the Arch-Satirist can be easily summed up. A rather homely, cash-poor young woman from a high society family cannot marry any of her many suitors because of a dark secret: she has a half-brother tucked away in the bad part of town, a low-life artist with a drug problem.

Interesting. FFW had a secret, too, I discovered. She was born a boy! (At least, according to 1881  Canadian census.) She married in 1909, at about 30, but the marriage fell apart immediately and her husband, a prominent NY social planner, never re-married.

In the Arch-Satirist Frances Fenwick Williams explains that, in the era, marriage conferred upon a woman a certain respectability.



Fenwick Williams' column in the short-lived Tabloid the Saturday Mirror (February -June 1913)

So true. It is unlikely that Fenwick-Williams would have been allowed onto the Board of the Montreal Suffrage Association had she not been married, whatever her own very fine social connections. (Her father was a stock market official and her grandfather had been a McGill doctor.)

The Arch-Satirist would have worked better if the protagonist's dark secret had been a half-sister who was a prostitute.  But, maybe, then the novel wouldn't have been published. Too close to home. The Social Evil, as it was called, was a great preoccupation of the Montreal social elite in 1910.

The heroine of the book is a 'good  woman' but her friends, well, not so nice.

 One unmarried beauty is engaged to three different men at the same time, 'kissing three different men" as it is put, and another friend, married to a rich old man, flirts unabashedly with scores of young men and makes no apologies for it.

Eugenics is an underlying theme in the book, in that FFW seems to suggest all behavior is inherited. Of course, that was a popular belief in the 1910 era.

In Canada, the suffrage movement was all about promoting social purity.


As I write in my own book Service and Disservice, about the Canadian suffragists and the Conscription Crisis, Frances Fenwick was a bit of a mole on the Board of the Montreal Suffrage Association.

She was a huge fan of militant Mrs. Pankhurst (despised by the male members of the MSA Board) and she was an avowed feminist. Her 1913 newspaper column was titled The Feminist.

FFW  led a kind of double life, no doubt. Oddly, she writes on the subject of double lives in the Arch-Satirist.



Mr. Zangwell, in his clever "Serio-Comic Governess" has shown us a young lady leading two  very different lives at one and the same time. In the day-time she is a highly respectable and decorous governess, at night, a music-hall artiste. In both lines she is a success. Now, this success is probably owning to the fact that this particular young lady is gratifying her curiosity and her desire to lead a conventional existence at one and the same time. She is, in short, doing that which she wishes to do.

There are many such, "serio-comic governesses" in real life. Perhaps you, who read, may be one; perhaps, unknown to you, the dear friend from whom you have no secrets and who, you fondly believe, has none from you, may have a personality which you have never even guessed at.


Her friends were the Brit writers, Ida A.R. Wylie and Ivy Compton Burnett.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

A 1910 Hockey Match - Montreal




Frances Fenwick Williams was a Montreal journalist,author and suffragist who wrote a few novels including The Arch-Satirist, from 1910, the year the woman suffrage movement got going in the City. She figures in my e-books Furies Cross the Mersey and Service and Disservice, about the Canadian suffragists and suffragettes.

This is a novel with too little plot and too much TELL and not enough SHOW, and little description of the city in that era, but the novel does contain a scene at a hockey game.  I'm not sure, but it may be one of the few early descriptions of the great Canadian game. The heroine of the story is being courted by a wealthy man, whom she likes but must reject due to a dark secret in her life. Here is the chapter entitled "A Hockey Match".



The Montreal Arena is a building of considerable size, capable of accommodating many thousands. It has been the scene of many a revel; horses,prima donnas, vegetables, all have exhibited here at one time or another; from Calve, who raved vith indignation at the idea of singing in such a place, to Emperor, the finest horse in Canada, who made no objection, whatever. Only a hockey match,
however, can count positively on filling it from wall to wall.

To-night was the Wales-Conquerors match: and many a business man of mature years had sent his office boy days before to stand in Hne from nine to eleven on a bitter winter morning in order to procure tickets. Mrs. Hadwell had secured six seats and had organized a party to escort her American guests thither. 

She,however, had not accompanied them,frankly acknowledging the obvious fact that she was no sport." I do love to be fin-de-siecle,'' she had said. 

But, when it comes to hockey or pug dogs — well, I simply can't, that's all.'' Then she had told a plaintive tale of how, when a girl, she had been taken to a hockey match. Her escort had been an enthusiast of the most virulent type; and she had been obliged to feign a joy which she by no means felt. It was ghastly," she observed, ghastly.

There I sat, huddled in grandmother's sealskin which wasn't a bit becoming, and watched a lot of weird things dressed like circus clowns knocking a bit of rubber round a slippery rink. 

