Herizons Review - Inspiring Women

Reviewed by: Penni Mitchell

One way to visualize social change is to imagine a spark igniting. Inspiring Women: A Celebration of Herstory sets the stage before the spark ignites - picture two sticks rubbing together, smouldering.

For the last century and a half, this social combustion has been brought about in large part by the friction caused by women. "Women have sought to change society both through the formal channels of politics and as independent crusaders," Mona Holmlund and Gail Youngberg write.

The Daughters of Israel in Saint John fired up women within their religious community to aid poor mothers. Mary Ann Shadd laid the groundwork for racial integration as editor at the Provincial Freeman in the 1850's. Margret Benedictsson did the same for women in the late 1800's with her suffrage paper Freyja in Gimli, Manitoba.

Forget Tommy Douglas. Decades before the Greatest Canadian was talking national health care, Violet McNaughton, Nellie McClung and other women were talking about socialized medicine and a compassionate society. It was, after all, women who tended the sick in hospitals, fed the destitute in soup kitchens, welcomed the immigrants and raised the money to pay doctors to administer treatment to the poor.

This book is a testament to women who worked tirelessly to alleviate the human misery caused by inequality and injustice. They demanded mother's allowance, the abolishment of slavery, property rights, birth control and public health services. When they entered the halls of power and were politely told to go home, they demanded the vote.

Inspiring Women is a reminder that behind every historic moment of social progress in Canada is a herstoric contribution that kindled it. This beautiful coffee table book, is a must-have for any feminist bookshelf.

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