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Politics as Usual: Mrs Pankhurst and the Suffragettes in Canada


Unfortunately, Edith Nicholson did not cut out any clippings of Mrs. Emmeline Pankhurst's trips to Canada. Hard to believe.

I think this is because, when Pankhurst came to Canada (and if I am right she came in 1909 and late 1912) she kept a fairly low profile.

Of course, there were some factions who wanted any militant suffragettes who came to Canada arrested as criminals and deported. (I suspect the British Government put some pressure on the Canadian Government.)

I found a social note in an American Paper that claimed Mrs. Pankhurst came to Montreal in early January 1912 and spoke before a HUGE crowd which included the Mayor of all things! And she also visited in 1909, right plunk in the middle of the Typhoid Epidemic (see Milk and Water my eplay) and kept it MILD.

(So I must go to the library and check out the Newspapers of that time.)

Apparently, according to Mrs. Denison of Toronto, leader of the suffrage movement there, the Mayor of Toronto was pro-women suffrage, so much so, he started the Men's Woman Suffrage League. Maybe Mayor Martin didn't want to be left behind.

Mrs. Denison, in 1913 (when the British Suffragettes and Mrs. Pankhurst were getting in big trouble in England) gave an interview to the New York Times.

She said almost all the Toronto Papers were in support of Mrs. Emmeline Pankhurst. She said so were the women of Canada, although they were not into "open meetings' and demonstrations" so they were 'conservative' in their way.

She said Canadian Suffragists weren't into militant methods (although the Canadian Council of Women endorsed Woman Suffage) either, although "some young women were coming to understand the need for publicity that they must make sacrifices for the cause."

Isn't that interesting? She understood that all the histrionics was about publicity.

Yes, very interesting. And it's not such a surprise to me now that Edith Nicholson, prim and proper school teacher, was a militant suffragette sympathizer.

Mrs. Pankhurst came to Canada often afterwards, during the War and such, speaking from pulpits, in 1916 at St. James Methodist. (During the war the Suffragettes were very patriotic, and their particular brand of violence seemed meek and mild compared to what was going on in Europe.)

Also, many British Militant Suffragettes seemed to come to Canada "to rest and recreate" after their jail time.  The editors of the WSPU Votes for Women magazine, the Lawrences, came in 1912, (to visit a brother) and while away their home was confiscated.

Is Militancy a Disease? Most articles in the Montreal Gazette about the Suffragettes were wired in Cooperation with the New York Times.

Upon her death in 1928, the Montreal Gazette explained that  Emmeline Pankhurst lived in Toronto for a while, in 1921 and later Victoria BC. (Canadian women had the vote by then as did British women over 30.)

The obit described her as 'slight in stature, but with a fighting spirit, who at 50 had preserved much of her girlish beauty. She reveled in pretty clothes as much as any woman, loved music and children, and made the 'best lamb' in England.' (And then the obit talks about her family in Manchester  and their long fight for social justice. (I recall hearing on a BBC Radio doumentary, that the Pankhurst's became social activists when they noticed that so many young girls were arriving at their clinic pregnant by their own fathers.)

It always comes down to looks, doesn't it?  She's a suffragette, but she's SO PRETTY. The papers said the same about Mrs. Snowden and Barbara Wylie

Still, one wonders if she had been a big woman if she would have had a chance. Helen Gurley Brown was a ballsy woman, and ground breaker, but she was tiny too. There's something about being tiny and feminine that gives a strong woman an advantage. She doesn't intimidate with her looks and size, so she can make sneak attacks, or something.

Oh, and I learned something else, as I research my YouTube documentary about the Suffrage Movement in Canada, that a woman who had worked with Mrs. Pankhurst later led the Montreal Suffrage Association.

So the British Suffragettes clearly had influence in Canada, back room political influence, people in Canada were just careful about associating themselves with the militants in England.