And all those poor misguided beings who had paid two, three and five dollars to see them do it yelled like mad whenever the rubber got taken down a little faster than usual — oh, you may laugh! but I can tell you that when one of those silly men whacked another silly man over the head when the umpire wasn't looking because the second ass had hit that absurd bit of rubber oftener than he, the first ass, had — why, I felt sorry to think that the human species to which I belonged was so devoid of sense. 

And that great goat who stood at one end and tried to stop the thing from getting between two sticks! why did everyone think he was a hero when he managed to get his two big feet together in time to stop the rubber from getting through? 

I don't see anything very clever in putting your feet together and letting a rubber thing come bang against your toes, do you? ''But what's the use of talking! You must think it clever. You must! or why should you go? Where is the attraction? Do you like hearing those wild-looking men shouting insults at the men who don't play on their team? Does it amuse you to hear them snarling, 'Dirty Smith! Putimoff! Butcher Brown! Knockiseadoff, Robinson! '

 It is incomprehensible to me. I shall always remember Alice Mann's proud face as she watched her brother chasing round while the crowd hailed him by the dignified and endearing title of ' Dirty Mann/ I think that, if I had a brother and heard him called ' Dirty Mann ' in public, I should want to leave the city." 

Accordingly Mrs. Hadwell had stayed at home; but a merry and expectant party had met at Hadwell Heights and had driven to the Arena, where they sat now, awaiting the fray. It would be some time before this began, so the young strangers had time to look about them and comment on the various spectators. 

Ladies wrapped in costly furs sat side by side with shabbily dressed men, who, in spite of the printed reminder that smoke was forbidden, ejected a constant stream in the air, the while they hoarsely sang the merits of their favourite team and the demerits of the opposing one.

Small boys perched on the rafters, looking as though a finger touch would hurl them to instant destruction. If one of them did fall," inquired Bertie,with a shudder, " wouldn't he be instantly killed?"

"If he were lucky," returned her companion, a young McGill professor named Donovan, cheerfully. "Otherwise he might only injure himself for life. But you see, Miss Hadwell, none of them ever do fall. Not one boy has ever lost his hold, as far as I know. If one of them did get killed of course it would be stopped."

But don't they get awfully excited?" Excited ! They go mad. But they don't fall." 

"You see," interposed Gerald Amherst, "they never think about it. If one of them stopped clapping and wriggling and began to measure the space from his airy perch to the ice, below; and furthermore meditate on the consistency and solidity of the aforesaid ice and the probable fate of anyone whose head came in contact with it after a fall of seventy to a hundred feet — why, he would drop, that's all. They are occupied with more important matters, however; the merits of Smith as a goalkeeper, the demerits of Brown as a forward — they have no time to muse upon their latter end and the thin veil that lies between them and eternity."

 I'm glad they haven't; for my part I'm convinced that I shall have nightmare after seeing them. Is that your — what is the band playing for? Oh, is that the ViceRegal party? Dear me! what is every one rising for? Must I get up, too?" Her voice was drowned in the strains of the National Anthem which was howled enthusiastically by boxes and rafters, alike. 

As God save the King  died into silence the Governor-General bowed and took his seat; while his daughters gazed with interest about the Arena which they were visiting for the first time. " Observe his coat,'' said Mr. Donovan. "Feast your American eyes on it. That coat was bought by Lord Dufferin, and left by him to be worn by his successors. The sleeves are quite out of style by this time; but you see ' This is a man! ' What's your opinion of him, on the whole?" Why, I think — good gracious, what's that!"

A roar that shook the roof arose as the opposing teams emerged from the waiting room and skated upon the ice. The scarlet sweaters and caps of the Conquerors stained the crystal ice with daubs of blood: and the more sombre hues of the Wales showed with almost equal effect.

''Oh, are they beginning?'' cried Bertie in ecstasy. They were. The whistle blew and both sides skated to the centre to receive the customary warning. ''They both seem pretty cool," remarked Mr. Amherst. "No signs of nervousness that I can see." "Not a particle. Look! who has won the toss? The Conquerors? Hurrah! You must say ' Hurrah ! ' too, Mr. Hadwell, whenever anything nice happens to the Conquerors. It's no fun unless you choose a team."

 "Why is the Conquerors your team?" " Because — oh, because the captain's father was baptized by my grandfather, I believe. There is some such reason, but, for the moment, I forget just what it is. Any reason will do, you know; the point is that you must have a favourite team and shout whenever it scores and groan with indignation whenever the other team does. Do you see? ''I see. When am I to begin? and how am I to let the public know what I am groaning about? Oh, the public will know if you groan in the right place — that is, when the other team does well. Oh, look! there goes the puck!

'
It dashed across the ice, followed by a mass of skimming, pursuing forms; and, for the next few moments, silence reigned. Then a shout arose, ''Off-side!''

