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Ten Thousand Roses: The Making of a Feminist Revolution

by Judy Rebick

At a time when it seems the women’s movement in Canada has all but evaporated, along comes a book to remind us what great strides this country’s feminists achieved in the latter part of the 20th century. Ten Thousand Roses, by prominent activist, academic, and media commentator Judy Rebick, isn’t always an easy read, but it should be required reading for the many young women today who benefit greatly from – and live in blissful ignorance of – the efforts of the second wave of feminists.

In Ten Thousand Roses, Rebick aims to ensure that the feminist struggle of her generation isn’t lost to history, but also to illustrate her belief that the Canadian women’s movement was more interesting, effective, and multiracial than elsewhere in the world. The book is done in the style of an oral history, so it includes accounts from myriad women who were involved in fights over abortion, day care, violence, pay equity, employment equity, and constitutional issues during the final three decades of the last century.

The success of an oral history depends greatly on the narrative powers of the individuals interviewed. Not surprisingly, the accounts in the book are uneven. They range from the searing to the dry and detailed, the kind you read mainly because you feel you ought to. Some readers may also have little patience for the accounts of internal wrangling in the movement.

On the other hand, these first-person accounts make it very clear how much personal time and effort individuals have dedicated to achieving the victories that so many take for granted today. If that doesn’t inspire at least a few young women to re-ignite a fire under the movement, it’s hard to see what could.