Monday, March 19, 2012

Margaret Joan Sinclair Trudeau Kemper

My Awesome Woman of the Day is Margaret Joan Sinclair Trudeau Kemper born September 10, 1948 in Vancouver British Columbia. She is the daughter of a former liberal member of Pariliament and the former first lady of Canada having been married to our 15th Prime Minister, Pierre Elliiot Trudeau.

Margaret attended Simon Fraser Univeristy where she majored in English Literature.She was only 18 years old when she met Trudeau, the then Minister of Justice in the Liberal Party and 30 years her senior. It was in Tahiti, and the older statesman was smitten with the young and vivacious Margaret who was proficient in four languages and able to converse on a level beyond her young age. Trudeau was still a bachelor when he was appointed Prime Minister of Canada, and the relationship between the two came as a complete surprise when they married in a private ceremony on March 4th, 1971. It broke the hearts of many a young girl, and some not so young ones. It was the era of Trudeaumania - the love affair of a country with it's progressive leader.Margaret began having difficulties adjusting to her role as a Minister's wife from the outset.

Theirs was a life filled with tumultuous and public arguments and scenes - one of which was the infamous black eye that he gave her after an all night party with the Rolling Stones in Toronto. She became a national embarrassment and a political liability. Despite her erratic and strange behaviours, the couple had three children, all boys. It was common knowledge that Margaret was hospitalized on more than one occasion for 'stress'.

Years later, she wrote her first book, " Beyond Reason" which included a revelation that she had an 'affair' with Senator Ted Kennedy.The Trudeaus eventually separated in 1977, and officially divorced in 1984, at which time she remarried and went on to have two more children, a boy and a girl. It was only after the divorce to Kemper that Margaret's bouts of depression and bi-polar disorder came to light. She went public in recounting her history with mental illness which was her second book " Changing My Mind" in 2010. She went on to become a vocal advocate for individuals with mental illnesses in an attempt to demythologize and destigmatize mental illness.

Margaret's life was fraught with relational issues, occasional hospitalizations, and personal tragedies. Her son Michel was killed in an avalanche in November of 1998. When Pierre Trudeau died in 2000, she was by his side. It was following Trudeau's death, that she found meaning both in her private life, and the work that she chose to do in Africa.

She is currently the honourary president of Water-Can, an " Ottawa based organization, dedicated to helping the poorest communities in developing countries build sustainable water supply and sanitation services " ( Wikipedia). Having gone public in 2006 as an advocate for bipolar disorder and mental illness, she has become a much sought after speaker across North America and enjoys living alone these days while spending time with friends and family.