|Olive and John Diefenbaker
Olive Diefenbaker was well-known in Ottawa during her husband's time
in office (June 1957 to April 1963), and for many years afterward. She was
a stalwart — always there, supporting her husband, and sharing in his political
Olive was older, and more experienced at life, than many of Canada's
later political wives. She was in her 50s by the time she married Diefenbaker.
In her book, Political Wives, Susan Riley describes Olive Diefenbaker
as "a beguiling vision for a certain kind of male politician: an adoring
wife who never contradicts, never interferes and responds quickly to simple
voice and hand commands. Olive knew her place and was content with it."
Riley writes that Olive frequently said that the whole direction of her
life was being John's wife. But at the same time, much of the image
she was projecting was just that. Behind the scenes, she was a counsellor,
crusader and vote-getter — just the sort of spouse needed by the leader of
© Diefenbaker Canada Centre Archives
Olive was Diefenbaker's second wife. His first wife, Edna, had
a mental breakdown, partly due to the stress of being an MP's wife.
Although not familiar to the Canadian public, she was popular with parliamentarians
of all parties. When Edna died of leukemia in 1951 at the age of 51, she
became the first non-member of Parliament whose passing was noted in the
House of Commons.
Click below for a look at some of the better-known family members of our
most recent PMs: