cover image Everybody Matters: My Life Giving Voice

Everybody Matters: My Life Giving Voice

Mary Robinson. Walker, $26 (336p) ISBN 978-0-8027-7964-9

The first woman president of Ireland and a lifelong activist in human rights, Robinson fashions a stately, forthright autobiography with an emphasis on her constitutional law work and teaching. Born in 1944 to two doctors with a thriving practice in Ballina, in north County Mayo, Ireland, the only daughter in a lineup of five children, Robinson nee Mary Bourke was inculcated early on by her deeply Catholic mother with the notion that the Bourkes had aristocratic roots and were somehow more "special" than the humbler families in town, an assumption of status the author deeply rejected. Brainy, athletic, determined to do something worthwhile with her life, Robinson excelled at school, ending up studying law at Trinity College, Dublin, then at Harvard, a rare woman in her classes and determined to use the law for social change in what she saw as an unenlightened Ireland. From barrister to professor to senator (winning her first seat at age 25) she championed issues for women and families such as contraceptive use and divorce, and pushed for Ireland's inclusion into the European Union. Married to the political cartoonist (and Protestant) Nick Robinson and tapped for the presidency in 1990, Robinson changed the role of president from figurehead to booster and activist who traveled widely over her seven-year term; subsequently she served as U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights and as one of Nelson Mandela's Elders. She details her work at hot spots across the globe, and writes engagingly and warmly of her current foundation addressing issues of climate change and world poverty. (Mar.)