The Liberation of Celia Kahn

Written by J .David Simons
Review by Janet Williamson

Glasgow, 1915. Celia Kahn behaves more like a mother than a daughter to her Jewish family, caring for her gambling and drink addicted Uncle Mendel, adopted brother Avram, staid father, and highly strung mother. Celia’s mother is proving particularly difficult to live with after being publicly humiliated and regarded as an enemy alien. Celia decides to placate her with her favourite sweets, and while at the sweetshop she encounters primary school teacher Agnes Calder, an open, direct woman with a social conscience.

Intrigued, Celia agrees to meet Agnes at a select tea room, which seems at odds with the woman’s socialist ideals and militant principles. Agnes she draws Celia into the Women’s Movement and into political protests. Agnes’ militancy leads to imprisonment, and while in prison she makes a decision with fateful consequences.

Celia sets up the home that she acquires from Agnes as a women’s contraceptive advisory service, but Celia and a friend fall foul of rigid minded, violent protestors. Celia copes with a family death with a new assurance, and deters a prospective suitor. Chance then brings Dr Jonathon Levy back into Celia’s life. He envisages a future working overseas for both himself and for the now inspired, confident, unrestrained and liberated Celia. This informative, entertaining and uplifting book left a favourable impression long after I’d finished reading. Highly recommended.