Jeanne Sauvé's early years
CBC Digital Archives has put together a collection of radio and TV clips featuring all who have performed the viceregal role since 1952: Vincent Massey (1952-59), Georges Vanier (1959-67), Roland Michener (1967-64), Jules Léger (1974-79), Ed Schreyer (1979-84), Jeanne Sauvé (1984-90), Ray Hnatyshyn (1990-95), Roméo LeBlanc (1995-99), Adrienne Clarkson (1999 to 2005), Michaëlle Jean (2005-10) and David Johnston, our newest governor general.
(To listen to the entire interview, see the additional clip "Sauvé chats with Gzowski.")
• Charles, a French Canadian, was originally from Ottawa. Anna grew up in small-town Quebec, just outside of Ottawa.
• The family had moved to Saskatchewan because there were good opportunities for Charles, who was in the construction trade, to build houses in the rapidly developing area.
• Charles may have worked in a "blue-collar" trade, but his real interests were more cerebral. "He was a quiet man with a wry sense of humour, whose favourite pleasure was to settle down with an interesting book," according to Shirley E. Woods' 1986 biography Her Excellency Jeanne Sauvé.
• The family moved back to Ottawa from Saskatchewan when Jeanne was three. According to Woods, the Benoîts considered their children's education extremely important: "A major reason for the move (to Ottawa) was Charles Benoît's desire for all his children to get a sound French education. Besides being his home, Ottawa had a number of good French schools and a French university."
• Jeanne was educated at the Notre-Dame de Rosaire convent in Ottawa. She was an outstanding student from the beginning. "Jeanne led her class year after year at the convent," explained Woods in his Sauvé biography.
• Woods tells an amusing story about the star student disappointing a nun who hoped Jeanne would enter a religious vocation. When the nun asked her what she wanted to be when she grew up, the future governor general replied, "I would like to be well-dressed."
• After Jeanne graduated high school, her family was unable to pay for her full university education. Since she desperately wanted to further her education, the bilingual teen took a job as a translator with the government during the day while attending classes at the University of Ottawa at night.
• In 1942, Jeanne went to work for the Jeunesse étudiante catholique (or the Young Catholic Students Group), a religious movement that also had practical social aims. Her job was to be a propagandiste -- essentially a public relations person -- writing articles and making speeches about the organization. For this work, she had to move to Montreal.
• While working for the JEC, Jeanne met Montreal law student Maurice Sauvé. Sauvé saw Jeanne as an ideal match, since he was looking for an independent-minded wife who was intellectually his equal and wanted to pursue her own career. The two married in 1948.
• After the wedding they moved to London, England. Maurice had won a scholarship to the London School of Economics, where he studied until 1950. While in London, Jeanne taught and tutored part time.
• In 1950, the couple moved to Paris. Jeanne worked as assistant to the director of the Youth Secretariat at UNESCO -- a very well-paid position -- while Maurice enrolled at the University of Paris to complete his doctorate.
• Jeanne began studying at the Sorbonne in 1951. She graduated with a degree in French Civilization in 1952, the same year Maurice successfully completed his PhD in economics.
• They returned to Canada later that summer. The reason for their return, according to Woods, "was quite simple: in Jeanne's words, 'we were committed to Canada.'" jeanne sauve
Broadcast Date: April 25, 1985
Guest(s): Jeanne Sauvé
Host: Peter Gzowski
Photo: Sauvé Family Collection
Last updated: September 12, 2013
Page consulted on December 6, 2013
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