Name: Judy Verlyn Lamarsh
Given Name: Judy Verlyn
Birth: 20 Dec 1924 in Chatham, Ontario, Canada
Death: 27 Oct 1980 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada Of Cancer
Occupation: Liberal MP, Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada 1960-1968
Occupation: Cabinet Minister, Heatlh and Welfare Dpt. during Pearson Administration 1963-1965
Occupation: Secretary of State 1965-1968
Change Date: 14 Jan 2006 at 12:02
Author of the book "Memoirs of a bird in a gilded cage"
Peter Black - "Chronically Canadian"
LaMarsh legacy on women as leaders
If anyonehas any doubts that Canadian women have "come a long way, baby," theyd benefitfrom a read of Judy LaMarshs harrowing, harsh, bitter, but fabulously entertaining autobiography. It should be essential reading for people who want to celebrate International Womens Day in this country.
LaMarsh, who died in 1980, was the only woman in the cabinet of Lester Pearson, the Liberal prime minister from 1963 to 68. Her account of her 25 years in politics, Memoirs of a Bird in aGilded Cage, paints a chilling, sad and maddening portrait of the post-war world of Canadian politics ruled by white men in grey suits.
LaMarsh, fearless and gregarious, succeeded in making her mark despite a relentless series of obstacles placed in her path by men who simply could not stomach the thought of a woman wielding political power. LaMarshs enduring legacy includes the creation of a decent national pension plan, and the modernization of communications, including the appointment of Pierre Juneau as head of the federal broadcast regulator. Juneau was instrumental in "Canadianizing" the countrys music industry to make way for home-grown talent.
LaMarsh also more or less bullied the "gutless" Pearson into appointing a Royal Commission on the Status of Women in 1967. The commission helped break into the open the outrageous prejudices confrontingwomen in the country.
When LaMarsh retired from politics in 1968, after an outstanding job of heading up Canadas centennial celebrations the previous year, she wrote her memoirs and pulled few punches. On the books jacket, LaMarsh predicted, "Its unlikely there will be a woman in the Canadian cabinet for some time."
LaMarshs pessimism was only slightly off target. Pearsons successor, Pierre Trudeau, for all his intellectual prowess and avant-garde ideas, didnt bother to appoint a woman to cabinet until 1972, following an election he nearly lost. That was his old friend Jeanne Sauve whom he later made the first female governor-general, against her wishes, we are told.
During his 15 years in office, while dozens of male ministers came and went, Trudeau named a total of five women to cabinet, only one, Monique Begin at National Health and Welfare, ina post with much real clout.
Nearly 20 years after Trudeau left politics, the position of women in the corridors of power is vastly improved. For starters, in 1993, there was briefly a woman prime minister, Kim Campbell, who won the Conservative Party leadership to succeed Brian Mulroney fair and square. She went on to lead the party to its worst defeat ever which was only partly her fault.
Jean Chretien, despite being of a certain age he was first elected under Pearson in 1963 and was a colleague of LaMarsh has made an effort to boost women in government, prodded gently by his quietly omnipotent wife Aline.
Chretien takes so much pride in his efforts on behalf of women, he went ballistic at a caucus meeting in January when a female MP complained there were not enough new women included in a recent major cabinet shuffle.
The prime minister argued that his record speaks for itself. For example, nine of his 39 cabinet ministers are women, a slightly higher ratio than in the House of Commons, where 62 of the 301 MPs are women. Of those women ministers, several have senior portfolios, others are either on their way up or out.
Chretien also touts his appointment of Beverley McLachlin as chief justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, which, combined with his nomination of former war crimes investigator Louise Arbor, brings to three of nine the female presence on the court.
A female chief justice is something Judy LaMarsh, an experienced courtroom lawyer before she entered politics, could not have imagined. When
Father: Clayton Lamarsh b: 10 Mar 1891