A Vancouver steam laundry girl’s story about the Spanish Flu

March 18, 2020

by Janet Mary Nicol

Ellen Goode was among 300 employees in Vancouver – most female – on strike against steam laundry employers.  The dispute started in September, 1918 and lasted four months, with unions achieved in two of the seven workplaces.   Ellen talked about her experiences in a taped interview years later.  She  recalled laundry owners blamed striking employees when the Spanish flu began spreading in Vancouver in October 1918, finally dissipating in the New Year and leaving nine hundred residents dead, four strikers at IXL Laundry among them.

Ellen recounted:

“A full-page advertisement came out in the papers that the flu epidemic was not easing up owing to the laundry workers being on strike with dirty linen. So the union ran an ad stating that we would man any laundry, free of wages, twenty-four hours a day for people with the flu in their home – which we received no response for. We wanted to man the general hospital which was working ten hours a day. But there was no response to it.”

Ellen also said: “You’d get on the streetcar and people, they’d say – they’d know you were a picketer because they’d see you get on the corner and they’d say, ‘No wonder so many people are dying when the laundry girls are out and refuse to work, you know.’ But that’s what they [the employer] did with us. But it didn’t work.”  She continued: “I did have that paper for years until it began to crumble and I had to throw it away. I kept it as a souvenir.”

***

Note: The BC Federationist, the labour newspaper of the day, published the names of the four members of the Laundry Workers Union who died. Mountain View cemetery records indicate date of death and age. The four workers were: Miss Josephine Tielens, aged 19, died 2 November; Miss Margaret Roxburgh, aged 19, died 25 October; George Baker, aged 34, died 31 October. Nick Pervie is not listed in the cemetery records.

This abridged excerpt is from “Girl Strikers and the 1918 Vancouver Steam Laundries Dispute” in BC Studies, Fall 2019

Free access to the full article (as of March, 2020) is available on line at
https://ojs.library.ubc.ca/index.php/bcstudies/article/view/190428/188946

Book review: Passion and Persistence

February 8, 2020

Passion and Persistence: Fifty Years of the Sierra Club in British Columbia, 1969-2019 by Diane Pinch. Harbour Publishing, Madeira Park, BC, 2019.

Book review by Janet Nicol

This book chronicles the many ways Sierra Club members have campaigned to protect the wilderness, from advocating for a park rather than a mountain resort to confronting the global climate crisis. Author Diane Pinch, a long time Sierra Club of BC (SCBC) member, offers an important aspect of our provincial history, employing prose that is engaging and accessible and using first hand accounts, archival club materials, maps and photographs.

For the full review check out  the upcoming issue of BC History, Spring, 2020.

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Season’s Greetings

December 7, 2019

Linocut (A/P) Russian church in Strathcona, Vancouver. J.M. Nicol

Original print (1/1) Available at Dundarave Print Workshop $10 SOLD

At the Wilderness Edge – book review

November 24, 2019

By Janet Nicol

In the Winter 2019 issue of BC History I review J.I. Little’s book, “At the Wilderness Edge: The Rise of the Anti-Development Movement on Canada’s West Coast.”

Little examines five environmental protests in the province’s post war years, proving small groups of committed people can make big changes. His findings challenge assumptions about the people behind the activism and provide blueprints for future actions.

Behind the Magic

November 19, 2019

by Janet Nicol

Working conditions have created a powder keg inside dozens of Vancouver’s animation studios.

In this cover story for Our Times magazine, I interview artists employed on contracts in Vancouver and Toronto animation studios, as well as the organizers working toward building a union as a means to better their conditions.

The full article is available in the Fall 2019 issue of Our Times magazine, available this month at Chapters/Indigo and some independent book stores as well as on-line subscription.  The article is also posted on line at the “Our Times” magazine website.

‘Girl Strikers’ and the 1918 Vancouver Laundries Dispute

November 19, 2019

by Janet Mary Nicol

Abstract

Canadian soldiers were still fighting overseas alongside the British, when more than 300 laundry workers in Vancouver—most of them female—went on strike in September of 1918. During the ensuing four months of the dispute, trade union men protested conscription, the Spanish flu pandemic swept through the city and on November 11, an armistice in Europe was celebrated in the streets. Trade unions had gained leverage by 1916 in Vancouver and across Canada, strike activity proliferated between 1917 and 1920. During the tumultuous final months of the war, the ‘laundry girls’ found an opportunity to take a stand. This narration examines a labour dispute at seven Vancouver steam laundries in 1918 through the lens of four female participants: Helena Gutteridge, union organizer and executive member of the Vancouver Trades and Labour Council; Ellen Goode, a 20 year old striker who gave a oral account of the strike decades later; Josephine Nelson, a 31 year old Irish immigrant and 43 year old Matilda Cruickshank. The intent of this research note is to better understand the lives of working women a century ago. Issues raised as they intersect with class, gender and race will be considered. The strike was a transformative experience for many women involved, their lives changed—‘as the world was changed.’

