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

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Women And Infertility

I was watching General Hospital and one of the characters received the news that she could not have children.  Any child she carried would not be carried to full term.  She would lose the baby.  What heartbreaking news.  It hurts to see women who want to be mothers and who would be great mothers unable to have children while those who are unfit have children.  It doesn’t seem fair.  Lulu, the character wondered why this happened to her since there was no family history of infertility.  Before that she blamed herself for her condition because she had had an abortion when she was a teenager.

I have often wondered why are some women unable to have children or carry them to full term?  There was a time when I was afraid that I would not be able to have children.  In biblical times barren women were looked down upon by other women.  Sarah was despised by her servant Hagar because she was able to conceive while her mistress couldn’t (Genesis 16:4).  Hannah was tormented by Peninnah, her husband’s other wife and rival because the LORD had closed her womb.  She made Hannah’s life a living hell until God blessed Hannah with children.  Rachel rejoiced when she conceived her first child, saying, “God has taken away my reproach” (Genesis 30:23).

In developing countries women face ostracisim and see their infertility as a failing or a curse.  Newsweek ran a story in 2008 about women around the world who are coping with infertility.  One woman was uable to conceive for the first 13 years of her marriage.  She said that people would ask a woman her name—and then, “How many children do you have?” When the woman answered “none”, they don’t know what they can talk to you about.”

It must be so difficult for a woman to be surrounded by family members and friends who have children of their own or to see mothers where ever you go with their children and know that she would never have that experience.  It’s ironic. There are women who can have children but choose not to and there are women who would like to be mothers but are unable to have children.

What causes infertility in women?  Women’s Health Government has a fact sheet which answers these and other questions about infertility.

What is infertility?

Infertility means not being able to get pregnant after one year of trying (or six months if a woman is 35 or older). Women who can get pregnant but are unable to stay pregnant may also be infertile.

Pregnancy is the result of a process that has many steps. To get pregnant:

  • A woman’s body must release an egg from one of her ovaries (ovulation).
  • The egg must go through a fallopian tube toward the uterus (womb).
  • A man’s sperm must join with (fertilize) the egg along the way.
  • The fertilized egg must attach to the inside of the uterus (implantation).

Infertility can happen if there are problems with any of these steps.

Infertility among women is common.  According to  the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) about 10 percent of women (6.1 million) in the United States ages 15-44 have difficulty getting pregnant or staying pregnant.

What causes infertility in women?

Most cases of female infertility are caused by problems with ovulation. Without ovulation, there are no eggs to be fertilized. Some signs that a woman is not ovulating normally include irregular or absent menstrual periods.

Ovulation problems are often caused by polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). PCOS is a hormone imbalance problem which can interfere with normal ovulation. PCOS is the most common cause of female infertility. Primary ovarian insufficiency (POI) is another cause of ovulation problems. POI occurs when a woman’s ovaries stop working normally before she is 40. POI is not the same as early menopause.

Less common causes of fertility problems in women include:

What increases a woman’s risk of infertility?

Many things can change a woman’s ability to have a baby. These include:

Check out the Women’s Health Government fact sheet to find out how age can affect a woman’s ability to have a child; how long a woman should try to get pregnant before consulting a doctor; how a doctor determines if a woman and her partner have fertility problems and treatments.  They also offer more information (links) on infertility that may help you or someone you know who may be having difficulty getting pregnant.

Glen Meade Center for Women’s Health outlines the ways in which women can be tested for infertility:

  • Blood tests to check hormone levels, including progesterone and follicle stimulating hormone (FSH)
  • Checking morning body temperature to determine if ovaries are releasing eggs
  • Hysterosalpingography (a radiologic assessment of the uterus and fallopian tubes)
  • Pelvic ultrasound
  • Laparoscopy (inspection of pelvic region)
  • Luteinizing hormone uterine test (ovulation prediction)
  • Thyroid function tests

There is hope for women experiencing infertility.  Glen Meade offers the following treatment options depending on the cause of the infertility:

  • Education and counseling
  • Fertility treatments, such as intrauterine insemination (IUI) and in vitro fertilization (IVF)
  • Medications that treat infections and clotting disorders
  • Medications that help women grow and release eggs from the ovaries

Notes to Women wants to reach out to women facing infertily by encouraging them to read articles from women who are coping with it such as this one.  We hope that the tips for living with infertility will be helpful to you and give you some comfort.

Sources:   http://womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/infertility.cfmhttp://www.glenmeadehealth.com/ms_infertility.html; http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2008/09/14/what-it-means-to-be-a-woman.html

Education of Women and Girls

Just recently I read that Sir Thomas More placed great importance on the education of women.  Here’s an exerpt from his biography on Wikipedia:

More took a serious interest in the education of women, an attitude that was highly unusual at the time. Believing women to be just as capable of academic accomplishment as men, More insisted upon giving his daughters the same classical education given to his son.  The academic star of the family was More’s eldest daughter Margaret, who attracted much admiration for her erudition, especially her fluency in Greek and Latin.  More recounted a moment of such admiration in a letter to Margaret in September 1522, when the Bishop of Exeter was shown a letter written by Margaret to More:

When he saw from the signature that it was the letter of a lady, his surprise led him to read it more eagerly… he said he would never have believed it to be your work unless I had assured him of the fact, and he began to praise it in the highest terms… for its pure Latinity, its correctness, its erudition, and its expressions of tender affection. He took out at once from his pocket a portague [A Portuguese gold coin]… to send to you as a pledge and token of his good will towards you.

 

The success More enjoyed in educating his daughters set an example for other noble families. Even Erasmus became much more favourable towards the idea once he witnessed the accomplishments of More’s daughters.

