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Alice A. Chown

Toronto, University of Toronto Press, 1988. 273pp, paper, ISBN 0-8020-5769-1 (cloth) $30.00, 0-8020-6683-6 (paper) $12.95. CIP

Grades 12 and up/Ages 17 and up
Reviewed by Catharine Joan MacDonnell.

Volume 17 Number 4
1989 July

The Stairway gives readers an opportunity to see the growth of a radical, pacifist feminist in ordinary circumstances. Alice Chown speaks in a way that seems commonplace now but which in her time was a voice crying in the wilderness.

From a background in which education was seen as a valued tool, Chown developed into a free thinker. Trying to blend the experiences of a woman born in 1866 with the dreams of a feminist far beyond her years was a difficult one, but the autobiographical approach allows us to see that Chown's life was extraordinary only to others, not to herself.

Through her many trips, both physical and through books, Chown attempted to find a classless, non-militaristic, free society. Chown finally emerged as a suffragist, labour advocate, speaker for racial tolerance and inveterate optimist. Written for serious readers, students of feminism and biography enthusiasts. The Stairway is an informative look into the beginnings of the new twentieth-century humanism.

Eminently readable, this book is well laid out with each "chapter" encompassing a new phase of Chown's existence. This is a common-touch life story, one in which we can all see the reflection of reality. This is real stuff from a gentlewoman.

A feminist's heart is exposed in Alice Chown's Stairway. Please tread softly!

Catharine Joan MacDonnell, St. Patrick Schoool, Kitchener, Ont.
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