Saturday, March 17, 2012

Vale Margaret Whitlam


Margaret Whitlam, the wife of former Prime Minister Gough Whitlam and one of Australia's most revered public figures, has died.  She was 92 and had been in hospital since suffering a fall at home in Sydney last month.  Mrs Whitlam was widely regarded as a woman who broke the mould of prime ministerial spouses. She used her unprecedented visibility as the wife of the prime minister between 1972 and 1975 to speak out on varied issues, and accompanied Mr Whitlam on high-profile trips abroad, including to China, Europe and North America. She was also an outspoken advocate for women’s rights, social issues and the arts.

-       News report 17.03.2012

I was sorry to read that Margaret Whitlam (1919-2012) had passed away, her period in the public eye as the wife of Prime Minister Gough Whitlam had been unorthodox and refreshing.  Not content to be a WAG, she had freely and confidently expressed her own views and opinions, even if they were contrary to the party line or her hubby’s public pronouncements.

"She was a remarkable person and the love of my life.  We were married for almost 70 years. She encouraged and sustained me and our four children, their families and many other people in a life full of engagement with Australians from all walks of life." 

-       Gough Whitlam

Some pics:

A champion breaststroke swimmer, she represented Australia at the 1938 Empire Games (now the Commonwealth Games).

21st birthday portrait

Marriage to Gough Whitlam, 1942

With husband Gough and first child Anthony, who was born in 1944.

With Margaret Whitlam, the title of the television show Margaret hosted in 1974, a bold step in that husband Gough was the Prime Minister of Australia at the time.

Margaret Whitlam's 90th birthday celebrations with Gough and and their children, from left to right, Nicholas, Antony, Catherine and Stephen.

Former first wives Lady Sonia McMahon, left, and Margaret Whitlam, right, with the wife of then Prime Minister John Howard, Janette Howard (centre) at the opening night of the exhibition 'Mrs Prime Minister: Public Image, Private Lives' at Old Parliament House, Canberra. 

Margaret and Gough Whitlam visit Emperor Hirohito, left, and Empress Nagako, second from right, at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo.

Gough Whitlam remained leader of the Labor Party after the electoral defeat in 1975 following the sacking of his government. 
In 1976 Gough and Margaret were visiting China at the time of the Tanghsan earthquake.  The Age newspaper printed a cartoon by Peter Nicholson showing Gough on top of Margaret in bed with Margaret saying, "Did the earth move for you too, dear?" The cartoon prompted a page full of outraged letters from Labor partisans.  Gough also sent a telegram, from Tokyo, asking Nicholson whether he could have the original cartoon.  .

RIP Mrs Whitlam.

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