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Books for International Women's Day

Women's voices, women's lives. Great books to pick up on the occasion of International Women's Day.

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I Am Because We Are: An African Mother’s Fight for the Soul of a Nation, by Chidiogo Akunyili-Parr

About the book: In this innovative and intimate memoir, a daughter tells the story of her mother, a pan-African hero who faced down misogyny and battled corruption in Nigeria. 

Inspired by the African philosophy of Ubuntu — the importance of community over the individual — and outraged by injustice, Dora Akunyili took on fraudulent drug manufacturers whose products killed millions, including her sister.

A woman in a man’s world, she was elected and became a cabinet minister, but she had to deal with political manoeuvrings, death threats, and an assassination attempt for defending the voiceless. She suffered for it, as did her marriage and six children. 

I Am Because We Are illuminates the role of kinship, family, and the individual’s place in society, while revealing a life of courage, how community shaped it, and the web of humanity that binds us all.

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Book Cover Okanagan Women's Voices

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Fierce: The Secret Life of Miss Freeman

Book Cover Fierce

Fierce: Women Who Shaped Canada, written by Lisa Dalrymple with illustrations by Willow Dawson, is a collection of fascinating biographical stories about ten women who've shaped the story of Canada. "Often relegated to the sidelines of history, the women highlighted in this book were performed feats that most people would never even dream of. You may not know their names now, but after reading their stories, you won’t soon forget them." This book is geared toward middle-grade readers, but readers of all ages will find much to discover in its pages. 

We're excited to share an excerpt from the story of Alice Freeman, the Toronto school teacher who led a double life...

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Alice Freeman

February 1888 Toronto, Ontario

Though the students at Ryerson School loved Miss Freeman, none of them knew her secret. At the end of the day, when they went home to their chores and their beds, she became Faith Fenton, investigative reporter for the Empire newspaper in Toronto, Ontario. She spent her nights doing things that surely no teacher would do—like interviewing famous actresses or visiting jails and homeless shelters, before walking home alone down dark city streets in the early hours of the morning. By the time her students arrived back at school, Miss Freeman was standing …

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25 Books for International Women's Day

The lives of girls and women are as varied and fascinating as those of any group of people, as demonstrated by this diverse collection of titles worth celebrating for International Women's Day, books on women's history, suffrage, reproductive experiences, memoir, menstrual cycles, athletics, and so much more—including cocktails. Cheers! 

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Through, Not Around: Stories of Infertility and Pregnancy Loss, edited by Allison McDonald Ace; Ariel Ng Bourbonnais & Caroline Starr

About the book: Infertility and pregnancy loss can be devastating, yet both are often private sorrows for the one in six people who cope with the experience. This collection offers personal stories about what it's like to go through the emotional and physical facets of infertility, miscarriage, and pregnancy loss: the pain, sadness, and desperation, the hope, humour, and frustration.

Through, Not Around offers reassurance to those in the midst of their own struggles that they are not alone and that it is possible to find acceptance and strength on the other side of grief. The way forward is by going through the grief, not around it.

Allison McDonald Ace, Ariel Ng Bourbonnais, and Caroline Starr are co-founders of The 16 Percent, a website dedicated to sharing stories of pregnancy loss and infert …

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The Forgotten Parts of Food Culture: Unpaid Labour and Drudgery

Book Cover Food Will Win the War

Talking History focuses on a wide range of topics in Canadian history, and it consists of articles by Canada's foremost historians and history experts. Our contributors use the power of narrative to bring the past to life and to show how it is not just relevant, but essential to our understanding of Canada and the world today. "Talking History" is a series made possible through a special funding grant from the Department of Canadian Heritage.

Dr. Ian Mosby is currently a Postdoctoral Fellow at McMaster University’s L.R. Wilson Institute for Canadian History.

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In the past two years, my 92-year-old grandmother’s world has become enveloped by the fog and confusion of dementia. Not only does she sometimes forget the faces of her own children and grandchildren but she’s often trapped between the past and the present, unable to differentiate between the two. Lucid moments are too often followed by fear, confusion, and uncertainty.

As both a grandson and a historian—a person whose life and work involves engaging with and trying to understand and even reconstruct the past—this is deeply unsettling. I never knew my grandmother very well and now, it seems, I likely never will.

The last time I visited my grandmother I tried to make up for a lot of lost time and bo …

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Shameless: Marilyn Churley on Finding her Son and Reforming Adoption Disclosure

In the late 1960s, at the age of 19 and living far from home amid the thriving counterculture of Ottawa, Marilyn Churley got pregnant. Like thousands of other women of the time she kept the event a secret. Faced with few options, she gave the baby up for adoption.

Over 20 years later, as the Ontario NDP government's minister responsible for all birth, death, and adoption records, including those of her own child, Churley found herself in a surprising and powerful position—fully engaged in the long and difficult battle to reform adoption disclosure laws and find her son.

Both a personal and political story, her memoir, Shameless, is a powerful book about a mother's struggle with loss, love, secrets, andlies—and an adoption system shrouded in shame.

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49th Shelf: Shameless makes clear that issues around adoption are feminist issues. What has changed since your experiences in the 1960s in terms of stigma around unplanned or unwanted pregnancies? What has stayed the same?

Marilyn Churley: Adoption is a feminist issue for many reasons. As I said in the introduction to Shameless, history shows that women have always been coerced into living their lives as society deems appropriate, and tormented, punished and shamed when they didn’t comply. The double standard aro …

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Diana Davidson: Re-Writing Women in Canadian History

Cover Pilgrimage

Diana Davidson’s debut novel, Pilgrimage, opens with Mahkesîs Cardinal trying to conceal her pregnancy on the Lac St. Anne Métis settlement during the winter of 1891. Pilgrimage, just released by Brindle & Glass, was inspired by a real-life account of a century-old woman’s corpse found in an abandoned well on the prairies.

Here, Davidson lists her ten favourite recent books about women and Canada’s history. Most are novels but three are incredible non-fiction reads that she couldn’t leave out.

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Cover The Birth House

The Birth House by Ami McKay: McKay’s gorgeous novel was inspired by the real-life stories of Mrs. Rebecca Steele, an elderly midwife McKay befriended shortly after moving to a farmhouse in the Bay of Fundy. The Birth House tells the story of Dora Rare, a a skilled and gifted midwife in rural Nova Scotia who takes on the male medical establishment and their attempts to undermine women's community by institutionalizing the birth process. Interesting that McKay’s book was published right on the cusp of a pendulum swing in North American attitu …

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