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Nellie McClung

por Charlotte Gray

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493520,832 (4.09)5
Feminist, politician, and social activist, Nellie McClung altered Canada's political landscape, leaving a legacy that has long survived her. She had a wicked wit, and her convictions and campaigns helped shape the Canada we live in today. Acclaimed writer Charlotte Gray, who has forged a distinguished career exploring the lives of such notable women as Susanna Moodie and Pauline Johnson, is the perfect writer to reinterpret McClung.… (mais)
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We Canadians are notorious for not knowing our own history. Oh, we’ll have heard a few things, like how "World War I made Canada a nation," or that we’re primarily a peace-keeping country. And a majority may know that Sir John A. Macdonald got everyone together in 1967 to form Canada, and became our first Prime Minister. (And that he drank a lot.) But that’s likely to be it for most people.

This means that being ignorant of Canadian feminist history is pretty much a given. But if anyone ever hears about feminism in Canada, the one name they’ll likely know (if only vaguely) will be that of Nellie McClung. At best, they’ll have heard some quotations — McClung was brilliant with the one-liners, and produced some humdingers. But few Canadians will know anything beyond that.

This was why I recently leapt at the chance to read Charlotte Gray’s biography (simply and aptly named "Nellie McClung"), written as part of the Extraordinary Canadians Series edited by John Raulston Saul.

And Ms. Gray did not disappoint. In fact, she did a splendid job, given that her main sources had to be public accounts by others, and McClung’s own public writings about her activities and accomplishments. For some reason, after Nellie McClung’s death, her daughter Florence burned most of her mother’s letters, journals, scrapbooks, and newspaper clippings. So when it came to primary materials, the sources were pretty lean.

But Gray was able, even so, to give a comprehensive and thorough account of McClung’s life, from her beginnings in Ontario to her childhood in a farming community in Manitoba, to her successive inhabitation of Edmonton and Calgary, until her death at her final home in Victoria, B.C.

It’s always been possible to do a web search of the main events of McClung’s life: her fights for women’s right to vote in Manitoba and Alberta (and her influence on the similar fights in the rest of Canada), her support of prohibition, her involvement in the Persons Case, and so on. But in a relatively short book, Charlotte Gray has injected life into this chronological recitation, showing the influences and motivations behind all these activities.

Most important of all, she allows us to see the vivacious, and very intelligent person that was Nellie McClung: someone who achieved a great deal of fame in her day but never treated anyone like they were lower than she was, and someone who always cared deeply for those who were poor and unfairly treated.

I would highly recommend Charlotte Gray’s insightful book. At last, thanks to Ms. Gray, I know about Nellie McClung’s life, and not just her resume. ( )
  kashicat | Aug 7, 2009 |
This short (189 page) biography is part of a series called "Extraordinary Canadians". Written by Charlotte Gray, it is (as usual for her) well done, with the right mix of historical context, biography and a just the right amount of speculation. Ms. Gray notes how very little information remains about Nellie McClung's personal life, yet she has managed, I think, to draw a full portrait of her subject.

I assume the format of the book was dictated by the series; it felt a bit formulatic at times. I would have preferred to read a biography by Ms. Gray on Nellie McClung that was more in depth, as some of her other great biographies (Pauline Johnson, Alexander Graham Bell) have been. ( )
  LynnB | Jun 30, 2009 |
extraordinary canadians ( )
  mahallett | Jul 23, 2018 |
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Feminist, politician, and social activist, Nellie McClung altered Canada's political landscape, leaving a legacy that has long survived her. She had a wicked wit, and her convictions and campaigns helped shape the Canada we live in today. Acclaimed writer Charlotte Gray, who has forged a distinguished career exploring the lives of such notable women as Susanna Moodie and Pauline Johnson, is the perfect writer to reinterpret McClung.

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