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Donna j Mann

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Aggie Storms: the childhood of the first woman elected to Canadian Parliame
by Donna j Mann   

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Books by Donna j Mann
· Aggie's Dream: Agnes goes to High School
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Publisher:  The Brucedale Press


Copyright:  2007 ISBN-13:  9781896922379

As a young girl walking along a country road to school in Grey County, Ontario, she dreamed of teaching children like her sisters and their friends. Family, classmates and neighbours knew Aggie as a determined, clever fair-minded girl who spoke her mind. None of them knew that one day, the people of her community would elect her, Agnes Macphail, Canada's fist woman Member of Parliament.

Aggie's Storm takes readers back to 1900, when ten-year-old Aggie lived in a log cabin in the Queen's Bush.

Professional Reviews

Rearing a Special Politician
When I first sat down to write this week's column, I could think of nothing but the upcoming election. I considered dealing with two major issues, the proposed changes to our system of electing representatives to the provincial parliament, and the concept of funding faith-based schools. But after throwing away half a morning staring at a blank computer screen, I realized that I wasn't ready to write about either topic. Both of those issues have much to do with fairness, so I decided to act fairly myself and keep both ideas for another week.

About then I picked up a recently-published book written by a friend, Donna Mann. Just last week the author dropped off a copy of the biography of Agnes Macphail, entitled Aggie's Storms. As I thumbed through it, and read the comments on the back cover, I realized it had much to say about politics and fairness. So I retired to my big green chair, and said, "Phooey on my editor. The column can wait; I'll read this first."

A glance at the cover will take readers back 100 years to a schoolroom where they will meet a preteen girl wearing granny glasses. She has hair parted in the middle and pulled back in the harsh style of the time. It's not just any girl. When you open the book you will meet Agnes MacPhail, an intelligent, caring, yet stubborn child, whose determination to set things right eventually made her the first woman to become a member of the Canadian parliament.

The author has aimed this book primarily at girls of grade-school age. But that shouldn't limit it to such a narrow range of readers. Boys should read it to understand what their mothers and grandmothers faced in a bygone era and, sadly, what some girls still face today. Parents should read it to evaluate their own approach to fairness and equality. Are they applying the same standards to daughters that they apply to sons? Grandparents should read it to see if they measure up to Aggie's grandparents who encouraged her to live up to her dreams.

Following a discussion with her grandmother, reminding her what a cross baby she had been and challenging her to overcome her restless, critical attitude, we see Aggie pondering the rebuke. "Crossest baby? I still know those feelings. Restless? Hmm. Yes, that's a good description of the way I feel lots of times. It's like I'm ready for something unknown and I can't quite wait until it happens. Sometimes I think if I stand on my tiptoes, I might catch sight of it."

Aggies's Storms reads like a novel, with all the features that we expect to see: well- defined characters; tensions building; stresses erupting into crises; head-on battles with nature and man-mad calamities; and a heart-wrenching climax. I spent a childhood in difficult conditions on the prairies sixty years ago, but Aggie faced far worse times on an Ontario homestead over a century back. We need to remember what our ancestors went through to make our province what it has become today. These conditions contributed to what Agnes MacPhail became: a defender of women's rights and Canada's first female member of parliament.

The author, The Reverend Dr. Donna Mann, grew up in the Elora area. She served as a United Church minister in Alberta and Ontario, most recently in Durham and Mt. Forest. She now lives with her husband Doug north of Mt. Forest where she does grief counselling and writes. Ask your bookstore for Aggie's Storms, by Donna Mann, published by Brucedale Press

Ray Wiseman for the Wellington Advertiser September 21, 2007

A Novel of Immense Importance to Canada's National Identity.
Donna Mann's new book, "Aggie's Storms", is a must-read for every Canadian. Following extensive research on the life of Agnes Macphail, Canada's first woman member of parliament, Rev. Dr. Mann has skilfully woven a novel of immense importance to our national identity. Young girls will be drawn immediately into the hopes, dreams and aspirations of the story's central character as Agnes struggles to be accepted in a world that, in some ways, is not so different from our own. Although the picture of early pioneer life is painted with unfamiliar images of home, school, games, clothing and lifestyle, "Aggie's Storms" is a tale of universal themes that will resonate in the heart of every reader.

Young boys may see a little of themselves in the character of Aggie's friend, Will, and hence may emerge with a better appreciation for the rights of their female peers. Men will readily identify with the poignant efforts of Dugald McPhail to provide for his family using the limited material resources of the early 1900's. Fathers may look at their own daughters with a deeper understanding of the vital role parents play in supporting their children's dreams.

Women everywhere will feel like they have come home...home to the very core of what it means to be a female in our society. The strong women in Aggie's family remind us how intricately our lives are woven by inherited values. Like the beautiful quilt that Grandma Campbell and Aggie's mother lovingly craft for a family of new neighbours, our lives are pieced together from the fabric of our early experiences and stitched with the thread of our unique personalities. In "Aggie's Storms" we see in the young Agnes Macphail the determination, compassion and feisty spirit that later found expression in the passionate role she played on the national political scene.

The more we learn of Agnes Macphail, the more we begin to realize what a debt we all owe to this unsung Canadian hero who blazed a trail for us through the causes she championed with her courage, wit and foresight. Just as the name "Terry Fox" is instantly recognized and revered by every Canadian, with Dr. Mann's help, the name "Agnes Macphail" may one day be spoken with that special recognition and pride reserved for our country's best. Bravo, Donna! You leave us waiting eagerly for the sequel. Let us hear all the details about how Agnes as a young woman picked the storms into which she bravely ventured and the remarkable circumstances that resulted from those early choices.

By Sharon Sinclair Kimberley, Ontario.
Grey County. October, 2007

Agnes Macphail's Rural Upbringing Shaped her Later Political Career
The Making of a political pioneer: A new book suggests Agnes Macphail's rural upbringing shaped her later political career

By June Flath for Ontario's Rural Currents

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