For the Younger Set - Aggie's Dream by Donna Mann
Published by Brucedale Press (2010), $20.
Agnes Macphail was the first woman elected to Parliament in Canada. But you knew that, right? Maybe you didn't know that she was born, grew up and represented Grey County in both the federal and provincial governments.
Author Donna Mann has been intrigued by this remarkable woman for many years. She re-created her childhood in Aggie's Storms and her recently released second book chronicles Aggie's high school years (1906-1908) in Owen Sound. Titled Aggie's Dream, this book explores the teenage years of the headstrong young woman who was destined to become a leader in national and international politics. The author dedicates Aggie's Dream to "young people who have a dream of something in life bigger than themselves, who struggle to develop that dream into reality where they can see the image in their mind's eye and who make it their own, having the courage to live it out." This well-researched book is an excellent read for everyone looking to understand the past with a view to making a difference in the future.
Maryann Thomas (Gingerpress) writes this review for The Escarpment Views - Owen Sound
Aggie's Dream: Agnes Macphail in High School, Donna Mann. Brucedale Press. 196 pg. $20.00 softbound.
Donna Mann's earlier historical novel for young readers, Aggie's Storms, choronicled Macphail's early years. Mann now takes up Aggie's high school years, the next step in her dream of becoming a teacher.
It is 1908 and sixteen-year-old Aggie is off to Owen Sound Collegiate Institute. This involves leaving her home on the family farm near Flesherton and moving to board with a new family in Owen Sound during the school year. There are new subjects to study and new friends to make. (Agnes' actual friends included Billy Bishop and Norman Bethune, and these appear in the book along with many fictional characters.) There are, of course, the usual trials and tribulations that young people face, but Aggie triumphs and is well on her way to achieving her dream.
(Ontario Historical Society (March 2011 Bulletin)
Book Review written by Sharon Sinclair
Aggie’s Dream written by Donna Mann
Christmas, 2010, will be distinguished in my personal memory as the day I began reading “Aggie’s Dream”. I had reserved this treat for a special occasion when I could be assured of a few hours of quiet respite from the busy holiday season.
December 25th, 2010, was a spectacular winter’s day in Grey County. The bright sun cast a mystical radiance on the icicles that hung in silent splendour from the roof of my Beaver Valley home. Curled up on a comfortable couch, I opened the pages of “Aggie’s Dream”, and was immediately transported back in time over one hundred years. In this sequel to “Aggie’s Storms”, Donna takes us on an imaginative journey where fact and fiction blend in perfect harmony. As the author re-creates the experiences of a young Agnes Macphail pursuing her dream of higher education, a reader cannot help but be inspired by the book’s central character. Having finally gained permission from her parents to attend High School, sixteen-year-old Agnes must brave the loneliness of leaving behind her friends and family to continue her studies at the Collegiate in Owen Sound. At that time in history, the physical distance involved was significant enough to warrant only an occasional trip home by train for Thanksgiving and other special occasions. Tears of recognition fell from my eyes as I read the tender description of a young farm girl leaving her rural setting for the first time. Authenticity abounds in this remarkable novel. The dialogue is convincing and heart-warming. With meticulous accuracy, Donna paints a picture of life in the early 1900’s. The dress, mannerisms, and formality of the day provide a charming backdrop to the issues that confront Agnes in her determined quest to secure the education necessary to become a teacher. Her tenacity, intelligence, wit and compassion resonate with crystal clarity as the story unfolds. From her gratitude for the kindness of the family that provide her lodgings to her protective defence of a young Japanese immigrant student, Agnes emerges as an individual whose integrity is unquestionable. From situatons encountered by Agnes in her studies, we see the development of the personality and character that helped propel a young woman from rural Grey County to later prominence on the national political scene. As Agnes mingled with students raised in the environment of a town, she began to appreciate even more her rural upbringing and vowed to champion the causes of farm communities. From her fledgling experiences as a member of the school’s debating team, Agnes developed into the eloquent speaker whose oratorical skills became legendary. Her acute sense of justice and her compassion for the less fortunate in our society emerge in the book as causes that will later find expression in the political life of Canada’s first female member of Parliament.
