Armstrong, Sally (Wishart) 1943-
ARMSTRONG, Sally (Wishart) 1943-
PERSONAL: Born July 16, 1943, in Montreal, Quebec, Canada; daughter of William and Mary Alma (Wishart) Saddler; married, August 19, 1967; husband's name Ross; children: Heather, Peter, Anna. Education: McGill University, B.Ed., 1966.
ADDRESSES: Offıce—777 Bay St., 8th Floor, Toronto, Ontario M5W 1A7, Canada.
CAREER: Canadian Living magazine, contributing editor, 1975-82; Homemaker's magazine, associate editor, 1983-87, editor-in-chief, 1988-99; Chatelaine magazine, editor at large, 2000—; Maclean's magazine, contributing editor. Coproducer of video documentaries Human Rights—Human Wrongs, 1987, For Our Sisters, for Our Daughters, 1992, Keys of Our Own, 1994, They Fell from the Sky, 2001, and The Daughters of Afghanistan, 2003. Appointed UNICEF Canada special representative to Afghanistan, 2001.
AWARDS, HONORS: Women of Distinction Award in Communications, YWCA of Toronto, 1996; Achievement Award for Human Rights, Jewish Women International, 1997; member, Order of Canada, 1998; Dodi Robb Award, Media Watch, 1998; honorary LL. D., Royal Roads University, 2000; Media Award, Amnesty International, 2000 and 2002; honorary doctor of letters, McGill University, 2002; Gold Award, National Magazine Awards Foundation; Author's Award, Foundation for the Advancement of Canadian Letters.
Mila (biography), Macmillan (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1992.
Veiled Threat: The Hidden Power of the Women ofAfghanistan, Viking (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2002, Four Walls, Eight Windows (New York, NY), 2003.
SIDELIGHTS: After spending more than a decade as editor-in-chief of Homemaker's magazine, Canadian journalist Sally Armstrong has become an editor-at-large for Chatelaine and a UNICEF special representative to Afghanistan. Known as an advocate for women's rights, she began documenting the desperate situation of Afghan women well before the United States waged war in that country and the Taliban's repressive laws regarding women became widely known. Armstrong has authored two books, Mila, a biography of Mila Mulroney that was penned while her husband, Brian Mulroney, was prime minister of Canada, and Veiled Threat: The Hidden Power of the Women of Afghanistan. She has also produced several video documentaries on the subject of human rights for women.
Armstrong's biography of Mila Mulroney details the life of the former first lady of Canada, who is the daughter of once-impoverished Yugoslav immigrants. She was a college student when she met and married Mulroney, a pursuit that she gave up to devote time to their children and his career in the Conservative party. Two reviewers had criticism for both Mila and her biographer. In his review of Mila for Books in Canada, Michael Coren questioned whether Mulroney merited a biography of any kind. He said that "the book's writing is crisp if not inspired" and objected, "There are only the most innocuous of criticisms in evidence here, emollient reservations that drown in a sea of flattery and fawning." Quill & Quire's Sandra Martin called the book "not so much a biography as an extended magazine profile" and was uncomfortable with Mila's assertions that her husband and his career came first, even over the care of her children.
When Armstrong wrote Veiled Threat, she presented a subject that she had been researching since 1997. The journalist first went to Afghanistan to find Dr. Sima Samar, a woman who was defying Taliban law by secretly providing women with access to education and medical care. The resulting book includes the accounts of Afghan women, who describe how they were shrouded in burkas and barred from being in public places without a male escort, and tell of the violence with which they were punished for any transgressions. It also gives an historical, political, and theological background to the establishment of these misogynist policies. Armstrong concludes that the women of Afghanistan still have an incredibly difficult path to liberation and that they will have the most critical role in effecting change.
Reviews of Veiled Threat highlighted its political significance for readers and the women it describes. A Kirkus Reviews critic noted that the author was "quick to condemn" the international community and United Nations in ignoring the plight of Afghan women. Writing for Real Change News, Molly Rhodes commented that "sometimes the sheer scope of what Armstrong has taken on can be difficult to follow," but she concluded that "her overarching goal is the same: to show that the only true path to change for the women of Afghanistan . . . has to come from within the strength and courage of the women themselves." In Publishers Weekly, a reviewer commended Armstrong by saying, "She's taken on a righteous cause and does it justice." The writer expected that "books like this will go far to mobilize whatever international resources [Dr. Samar] finds herself needing."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Books in Canada, summer, 1992, Michael Coren, review of Mila, p. 50.
Kirkus Reviews, November 1, 2002, review of VeiledThreat: The Hidden Power of the Women of Afghanistan, p. 1581.
Publishers Weekly, November 18, 2002, review of Veiled Threat, p. 53.
Quill & Quire, July, 1992, Sandra Martin, review of Mila, p. 40.
Professional Speakers' Bureau,http://www.prospeakers.com/speakers/ (April 25, 2003).
Real Change News,http://www.realchangenews.org/ (November 27, 2002), Molly Rhodes, "Happy to Be Back."*