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Jennifer Penney.

Toronto, Women's Press, c1983.
241pp, paper, $7.95.
ISBN 0-88961-081-9.

Grades 11 and up.
Reviewed by Donalee Moulton-Barrett.

Volume 12 Number 3
1984 May

Hard-Earned Wages is a collection of ten articles about women involved in the fight for better, and more equal, working conditions. The women interviewed include a postal worker, a heavy equipment mechanic, squid jiggers and steelworkers. But they all have one thing in common: their work world is dehumanizing and difficult.

Many therefore became involved in the union or fought to bring one to their organization/company; others relied on government channels and public outrage to better their work life. Most were successful at winning small battles, but the war, it seems, goes on endlessly.

Author/editor Jennifer Penney lets these women speak for themselves (she even leaves in their grammatical mistakes and tries to imitate their accents), and much of the time the technique works, because these women are knowledgeable and moving. The effects of their struggle can be felt through the pages of Hard-Earned Wages, and at the end of their story you feel you know them as people, not just as people with a cause.

There are a few disappointments in the book, however. The opening article on Cree Indian Jessie Littlehawk is weak, perhaps because it concentrates so heavily on Littlehawk's personal life, and not, as do the others, on her day-to-day existence in the workforce.

Likewise Penney's brief introductions to each article are not consistent. In "Play Fair With Daycare," for example, she ends with this line: "At Jamie's house, we settled in with a large pot of tea." It seems trivial. It is. These are minor irritations, however, in a book that is otherwise very satisfying.

Phyllis James, Qualicum Beach, BC.
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