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Joan Sangster

Toronto, McClelland and Stewart, 1989. 273pp, paper, $15.95
ISBN 0-7710-7946-X. (The Canadian Social History series). CIP

Grades 12 and up/Ages 17 and up
Reviewed by Catherine Cox.

Volume 17 Number 4
1989 July

Dreams of Equality is a collection of essays about Canadian women's involvement in the parties on the left from 1920 to 1950. The parties or movements studied include the Communist Party of Canada, the CCF, and early socialist-feminists who were not aligned with any party. The essays move chronologically through the early socialists, the 1920s, 1930s, the war period in the 1940s, and the 1950s. Sangster deals only with women in Ontario and the western provinces, leaving Quebec and the Atlantic provinces to another study.

There were some outstanding socialist-feminists like Jeanne Corbin, Becky Buhay, Dorothy Sleeves and Agnes MacPhail in the Communist Party and the CCF, but, generally, women in the parties played a supportive, not a leading role. Their goals were often different from the stated goals of the male-dominated party line and they did not fit in. Men wanted to unionize working women and women were concerned with social issues like birth control and health and welfare.

This is a feminist history but there is no anti-male bias. The omission of the eastern portion of the country in a history of "women on the Canadian left" is a serious one, although the CCF was admittedly not a factor in the political scene of eastern Canada. This is a serious scholarly work with notes, a bibliography and index.

It will be a valuable reference for university students studying women's history and socialist history in Canada.

Catherine Cox, Moncton High School, Moncton, N.B.
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