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PR and Getting the Word Out

(This is  the kind of thing I did for a living a few years ago. I got good press too, often front page stories. I was amazed at how my 'pressers' were often used verbatim or practically verbatim by the busy reporters. Top reporters, too! It's a good way to ensure the info in the article is correct, as reporters always make mistakes.)

 

A Novel Approach to Genealogy


Anne-Kitty Wells
Montreal - May 22, 2012

 

One day, way back in the early days of this century, author Dorothy Nixon sat at a garden table with her friends, slurping back sangrias and she asked them a ‘trick’ question: “When did women get the vote in Canada?” No one knew the exact date.

 

Strange, you’d think, when her friends were all highly educated, most with graduate degrees.

It was clear there had been a gap in their education.

 

Dorothy wasn’t surprised. She had just learned about Canadian Women Suffrage lately after finding a treasure trove of family letters from the 1910 era, belonging to her husband’s mother’s family.

Indeed, she even knew why no one knew the date Canadian women got the vote.

 

She had found a copy of their Canadian History Book in a local V.O.N. thrift shop. Canada Then and Now, published in 1954, the year of Dorothy’s birth, incidentally.

 

There was no mention of women and the vote within its pages. In fact, there was no mention of women at all.

 

Dorothy now knows when Canadian women got the vote, thanks to these letters she found in 2004 and the many of years of research she has conducted for background for her ebooks Threshold Girl, Diary of a Confirmed Spinster and Biology and Ambition, a digital trilogy to make up the omnibus edition titled School Marms and Suffragettes.

 

The letters she found in 2004 belonged to the Nicholson Family of Richmond, Quebec, consisting of parents Norman and Margaret, and ‘children’ Edith, Herbert, Marion and Flora. Marion, who rose up to be President of the Protestant Teacher’s Union in Quebec, is her husband’s grandmother.

 

All of the girls were ‘new women’ of the era, looking for jobs while looking for love, and following the antics of the British Suffragettes.

 

As Nixon explains, there was really no Suffrage Movement in Eastern Canada, no parades, no window-breaking civil disobedience.

 

But there were occasional lectures by visiting suffragettes, often promoted by the Montreal Council of Women, a powerful organization in the 1910 era. And some of these meetings got pretty rowdy with participants almost coming to blows according to newspaper accounts.

 

The Nicholson women, all 'prim proper Presbyterians' working as teachers in the big city, often attended these meetings. They also clipped newspaper reports of the events, storing them with their letters.

 

This bit from the Nicholson collection is from the 1912 Montreal Standard according to Nixon:

 

 

Miss Barbara Wylie, the English suffragist, whose visit to Canada has aroused so much interest and speculation as to what it may eventually lead to, arrived at Place Viger Station at 3 o'clock yesterday afternoon, but looked so unlike one who had twice been in prison and was willing to fight again for 'the cause' that the small group of newspapermen waiting at the gate had a hard time finding her, and actually let her walk past.  Miss Wylie (it turns out) is a tall really beautiful looking woman with every appearance of refinement and intelligence above the ordinary. She spoke intelligently of the suffrage movement…


Barbara Wiley, a minor suffragette who has only a tiny presence today on the Internet,  came to Canada on a lecture tour in 1912 because her brother was an MP out West and she figures in the ebook Threshold Girl. This volume also contains a factory-labour theme.

 

Dorothy’s Marms and Suffragette novels all contain important (if forgotten) historical themes such as women labour in factories, the eugenics movement, and anti-Semitism in the school system.

 

You can read Threshold Girl and Biology and Ambition, (the first and third of the School Marms and Suffragettes series) here.

 

Dorothy Nixon has also written Milk and Water, about 1927 Montreal Municipal Politics and Looking for Mrs. Peel, about women prisoners of war, civilian internees, at Changi in Singapore in 1942.