''Off-side" it was; and the indignant audience hurled insults impartially at both teams; no one seeming very sure as to which was " off-side," but each assuming that it could not be a member of his favourite team. The Conquerors lost to the Wales this time and the latter passed to one of his team who succeeded in sending
the puck flying toward the goal. Intense excitement reigned: would he succeed in getting the puck past the goal-keeper?

 No: the latter deftly turned it aside; and a roarof mingled delight and disappointment arose which made the American girl start and put her hands to her ears. Do they often make such a noise? she
asked, involuntarily.

I should think so, answered Donovan, staring. You don't mind it, do you? Oh, shame on you, Parton! what are you thinking about. Umpire? — don't mind me. Miss Hadwell, I'm just — Hurray! Bully for you. Marsh! oh, good work, old boy. You're the stuff! Push it along — Hurray!'' 

The puck had passed and the Conquerors had drawn first blood. In the first wild shriek that rose Bertie was conscious chiefly of one thing — everybody's mouth was wide open. No individual shriek could be distinguished, yet, judging from appearances, every one, from the Governor-General in his box to the smallest imp on the highest rafter, was shouting himself hoarse.

Slowly the excitement subsided; slowly the spectators sank back into the seats which they had vacated; and, after a minute or two of preparation, the game recommenced. Never tell me again that the English are a cold race, Bertie remarked solemnly as the party took their seats in Mrs. Hadwell's carriage at the close of the evening.

I have read of such things, but I never expected to see them in Canada. I could go to a hockey match every night in the week. It's grand! And, Mr. Donovan, if the Wales had won — as I thought at one time they would — I believe I should have cried myself to sleep. Oh, you needn't laugh! I mean it."

In Flanders Fields and Me

Remnant of a suffrage article from 1912.  I luckily transcribed it first. Militant Barbara Wylie visits Montreal, and, surprise, she is so lady-like and pretty!


These past weeks I've been fishing around for another project of  the non-Nicholson variety. The Nicholsons of Richmond, Quebec are my husband's ancestors and I found 500 of their letters from 1908-1919 and I wrote a few ebooks using these letters.

Threshold Girl, Diary of a Confirmed Spinster, A Laurier Era Family and Not Bonne Over Here, the WWI letters of the Nicholsons.

Because Margaret Nicholsonand her daughters were very interested in the woman suffrage movement back in 1910,  clipping all kinds of stories from the Montreal Standard, Herald and Witness, I got interested in that quasi-censored episode of herstory and researched all there was to research and wrote Furies Cross the Mersey (about the British Invasion of Suffragettes to Montreal in 1912/12) and Service and Disservice, about the Canadian suffragists and their iffy involvement in the Conscription Crisis of WWI.


  I have to keep busy, you know, but I've had enough with genealogy.

 I've been auditing online law courses, environmental law, human rights law, so I thought I might write about Annie Langstaff and the other pioneering lady lawyers in Canada.

That, too, is a forgotten feminist tale.

Then, it suddenly occurred to me that I might write about Montreal author and suffragist, Frances Fenwick Williams,who is a character in many of my ebooks.

I know a lot about her and her writing. Yet, she remains a bit of a mystery.

Frances Fenwick Williams was McGill's Dr Andrew Macphail's secretary in and around 1907, helping him edit the conservative University Magazine, even contributing to it, occasionally. (I must check the issues at McGill).

As it happens, John McCrae, the author of the famous WWI poem In Flanders Fields, who died in 1918 of pneumonia in the war, also contributed to the same magazine.

I just learned that the original In Flanders Fields is held in the Macphail fonds at McGill, because it was Macphail who discovered the poem. Supposedly, it  had been written by McCrae,while in Flanders in 1915, then handed  to a fellow soldier . (So the story goes. See the Heritage Minute on YouTube.)

Andrew Macphail, also serving there as a medic, although over 50,  retrieved the unsigned poem at the headquarters/convent near Ypres and immediately recognized the literary style as McCrae's. (So he says.)Well, he recognized that the sonnet was identical in construction to another McCrae poem, The Night Cometh.  (You would think the handwriting would have been the real give-away.)

The poem was published  in Punch in December 1915 in the UK . No by-line apparently.

Why, I wonder. McCrae was an amateur poet who enjoyed getting published.

Macphail says in his essay about McCrae that the poem was sent into Punch in the regular way, by mail, with a self-addressed stamped return envelope. (He doesn't say he sent it in, but it sure sounds like it.)

Now, if you read my Service and Disservice you will learn how that poignant patriotic poem was used by certain Montreal suffrage leaders in July, 1917, to signal in the Press their support for Premier Borden and Conscription.

It was the ideal recruitment poem but with an anti-war feel to it, too.

(I've loved In Flanders Fields since I heard it recited on the CBC in the 1960's - and so well. I realized - then and there - that  HOW you read a poem is very important.)






