OTD: Jeanne Sauvé sworn in as Canada’s first female governor-general

On today’s date in 1984, Jeanne Sauvé was sworn in as Canada’s first female governor-general.

Sauvé was born in Saskatchewan and educated in Ottawa and Paris before joining the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) as a journalist. In 1972, she was elected to the House of Commons and served as a minister of the crown until 1980, when she became the speaker of the house. Throughout her life, she worked both as a journalist and politician, serving as Canada’s governor general – the 23rd since Confederation – between 1984 and 1990.

“When describing Jeanne Sauvé, it’s hard not to think of the word ‘first.’ She was the first woman MP from Quebec to become a cabinet minister, Canada’s first female Speaker of the House, and the first female governor-general,” reads a story in CBC’s digital archives. “As she moved from broadcast journalist to high-profile political figure, Sauvé undoubtedly had her share of challenges and controversies. But through it all, the woman of ‘firsts’ never lost her characteristic elegance and grace.”

Sauvé was appointed as governor general by Queen Elizabeth II on the recommendation of former prime minister Pierre Trudeau.

After an initial warm welcome, Sauvé eventually caused controversy because of her anti-monarchist attitude. She occupied the post until being succeeded by Ray Hnatyshyn in 1990.

Before her death in 1993, she founded and worked with the Jeanne Sauvé Foundation.


In 1994, Canada Post issued a 43-cent stamp (Scott #1509) commemorating Sauvé.

Designed by Jean Morin and Tom Yakobina and based on photographs by Yousuf Karsh, André Le Coz, Greg Lorfing and Mike Pinder, the stamp shows the famous portrait of Sauvé seated on a chair and features three smaller black-and-white portraits depicting various aspects of her distinguished career.

The Canadian Bank Note Company printed 15 million copies of the stamp, each with tagging along its side, on Peterborough Paper Converters paper.

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