Mrs. Journalist here

ML Knight Time and Gas Collection Henry Knight

My first “Mrs.”

In my copy, I mean.

I have never been nor shall I ever be a Mrs., but the Globe and Mail deigned to snap that honorific to the woman I profiled in today’s paper. It is hard, so hard for me to bear, to see, to own up to this non-typo.

And on International Women’s Day no less!

A bit of background.

I wrote about this truly amazing, inspiring, woman-loving Toronto artist and writer named M.L. Knight.

She is another person I could have been friends with; she was someone who probably would have gone some distance in mentoring me, as a writer. She certainly performed this role for countless other women.

In her visual art, she created whimsical and evocative collages telling all sorts of stories to all sorts of people, demonstrating creativity, imagination, humour, the ridiculous–and demonstrating feminist politics.

She called one collage “Fisted Rage.”

In it, she tore ads from a women’s magazine depicting tightly wound rolls of bathroom towels in every shade of pastel.

She then drew the viewer’s eye to the similarity between this basket of rolled towels and a tightly clenched fist.

I think she was commenting on the domestic situation that demands women pay attention to such trivial details. A kind of domestic rage inspired by Martha Stewart?

She also wrote about her childhood, a little bookish girl raised by a Disciples of Christ reverend and a missionary mother in Toronto back in the 20s.

Some of the marked irreverence she later slipped into her art, I think, came from living among this fundamentalist sect.

She described churchwomen who looked kindly on shell-shocked soldiers (First World War) and the unemployed (the Depression), but not on “stupid-looking domestics.”

She outed a congregation who literally ran a suspected homosexual music teacher from town and then, in an ironic twist, offered the teaching job to this shamed man’s male “roommate.”

She describes her mother’s struggle to clean the doleful blackish carpet that had been donated by the congregation. “Into that rug one’s spirit could be sucked,” she wrote.

And so how did this enlightened proto-feminist land as a “Mrs.” on the page? My very first Mrs. as it turns out.

Because her family insisted that’s what she would have wished.

And I respected her wishes.

Gulp.

I suppose Nellie McClung was a Mrs. too.

Happy International Women’s Day to you all.

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About Nor

I'm a creative non-fiction writer, with a special interest in memoirs and obituaries--life stories, local histories with flesh & blood anecdotal details. I'm also beginning to create podcasts of people's stories and expanding their audiences. I'm a diarist, an editor, and a political activist. I live in Toronto, Ontario, Canada and spend days tapping keys or staining my fingers in ink.
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6 Responses to Mrs. Journalist here

  1. Chris Gainor says:

    As an old time newspaper reporter, I remember when all women were called either Mrs or Miss, but not Ms. Finally that came to an end. Even if women still want to use the old discarded designations as in this case, at least they are free to make that choice. Happy IWD!

  2. Stephanie says:

    Another interesting, talented Canadian I’ve never heard of! I enjoyed the obituary, Noreen. What a great sense of humour she had, and whimsy, as you said. As for the fact she would have preferred “Mrs.,” it isn’t a word I use either, but we all need to feel free to express ourselves as we wish and to be respected for it even if others disagree. That’s part of what International Women’s Day is all about for me.

  3. R&S says:

    loved the collages!! HAPPY IWD TOO!

  4. I’m sure if she’d had two lives to live, she’d have changed her mind. I suppose it’s just a label after all. But it’s hard to take, for a feminist 😦

  5. My brother suggested I would possibly like this blog. He was
    once entirely right. This post actually made my day.
    You can not believe just how so much time I had spent for this information!

    Thank you!

  6. Joe Lewis says:

    first I must thank you for your article in the Globe and thanks to google my being able to find this intriguing blog because of your post here. Mrs ML Knight was a friend of mine as was her husband whom she loved grandly and celebrated daily as he did her and please note she was Mrs ML Knight not Mrs David Knight . She indulged herself with humanism and was one of the most gracious and tenacious critics of the human condition i have ever known. As a writer with a focus on textile and fibre crafts and art I do have to point out that in the first wave feminist art movement of the late 1960s and 70s reclamation of unknown anonymous maker they rejected a large proportion of what was know about historic textile production relegating that knowledge unnecessary and created a distortion that has young makers today thinking every woman in every culture spun and wove their family clothing. You might think that statement is a distortion itself but if you attend weaving, needle work or quilting guild meetings you would be surprised by the current discontent between textile history and the mid Victorian Arts and Crafts movements today’s guilds are directly related to. This is the type of thing ML and I would talk about, she herself was related to a Milliner and i pointed out the direct line of her distant relatives hats and her collage work. Just thought I would point that out. And thanks again for telling a bit of her story.

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