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Biography & Autobiography Women

The Stairway

by (author) Alice Chown

introduction by Diana Chown

University of Toronto Press
Initial publish date
Dec 1988
Women, Women's Studies, Personal Memoirs, Social History, Post-Confederation (1867-), Historical, Feminism & Feminist Theory
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    Publish Date
    Dec 1988
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Radical feminist and pacifist Alice Chown was born in Kingston, Ontario, in 1866. Until the age of forty she cared for her devoutly religious mother and acted as matriarch of the family household. When her mother died in 1906, Alice was at last free to live as she chose, travelling widely and exploring a number of avenues of social reform. The diaries she kept for the next thirteen years were the basis from which she wrote The Stairway. First published in 1921, and for many years out of print, The Stairway is one of Canada's early feminist classics.

It tells of an extraordinary life: suffragist, settlement worker, peace activist, journalist, labour activist, college teacher, and itinerant catalyst for social change. During the First World War her pacifist stance brought about a bitter split with the mainstream women's movement in Canada, and in 1917 she moved to the United States. She lived there for the next ten years, during which time The Stairway was published in Boston. In 1927 she returned to Canada. where she continued to live until her death in 1949.

Inspired by a belief in a new age of humanism which gained significant popularity in Victorian Canada, Alice Chown was in many ways a woman very much of her time. She was also far ahead of it: to feminist and pacifist ears today, the voice in The Stairway rings true.

About the authors

Alice A. Chown (1866-1949) was a Canadian feminist, pacifist, socialist and author. She is best known for her 1921 book The Stairway in which she recounts her life and growing freedom after 1906.

Alice Chown's profile page

Diana Chown is the great-great niece of the author. She lives in Edmonton.

Diana Chown's profile page