Leading the Way: Black Women in Canada


72 pages
Contains Photos, Illustrations, Maps, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 1-895642-11-6
DDC 305.48'896071





Reviewed by Theresa Lewis

Theresa Lewis is an elementary-school principal with the Calgary Board
of Education.


This book includes detailed biographies of five women and brief accounts
of thirty-five additional women who have made important contributions to
Canadian culture. Compelled to fill in the gap of missing accounts of a
culture whose presence in Canada can be traced back to the mid-17th
century, Sadlier writes about the struggles, triumphs, and ingenuity of
black women who may inspire young people to “follow the steps taken by
these women.”

Starting with the life story of Harriet Tubman (1820–1913), Sadlier
chronicles the experiences of slavery, anti-slavery, segregation, and
anti-segregation in Canada and the United States. But while she
acknowledges that several blacks came to Canada with no previous history
of enslavement, she provides few details. This is less a flaw of the
book and more a statement of how scantily recorded this part of Canadian
history remains.

The strength of the publication is in the repeated theme of overcoming
adversity in a variety of ways. After reading the five main biographies,
the reader is left with strong images and insights into the price that
enslavement and limited freedom exacted on individuals. These women
wanted to gain freedom, to enter universities, to vote, to own property,
and to work in professions for which they were suitably trained and
qualified, but met with racial intolerance and threats to their lives
instead. The main stories have a commonality in that the injustices
chronicled were based on gender as well as race. The shorter biographies
are not as contextual, leaving the reader with lists of awards and
accomplishments and less knowledge of the individual’s inner
motivations. This collection is appropriate for readers in middle school
and beyond. It provides useful information for students and Canadians at
large. Recommended.


Sadlier, Rosemary., “Leading the Way: Black Women in Canada,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed February 28, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/19212.