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The Rt. Hon. Jeanne Sauvé

Photograph Rt. Hon. Jeanne Sauvé

P.C., C.C., C.M.M., C.D., D.H.L., D. Sc., LL.D., D.U.

First Woman Governor General of Canada.
First Woman Speaker of the House of Commons.
First Woman Member of Parliament from Quebec to be a Cabinet Minister.


Born in Prud'homme, Saskatchewan on April 26, 1922.
Died in Montréal, Quebec on January 26, 1993.

Political Affiliation: Liberal Party of Canada

Legislative Career: First elected to the House of Commons in the 1972 general election as MP for Ahuntsic, Quebec and later for Laval-des-Rapides, Quebec. Served until 1984.

Appointed to the Cabinet as Minister of State for Science and Technology from November 27, 1972 to August 7, 1974; Minister of the Environment from August 8, 1974 to December 4, 1975; Minister of Communications from December 5, 1975 to June 3, 1979. She was also Advisor to the Secretary of State for External Affairs for Relations with the French-speaking World, Nov. 29, 1978.

Speaker of the House of Commons April 14, 1980 to January 15, 1984. Installed as the 23rd Governor General of Canada on May 14, 1984 until Jan. 29, 1990.

Honours and Awards: Sworn to the Privy Council, November 27, 1972.
Companion of the Order of Canada (1984), Commander of the Order of Military Merit (1984), Order of St. John of Jerusalem, Centennial Medal (1967), Queen's Jubilee Medal (1977).

Jeanne Mathilde Benoît received her early education at Notre Dame du Rosaire convent in Ottawa and studied at the University of Ottawa. Active in several youth movements, particularly Jeunesse étudiante catholique in Montréal, she travelled all over North America as an effective bilingual spokeswoman for social action from 1942 to 1948. She married Maurice Sauvé on Sept. 24, 1948. Later that year, the couple moved to Europe, studying in London and then Paris. Mrs. Sauvé worked as assistant to the Director of the Youth Secretariat of UNESCO and obtained a diploma in French Civilization from Université de Paris.

Returning to Canada in 1952, Mrs. Sauvé began what became a 20-year career as a freelance journalist and broadcaster working for CBC, Radio-Canada, CTV, several American networks and writing editorials on current affairs in major Canadian newspapers. She had one child. She was active in many organizations including the Union des Artistes, YMCA, Bushnell Communications, the Canadian Institute of Public Affairs, and the Institute of Political Research.

Mrs. Sauvé entered federal politics and became one of three women from Quebec to be elected to the House of Commons in 1972. She was appointed Minister of State for Science and Technology, becoming the first female Cabinet Minister from Quebec. She later became Minister of the Environment and Minister of Communications. She was known as an able administrator, capable of quickly grasping complex concepts and providing decisive leadership.

She was elected Speaker on April 14, 1980 and presided over several contentious debates including the debate over the constitution resolution in 1981, the parliamentary impasse over an omnibus bill in 1982 and later the passage of the Crow Bill in 1983. Mrs. Sauvé also completely overhauled the administrative and financial operations of the House of Commons, saving $18 million out of a $140 million budget and streamlining personnel by 300, while services were greatly improved. She was very proud of having opened the first daycare centre on Parliament Hill. Her Speakership ended on November 30, 1983 with the prorogation of a record three and a half year session.

On December 23, 1983, Mrs. Sauvé was appointed the first woman Governor General of Canada. She said it was "...a magnificent breakthrough for women." She was installed on May 14, 1984. The main themes of her mandate were peace, national unity and concern for young people. As the 23rd Governor General and Commander-in-Chief of Canada, her duties included opening and closing Parliament, swearing in the Prime Ministers and their Cabinet Ministers, giving royal assent to laws and ratifying documents, advising the Prime Minister and acting as liaison between the Crown and government. She travelled extensively throughout Canada in an effort to bring the viceregal office to the people and to promote national unity. Before returning to private life on January 29, 1990, she established a $10 million youth foundation which bears her name. Mrs. Sauvé died on January 26, 1993 in Montréal.


Armstrong, Sally. — "Sauvé savvy: is the secret of her success power or personality?" — Canadian Living. — Vol. 13, no. 1 (Jan. 23, 1988). — ISSN 033824624. — P. 40-46.

Bombardier, Denise. — "Jeanne Sauvé: une sereine ascension". — Châtelaine. — Vol. 26, no. 6 (juin 1985). — ISSN 03172635. — P. 64-71.

Deschênes, Jules. — "Jeanne Sauvé 1922-1993". — Proceedings of the Royal Society of Canada = Délibérations de la Société royale du Canada. — Vol. IV, Sixth series (1993). — ISSN 03164616. — P. 120-122.

Downey, Donn. — "A woman of first achievements". — Globe and Mail (Toronto). -- Jan. 27, 1993. — ISSN 03190714. — P. A1-A2.

Greenwood, Barbara. — Jeanne Sauvé. — Markham, Ont.: Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 1988. -- 48 p. — Canadian lives. — Juvenile literature. — ISBN 0889028540

Woods, Shirley E. — Une femme au sommet, son excellence Jeanne Sauvé. — Montréal: Éditions de l'Homme, 1986. — 269 p. — Traduction de: Her Excellency Jeanne Sauvé. — Traduit de l'anglais par Jacques Constantin. — ISBN 2761906330

Woods, Shirley E. — Her excellency Jeanne Sauvé. — Halifax, N.S.: Goodread Biographies, 1987. — Canadian lives: no. 49. — 242 p. — Also published in French under title: Une femme au sommet, son excellence Jeanne Sauvé. — Traduit de l'anglais par Jacques Constantin. — ISBN 0887801498

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