Margaret Whitlam

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Margaret Whitlam
AO
GoughSorry.jpg
Margaret Whitlam and Gough Whitlam at Parliament House, Canberra, for the national apology to the Stolen Generations in February 2008
Born Margaret Elaine Dovey
(1919-11-19)19 November 1919
Bondi, New South Wales
Died 17 March 2012(2012-03-17) (aged 92)
Sydney, New South Wales
Residence Elizabeth Bay
Nationality Australian
Alma mater SCEGGS Darlinghurst
University of Sydney
Occupation Social worker
Known for Spouse of the 21st
Prime Minister of Australia
Political party
Australian Labor Party
Religion Anglican
Spouse(s) Gough Whitlam (m. 1942-2012, her death)
Children Nicholas
Tony
Stephen
Catherine

Margaret Elaine Whitlam, AO (19 November 1919 – 17 March 2012) was a prominent Australian and the wife of former Prime Minister of Australia Gough Whitlam. She was a published author, social worker and former champion swimmer, having represented Australia at the 1938 British Empire Games in Sydney.[1]

Early life[edit]

Born Margaret Dovey in Bondi, New South Wales,[2] she was the daughter of Wilfred Robert "Bill" Dovey, a New South Wales Supreme Court judge.[3] After attending SCEGGS Darlinghurst, where she excelled at sport,[2] and towered over most other women standing 188 cm (6'2") tall. Dovey graduated with a degree in social studies from the University of Sydney in the same year as she rose to national prominence as a swimmer. Soon after, she commenced working at Parramatta District Hospital.[1]

Marriage and children[edit]

She married Gough Whitlam a Royal Australian Air Force officer in April 1942 in St Michael's Church of England, Vaucluse. Gough's 194 cm (6'4") height was one of the reasons that Margaret described him as "quite the most delicious thing I'd ever seen".[4] Her husband was elected to federal parliament in 1952 and became federal opposition leader and parliamentary leader of the Australian Labor Party in 1967. Margaret was described as "deeply and loyally in love" with her husband.[5] Together, they had four children: sons, Nicholas, who became a prominent banker and a controversial figure in his own right; Tony, who was briefly a federal MP; Stephen and daughter, Catherine (born February 1954)[6] who is married to former News Limited Chief Executive Officer Kim Williams.[7]

Advocacy and public life[edit]

Upon Gough Whitlam's election as Prime Minister, Margaret Whitlam quickly became known as an outspoken advocate for issues including women's rights, particularly abortion law reform and conservation; influenced by Germaine Greer.[2] She faced widespread public criticism about her proactive role; however she refused to limit herself to traditional preconceptions. She was a regular guest speaker on radio and television, and wrote a column for the magazine Woman's Day, where she offered an insight into the life of a prime minister's wife.[2] Whitlam was outspoken about the dismissal of the Whitlam government in 1975, saying she told her husband that he should have torn up the letter of dismissal from the Governor-General, Sir John Kerr.[1]

After the end of her husband's political career, Whitlam held a number of public and cultural offices, including serving as inaugural chair of the Australian Opera Conference; and on the boards of Sydney Dance Company between 1977 and 1982;[7] International Literacy Year, International Women's Year (1975), and the Law Foundation of New South Wales.[1] In 2006, she criticised Janette Howard, wife of then-Prime Minister John Howard, for what she considered a lack of commitment to community activities.[8]

Honours[edit]

Whitlam was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia in 1983 for services to the community.[9] In addition Margaret Whitlam was in 1995 awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Letters from the University of New England and in 1997 became one of the one hundred Australian National Living Treasures.[7] In 2001 received a Centenary Medal "For outstanding service to Australian society and to the Australian community".[10] In 2007 both she and her husband were made national life members of the Australian Labor Party.[1][2]

Published works[edit]

Death and funeral[edit]

Whitlam died in a Sydney hospital on 17 March 2012, following a fall.[2][7] The Whitlam family declined an offer from the Australian Government for a state funeral.[11] A memorial service was held in St James' Church, Sydney on 23 March 2012. The Rev Andrew Sempell gave the sermon, taking love as his theme, using readings from Isaiah 43:1-5 & 1 Corinthians 13. He said: "Margaret Whitlam was indeed a gifted and talented person who used her abilities for the benefit of others, and we celebrate that."[12] The service was attended by her widower Gough Whitlam, Prime Minister Julia Gillard,[13] former Prime Ministers Malcolm Fraser, Bob Hawke, Paul Keating and Kevin Rudd, as well as other present and past politicians.[14][15]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e Leslie, Tim (17 March 2012). "Margaret Whitlam dies". ABC News (Australia). Retrieved 17 March 2012. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Margaret Whitlam defined being a PM's wife". The Sydney Morning Herald. AAP. 17 March 2012. Retrieved 17 March 2012. 
  3. ^ "Wilfred Robert Dovey". About NSW. Powerhouse Museum, Sydney. 2012. Retrieved 17 March 2012. 
  4. ^ Harvey, Claire (18 March 2012). "The life, the lady and the love supreme". The Sunday Telegraph. Retrieved 2012-11-04. 
  5. ^ Carlton, Mike (24 March 2012). "Margaret, a commonsense class act". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 2012-05-05. 
  6. ^ Tony Stephens, "The World According to Gough", Good Weekend magazine, The Saturday Age, 1 November 2008, p. 23
  7. ^ a b c d "Margaret Whitlam dies, aged 92". The Courier-Mail. 17 March 2012. Retrieved 17 March 2012. 
  8. ^ Kerin, Lindy (28 September 2006). "Wives at war in Margaret Whitlam biography" (transcript). AM (ABC Radio) (Australia). Retrieved 17 March 2012. 
  9. ^ "WHITLAM, Margaret Elaine: Officer of the Order of Australia". It's an Honour. Commonwealth of Australia. 26 January 1983. 
  10. ^ Centenary Medal (1 Jan 2001). "It's an Honour". 
  11. ^ Marszalek, Jessica (19 March 2012). "Turnbull, Rudd pay moving tributes to Margaret Whitlam". Herald Sun. Retrieved 20 March 2012. 
  12. ^ Sempell, Andrew. "Sermon at the Memorial Service for Margaret Whitlam". St James Church. Retrieved 2012-04-15. 
  13. ^ Tabakoff, Nick (24 March 2012). "Grand farewell for Margaret Whitlam". Herald Sun. Retrieved 24 March 2012. 
  14. ^ Marr, David (24 March 2012). "Life of the party, but she was a woman of simple pleasures". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 24 March 2012. 
  15. ^ "In Memoriam: Margaret Whitlam" (image gallery). The Sydney Morning Herald. 23 March 2012. Retrieved 24 March 2012. 

External links[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Langmore, Diane (1992). "Margaret Whitlam". Prime ministers' wives: the public and private lives of ten Australian women (paperback). McPhee Gribble. p. 341. ISBN 978-0-86914-269-1. 
  • Mitchell, Susan (2006). Margaret Whitlam: a biography. Random House Australia. p. 404. ISBN 978-1-74051-371-5.