An American flood of literary trash

Emily Murphy, magistrate, writer, and social, political and legal reformer, pens a tirade against a gusher of filthy, literary trash imported from the United States. A self-taught legal expert, Murphy was appointed an Edmonton magistrate in 1916, the first women magistrate in the British Empire.rash

On her first day on the bench, a lawyer challenged her as not a “person” in the eyes of British law. With four other Alberta women, she led a successful 13-year legal battle in which Britain’s Privy Council in 1929 ruled that women are, indeed, legal persons under the BNA Act, eligible to hold appointed public positions, including the Senate.

Following is an edited excerpt of Judge Murphy’s article, from Municipal Review, published in the St. John Telegraph-Journal, October 12, 1926.

At the Triennial Conference of the Canadian Women’s Press Club, held recently in Toronto, the members went on record as being opposed to the salacious literature that is being shipped into Canada from the United States.

It is not exactly known what the men of the Canadian Dailies intend doing, but some of us are hoping they will—first, publish the names and addresses of those facile agree-ers, commonly designated as “censors,” who sit so magnificently immobile in the face of the gusher-like rush of literary abominations that are inundating Canada. We are hoping—secondly, that when Messieurs, the daily editors, unship their weapons they will take the scalps from off these censors and, maybe, the thickened cuticle from off their very backs.

Perhaps, if the editors had some support from the reading public on the censoring of filthy “literature,” we would get ahead with greater expedition.

Unfortunately, so many of our people have a frightful dread of being designated as “Puritans,” or even “Uplifters.” This is apparently a worse deterrent to freedom of speech than a split-tongue, or even a gag.

It is highly desirable to a fuller understanding and a better friendship [with the United States] that we read the literature of other countries. In this respect, Canadians have become more familiar with the literature of their neighbour to the South than of any other country in the world, in spite of the fact that a like reciprocity does not exist. Generally speaking, Canadian writers have little market for their manuscripts in the United States, and the same applies to the output of Canadian publishers.

Most of us who have even a modicum of wisdom, act as censors over the literature that comes into our homes, and feel no necessity whatever for apologizing to anyone. Why, then should we object to a censorship for the literature that comes into the wider house of the state—literature which, because of its prurience, is bound to work irremediably harm to our nation-folk? At any rate, who do not allow people wantonly to poison our bodies. Why allow them to poison our minds?

Books and magazines introduce us to the greatest minds of the world—also to the vilest. For our national safety, it is obligatory that we always keep this vital distinction in mind.

Unfamiliar Canadian History Stories 121


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