Spouse of the Prime Minister of Canada
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The spouse of the Prime Minister of Canada is the wife or husband of the Prime Minister of Canada. To date, 18 women have been the wife of the Prime Minister of Canada; Kim Campbell, Canada's only female prime minister to date, was unmarried during her time in office. As a public figure, some spouses will, from time to time, participate in various ceremonial, diplomatic, or partisan activities, alongside and on behalf of the prime minister.
Some commentators have tried to style prime ministers' wives as "First Lady of Canada", similar to the style of First Lady used in republics, but this is not a recognized title. Use of the term is based on the pervasive influence of American media and not a defined public role or title for the prime minister's spouse. In any case, both the spouse of the Canadian monarch and that of the Governor General of Canada take precedence over a prime minister's spouse, rendering the notion untenable.
The prime minister is not the head of state; thus, his or her spouse does not officially play as active a role in Canadian affairs as the royal and viceregal consorts. The prime minister's spouse, however, is still generally regarded as a public figure, frequently accompanying the prime minister on campaign and other public appearances, and often hosting dignitaries at the prime minister's residence.
At times, prime ministers' spouses have used their public status to promote charitable causes; Mila Mulroney was a spokesperson for the Canadian Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and other children's charities, Aline Chrétien was an active campaigner for literacy programs, and Laureen Harper is known for her support of animal welfare organizations such as the Ottawa Humane Society. Conversely, other prime ministers' spouses, including Geills Turner and Sheila Martin, were uncomfortable with the public aspects of their role and tried to minimize their time in the press spotlight.
However, many have also held an unofficial but highly influential role as a political or campaign advisor to their husbands — both Mila Mulroney and Laureen Harper were considered their husbands' "secret weapons", whose instinctive sense of campaign optics proved invaluable to their husbands' careers; Harper, for example, was credited as the brains behind a public appearance in which her husband, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, appeared on stage at Ottawa's National Arts Centre to sing The Beatles' "With a Little Help from My Friends", which was widely perceived as softening the Prime Minister's somewhat stiff and autocratic public image. Despite her relatively low public profile, Aline Chrétien was also recognized as a powerful advisor to her husband; Maclean's magazine once wrote, "Never mind calling her the power behind the throne—she shares the seat of power", and columnist Allan Fotheringham later called her the second most powerful political figure in Canada, behind her husband but ahead of any elected Member of Parliament or any staffer in the PMO.
Some prime ministers' spouses have also attracted attention for other reasons. Maryon Pearson was noted for her prickly wit, having made a number of famous quips which are still regularly featured in anthologies of famous quotations. Margaret Trudeau, whom Pierre Trudeau married while in office, became a notable celebrity in her own right, most famously when she was featured on the covers of international tabloids after being seen partying at Studio 54. Maureen McTeer, spouse of Joe Clark, attracted controversy when she became the first spouse of a prime minister to retain her own surname after marriage. Mila Mulroney also rose to some notoriety due to her spending habits, and was satirized in Frank as Imelda because of her purportedly large collection of shoes.
Canada has had two prime ministers who were bachelors, William Lyon Mackenzie King and R.B. Bennett. Mackenzie Bowell, a widower whose wife, Harriet, died in 1884, was also not married during his term in office. Pierre Trudeau began his term as a bachelor, became the first Canadian prime minister to get married while in office and ended it as Canada's first divorced prime minister.
Three Canadian prime ministers—John A. Macdonald, Alexander Mackenzie, and John Diefenbaker—were widowers, who were each married to their second wives during their terms as prime minister. Macdonald's first wife was Isabella Clark, Mackenzie's was Helen Neil, and Diefenbaker's was Edna Brower.
Canada has also had one female prime minister, Kim Campbell; however, as she had finalized her divorce from her second husband, Howard Eddy, in early 1993, there has never been a male spouse of the prime minister. Campbell's first husband, Nathan Divinsky, did try to attract media attention in 1993 by billing himself as the ex-husband of the prime minister. She briefly dated Gregory Lekhtman, the inventor of Exerlopers, during her term as prime minister, but kept the relationship relatively private and did not involve him in the election campaign. In 1997, she entered into a common-law marriage with Hershey Felder.
Maureen McTeer is the only spouse not to have been a housewife, and maintained a career both during and after their life at 24 Sussex.
