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Kome, Penney.

Toronto, Doubleday, c1985. 240pp, cloth, $19.95, ISBN 0-385-23140-7. CIP

Grades 11 and up
Reviewed by Marian M. Press

Volume 13 Number 6
1985 November

Penney Kome, familiar to many as the "Woman's Place" columnist in Homemaker's magazine, has undertaken in Women of Influence to follow the history of women's involvement in Canadian politics, from their fight to gain the vote to the 1984 federal election. Her argument is that women did not, as is often stated, retire to rest on their laurels once they were enfranchised. Women have, in fact, continued their political involvement through the years, although not always as part of the formal structures built by men.

Canadian women may be seen as being in the middle of a continuum of development from an invisible, politically disenfranchised majority to a polilically significant block.

Kome's book is the story of how women have travelled along that continuum.

An additional framework for her history is provided by the 1984 election that introduced the concept of the gender gap into Canadian elections. Kome asks if the fifty-two per cent of the vote held by women did, in fact, make a difference in the election results. The conclusion seems to be that it did not, principally because women's issues were recognized and emphasized by all three main political parties.

The book is written in a lively and very readable style that will appeal especially to those who are coming to this area of women's history for the first time. Women of Influence will introduce them to the likes of Emily Murphy, the leader of the fight to have women declared "persons" under the law in Canada: to Madeleine Parent, for forty years a union activist; to Lauria Sabia, whose bluff resulted in the Royal Commission on the Status of Women, an event that can be said to mark the beginning of the modern women's movement in this country; and to many other women equally as interesting and important. The later chapters, which trace the beginnings of such contemporary organizations as the National Action Committee on the Status of Women, are of particular value, as a knowledge of these foundations is often taken for granted in other discussions.

An excellent index is included, as are appendices on "Women in Parliament and the Provincial Legislatures" and "Some Women's Organizations." The very short bibliography is less satisfactory, especially as the book is not footnoted and some of the authorities mentioned in the text, such as Ruth Pierson, are not included. A disadvantage for those who would like to explore this area further. Nevertheless, this history of Canadian women and politics is a must for all high school and public libraries. It is to be hoped that teachers will use it to broaden the scope of Canadian history for senior students.

Marian M. Press, Toronto, Ont.
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