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MacDonald, Cheryl.

Toronto, Dundurn Press, 1986. 183pp, paper, ISBN 1-55002-018-8 (cloth) $19.95. 1-5S002-017-X (paper) $9.95. CIP

Grades 10 and up
Reviewed by Leslie McGrath

Volume 15 Number 4
1987 July

Adelaide Hoodless, founder of the Women's Institute and crusader for domestic education in Canada, has been portrayed both as "a candidate for sainthood. . .who worked selflessly for the improvement of family life" and as "a sinner against the feminist cause. . . whose desire to maintain middle class standards of living did nothing to advance the women's movement." Cheryl MacDonald's contention is that Adelaide was neither, but rather "a Victorian woman with a great deal of energy and ambition, which she channeled into areas she felt were important."

This carefully documented and indexed biography, with its scholarly research and plentiful quotations of source material, presents a convincing picture of a contradictory but ultimately admirable woman. Adelaide, for example, never possessed the formal academic training she claimed was indispensable for teachers of domestic science, yet she was incensed at being replaced by a more qualified instructor at the Macdonald Institute, a school of domestic science she had helped to found. Although an active lobbyist dedicated to changing educational policies, Adelaide believed female suffrage would be harmful, stating in 1904 "a woman who has not succeeded in training her sons to vote so they will guard their mother's best interests. . .is not herself worthy to vote.

Adelaide viewed domestic science training as a means of educating women to run a clean, efficient home rather than to earn a living; nevertheless her efforts helped to establish the recognition of housework as a contribution as valuable to society as that of labour performed in the workplace. For this, as well as her many other achievements, which include her assistance in the founding of the VON in Canada, the establishment of the YWCA as a nationwide organization, and the representation of Canada at numerous national and international councils, recognition is long overdue. Cheryl MacDonald's perceptive and sensitive portrait is a fitting tribute to an outstanding Canadian woman.

Leslie McGrath, Toronto P.L., Toronto, Ont.
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