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Olive Diefenbaker

Olive and John Diefenbaker
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 ambitions.

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 a government.

Edna Diefenbaker

Edna Diefenbaker
Edna Diefenbaker

© 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:

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