Journalist Jeanne Sauvé
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.
(To view the entire half-hour interview, see the clip "St-Laurent speaks to Jeanne Sauvé.")
• Her first assignment was for a French language public affairs radio program for women called Fémina, where she was to explain the news in simple terms. Her debut performance was a success. She was soon brought on as a regular. This led to even more work with Radio-Canada and opened the door to a television career.
• CBC Television began broadcasting in 1952. Sauvé had her first on-camera report that same year. It was a piece informing mothers about summer camps for kids.
• Sauvé slowly began to cover more serious, political topics on both radio and TV, in English as well as French. She was even a frequent panellist on Les Idées en Marche, a somewhat controversial French discussion show hosted by her friend Gérard Pelletier. It was here that Sauvé's left-wing political ideas became apparent.
• According to biographer Shirley Woods, the fact that Sauvé was covering politics and public affairs was highly unusual, since these were "traditionally a male preserve. At that time conventional wisdom decreed that a woman commenting on either of these topics wouldn't be taken seriously. Jeanne was one of the first women in Canada to destroy this myth."
• Sauvé's successful broadcasting career with CBC/Radio-Canada lasted until 1972, when she entered politics.
• A highlight of Sauvé's journalism career was her creation of a French TV program for teens called Opinions. She selected the topics, picked the guests and hosted. According to the book Her Excellency Jeanne Sauvé, "topics included such taboo subjects as teenage sex, parental authority... and student discipline. Because of the sensitive nature of many of the programs, Jeanne took care to select articulate and clean-cut young people for the show." Lasting from 1956 to 1963, "it was the show that made Jeanne famous."
• While working as a freelance broadcaster, Sauvé had a son in 1959, at the age of 37. The Sauvés named him Jean-François. He was their only child.
• During the time Sauvé was in broadcasting, her husband Maurice was developing his political career. Upon returning from France, he started out as a union organizer in St. Hyacinthe. He soon entered federal politics, and was a minister in Lester Pearson's Liberal cabinet by 1964. He left politics in 1968 for a job in the private sector.
• While he was a cabinet minister, Maurice was once criticized for allowing his wife to continue working for the CBC. In a 1964 Globe and Mail article, Conservative MP Louis-Joseph Pigeon said "The majority of the taxpayers of Canada are opposed to the wife of the minister of Forestry being paid fabulous sums by the CBC when her husband is a minister of the Crown." Pigeon called the arrangement "a family compact" and described it as a "shame and a scandal." jeanne sauve louis st. laurent
Broadcast Date: Oct. 17, 1961
Guest(s): Louis St-Laurent
Host: Jeanne Sauvé
Last updated: April 16, 2013
Page consulted on December 6, 2013
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