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Senator Chaput-Rolland remembers 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.

"She was criticized by some, loved by others and admired by many," says Senator Solange Chaput-Rolland. Her good friend Jeanne Sauvé has just passed away, and Chaput-Rolland is sharing her memories with Peter Gzowski. The senator praises Sauvé's performance as governor general, defends her decision to close Rideau Hall's gates, and describes her "inner elegance." She is clearly saddened by Sauvé's death. "She was a grand lady," says Chaput-Rolland. 
• Jeanne Sauvé passed away on Jan. 26, 1993, at the age of 70. She had been suffering from Hodgkin's disease.
• Her husband Maurice had died in 1992.

• Senator Solange Chaput-Rolland, heard in this clip, had followed a very similar career path to her friend Sauvé. They had been journalists together, and both later entered politics. Both shared a passion for Canadian unity. Chaput-Rolland served on the federal task force on Canadian unity (the Pépin-Robarts Commission) and was a provincial MLA for Quebec before becoming a Canadian Senator in 1988. She died in 2001.

• Most of Jeanne Sauvé's obituaries recalled the struggles and achievements of her career, but they also all commented on her elegance and charm. According to an obituary from Maclean's magazine, "Among the tributes after her death, none seemed more apt than a comment from Jeanne Sauvé's birthplace. 'She was a warm person,' said Cora Poilevre, Prud'homme's village historian and president of a local museum that collects Sauvé memorabilia. 'She lived her life with grace.'"

• Sauvé's personal warmth is something many friends emphasized after her death, since she sometimes had a public reputation for being cool and snobbish. Friends especially focused on her love of children. Sauvé loved the annual Christmas party she threw at Rideau Hall for the Ottawa Boys and Girls Club and its French counterpart, the Patro d'Ottawa. The children would come to Rideau Hall for lunch and a visit with Santa, and Sauvé would happily mingle with her young guests.

• Throughout her career, Sauvé stressed that her family always came first. She frequently mentioned how important her son Jean-François was to her. "The love that you display to a child is different from any other love... You give to a child without expecting anything in return," she told the Toronto Star when discussing Jean-François in 1988.
• Jean-François currently (2005) works in the banking industry and is president of the Jeanne Sauvé Youth Foundation.
jeanne sauve
Medium: Radio
Program: Morningside
Broadcast Date: Jan. 27, 1993
Guest(s): Solange Chaput-Rolland
Host: Peter Gzowski
Duration: 7:36

Last updated: April 16, 2013

Page consulted on December 6, 2013

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