Margaret Trudeau

How many women can claim to be the wife of one Prime Minister and the mother of another?  On Monday, October 19, 2015, Margaret Trudeau watched as the results came in announcing her son Justin Trudeau as Canada’s next Prime Minister.  She watched as her son and his party went from being third in the long race to head the race and then make history as they won, garnering 184 seats, exceeding the majority of 170 seats.  According to Michael Den Tandt:

Justin Trudeau, the eldest son of Pierre Elliott Trudeau, has resurrected his party, confounded his critics, defied the naysayers and trolls, overcome his own mistakes and resoundingly defeated two tough, smart, determined opponents who cannot have imagined anything like this outcome.

A minority was presaged by many polls. A majority, and a broad one at that, is beyond the Liberals’ wildest hopes.

In pulling this off, Trudeau, 43, has made history. Canada has its first political dynasty.

I can just imagine the pride that filled Margaret and no doubt, she thought of her former husband, Pierre and how proud he would have been of their son.   When she held the infant Justin in her arms, did she ever imagine that he would one day follow in his father’s footsteps?

As I watched her with her daughter-in-law, son and grandchildren in their hotel room watching the results, I wondered who this woman was.  What was her story?

Margaret was born in Vancouver to Doris Kathleen and James Sinclair, a former Liberal member of the Parliament of Canada and the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans.  She attended Simon Fraser University where she studied English Literature.

At the age of 18, when vacationing in Tahiti, she met Pierre Trudeau, then Minister of Justice.  It seemed like she was destined to be in the world of politics.  Interestingly enough, Margaret didn’t recognize Pierre and thought little of their encounter.  However, he was captivated by this carefree “flower child”.  She was thirty years his junior but that didn’t stop him from pursuing her.

When he became Prime Minister in 1968, Pierre was still a bachelor.  After keeping their relationship private, he stunned the country by marrying 22 year old Margaret in 1971 at a private ceremony in West Vancouver.  Not surprisingly, the age difference raised some eyebrows among Canadians but this behaviour was typical of the Prime Minister who “prided himself on his progressive  views and youthful vigour”.

Pierre Trudeau was a Catholic so Margaret converted to his religion.  When asked about her role in her marriage to the Prime Minister, she said, “I want to be more than a rose in my husband’s lapel.”

Life as the wife of a Prime Minister was not easy.  It took some adjusting for Margaret.  She wrote in her memoirs, “a glass panel was gently lowered into place around me, like a patient in a mental hospital who is no longer considered able to make decisions and who cannot be exposed to a harsh light.”  They had three children, Justin being the eldest.  They appeared to have a very close and loving relationship but the marriage soon began to fall apart.  Margaret resented her husband’s frequent work-related absences.  She was forced to raise their sons on her own.  What a change this must have been for the woman who was once described as “carefree”.

Her publicity didn’t come solely from her high-profile position, unfortunately.  She made headlines when she smuggled drugs in her husband’s luggage, made scantily clad appearances at Studio 54 and ripped apart a tapestry in the Prime Minister’s official residence in Ottawa because it celebrated “reason over passion”.

The marriage disintegrated.  This led to an affair with U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy.  She associated with Ronnie Wood and Mick Jagger, members of the Rolling Stones.  She suffered from stress and bouts of bipolar depression.   In 1977, she separated from her husband.  She became a jet-setter and gave many “tell-all” interviews to Canadian and American magazines.    She even appeared in two motion pictures. Pierre Trudeau won custody of the children and did not pay spousal support.  Margaret had a difficult time earning a learning after her marriage.  She wrote Beyond Reason, a book about her marriage.  On the eve of 1979 Pierre’s party lost the majority of seats in the House of Commons.   At the same time, Margaret was at Studio 54 in New York.  A photo of her was featured on many front pages across Canada.

The Trudeaus divorced in 1984.  Not long after, Margaret married Fried Kemper, Ottawa real-estate developer.  They had two children.  Unlike her first marriage, Margaret was able to disappear from the public eye.  In 1998, Margaret experienced a devastating tragedy.  Michel, her youngest son with Pierre, was killed in an avalanche.  This led to another major depressive episode which ended her second marriage.