My husband's uncle from the other side of the family brought his shell casing back from WWI. His family used it as a doorstop. Funny, we humans....Reminds me of the poem Highgate, not a poem used to promote patriotism, but a cynical poem written during WWI predicting future careless War Tourism.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Census Tales and Canadian Suffragettes

A fashion pic from The Montreal Saturday Mirror, shortlived 1913 tabloid funded by stock market types, full  of feminist and Pankhurst-loving features (by Frances Fenwick Williams) and trash talk about French City Hall and a certain irksom tramway deal. (I have no pic of Frances, so I like to think of her as looking like this in sassy hareem pants.)


As any genealogist will tell you, the Canadian censuses are full of mistakes, mistakes made by those who gave the enumerators the info, mistakes by enumerators writing things down incorrectly or too messily to be read, mistakes of transcription in the online databases.

But, this morning, while doing preliminary research for my next project, Untitled, a  play about the relationship between feminist author Frances Fenwick Williams and very old-fashioned (Sir) Dr. Andrew Macphail at McGill, I discovered that Frances was first registered on the 1881 Canadian census as a boy, Francis,

It is hardly likely that even a totally dotty maid servant would get the sex wrong of the oldest child in a household. The enumerator, in this case, had lovely handwriting.

By the next census, Francis was Frances, a girl and she remained that way, through a rather fabulous life.



I've already written a lot about Frances de Wolfe Fenwick Williams, a Montreal journalist who sat on the Board of the Montreal Suffrage Association, who appeared to straddle the worlds of Montreal high society and British bohemia.

She's in both Furies Cross the Mersey (about the British Invasion of Suffragettes to Montreal in 1912/13 and Service and Disservice (about the iffy involvement of the Canadian suffragists in the 1917 Conscription Crisis.

I suspect that Frances, who travelled to England to visit Pankhurst's suffragettes in 1912, was largely reponsible for these suffragettes coming to Montreal in 1912/13, even if the other members of the Board of the MSA loathed and feared Mrs. Pankhurst and her ilk.

In Service and Disservice, I have Frances speak in the first person and she calls herself 'an outlier'.

Well, now I realize she really was.

Frances married in 1909, but the couple parted ways immediately. Being married gave Frances respectability with the suffragists of Montreal, who were very wary of unmarried women, in general. They did their very best to keep these 'excitable' types out of the Canadian movement.


Frances' grandfather was a McGill medical man, which might explain how she got to work for Dr. Andrew Macphail in 1907, helping with his literary publication, the University Magazine.

Her father was a broker in mining, one time official with the Montreal Stock Exchange, so his 1932 obit says.

This might account for her connection with Lorne McGibbon, a financier with interests in mining, who came out of hiding to give a speech in Montreal in favor of Borden's Union Party during the divisive Conscription election 1917. Frances also gave rousing speeches for the cause. It's all in Service and Disservice.

Ironically, the 1881 census claims her mother, Annie de Wolfe, was German. So, Frances' German ancestry might have led to her being so vocal agains the Germans during the war.

I must re-read Frances Fenwick Williams' sassy novels, A Soul on Fire and the Arch Satirist, and articles for any hints about her identity. It is likely she was born an hermaphrodite - and it is possible she didn't even know.

(Well, I had to do this anyway for my play)

All very interesting... if it is true.

 The first Montreal Saturday Mirror, Feb 1913, put Mrs. Pankhurst on the Cover. The Tabloid, created to help bring down French City Hall, lasted only until June, 1913.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

In Flanders Fields, the CBC and my Husband's Great Grandmother


A funny thing just happened to me. Just last night.

As I was searching Google news archives for any story on Andrew Macphail, the McGill professor who wrote a strange article back in 1910, the Psychology of the Suffragette (that  I wrote about in the previous blog post)  I bumped smack into my husband's great-grandmother, Margaret Nicholson's, 1942 obituary!

Margaret, born 1882, wouldn't have approved of Macphail's essay, had she read it.

She was an era 'new woman' and all for the militant suffragettes - as were her boffo daughters, Edith, Flora and Marion (my husband's grandmother).

It is just so ironic because Margaret Nicholson is the very reason that I'm considering writing a play about Andrew Macphail (a McGill medical man and Man of Letters who hated to see the world change) and his odd relationship with feisty feminist future-gazing author Frances Fenwick Williams.

In 1913, Frances was involved with the Montreal Suffrage Association as well as the more militant Montreal Equal Franchise  League. She visited England in 1912 and was introduced to Mrs. Pankhurst's troops by some of her outlier literary friends, including Ivy Compton Burnett.

Frances even made fun of Dr. Macphail and the way he liked to deconstruct the feminine psyche in  her 1915 novel, A Soul on Fire.

Margaret Nicholson is the one who kept about 1,000 family letters in an old trunk in her attic in Richmond, Quebec - a trunk that ended up in the hands of my mother-in-law,  her granddaughter born 1917, and which I discovered about 10 years ago.

