Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Emmeline and Earhart, Oxford and McGill - 1928




In June, 1928,  Emmeline Pankhurst - and woman suffrage - was already old news: her death at 70 made only the Page 9 Women's News Section of the Montreal Gazette.

And this despite the fact that Quebec women still didn't yet have the provincial vote.

I'm sure Edith Nicholson, my husband's great aunt, felt sad when she heard the news. She had been an avid fan of the suffragette leader. (Read Furies Cross the Mersey.)

Edith, who was active with la Ligue des droits de la femme, a local suffrage advocacy group,  didn't see the Gazette issue  with the Pankhurst obit.  She was in London, England at that time. I have a June 5, 1928 letter (above) where "DeDe" says she is spending most of her time at Oxford.

 She writes about visiting the Bodelian Library, at the bidding of J. R. Nicholson, the Registar of McGill - and her boss back home. (No relation, though.)

(Another story on the Women's Page says that the fiftieth anniversary of a Woman's College at Oxford, Lady Margaret Hall, is being celebrated in June, 1928. I suspect that is why Edith is at Oxford.  The June 5 letter say she is leaving for Paris the next day. )


Amelia Earhart was the woman everyone was talking about in June, 1928.  Her flight across the Atlantic was making page one headlines and generating a lot of ancillary articles.

Another headline says Miss Earhart finds fame difficult. Hmm. Unlike in Emmeline's case, Miss Earhart's fame has lived on for a very lousy reason.


Emmeline had made plenty of front page headlines in the Gazette just 15 years before, in 1913, when  suffragette militancy was at its peak.



The Gazette shared a newswire with the New York Times in 1913, but the sensational headlines were of the Gazette's own concoction.

The Gazette was decidedly not pro- woman suffrage. The Canadian suffragists were against the sale of alcohol and the Gazette had plenty of booze ads.

In June, 1928 the paper's editors wrote about American Prohibition at least twice. It was still a very hot topic. Montreal was not under Prohibition in the 1920's and American tourism was up because of it!

The biggest local news in the June 1928 Gazette was about the Montreal Water and Power appropriation. City Hall aldermen were debating how to pay for the once-private suburban water works company, purchased a few months  before from a-not-so-secret consortium for a whopping 14,000,000 dollars.

My Grandfather, Jules Crepeau, Director of City Service, would soon lose his job  over this necessary purchase. (Typhoid was a problem in Montreal.)

He was forced to resign by Mayor Camillien Houde two years later.


Somehow the purchase was Grandpapa's mistake. He should have warned aldermen against it. Except he hadn't been at the 1926 meeting where the purchase was finalized.

 Industrial Lorne Webster was the one who engineered this sale to his advantage, flipping the company and making a cool 4 million dollars in a matter of months.  An arbitrator, however, later exonerated Webster of any wrong-doing.

My grandfather, the city's highest paid civil servant in the 1920's, was fired by Houde for other, murkier, reasons.

 Grandpapa had  been around city politics for four decades. Indeed, in 1928, he was feted by his fellows at City Hall for a stellar forty years of service. He was extremely hardworking and very bright, they said. No kidding.

Clearly, my grandfather knew too much and/or he was aligned with the wrong people. (At a City Hall debate in 1930, over whether to accept my grandfather's resignation, Houde said the people wanted revenge, for the Water and Power Sale and for the Laurier Palace Fire. )

Still,  my grandfather privately negotiated an enormous pension  with Houde before agreeing to step down.

In 1937, the City passed a special Depression Era bill cancelling my grandfather's pension. My grandfather must have threatened someone, because he was hit by a car driven by a plain clothes policeman two weeks later. He died from complications from X-Rays the next year.

The 1928 St. Jean Baptiste parade was held in June, according to the same newspaper. Apparently, Houde gave Montreal citizens a half day off.

So, no wonder the streets were so crowded in front of 72 Sherbrooke West, where my grandfather and family lived, when the parade passed.

Here's the picture someone in my family took, way back when. The 1928 date is on the back.