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Member since: 2001
Number of posts: 38,549

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you're lucky you can get away with totally false statements like that

Be sure to bookmark my post. Some day, when you are struck by lightning and acquire a respect for the truth, you may want to frame it.

does not come close to what ugliness like yours induces in decent human beings.

feminism, temperance and prostitution

This had been my first thought for a discussion here when the group was proposed.

Those "moral crusades" women are apparently so fond of ...


An early figure in those crusades in the US: Frances Willard, who died in 1898.

Each year, as president of the WCTU, Willard published an address. In this long paper she proposed a plan of work and ideas for the betterment of society. Her messages always went beyond the issue of alcohol. During the year, she spoke and traveled and used her personal influence to accomplish the wide range of items on her agenda. At first, Willard campaigned for women's suffrage in a muted vocabulary, framing the issue in terms of giving women the ability to vote for "home protection." In this way, she gradually brought the WCTU along with her.

Her life as president of the WCTU was one of constant travel in the United States and Europe. Her style was winsome, evangelical, inspiring, and conciliatory. One biographer makes frequent mention of her ability to compromise and to slowly win her constituency over to her opinion. As she traveled around the country, she hired local secretaries to carry on her massive correspondence. She was said to keep six secretaries busy simultaneously. Material written in her own hand is voluminous but extremely hurried and virtually illegible.

Nothing concerning women escaped Willard's attention. She campaigned for change in prostitution laws, attacking grievous situations that were allowed to flourish. Prostitution in some lumber camps amounted to child slavery. The age of consent in twenty states was a mere ten years of age, and in one it was seven. According to Willard, the laws of purity were to be equally binding on men and women. The sexual crimes of men must not go unpunished. The men who patronized a prostitute should be equally guilty under the law as the prostitute who served him.

On the subject of rape, Willard wrote, "It is by holding men to the same standard of morality that society shall rise to higher levels, and by punishing with extreme penalties such men as inflict upon women atrocities compared with which death would be infinitely welcome. When we reflect that in Massachusetts and Vermont it is a greater crime to steal a cow than to abduct and <rape> a girl, and that in Illinois <rape> is not considered a crime, it is a marvel not to be explained that we go the even tenor of our way, too delicate, too refined, too prudish to make any allusion to these awful facts, much less take up arms against these awful crimes. We have been the victims of conventional cowardice too long."

Under Willard, the WCTU worked for the development of Traveler Aid to assist women in their attempt to remain pure while searching for work. They also established homes for the reclamation of prostitutes.

There was some pretty advanced thinking going on over a century ago (in reaction to some pretty horrific stuff that was going on as recently as that). And over the years since, the women doing it, and busting their bums to improve the lives of other women, have come to be dismissed as, yes, pearl-clutchers. They deserve a lot more attention and recognition for what they really were: brave and important social reformers, and feminists.

a little thread about the history of Canadian feminism ...

... and about moi.

I posted this some time ago in the Canada forum at old DU, where nobody here is likely to have seen it, and I thought it might fit here nicely, so I'm just going to copy and paste.

The background is that this is about the Persons Case -- the ruling that held that women in Canada were "persons" within the meaning of the 1867 Constitution for the purpose of appointment to the Senate. (Women already had the vote and could get elected to office, of course, there was just something about the historical meaning of "persons" that precluded them from appointment to the Senate.)

The case went to the Supreme Court of Canada, which ruled against the five women who had brought the action. At that time, it was possible to appeal from the SCC to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in Britain, which had been the final arbiter of legal matters in the British colonies (and this appeal route was abolished shortly afterward). The ruling of the Judicial Committee in Edwards v. A.G. Canada is referred to as the Persons Case, and the women involved as the Famous Five.


Fri Jun-29-07 04:54 PM

So this is my thread. It's about me.

Hey, if I knew how, I'd make it a poll.

No, actually, it's about Canadian constitutional history. And me.

Anybody here know Viscount Sankey? Well, be not embarrassed. *I* was, that I didn't recognize the name when I was sent an email about him this week. I should know these things; it's actually kinda my job. I'm enormously embarrassed. And not just because ... but wait, more on that after.

The email I was sent explained how Viscount Sankey was the one who wrote the line about "The Golden Thread that runs through English law" that Rumpole was so fond of quoting at the Bailey -- about the presumption of innocence and the burden of proof and all that.