These Nicholson letters date from 1879 to 1938. As the obit explains, Margaret moved to Montreal to live with her daughter in 1939, so letter-hoarding days were over.


Margaret, top right, beside husband Norman, with Edith and Marion and older woman, Norman's sister, Annie Watters.

I read all of these family letters, transcribed them, made sense of  them, and posted them on a website, Tighsolas, that I have since taken down.

Not to worry, though, in the ten year period I penned a number of ebooks based on the 300 Nicholson letters from the 1908-1919 period.



Threshold Girl, Diary of a Confirmed Spinster, A Laurier Era Family and Not Bonne Over Here, the WWI letters of the Nicholsons.

Because Margaret and her daughters were very interested in the woman suffrage movement back in 1910,  clipping all kinds of stories from the Montreal Standard, Herald and Witness, I got interested in that quasi-censored episode of herstory and researched all there was to research and wrote Furies Cross the Mersey (about the British Invasion of Suffragettes to Montreal in 1912/12) and Service and Disservice, about the Canadian suffragists and their iffy involvement in the Conscription Crisis of WWI.


Remnant of a suffrage article from 1912.  I luckily transcribed it first. Militant Barbara Wylie visits Montreal, and, surprise, she is so lady-like and pretty!


These past weeks I've been fishing around for another project of  the non-Nicholson variety.  I have to keep busy, you know, but I've had enough with genealogy.

 I've been auditing online law courses, environmental law, human rights law, so I thought I might write about Annie Langstaff and the other pioneering lady lawyers in Canada.

That, too, is a forgotten feminist tale.

Then, it suddenly occurred to me that I might write about Montreal author and suffragist, Frances Fenwick Williams,who is a character in many of my ebooks.

I know a lot about her and her writing. Yet, she remains a bit of a mystery.

Frances Fenwick Williams was Andrew Macphail's secretary in and around 1907, helping him edit the conservative University Magazine, even contributing to it, occasionally. (I must check the issues at McGill).

As it happens, John McCrae, the author of the famous WWI poem In Flanders Fields, who died in 1918 of pneumonia in the war, also contributed to the same magazine.

I just learned that the original In Flanders Fields is held in the Macphail fonds at McGill, because it was Macphail who discovered the poem. Supposedly, it  had been written by McCrae,while in Flanders in 1915, then handed  to a fellow soldier . (So the story goes. See the Heritage Minute on YouTube.)

Andrew Macphail, also serving there as a medic, although over 50,  retrieved the unsigned poem at the headquarters/convent near Ypres and immediately recognized the literary style as McCrae's. (So he says.)Well, he recognized that the sonnet was identical in construction to another McCrae poem, The Night Cometh.  (You would think the handwriting would have been the real give-away.)

The poem was published  in Punch in December 1915 in the UK . No by-line apparently.

Why, I wonder. McCrae was an amateur poet who enjoyed getting published.

Macphail says in his essay about McCrae that the poem was sent into Punch in the regular way, by mail, with a self-addressed stamped return envelope. (He doesn't say he sent it in, but it sure sounds like it.)

Now, if you read my Service and Disservice you will learn how that poignant patriotic poem was used by certain Montreal suffrage leaders in July, 1917, to signal in the Press their support for Premier Borden and Conscription.

It was the ideal recruitment poem but with an anti-war feel to it, too.

(I've loved In Flanders Fields since I heard it recited on the CBC in the 1960's - and so well. I realized - then and there - that  HOW you read a poem is very important.)



So, yesterday,  I was looking into starting a non-Nicholson writing project, for a change, and ran smack into Margaret, her obit, anyway. It's as if..well...

The obituary says that she was Head of the Richmond, Quebec Red Cross during the Great War.

This isn't mentioned in the 1913-1919 letters. It's Edith who seems to be doing everything with respect to war work.

I must go back and re-read Not Bonne Over Here to see if there's any hint of the fact.


My husband's uncle from the other side of the family brought his shell casing back from WWI. His family used it as a doorstop. Funny, we humans....Reminds me of the poem Highgate, not a poem used to promote patriotism, but a cynical poem written during WWI predicting future careless War Tourism.

Friday, April 15, 2016

The Feminist and the Misogynist Scholar



From Psychology of  the Suffragette by Andrew MacPhail.


 I posted a quote from 1913 on his website by Mrs. Ethel Snowden, British Suffragist of the moderate kind, speaking to a gathering in Montreal's Emmanuel Church.


The event was sponsored by the Canadian Council of Women.

Snowden told a reporter not to worry, that the Britain Parliament was equally divided between Conservative and Liberal and when women got the vote things would likely remain the same.

How right she was, at least with respect to the US, where, soon, a woman will likely be running for President.

