August 20, 2021

Govern Like a Girl: The Women Who Became Canada's First Ministers

Written by Kate Graham
Second Story Press
112 pp.
Ages 9-12
August 2021

Any book that focuses on the accomplishments of women in Canada needs to be applauded. There are already more than several that have highlighted women athletes, scientists and pioneers among others and several that celebrate individual achievements. But Govern Like a Girl is a bit different in that it honours political leaders who have reached premier or prime minister status in our country. Thirteen women across the provinces and territories have been recognized for their leadership and, while not every province is represented, Govern Like a Girl shows us the promise for greater equity in reaching influential government positions in Canada.
From Govern Like a Girl: The Women Who Became Canada's First Ministers by Kate Graham
After a brief introduction about government and voting, and the need for diversity at all levels of government but the paucity of women throughout, Kate Graham highlights thirteen incredible women who were able to rise to the top jobs in our governments. The women selected for this book are: 
  • Premier Eva Aariak (NU);
  • Premier Catherine Callbeck (PE);
  • Premier Christy Clark (BC);
  • Premier Caroline Cochrane (NT);
  • Premier Nellie Cournoyea (NT);
  • Premier Pat Duncan (YT);
  • Premier Kathy Dunderdale (NL);
  •  Premier Rita Johnston (BC);
  • Premier Pauline Marois (QC);
  • Premier Rachel Notley (AB);
  • Premier Alison Redford (AB);
  • Premier Kathleen Wynne (ON); and
  • Prime Minister Kim Campbell.
For each leader, Kate Graham provides details about their personal life, including place of birth, parents and schooling, their employment history and their motivations for entering politics. Whether their trajectories for leadership began with careful steps up the ladder as school trustees or committee chairs, community involvement or advocacy, these women all chose to enter politics to enact change and to work for the people of their province or territory. In addition, the details of their elections and their defeats are recorded as is the work they were able to accomplish. But along with each exposé, Kate Graham gives readers a personal look at women who saw the opportunities lost to their female ancestors, or who endured discrimination because of the limitations some placed on their gender, and who were still able to move forward for change.

From Govern Like a Girl: The Women Who Became Canada's First Ministers by Kate Graham

Every story is different yet the same. They had support and they had opposition. They struggled to be seen as leaders and be effective fighters for their communities and counter those who perceived women as limited by their gender. But how their stories played out are all different. It's evident that there is not just one route to leadership, with many rocky and some longer than others. What matters most is the action.

These women have lots to say and I could quote each one, as Kate Graham does, to highlight their perspectives, from Catherine Callbeck who said that "the strength of a society rests on the willingness and ability of its citizens to share in the decisions which affect it" (pg. 14) to Nellie Cournoyea who spoke of "an evolutionary need to do something about something" (pg. 32) and Christy Clark who addressed opportunities by saying that,

"My view of life is that opportunities are raining down around us all the time. Some people have fewer opportunities , as their circumstances haven't put them in a particularly rainy spot–but, opportunities are always there. Look around, figure out what opportunities are there, and choose which ones to grab." (pg. 22)

With each, Kate Graham has given young readers role models of civic duty and reinforced the idea that governing like a girl is a compliment. 

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