TRUE NORTH: A Memoir by Jill Ker Conway


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In this memoir Conway picks up where she left off in Road From Coorain (1989). She recounts her life in America, from her arrival in 1960 up to her appointment to the presidency of Smith College in 1975. Conway comes to the United States to pursue her interest in history and escape Australian society, which has no place for a woman academic. She conveys her first impressions and wonderment at the American way of life, from its ethnic diversity to its stale packaged bread to what Conway considers to be the disarming emotional frankness of Americans. Pursuing her studies at Harvard, she discovers a supportive intellectual community she had never before known. Studying American women reformers, she learns to identify passionately with those who defied social convention to bring women out of the confines of domesticity and into public life. Later, during her tenure at the University of Toronto, Conway experiences the difficulties of coping with her husband's manic-depression and her own inability to have children. At the same time, as the first woman in the university's senior administration, she finds she has become a public figure, a role model for feminists, and is frequently asked to speak to women's groups. Just as necessary funds are being cut at the university, Conway is asked to serve as president of Smith. She is most happy about the appointment because she finally will be able to properly champion women's education, which always has been one of the deepest concerns in her personal life and historical studies. Conway's life has been a fascinating, adventurous one. Yet the reader's sympathy may be tested by her frequent resort to benign ethnic stereotypes (""Gallic joie de vivre,"" ""the wildly extravagant humor"" of Jews, ""the Irishman's way with a story"") as a substitute for the harder work of portraying individual characters.

Pub Date: Aug. 22nd, 1994
ISBN: 0679744614
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: Knopf