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Knowles, Valerie.

Toronto, Dundurn Press, 1988. 304pp, paper. ISBN 1-55002-029-3 (cloth) $24.95, 1-55002-030-7 (paper) $14.95. CIP

Grades 12 and up
Reviewed by Gerri Young

Volume 17 Number 1
1989 January

If one's views of the Canadian Senate are negative, this book will ameliorate those opinions. Cairine Wilson may not be a household name in Canada, but it should be. Senator Wilson's life and career are worthy of emulation.

Cairine Wilson was born in 1885 into a wealthy Montreal family and was raised according to Scottish Presbyterian principles. The Protestant work ethic meant "a God-given responsibility to demonstrate initiative, risk-taking and foresight... did not result merely in a desire to accumulate material riches." Stewardship and a belief in individual talents and wealth benefiting her fellow citizens directed and dominated Cairine Wilson's life.

Cairine Wilson was appointed to the Senate by Mackenzie King in 1930. It was an historic event and an honour. Just four months before, a group of Alberta feminists led by Emily Murphy had successfully challenged Section 24 of the BNA Act on the question of whether women were considered "persons" and were therefore eligible for appointment to the Senate. Considered controversial in 1930, Wilson's new appointment launched a political career characterized by passion, commitment and pursuit of reform. Wilson, whose work on behalf of refugees and the world's needy was legendary, served in the Senate for some 30 years—through some of the stormiest and most formative years in Canadian history. She also found the time to raise a large family of eight children.

Valerie Knowles has written a clear, solid, well-researched book on the public life of Senator Wilson. The organization of the material permits easy access to the information and the writing is balanced. Although the author's admiration for her subject is obvious, Knowles records any criticism that the Senator received.

Recommended for senior high school and public libraries.

Gerri Young, Fort Nelson, B.C.
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