CBC Digital Archives

Jeanne Sauvé: 'A welcome evolution' says Pierre Trudeau

When describing Jeanne Sauvé, it's hard not to think of the word "first." She was the first woman MP from Quebec to become a cabinet minister, Canada's first female Speaker of the House, and the first female governor general. As she moved from broadcast journalist to high-profile political figure, Sauvé undoubtedly had her share of challenges and controversies. But through it all, the woman of "firsts" never lost her characteristic elegance and grace.

"It is right and proper that her Majesty should finally have a woman representative here," says Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau in this television clip. At Jeanne Sauvé's investiture as Canada's first female governor general, Trudeau is remarking on the significance of this historic event. He can't help but ponder what it means for women's rights in Canada: "We are gathered today to celebrate a remarkable person, but also a welcome evolution of our society."

At the same time, Trudeau is careful to stress that Sauvé wasn't chosen simply because it was time for Canada to have a female governor general. "In the opinion of all, you are the ideal candidate for the position," he tells Sauvé. 
• Sauvé has said she was proud to be the first female governor general and called her appointment a magnificent breakthrough. In her investiture speech, she said she was following "in the footsteps of the multitude of women who... have served as the inspiration and, to a large degree, the artisans of this nation."
• Known for her love of fashion, Sauvé's outfit at her investiture was a real attention-grabber: a puffy Elizabethan-style coat and gown made of grey silk taffeta.

• Despite all of her groundbreaking achievements for women in politics, Sauvé wasn't always a favourite of feminists. As a 1989 Toronto Star article explained, "Some sectors of the feminist movement regard her as a sellout because she enjoys such traditionally feminine things as fashionable hairstyles and nice clothes."

• Sauvé made no apologies for her femininity. "We can have it all! We can embrace the fullness of life derived from love and work, and we need not do it at the expense of femininity..." she said in a 1983 convocation speech at Halifax's Mount Saint Vincent University.

• In a May 1988 Toronto Star article, Sauvé commented on her own brand of feminism and how it compared with those feminist groups that didn't like her: "I was saying that, yes, we have to promote women. But while fighting that promotion, we have to remember that women have to be integrated into society and that we will not have a proper social life if women do not accept the presence of men. Those feminists were very anti-men."

• Since Sauvé's term, Canada has had a second female governor general. Adrienne Clarkson was appointed to the role by Jean Chrétien in 1999. Coincidentally, Clarkson had also been a CBC journalist.
• Sauvé's personal mandate as governor general focused on three major themes: peace, national unity and concern for young people. jeanne sauve
Medium: Television
Program: CBC Television News Special
Broadcast Date: May 14, 1984
Speaker: Pierre Elliott Trudeau
Duration: 7:38

Last updated: April 16, 2013

Page consulted on December 6, 2013

All Clips from this Topic

Related Content

John Diefenbaker: extra clips

His eyes blazing and his finger stabbing the air, John George Diefenbaker set 1950s Canada ali...

John Diefenbaker: Dief the Chief

His eyes blazing and his finger stabbing the air, John George Diefenbaker set 1950s Canada ali...

Leaders' Debates 1968-2011: Highlights

After months of anticipation and weeks of campaigning, it all comes down to one night. Televis...

Marc Garneau: Canadian Space Pioneer

His bravery is inspiring, his grace is charming and his credentials are out of this world. In ...

The Avro Arrow: Canada's Broken Dream

It's the closest thing Canadian industry has to a love story and a murder mystery. The Avro Ar...

1960: Canada celebrates two millionth immigra...

Annette Toft, formerly of Denmark, becomes Canada's two millionth immigrant since the Second W...