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Doris Pennington

Toronto, Simon & Pierre, 1989. 250pp, paper, $24.95
ISBN 0-88924-212-7. CIP

Grades 12 and up/Ages 17 and up
Reviewed by Jean Farquharson.

Volume 18 Number 3
1990 May

With an influx of women seeking leadership of political parties, it is timely for author-editor Doris Pennington to present the life of Canada's remarkable Agnes Macphail. Agnes was strongly influenced by her indomitable maternal grandmother, who could do women's work or men's work equally well, and by her father, a popular, sociable auctioneer and fanner.

A good student, Agnes became a teacher in the rural schools around her home.- Her interest in improving the lot of farmers drew her into the United Farmers of Ontario (later part of the CCF). Her love of discussing politics and public speaking led her to candidacy on the Progressive ticket, and remarkably soon after women received the franchise she was elected to Parliament at the age of thirty-one. A remarkable speaker, she stood up bravely to male opposition in order to introduce reforms, which were ahead of their time and were unpopular with her fellow MPs.

Pennington knew Agnes Macphail well because Macphail was once engaged to Pennington's father and Macphail remained a close family friend. Macphail's weekly reports to her riding in the Durham Review and her frequent speeches in the Commons are so heavily quoted that the book seems more like an autobiography. However, the reader may find the extensive use of italics hard on the eyes. Black-and-white photos, extensive notes, bibliography and index add to the book's usefulness.

I highly recommend the book to students of Canadian history or women's studies.

Jean Farquharson, Paris, Ont.
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