In articulating the ruling, Viscount Sankey made his famous "Golden thread" speech:

Throughout the web of the English Criminal Law one golden thread is always to be seen, that it is the duty of the prosecution to prove the prisoner's guilt subject to what I have already said as to the defence of insanity and subject also to any statutory exception. If, at the end of and on the whole of the case, there is a reasonable doubt, created by the evidence given by either the prosecution or the prisoner, as to whether the prisoner killed the deceased with a malicious intention, the prosecution has not made out the case and the prisoner is entitled to an acquittal. No matter what the charge or where the trial, the principle that the prosecution must prove the guilt of the prisoner is part of the common law of England and no attempt to whittle it down can be entertained. When dealing with a murder case the Crown must prove (a) death as the result of a voluntary act of the accused and (b) malice of the accused.

But after getting the email, I googled a bit more, and smacked my forehead and hung my head in shame at my negligent memory.

Several of his judgments in the House of Lords have landmark statements of law. Of particular note are his statements in Edwards v. Canada (Attorney General) in which a case was held about women being allowed in the senate. In the end, women were allowed being senators.

He wrote the decision in the Persons Case -- the Famous Five and all that.

And not only that -- I just don't seem to have realized the extent to which our whole Canadian universe revolves around that case, completely apart from the question of women's equality itself (I hadn't realized that case was the source of the "living tree" doctrine):

Edwards v. Canada (Attorney General) <1930> A.C. 124 also known as the Persons Case is a famous Canadian/British constitutional case where it was first decided that women were eligible to sit in the Senate. The case, put forward by the Famous Five, went all the way to the Privy Council and was a landmark case in many respects.

Opinion of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council

Viscount Sankey, writing for the committee, found that the meaning of "qualified persons" could be read broadly to include women, reversing the decision of the Supreme Court. The landmark ruling was handed down on October 29, 1929.

Living tree doctrine

To arrive that his conclusion, Sankey proposed an entirely new approach to constitutional interpretation that has since become one of the core principles of constitutional law in Canada.

The British North America Act planted in Canada a living tree capable of growth and expansion within its natural limits. The object of the Act was to grant a Constitution to Canada. Like all written constitutions it has been subject to development through usage and convention.

Their Lordships do not conceive it to be the duty of this Board -- it is certainly not their desire -- to cut down the provisions of the Act by a narrow and technical construction, but rather to give it a large and liberal interpretation so that the Dominion to a great extent, but within certain fixed limits, may be mistress in her own house, as the provinces to a great extent, but within certain fixed limits, are mistresses in theirs.

From this the approach became known as the living tree doctrine which requires "large and liberal" interpretation.

Viscount Sankey invented the "living tree", along with the large-and-liberal approach to constitutional interpretation. (All of which I work with daily ...)

And this is why we have, oh, same-sex marriage and minority language rights.

In Canadian law, the living tree doctrine is a doctrine of constitutional interpretation that says that a constitution is organic and must be read in a broad and liberal manner so as to adapt it to the changing times.

This is known as the Doctrine of Progressive Interpretation. This means that the Constitution cannot be interpreted in the same way as an ordinary statute. Rather, it must be read within the context of society to ensure that it adapts and reflects changes. If constitutional interpretation adheres to the Framer's Intent and remains rooted in the past, the Constitution would not be reflective of society and eventually fall into disuse.

The "frozen concepts" reasoning runs contrary to one of the most fundamental principles of Canadian constitutional interpretation: that our Constitution is a living tree which, by way of progressive interpretation, accommodates and addresses the realities of modern life. (from the same-sex marriage reference)

Of course, the right wing in the US hates us for our living tree:

It's almost impossible to read much commentary about the role of the courts without stumbling across arguments for more judge-made law, often couched in fancy rhetoric about "a living Constitution" or the alleged need to read the Constitution "in light of societal needs and evolving legal policy." (U.S. liberals aren't unique: In approving gay marriage, Canada's Supreme Court said, "Our Constitution is a living tree, which, by way of progressive interpretation, accommodates and addresses the realities of modern life."

So ... talk about yer civics lessons, eh?

But no; remember, this thread is about me.

I am the great-great-great-great-great granddaughter of Viscount Sankey's great-grandparents. My greatx4 grandmother and his grandfather were brother and sister.

So he is my second cousin four times removed. (I think.) Different generation, same set of ancestors.

Oh, he was a Labour peer (not hereditary) -- also served as Lord Chancellor under the Labour government 1929-35. And was apparently regarded as a class traitor in some quarters.

Now just exactly how cool is that??
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