It is wonderful to hear or read about men who don’t have a problem with women being educated.  As a woman I cannot imagine not enjoying the benefits of a good education.  Growing up, I was exposed to great works of literature.  I developed the love for reading and writing since I was a child.  I remember the big red Oxford dictionaries I always consulted whenever I came across a new word.  My parents took pride in sending my sisters and me to good schools so that we could get quality education.

I was touched by Michelle Obama’s story of how hard her father worked so that she and her brother could get a good education.  Michelle attended  Whitney Young High School, Chicago’s first magnet high school, where she was a classmate of Jesse Jackson’s daughter Santita.  She was on the honor roll for four years, took advanced placement classes, a member of the National Honor Society and served as student council treasurer.  She graduated in 1981 as the salutatorian of her class.  Michelle attended Princeton University and Harvard Law School.  Michelle stated in an address to students at a public school in Chile that she and her husband, Barak owe their successes to good education.  She believes that education prepared her for the world.  “Growing up there was never any question in my parents’ mind that we would go to college. … And they always told us that even if we weren’t rich, we were just as smart and just as capable as anyone else. … They thought us that if we dreamed big enough and if we worked hard enough anything was possible.”

What are the benefits of educating women and girls?  Higher rates of high school and university education among women, particularly in developing countries, have helped them make inroads to professional careers and better-paying salaries and wages. Education increases a woman’s (and her partner and the family’s) level of health and health awareness. Furthering women’s levels of education and advanced training also tends to lead to later ages of initiation of sexual activity and first intercourse, later age at first marriage, and later age at first childbirth, as well as an increased likelihood to remain single, have no children, or have no formal marriage and alternatively, have increasing levels of long-term partnerships. It can lead to higher rates of barrier and chemical contraceptive use (and a lower level of sexually transmitted infections among women and their partners and children), and can increase the level of resources available to women who divorce or are in a situation of domestic violence. It has been shown, in addition, to increase women’s communication with their partners and their employers, and to improve rates of civic participation such as voting or the holding of office.   Improving girls’ educational levels has been demonstrated to have clear impacts on the health and economic future of young women, which in turn improves the prospects of their entire community.

When you educate a girl in Africa, everything changes. She’ll be three times less likely to get HIV/AIDS, earn 25 percent more income and have a smaller, healthier family – CAMFED USA

Unfortunately, barriers to education for girls remain.  In some African countries, such as Burkina Faso, girls are unlikely to attend school for such basic reasons as a lack of private latrine facilities for girls.

I have also heard the saying that education is the greatest weapon to fight poverty.  According to Aid For Africa, “when a girl in Africa gets the chance to go to school and stay in school, the cycle of poverty is broken and things change.”  There is nothing more heartbreaking than a girl who wants to become a nurse or a teacher but she can’t because for many poor girls in Africa culture and tradition often keeps them at home while their brothers go to school.

Education can take a woman a long way and open many doors of opportunity.  It gives her a sense of accomplishment and value.  She is not limited.  She can dream big and reach big goals.  Education improves gender equality and empowers girls and women.  Education could mean something as simple as wanting to learn how to write your name.

“ Education is a lifetime inheritance. It is a lifetime insurance.
Education is the key to success, a bus to a brighter future for
all our people. Without education, there is little that a person
can do—actually there is nothing a person can do without an
education. A person is never too old for knowledge; as my people,
the Xhosa, always say, ‘Imfundo ayigugelwa’ (Every day is an
education; you learn something new). We must be knowledge
seekers and we must strive for a better life through education.”
ZUKISWA, AGE 16 (Ubuntu Education Fund) Kwa Magxaki Township, Port Elizabeth, South Africa

For those of us who have access to education, let us be thankful and pass down the importance of learning to our children, especially our daughters.  Let’s remember the women who fought to have the right to education and to vote and all the rights that were once denied to women.  Let us think of the mothers and fathers whose parents could not afford to send them to school or university but they in turn worked hard to provide their children with quality education.  Let us think of the women and girls who live in countries where their education is not valued.  Let us do what we can to help our own children succeed in life or prepare them for the world through education.  And let us see what we can do to help organizations like CAMFED, Aid for Africa, Global Fund for Children to help women and girl to have the quality of life they should have through education.

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.
Nelson Mandela

“You educate a man; you educate a man. You educate a woman; you educate a generation.”
― Brigham Young

“Segregation shaped me; education liberated me.”
― Maya Angelou

“There is no tool for development more effective than the education of girls and women.”Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan

“Give a girl an education and introduce her properly into the world, and ten to one but she has the means of settling well, without further expense to anybody. ”
― Jane Austen

“Education is our passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today.”
― Malcolm X

“Educate a boy, and you educate an individual. Educate a girl, and you educate a community.
African proverb via Greg Mortensen”
― Greg MortensonThree Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace … One School at a Time

“Knowledge will bring you the opportunity to make a difference.”
― Claire Fagin

“I learned to dream through reading, learned to create dreams through writing, and learned to develop dreamers through teaching. I shall always be a dreamer.”
― Sharon M. Draper

“Education is the movement from darkness to light.”
― Allan Bloom

“Learning is important. It is a way to make a life better for yourself and your family.”
― Rosie ThomasIris And Ruby

Sources:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Morehttp://www.foxnews.com/world/2011/03/21/michelle-obama-education-prepared-world/http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Female_educationhttp://us.camfed.org/site/PageServer?pagename=home_index;  http://www.aidforafrica.org/girls/http://web.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/TOPICS/EXTEDUCATION/0,,contentMDK:20298916~menuPK:617572~pagePK:148956~piPK:216618~theSitePK:282386,00.htmlhttp://www.globalfundforchildren.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/GFC_AnnualReport_2002-03.pdf