A review of Nellie McClung’s public life and her importance in the development of Canadian as a nation. Well presented, focused and no salacious gossip.
Although her influence in campaigning for the political equality for women [the right to vote and to be eligible to sit in the Senate] is well known, I was less familiar with her method and the scope of the campaigns, specifically the strong links with Prohibition and workers’ rights. Charlotte Grey reveals that one reason for the group’s success was their ability to unite a broad group of people with ‘humble beginnings’ to progress rights that would make the situation better for everyone – farmers’ wives, factory workers and immigrants. Nellie’s strengths were her public speaking skills and crusading zeal, being able to win people over with wit and charm rather than through hectoring. But the fact that she led a strong but conventional family life – training and working as a teacher, remaining happily married for over 50 years, being a mother to five children, was a popular author and well traveled meant that she was respected within the mainstream political arena.
She continued to fight for ‘just causes throughout her life - the right of women to be on equal footing in the armed forces, supporting the ordination of women priests and universal education, fair wages, workers’ safety & rights, and the treatment of Japanese Canadians and German Jews during WWII. She was less comfortable in team work such as was required during her time as a provincial MP. In retirement, she was elected to the board of newly founded CBC and Canadian representative at UN conference in Geneva.
The only reservation about this informative book was that it was difficult to imagine just how charismatic a figure Nellie was - which is in line with the author’s comment about her disappointment that Nellie’s private diaries and correspondence have been destroyed and at only being able to find one, short archival recording of her speaking publicly.
I read this book in 2008 and it was one of my top books of the year. Although non-fiction, this book reads like a novel and I could really felt empathy for Nellie McClung.
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