Saturday, March 22, 2014

A Great War Election With a Twist

Here is a review I did recently for a book by Debbie Marshall, an Alberta historian.

Give Your Other Vote to the Sister: A Woman's Journey into the Great War (Legacies Shared)Give Your Other Vote to the Sister is a fascinating look at a forgotten historical figure, Roberta MacAdams. It is at the same time a narrative of author Debbie Marshall’s retracing of the physical journey of MacAdams’s life, from Ontario to Alberta, the Great War, politics, and eventual family life.
The focus of the book is the Great War, and Roberta MacAdams’s no small contribution to the welfare of Canada’s soldiers and their families. She lived in tumultuous times for women, with the ongoing battles for women’s rights and the vote. MacAdams was the second woman elected to any legislature in the British Empire, the first being her legislative mate Louise McKinney, who preceded her by a matter of months. Both women were beneficiaries of political expediency on the part of the Alberta premier, and not of any great principles on the part of male politicians. What made Ms MacAdams’s election victory unique was that she was elected by soldiers.
Liberal premier Arthur Sifton feared a Conservative vote by soldiers serving overseas if they voted in their home ridings. His solution was to give them their own constituency, which would have two elected members. Thus it was that each soldier could vote twice, which led to the very effective campaign slogan: Give One Vote to the Man of Your Choice and the Other to the Sister.
This is a very readable history of the life and times of Roberta MacAdams, but as well as her compelling story, Ms. Marshall has layered in her own journey into the Great War. Her historical photos as well as those of contemporary remnants that MacAdams would have experienced add to the ambience of the book.
Highly recommended.

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