In 2000, when Pierre died Margaret was at his bedside with their sons, Justin and Alexandre.

Just because our marriage ended didn’t mean the love stopped – Margaret speaking of Trudeau.

What is Margaret up these days?  She is the honorary president of WaterAid Canada, an organization in Ottawa, dedicated to helping the poorest communities in developing countries to have access to safe water, improved hygiene and sanitation.  She has written the book, The Time of Your Life:  Choosing A Vibrant Joyful Future in which she offers insights into how women can live healthy, happy lives and provides stories about her own life..

Notes to Women would like to commend Margaret for the work she has been doing since she announced in 2006 that she had been suffering from bipolar disorder.  Through speaking engagements across North America, she has advocated for reducing the social stigma of mental illness, particularly bipolar disorder.  She is an honorary patron of the Canadian Mental Health Association.  She wrote about her personal experience with bipolar disorder in Changing My Mind.

She now resides in Montreal so she can be closer to her sons Justin and Alexandre.  She was there in person to celebrate Justin’s historic win with him.  Margaret Trudeau is not just the wife of Pierre Trudeau or the mother of Justin Trudeau. She is the voice of those who suffer from mental illness.  She is an inspiration for women who have battled and are battling mood swings.  She has shown that with the right doctors and right treatment, women who suffer from mental illness can rebuild their lives.

If you or someone you know would like to learn more about bipolar disorder, visit this link.

TORONTO, ON- MARCH 25 - Margaret Trudeau has written a new book,The Time of Your Life....about enjoying a joyful old age .She is seen here in Harper Collins office downtown Toronto at in Toronto, March 25, 2015. Colin McConnell/Toronto Star

TORONTO, ON- MARCH 25 – Margaret Trudeau has written a new book,The Time of Your Life….about enjoying a joyful old age .She is seen here in Harper Collins office downtown Toronto at in Toronto, March 25, 2015. Colin McConnell/Toronto Star

Sources:  Wikipedia; National Post

Hansini’s Cross

Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven – Matthew 10:32

I was moved when I read the story of Hansini, a young woman who made the decision to follow Christ, no matter what the cost.  She faced persecution from her family and the entire village.

The father shall be divided against the son, and the son against the father; the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother; the mother in law against her daughter in law, and the daughter in law against her mother in law – Luke 12:53

Hansini withstood, the attacks of the Devil and held firm to her faith, refusing to renounce Christ. Her family turned on her.  Pressured to do something about their wayward daughter, Hansini’s father beat her but to no avail.  I can almost imagine her saying, “No matter what you do to me, I will not forsake my Lord.”  Three years went by and still Hansini refused to give up her faith.  Then one day, things changed.  Read how a sewing machine changed the lives of Hansini, her family and her community.

It’s amazing how God can a sewing machine to share His love with a village who once rejected His Son and persecuted those who no longer worshipped their gods.

I was greatly inspired by Hansini and her unshakable faith.  She trusted in God and stood up for Jesus and was blessed with a sewing machine which she used to pay her family’s bills.  She convinced her parents that, “Jesus Christ is the giver of all good gifts and it is because of the love and grace of Christ that our family is able to overcome all of our financial struggles.”

Hansini demonstrated the love and forgiveness of Christ when she used her income to support her family and gladly agreed to teach the neighbors’ children how to sew.  They had all been her enemies, persecuting her, viewing her faith as a scandalous and shameful act.  Yet, Hansini did not hold a grudge against them.  Instead, she showed them kindness.  And in no time, their hostility toward her stopped.  Hansini used the sewing machine that God gave her as a way to open a door for the people to see firsthand the love of Jesus.  They saw how faith works and how God responds to that faith.

Hansini’s story is a testimony to the faithfulness of God to those who place their complete trust in Him. He used a sewing machine to lift her and her family out of poverty and at the same time, point them to His beloved Son.  This Christmas, look through Gospel for Asia’s Christmas Gift Catalog and see what practical gifts you can provide for families like Hansini.  Through these gifts, they can come to know the true Gift.

Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong – 1 Corinthians 16:13

Source:  Gospel for Asia

Eleanor Roosevelt

Earlier this month when I was reading about African American women who made a difference so that I could feature them in the special issue of Notes to Women newsletter, one name kept popping up–Eleanor Roosevelt.  I promised myself that I would do a little writeup on her.  And here we are.

“Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home – so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person; the neighborhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm, or office where he works. Such are the places where every man, woman, and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world” (http://www.udhr.org/history/biographies/bioer.htm).

She basically believed that charity begins at home.  And she reminds me of something a friend once said to me.  “The difficulty in following Jesus’ command is that we often pick and choose who we decide is our neighbour. We see our neighbour as the starving, AIDS infected person in the Third World or the orphan in a war torn country, needing our love and care but often perceive the homeless in our community as undeserving of our love.”

Eleanor’s childhood was a dreadfully unhappy one.  Her father was an alcoholic who was disowned by his family. Her mother, renowned for her beauty, was distant from her daughter whom she nicknamed “Granny” because she seemed to her old-fashioned. After Anna Roosevelt died of diphtheria in 1892, Eleanor, age eight, was raised by her maternal grandmother. She rarely saw her father thereafter, and he died of drink in 1894 when she was ten. These traumatic experiences affected Eleanor for life and she would harbor a constant yearning for unconditional love (http://www.lkwdpl.org/wihohio/roos-elex.htm). 

Life didn’t improve much when when Eleanor married Franklin, a distant cousin and they had six children.  Eleanor had to deal with her overbearing mother-in-law who apparently told her grandchildren that their mother only bore them.  She tried to control Eleanor, making her daughter-in-law feel utterly dependent.  

Then Eleanor found out that Franklin was having an affair with Lucy Mercer, her secretary.  She offered him a divorce, but he declined for the sake of his political career and because his mother threatened to disinherit him if he did.  He and Eleanor never shared a bedroom after that, but their working relationship was respectful, for the time (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/FranklinDRoosevelt).

Eleanor Roosevelt was the first First Lady to be more politically active, involving herself in causes like Civil Rights.  Perhaps it was because there was lack of charity in her own home that made Eleanor want to reach out to her community.   From early adulthood Eleanor Roosevelt dedicated herself to liberty, justice, and compassion for all.

Racial injustice came to her attention only after she reached the White House.   By that time, she was already active in promoting other groups’ causes. Before she married Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1905, she worked with the immigrants at the Rivington Street Settlement House. During World War I she helped improve conditions for US servicemen.When Franklin fell ill, leaving him crippled, she once again found herself standing up for someone whose value to society was doubted, this time her own husband. The 1921 experience deepened her concern for society’s unaccepted. Later the same decade she began her work promoting women’s causes. Women had just gained the right to vote, and Eleanor encouraged them to make the most of that right and run for office. 

After leaving the White House, Mrs. Roosevelt found herself more free than ever to promote equal rights for African Americans. During her final years she continued fighting as hard and fearlessly as ever. On at least one occassion, the Secret Service warned her not to keep a speaking engagement on civil disobedience. The Ku Klux Klan had put a price on her head and the Secret Service said they could not guarantee her safety. Undeterred, she traveled with another lady and her revolver. Such was her determination, independence, and courage right up to the year she died.

Mrs. Roosevelt was not always successful, even despairing at times of making any progress at all. And not every one of the causes she championed, such as the United Nations, turned out to be all that she hoped. But she used every ounce of her influence, charisma, and political capital for the causes in which she believed. Right or wrong, she fought zealously and courageously, and in most cases the world is a better place because of those fights. This zealous First Lady’s support moved African Americans’ cause ahead by decades
 (http://www.blackhistoryreview.com/biography/ERoosevelt.php).

Eleanor Roosevelt came a long way from being an unhappy child and dependent woman to becoming a champion for women’s and civil rights.  She was committed to what she believed in.  

Be inspired by this remarkable woman who endured so much but in the end gave so much because she cared about the rights of others. 

You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do.

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.

Remember always that you not only have the right to be an individual, you have an obligation to be one

Eleanor Roosevelt