Not One of the Boys: A Woman, a Fighter, a Liberal with a Cause


229 pages
Contains Photos, Illustrations, Index
ISBN 0-7715-9016-4
DDC 971.27'03'092





Reviewed by Terry A. Crowley

Terry A. Crowley is an associate professor of history at the University
of Guelph and author of Agnes Macphail and the Politics of Equality.


That voice! Who could forget the sound of Manitoba’s Liberal leader of
the Opposition during the Meech Lake debacle? But, as a provincial
politician who flitted briefly to national prominence via television, is
Sharon Carstairs worth remembering?

The appearance of an autobiography would suggest that at least one
person thinks so, but Carstairs was born to the Liberal cause in a
prominent Nova Scotian family. Although a bright woman, nowhere does she
reflect on the wellspring of liberalism other than as the inheritance of
the Haligonian Irish-Catholic tradition. Cutting her teeth in politics
at Dalhousie and deepening her commitment in Calgary, Carstairs grasped
the Manitoba Liberal leadership at a low ebb in the party’s fortunes
in the west. Panache and an intense eye for media attention not only got
her elected but also momentarily turned her party into the official
Opposition. That her greatest moment during Meech Lake also proved to be
her party’s undoing suggests the vacuity at the centre of her
political life.

Carstairs’s autobiography is not just supremely partisan; it is also
opinionated. The intricacies of Manitoba’s provincial politics and the
events surrounding the abortive Meech Lake and Charlottetown accords are
covered in such detail that all but the most tolerant of readers will be
turned off. Yet hers is also the story of a woman sexually abused in
childhood by a family friend. In overcoming the emotional scarring that
resulted, Carstairs adopted the feminist banner that she continues to
bear. Her experiences as a woman politician may merit only a footnote in
Canadian politics, but in terms of the continuing struggle of women in
the male-dominated political world, she deserves a larger entry.


Carstairs, Sharon., “Not One of the Boys: A Woman, a Fighter, a Liberal with a Cause,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed December 10, 2023,