Jeanne Sauvé's political advice
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.
• At the time, there were very few women in Canadian federal politics. Of 264 MPs elected in the previous federal election of 1968, only one was female -- the NDP's Grace MacInnis.
• Campaigning was more difficult than Sauvé had expected. "I felt uneasy for the first time in my life when I was campaigning. I felt people were taking a second look at me and wondering whether a woman was adequate for the job... They wondered what would happen to my husband and my son. I must say I had qualms about it myself," Sauvé said in the book Her Excellency Jeanne Sauvé.
• Despite her perceived difficulties, Sauvé won her riding easily in 1972. She was now one of five female MPs out of a total of 264 MPs in Canada. (To compare those numbers to more recent ones: of 308 MPs elected in 2004, 65 were women.)
• Prime Minister Trudeau soon appointed her minister of state for Science and Technology, making her the first woman from Quebec to be a cabinet minister. At the time, she was the only woman in Trudeau's cabinet.
• Canada's first female cabinet minister was Ellen Fairclough. She was appointed secretary of state under the Diefenbaker government in 1957, and then became minister of Citizenship and Immigration a year later.
• After Sauvé was elected and named to the cabinet in 1972, the Globe and Mail wrote: "Not since Pierre Trudeau, Jean Marchand and Gérard Pelletier in 1965 have Quebec voters sent Ottawa a new Liberal Member of Parliament with as much celebrity status as Jeanne Sauvé."
• In the same feature article, Sauvé declared that she was opposed to female tokenism. She said appointments should go to the best-qualified people "rather than just putting a woman in there because you need a woman." However, she emphasized her "firm belief that the government must pursue conscious policies to overcome past discrimination against women in the public service."
• Sauvé was re-elected in 1974 and was named minister of the Environment by Pierre Trudeau.
• In 1975, she became minister of Communications, a role many felt she was ideally suited for due to her broadcasting background.
• When Progressive Conservative Joe Clark became prime minister in October 1979, Sauvé served a short stint as Communications critic for the Opposition.
• Trudeau came back into power in early 1980. It was then that he asked Sauvé to be Speaker of the House. jeanne sauve
Program: Sunday Magazine
Broadcast Date: June 2, 1974
Guest(s): Jeanne Sauvé
Reporter: Joan McLellan
Last updated: April 16, 2013
Page consulted on December 5, 2013
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