Full article can be purchased on-line for $5 at the BC Studies website, and journal at $20.   Direct link at –
https://bcstudies.com/issue-single/bc-studies-no-203-autumn-2019/

‘On the Curve’ talk at Victoria art gallery

October 4, 2019

Guest Speaker Janet Nicol: “On the Curve:  The Life and Art of Sybil Andrews”

FRIDAY OCT 11 | 10:00 AM – 11:00 AM

Join the Gallery Associates in the Spencer Mansion and enjoy a lively and informational talk with Janet Nicol about the life and art of British-Canadian artist Sybil Andrews. Known for her bold linocut prints, Sybil Andrews was a professional female artist during the late 20th century, a distinctly male-dominated world. She is now recognized as one of Canada’s most prominent artists of the time.

Inspired by the working-class community of Campbell River where she lived, her art is known for its honest depiction of ordinary people at work and play on Canada’s West Coast.

Books available for sale from the Gallery Shop.

Presented in collaboration with the Associates of the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria and Caitlin Press.

*Please note that there is limited space available.

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Thank you to all the AGGV Associates and members of the public who came out for this book talk event.   The interest and enthusiasm for Sybil Andrews and her art work was very genuine and warm.

BC Artists: On or Under the Radar

August 27, 2019

by Janet Nicol

My recently published book about artist Sybil Andrews joins a growing list of biographies and memoirs of BC artists who have dedicated their life to creativity, experiencing an array of struggles and successes along the way.

Check out  Off the Page, part of  ‘49th Shelf,’ an on-line publishers’ website where I recommend eight other reads, all beautifully illustrated with the artists’ work. Link at –

https://49thshelf.com/Blog/2019/26/BC-Artists-On-or-Under-the-Radar

Also, the following is a write-up about my book in Preview, an art magazine available at no cost in galleries around BC:

ON THE CURVE: THE LIFE AND ART OF SYBIL ANDREWS is historian Janet Nicol’s deeply researched account of an outstanding artist whose career has cycled in and out of critical focus. The book traces Andrews’ progress from her Suffolk childhood and her art education in London through her enthusiastic embrace of the democratic medium of the linoleum block print. Nicol’s focus is on Andrews’ life and impact after World War II in the then-isolated community of Campbell River, and her eventual international recognition.

Softcover, 158 pp., C$28.95. Available at bookstores, caitlin-press.com or amazon.ca.

Link to Preview page at – http://preview-art.com/catalogues/sep-oct-2019-exhibition-catalogues/

Also note:  I am available for presentations and at book clubs.  Many thanks to the Killarney Secondary (Vancouver) book club for hosting a talk this January, 2020.

 

Drawbridge – a book review

July 26, 2019

Drawbridge: Drawing Alongside My Brother’s Schizophrenia
by Joan Boxall Halfmoon Bay: Caitlin Press, 2019

Reviewed by Janet Nicol

A memoir told in ten lyrical essays, Drawbridge: Drawing Alongside My Brother’s Schizophrenia is Joan Boxall’s moving tribute to her brother, Stephen Corcoran. In the early 2000s, Joan became co-trustee of Stephen following the death of their parents. So began her enlightening ten-year journey supporting a brother with a mental illness. Joan intersperses research, observations, and thoughts with her poetry, each essay framed within a theme of art — the powerful tool that provided a path for Joan and Stephen to connect.

The pair spent many Tuesdays mornings figure drawing from live models at Basic Inquiry studio and gallery on Vancouver’s Main Street. Stephen held two exhibitions at Basic Inquiry prior to his death from cancer following a short illness in 2013, aged 64.

The full review is available at The Ormsby Review, an on-line journal.
Link at – https://ormsbyreview.com/2019/07/26/584-brother-artist-at-the-edge/

Steven Corcoran drawing, May 2011

‘On the Curve’ book event – Silk Purse Arts Centre

July 17, 2019

‘On the Curve’ book event at Silk Purse Arts Centre
Sunday, September 29, 2019 at 4:30 to 6pm

As part of the Creative Voices program sponsored by the West Vancouver Community Arts Council, I will be giving a presentation about my book, “On the Curve: The Life and Art of Sybil Andrews” at the Silk Purse Arts Centre on Sunday, September 29 at 4:30 to 6pm.

Following a power point presentation and Q and A, copies of book will be for sale, along with an author signing.

The event is free and will be accepting pay-what-you can donations. Registration is at  –
https://westvanartscouncil.ca/event-3482194

More about “On the Curve” at “All Lit Up” newsletter – link at https://alllitup.ca/Blog/2019/Beautiful-Books-On-the-Curve-The-Life-and-Art-of-Sybil-Andrews

Thank you to all who came out to the book talk at the Silk Purse.  It was a lovely afternoon of art talk in a ‘cottage’ style space with opened French doors leading to the beach,  in the distance, cruise ships heading out to sea.

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