Joanne Young (author); Toronto: Sykes Press, 1991
JOANNE YOUNG is an anti-nuclear and peace activist whose name is legend in Canada. This is the story of how she came to terms with the politics and policies of her time. Written with intelligence and wit, it entertainingly traces how, from a conservative background, a fire-brand was born. It will interest those who grew up in the atmosphere of the early '40s and who recall their own tentative steps toward independence. The generation unfamiliar with the mores of that period will be astonished by the lack of choices open to women of that day. Yet Joanne Young refused such limitations. Full of hope, she set out to the University of Toronto to change the world.
There she met her future husband Bill, an engineering student six years her senior, who had recently returned from serving king and country in England. They were married while both were still in school. Four years later (and now a family of four) they moved to Port Hope where Bill was employed by the Eldorado Uranium Refinery. There the Youngs remained until their marriage was cut short by the mysterious and premature death of Joanne's husband. It left a woman, not yet thirty, the task of raising four children and unraveling the mystery of her husband's death.
This might have been a book brimming with pathos. It isn't. Mrs. Young takes us on a journey through the harrowing early years of her independent motherhood. Eldorado, a crown corporation, refused to recognize any link between Bill Young's death and the radiation to which he had been exposed during his employment with them. After gathering information on the hazards of radiation, Mrs. Young approached the Workmen's Compensation Board with her findings but discovered that she had no legal recourse. As the children grew, she returned to teaching. Never cowed, she became a peace activist and attended demonstrations in both Canada and the United States. She has been jailed on several occasions for civil disobedience.
This well-researched story is full of pertinent data on today's nuclear, peace and environmental issues. This book is straight, clear reporting and while it may not touch the heart, it assuredly quickens the mind. For this reviewer it is exactly what it claims to be: one woman's coming to terms with the nuclear age.
Connie Douglas is a volunteer staff member of the PEACE business office.