Spouses of the prime ministers
|Name||Date of birth||Date of marriage||Prime Minister
|Date tenure began||Age at tenure start||Date tenure ended||Date of death and age|
|August 24, 1836||February 16, 1867||Sir John A. Macdonald||July 1, 1867||30 years, 176 days||November 5, 1873||September 5, 1920
( 84 years, 12 days)
|March 22, 1825||June 17, 1853||Alexander Mackenzie||November 7, 1873||48 years, 230 days||October 8, 1878||March 20, 1893
( 69 years, 363 days)
|August 24, 1836||February 16, 1867||Sir John A. Macdonald||October 17, 1878||42 years, 54 days||June 6, 1891||September 5, 1920
( 84 years, 12 days)
|3||Lady Mary Bethune Abbott
|October 17, 1823||1849||Sir John Joseph Caldwell Abbott||June 16, 1891||67 years, 242 days||November 24, 1892||February 25, 1898
( 75 years, 38 days)
|4||Lady Annie Thompson
|June 26, 1845||1870||Sir John Sparrow David Thompson||December 5, 1892||47 years, 162 days||December 12, 1894||April 10, 1913
( 67 years, 288 days)
|None (widower)||Sir Mackenzie Bowell||December 21, 1894||April 27, 1896|
|5||Lady Frances Tupper
|March 14, 1826||October 6, 1846||Sir Charles Tupper||May 1, 1896||70 years, 48 days||July 8, 1896||May 11, 1912
( 86 years, 58 days)
|6||Lady Zoé Laurier
|June 26, 1841||August 13, 1868||Sir Wilfrid Laurier||July 11, 1896||55 years, 15 days||October 7, 1911||November 1, 1921
( 80 years, 128 days)
|7||Lady Laura Borden
|November 26, 1861||September 25, 1889||Sir Robert Laird Borden||October 10, 1911||49 years, 318 days||July 10, 1920||September 7, 1940
( 78 years, 286 days)
|April 18, 1883||1904||Arthur Meighen||July 10, 1920||37 years, 83 days||December 29, 1921||September 6, 1985
( 102 years, 141 days)
|None (never married)||William Lyon Mackenzie King||December 29, 1921||June 29, 1926|
|April 18, 1883||1904||Arthur Meighen||June 29, 1926||43 years, 72 days||November 25, 1926||September 6, 1985
( 102 years, 141 days)
|None (never married)||William Lyon Mackenzie King||November 25, 1926||August 7, 1930|
|None (never married)||R.B. Bennett||August 7, 1930||October 23, 1935|
|None (never married)||William Lyon Mackenzie King||October 23, 1935||November 15, 1948|
|9||Jeanne St. Laurent
|October 22, 1886||1905||Louis Stephen St. Laurent||November 15, 1948||62 years, 24 days||June 21, 1957||November 14, 1966
( 80 years, 23 days)
|April 14, 1902||December 8, 1953||John George Diefenbaker||June 21, 1957||55 years, 68 days||April 22, 1963||December 22, 1976
( 74 years, 252 days)
|December 13, 1901||August 22, 1925||Lester B. Pearson||April 22, 1963||61 years, 130 days||April 20, 1968||December 26, 1989
( 88 years, 13 days)
|None (unmarried as of 1968; married in office)||Pierre Trudeau||April 20, 1968||March 4, 1971|
|September 10, 1948||March 4, 1971||Pierre Trudeau||March 4, 1971||22 years, 175 days||1977*||Living (65 years, 307 days)|
|None (separated) de facto Margaret Trudeau||Pierre Trudeau||1977||June 4, 1979*|
|13||Maureen McTeer||September 27, 1952||1973||Joe Clark||June 4, 1979||26 years, 250 days||March 2, 1980||Living (61 years, 290 days)|
|None (separated) de facto Margaret Trudeau||Pierre Trudeau||March 2, 1980||April 2, 1984*|
|None (divorced)||Pierre Trudeau||April 2, 1984||June 30, 1984*|
|December 23, 1937||May 11, 1963||John Turner||June 30, 1984||46 years, 190 days||September 17, 1984||Living (76 years, 203 days)|
|July 13, 1953||May 26, 1973||Brian Mulroney||September 17, 1984||31 years, 66 days||June 25, 1993||Living (61 years, 1 day)|
|none (divorced)||Kim Campbell||June 25, 1993||November 4, 1993|
|May 14, 1936||September 10, 1957||Jean Chrétien||November 4, 1993||57 years, 174 days||December 12, 2003||Living (78 years, 61 days)|
|July 31, 1943||1965||Paul Martin||December 12, 2003||60 years, 134 days||February 6, 2006||Living (70 years, 348 days)|
|June 23, 1963||December 11, 1993||Stephen Harper||February 6, 2006||42 years, 228 days||Present||Living (51 years, 21 days)|
(*)The Trudeaus separated in 1977 but did not obtain a divorce until 2 April, 1984. Trudeau left office in June 1984, two months after his divorce was finalized.
- Anne Kingston, "Wife of the party". Maclean's, August 13, 2007.
- "PM's wife stepping out of the shadows". Vancouver Sun, December 3, 2010.
- "The opinions the PM heeds," Maclean's, October 14, 1996, vol. 109, issue 42, p. 18-19.
- Allan Fotheringham, "Aline, the power player," Maclean's, December 11, 2000, vol. 113, issue 50, p. 68.
- English, John. Shadow of Heaven: The Life of Lester Pearson. Toronto: Lester & Orpen Dennys, 1989 (ISBN 0-88619-169-6).
- Maclean's, April 29, 1996.