All that has changed is how we vote, by making X's on paper and by pulling leavers (leaving hanging chads) and even electronically. I wonder if it's like with books: paper books or votes, solid and substantial; electronic books or votes ephemeral, insubstantial.

Dr. Andrew MacPhail, writing on the "Psychology of the Suffragette" claimed that women wouldn't change the system, but voting would certainly change women, and, in his opinion, for the worse.

Dr. Andrew MacPhail didn't think much of the act of voting back then, politics was inherently corrupt he said and women would be corrupted by getting involved.

(By the way, MacPhail is considered one of Canada's great intellectuals, according to Wikipedia that  used a recent bio for reference. )Ian Ross Robertson, Sir Andrew Macphail: The Life and Legacy of a Canadian Man of Letters(Montreal McGill-Queen's, 2008) Robertson is a Professor Emeritus at the University of Toronto, who says a 1930 novel by Macphail The Master's Wife, is a bit of a masterpiece.

Dr. MacPhail was heavily involved in the suffrage movement in Montreal in the 1910 era, that's why I even care.

I've written two ebooks on the subect: Furies Cross the Mersey (about the 1912/13 British Invasion of Suffragettes to Canada) and Service and Disservice (about the iffy involvement of Canadians Suffragists in the 1917 Conscription Crisis.) 




MacPhail was a McGill Professor and Medical man and he was on the head panel when Emmeline Pankhurst came to Montreal in December 1911 (he sat alongside Carrie Derick and Mrs. Hurlbatt and the English Mayor, John James Guerin) and he was a judge during a 1911 debate on woman suffrage at Hurlbatt's Royal Victoria College (with Stephen Leacock. The pro-side won) and in 1910 he gave a half an hour talk to the Canadian Club of Montreal, that has been preserved in a book,  on the Psychology of the Suffragette.

That article led novelist Frances Fenwick Williams, a suffragist on the Board of the Montreal Suffrage Assocation, to create a character based on MacPhail in her 1915 novel, A Soul of Fire. The character is a pompous man famous for writing a  book "Women Explained."

Ha! Ha!

Williams had worked as MacPhail's secretary for a while. They were both from the Maritimes. And she wasn't shy about what she did in her novel. Apparently, she walked up to him on the street and told him flat out the pompous character was based on him!


So I read this Psychology of the Suffragette essay, or tried to read it, twice.

My first impression: "With friends like that, who needs enemies?"  Maybe he should have taken a tip from the suffragettes about how to communicate clearly to the dumb-ass masses.

Of course, MacPhail was a highly religious Edwardian Man, in a prestige university post. He could hardly be expected to like or respect women. Indeed, in the speech MacPhail seems to equate the liking of woman with a fall into femininity itself. (Can you say GAY?)

Still, he says this, that makes sense to me. He says suffragettes think that the  vote is sacred but really it's just 'an expression of opinion.'

Politics is corrupt and will always be, he says.

He says suffragettes believe they are superior and will make the world better with the vote, but this superiority is a false shallow kind conferred by men,  and when they get the vote it will indeed 'free them from men, from men's adoration of them,' and  it will force them to take a good look at themselves and their true natures. Something like that. (Cue the Medusa.)


(Mrs. Snowden. Her charm, youth, beauty, poise and eloquence charmed reporters.  I can find no picture of Frances Fenwick Williams, although a portrait exists of her in the Maritimes. Her books can be found on Archive.org. )

Women, at present, MacPhail says, are amoral. You cannot be moral or immoral until you have freedom to make choices. Cave men were moral or immoral. They brought home the bacon and they could decide who to give it to. (Hey, but women brought home all the fruits and nuts. And a woman did that apple thing.)


MacPhail ends the speech with a sermon on God. There is something of the Garden of Eden in his talk. In fact, he comes right out and says all evil comes (not from women) but from men falling in love with women.

This makes me want to compare his essay to the Hammer of Witches, the Medieval work that brought on 100 years of vicious witch hunts.

(Women, MacPhail says, want to marry because they love the institution of marriage. Men marry because they simply fall for a woman. MacPhail totally ignores the fact that women fall in love to and have sexual natures - and that they HAVE to marry, most of the time, to survive.)

MacPhail peppers his speech with quotes from erudite sources, and, just like the authors of the Hammer of Witches, he refers to Augustine, but it is clear the one book he hasn't read is Pride and Prejudice! 


I assume he is well versed in the classics, I can see Odysseus behind his words, fighting off all these female monsters in his psyche on his journey through life. 

OK. MacPhail's a product of his time, but I have to wonder how Edith Nicholson, who I know very well, as she is my husband's great aunt, felt around such men. For she worked at McGill, in the Registrar's Office and at the Royal Victoria Women's College.  She likely admired these, and yet they deep down hated her.

