Valerie Knowles is a journalist and writer who has published eleven non-fiction works. From Telegrapher to Titan: The Life of William C. Van Horne won the University of British Columbia Medal for Canadian Biography for 2004 and the City of Ottawa Non-Fiction Book Award for 2005. She lives in Ottawa.
Cairine Wilson, Canada’s first female senator, was one of nine children raised in an atmosphere of rugged Scots liberalism and strict presbyterianism by affluent Montreal parents in the late nineteenth century. She displayed an interest in politics early in life and through her father’s position in the Senate, was befriended by many notable politicians of the period, including Sir Wilfrid Laurier, an experience that left a permanent mark on her. Her appointment to the Senate in 1930 was a historic and controversial event, and launched a political career rife with passion, commitment, and reform. Wilson, whose work on behalf of refugees and the world’s needy was legendary, served in the Senate through some of the stormiest years in Canadian government history. First Person is an engaging account of a colourful and powerful politician; a fighter whose efforts were recognized by the highest officials in the land, and whose sculpted image adorns the foyer of the Canadian Senate.
Valerie Knowles has written an absorbing biography of Wilson and the times in which she lived. The study is thorough but not pedantic, and rich in detail and interpretation.