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Rebel Daughter: An Autobiography

by Doris Anderson

In an era of post-feminist posturings, of “bad girl,” blame-the-date-rape-victim journalists, and of tell-all “toxic parent” biographies, Doris Anderson’s restrained, dignified, and unabashedly feminist autobiography, Rebel Daughter, is a breath of fresh air.

Born illegitimate and poor in Depression-era Calgary, Anderson became one of Canada’s finest and most influential editors – her years at the helm of Chatelaine remain that magazine’s best. An early advocate of day care, the pro-choice movement, pay equity, and sexual liberation, Anderson went on to work with the National Action Committee on the Status of Women.

Anderson is a meticulous chronicler of this history. She’s at her best when she deals with her time at Chatelaine in the 1960s and 1970s, and her later political work. She takes no prisoners in her frank accounts of the blatant sexism at Maclean Hunter, Chatelaine’s owner, or in her dealings with the machinations of the government. (In wranglings over the constitution in the early 1980s, she publicly noted that every time the then-Status of Women Minister Lloyd Axworthy opened his mouth, “another woman becomes a feminist.”)

However, the book’s major weakness is that none of Anderson’s frankness extends to her personal life or her famous media friends. Anderson’s Scottish-Canadian Prairie reserve doesn’t make her prone to gossip or salacious detail. Even the breakdown of her marriage and her subsequent divorce merit only a paragraph.

While her reticence has its charm – and readers will fall in love with Anderson despite it – it makes the otherwise painstakingly written book oddly cold and somewhat tedious at times. And that’s the paradox: the reader wishes Anderson were less ethical, less kind, and would get down and dirty. But the admirer is happy that she doesn’t.


Reviewer: Rachel Giese

Publisher: Key Porter


Price: $29.95

Page Count: 304 pp

Format: Cloth

ISBN: 1-55013-767-0

Released: Sept.

Issue Date: 1996-9

Categories: Memoir & Biography