And how about Carrie Derick, the first female full professor at McGill and the President of the Montreal Suffrage Association, who I write about in my two ebooks.

In this speech, MacPhail suggests women are incapable of understanding and appreciating Truth and Beauty. Their love of pretty things is superficial. 

And here's Edith, who spent so much time at the Louvre on her summer in Paris. And who visited the Bodleian Library at Oxford at the insistence of Dr. Nicholson, her boss in the Registrar's Office.

But, she only had a high school degree. She was one of those silly women who attended public lectures to better herself and out of intellectual curiosity.

Anyway, I have an idea to write a play about he relationship between Fenwick Williams, a sassy feminist outlier who was best friends with Ida Compton Burnett and A.R.Wylie (can't recall first name right now) and MacPhail.


Thursday, April 7, 2016

Nuclear War, Guided Muscles and 1960's Cartoons


My bones should be glowing!

I was born in December ,1954, the height of the North American baby boom so I am not alone, and that's in the era the the Americans did their above-ground testing of nuclear weapons.

According to a Yale course I am auditing online, to everyone's surprise and shock, fall-out from these tests went around the world and cut a swath across Canada.

And babies absorbed the Strontium 90 at a greater rate than older people. That's why they started adding calcium to food products, so that undernourished kids wouldn't absorb too much Strontium 90.




But by the 60's all had been forgotten, right?

Well, no. We had cartoons to remind us.

YouTube has a bit from Beany and Cecil's Hercules Hare that makes fun of nuclear war, with a 'guided muscle.'

I watched Beany and Cecil, of course, and the other more literate cartoons like Mr. Peabody and Sherman.

I do recall being fascinated as a girl by this guided muscle thingy, I can't imagine why.

Today, upon re-watching it, I am amazed at how glib the Herclules Hare cartoon is about the arms race.

In the uploaded episode, the guided muscle penetrates the earth to get Hercules' nemesis ,a  wolf, not Wiley Coyote, or is it Wile E. Coyote?


Hercules makes a joke at the end: Because of Mr. Minnow, violence has to go underground.

This Minnow is the man who called television a vast wasteland, I think that's it, anyway.

Anyway, the Yale Environmental Course supports my theory that the 'plastic grocery bag' as environmental evil trend is ridiculous, considering that there are more and more plastics put into the environment every day; the industry is almost totally unregulated, few of these plastics  are ever tested for their effect on the environment and human health and only one type of plastic is recycled and that one only at 30 percent.

And even if one chemical in plastics was shown definitively to be terrible for human health, it would take over a decade to get it banned!

It's all a big lie.

It's not the grocery bag, it's what you put into the grocery bag.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

The Final Resting Place of Two Feisty Women in Montreal


This is the grave marker of Frank Randall Clarke and Sarah Ellen Kenney Clarke of Montreal and their children.

It's in the Mount Royal Cemetery in Montreal.

Dorothy's death, just the day before Christmas, 2015,  has not been etched in yet!

Did you know that Anna Leonowens of King and I fame is buried in this cemetery? (She was head of the Foundling Hospital in 1910, I believe.)

Also, a genuine, dyed-in-the-wool Pankhurst suffragette.

Nell Kenney was active in the early stages of the UK militant movement. Her sister, Annie Kenney, went on to be a key player, Mrs. Pankhurst's first lieutenant, so to speak.

The Kenney's were former Lancashire mill workers.

According to one source, Frank Randall Clarke was covering an Asquith election meeting when Nell started kicking up a fuss. The police descended on her and Frank spirited her away, all the way to Montreal where they married in 1909 . They eventually settled in St. Lambert.


I see I have to change a scene from Furies Cross the Mersey, my ebook about the 1912/13 British invasion of militant suffragettes to Montreal,  available on Amazon Kindle.

In the quasi-fictional book, I  have Sarah (Nell) and her sister Caroline meet up with two wannabe suffragettes in Montreal at the Edinburgh Cafe on Ste. Catherine, in March, 1913.

Caroline tells these wannabes, who are McGill RVC students, that Nell is exhausted because she has two babes in arms. But, at the time, she actually had three!

In my book, Caroline gives the students the idea to have a march, something that is JUST NOT DONE in Montreal or in Canada.

Caroline Kenney, who was here in Montreal from 1912 to 1915,  tried to start a march, herself, from Montreal to Ottawa to meet the Prime Minister.

I'm guessing it was her.

Caroline was with the Equal Suffrage League. She co- founded the ESL.

The Montreal Equal Suffrage League was more militant than the more famous Montreal Suffrage Association, Professor Carrie Derick's association.

That wasn't hard. The Montreal Suffrage Association was made up of McGill Professors and Pankhurst-hating clergymen.


I've written all about it on this blog and in FURIES CROSS THE MERSEY.

Caroline Kenney also figures in the follow up book, Service and Disservice, about the Canadian suffragists and their involvement in the Conscription Crisis of 1917.