Congratulations, Donna! You have succeeded brilliantly in helping us to appreciate the early years of such a significant historical figure. In my opinion, “Aggie’s Dream” will make each reader want to become a better person. School Boards across Canada, please take note! Give to every student the gift of Donna’s books by making them required reading in the Social Studies curriculum. Perhaps in this way, future generations of young Canadians will be inspired by Agnes Macphail and will fulfill their own dreams to make this world a better place.
Reviewed by Sharon Sinclair, poet and Inspirational Speaker
Sunday, October 3, 2010
NEW BOOK ON AGNES MACPHAIL
Regional by Michael McDonald
(Bayshore Broadcasting NEWS CENTRE)
The latest in a series of books about local political icon Agnes Macphail has been launched. Macphail is known for being Canada's first woman Member of Parliament. Author Donna Mann along with her publisher Brucedale Press held a book launch even at the Owen Sound Collegiate and Vocational Institute on Thursday night.
Donna Mann is an author on a mission.
With the recent release of her second book about Agnes Macphail, Aggie’s Dream, the first woman elected to Canada’s House of Commons, Mann gives readers the second installment in a trilogy capturing Macphail’s early life in rural Grey County and experiences that shaped Macphail’s character and her famed, no-nonsense approach to politics and important issues of the day.
Mann has crafted Aggie’s Storm and now Aggie’s Dream in a way that puts the reader squarely in touch with the times in the first decade of the last century. It was a labour of love for Mann, who was raised on a farm near Elora and experienced rural life much like Macphail, who was raised on a farm in Proton Township. The book follows Macphail, in her mid-teens, from the family farm near Ceylon via train to city life in Owen Sound, attending Owen Sound Collegiate. It describes the trepidation Macphail felt about leaving her rural life for the city and her fears and concerns about what life in Owen Sound would be like. But it also shows a growing determination that was the hallmark of Macphail’s life to push ahead to new goals and objectives. “I think she realized she had a dream and she wanted to realize that dream. She wanted to make it happen,” Mann, a retired minister, said in a recent interview at a Mount Forest coffee shop. In Owen Sound, Macphail experienced city life with its good and bad. She saw how Japanese and other immigrants from far-off lands were treated as they attempted to make a home for themselves and their families in Canada. She noticed the different attitudes of life of those raised in urban settings and those from agricultural roots. As Mann described it, it was the way of life in the early 1900s. The story of Aggie’s Dream takes readers along the trials and tribulations of what a young woman experienced at a time when women did not have official standing in society and were not yet allowed to vote.
Aggie’s Dream is a Labour of Love
by Kris Svela
Wellington Advertiser (Summer, 2011)
Having the opportunity to attend high school in Owen Sound, Macphail took advantage of what the school had to offer, joining the literary and debate club, working tenaciously at her studies, playing sports, and making friends with city and farm folk. Mann has managed to compile her first two books on Macphail through extensive research and by stories handed down by people over the years. She credits the closest living relative of Macphail, Jean Clunes, a niece, for imparting stories that have woven their way into both books. Mann’s purpose with the books was to show how Macphail learned and grew from her early experiences, which would eventually take her into politics – first at the federal level and later in the Ontario legislature. As a politician, Macphail was well known for championing agricultural causes, women’s rights, equality, peace, and prison reform. Mann was also instrumental in the renaming of Grey County Road 9, near where the original Macphail farm was, to the Agnes Macphail Road. Mann believes it is essential to preserve the history of Macphail’s accomplishments and to pass it along to new generations. “She was the only woman in the House of Commons for 13 years,” Mann said of the woman she describes as being fair, truthful in her convictions, and taking up causes with integrity. Mann is working hard on the third book, which will consider Macphail’s graduating from teacher’s college and teaching. `She has no plans for a book about Macphail’s political career, which has already been well documented. Aggie’s Dream is a must read for whatever age group.
Ask the local bookstore for Aggie’s Storm and Aggie’s Dream, published by Brucedale Press, or contact www.donnamann.org