Here's the Scene from Furies Cross the Mersey on Amazon.ca

“I must tell you something sort of secret,” says Caroline. “I have been sent here by Mrs. Pankhurst. I am a true suffragette, trained by the WSPU. We have another sister, Annie, Annie Kenney, who is in the thick of it right now, in England.

“She is in Holloway Jail on a hunger strike,” says Caroline. “Mrs. Pankhurst is on house arrest. They took her out of jail and put her in a nursing home. They made a special law. They didn’t want her to die in jail and become a martyr. They will do the same to Annie if she becomes too weak. Did you know? A thousand suffragettes have been arrested, all told.”

“That must make you happy,” says Mathilda. “That they won’t let your sister die.”

“It certainly makes me sis a little less miserable,” Caroline Kenney answers, motioning toward Nell with a small, white hand that is missing the tip of the index finger.  

“She’s been in the thick of the activism herself. That’s how she met her husband, you know.  My older sister interrupted one of Asquith’s speeches, in Nuneaton, in 1909. Frank was covering the speech for his newspaper, the Daily Mail. He saw Nell getting manhandled by the police, so he rushed to protect her. Isn’t that romantic? The Clarkes brought me here to keep me out of trouble, but they haven’t been able to.  Not entirely. I gave a talk to the Jewish Community last week. They were very impressed with what I had to say. They even wrote about it in their National newspaper.”

“We wish we could do our part, too,” says Mathilda. “A march,maybe. But they don’t march here in Montreal. It’s against the law.”

Caroline continues. “Yes, I know. So everyone here seems to believe. They have more liberty in America, don’t they?  In the United States they march and more. Did you read about the huge parade in Washington, with Inez Milholland leading the way on a beautiful white horse carrying the colours of the WSPU? "


Friday, April 1, 2016

Mississippi 'Religious Freedom' Hareem Pants and Substantive Due Process.

Hareem skirts (pants) were extremely controversial in 1910. Both Upstairs Downstairs and Downton Abbey comment on it. This picture was in the 1913 Montreal Saturday Mirror aimed at uppercrust women, so by then the fashion was acceptable but avant garde. Of course, the style was 'exotic' as in non-Christian.





According to an article on Salon, the new Mississippi religious freedom law, just passed in their legislature, isn't only anti LGTB but also might allow any employer  or school official to decide whether an employee or student is wearing gender appropriate garb.

A boss could even force a woman to wear more make-up. (So the author claims.)


This comes just a day after an Oxford scholar showed me a picture of a militant suffragette dressed as a man in a working class suit and said "She doesn't really look like a man, does she? She wouldn't fool anyone."

Well, maybe not from our modern post-Hepburn perspective.

In 1910, the era of the suffragettes, it was still illegal for a woman to dress as a man and vice versa, so this slim  militant was already breaking the law, even before she threw a rock at an MP's window.

And if women never stepped outside in pants and jacket, maybe the pretty suffragette did fool everyone.

Back then, a woman dressing as a man wasn't merely immoral, it was somehow dangerous to society at large.   And, you didn't have to be a militant. That's why it was illegal.



Two articles from 1912 Montreal Gazette. Suffragettes were often attacked for 'being like men' so they usually dressed very fashionably. They used  oufits to great theatrical purpose, too, sometimes dressing up in fine costumes and sometimes dressing down in working class rags.

How do I know?

I found this in an article on American legal history. University of Chicago. Law and Morals in Legal Thought  by Herbert Hovencamp.) It's a great article.

Quoting a 1890's jurist Tiedeman on Substantive Due Process in a book Police Power:

" It (police action) cannot be called into play in order to save one from the evil consequences of his own vices, for the violation of a right by the action of another must exist or be threatened, in order to justify the interference of law. Applying this principle, he suggested that the state could clearly prevent public nudity, but suggested that it lacked the power to prevent someone from going about in his or her undergarments. Likewise, the state could lawfully prohibit men from wearing women's clothes. However, "it does not follow that a law, which prohibited the use by men of a specific article of women's dress, or to women the use of a particular piece of men's clothing, would be constitutional. The prohibition must be confined to those cases, in which immorality or the practice of deception is facilitated, viz., where one sex appears altogether in the usual attire of the other sex."

So even back then a man might wear women's underwear or a woman could wear hareem PANTS.

So it seems telling people to wear make-up would be unconstitutional, although I'm sure it has already been done many many times in the case of stewardesses and waitresses, etc. But, that could be said to be all about contract, I guess.

In fact, I recall back in the 1980's at the radio station I once worked in, a manager called in a PR person to say she dressed too drably.

The woman didn't make much money so she rotated a few classic outfits. She wouldn't have minded the criticism except that when she asked her boss how she might dress, he cited a cleavage-bearing co-worker as an example.