Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Wife of John Howard

A few days ago, I did research about Kevin Rudd's wife Therese Rein. Today, I'm going to look at John Howard's wife. This should be an interesting experience for me. John Howard is part of the Liberal party. I love them as much as I love the Republican party. How will I end up feeling about John Howard's wife? Will there be anything about her that I can like or respect?

First of all, what's her name? I better start my googling.

Alison Janette Howard. I like the name Alison. Her maiden name is Parker. She seems a little more old fashioned than Rudd's wife who kept her maiden name. I kept my maiden name. I don't think I was really trying to make a feminist statement or anything. It's just I was too lazy to go change my name. Oh and also, my name sounds very bad with my husband's last name. It doesn't fit well together at all.

Howard's birthday is 11 July 1944. Let's go play with the birthday website!

She's a Cancer and was born on a Tuesday.

Her life path number is 9. 9 is all about doing good for humanity. This numerology website describes 9's: You have great compassion and seek to create a more humane society.

Does this description fit Howard? I guess I shall see.

In Chinese astrology, Howard is a monkey.

Her Native American zodiac sign is a woodpecker. Therese Rein is also a Woodpecker and she's also a Cancer. Interesting. Maybe Cancer Woodpeckers are more likely to turn into political wives.

Lord Wiki refers to Howard as Janette rather than Alison. I wonder why that is. Did she not like the name Alison? What's wrong with Alison? Why does she prefer Janette?

Anyway, this Janette child was born in a suburb in Sydney called Kingsford. That sounds familiar to me. I'm going to visit Google Maps.

Oh, duh. I now know why Kingsford sounds familiar. The airport ! And the airplane guy. Charles Kingsford-Smith. That's where I heard the name before. I don't think I've actually ever heard of the suburb itself.

Anyway, it's way down below the CBD. It's south of Centennial park and west of Coogee. I'm just naming the places on the map I recognize--trying to get myself geographically oriented/organized.

Lord Wiki says that Kingsford was a working class neighborhood--at least in those days.

The family later moved to Vaucluse. That sounds familiar to me too. I gotta go and look at Google Maps again. All right. It's in the Eastern Suburbs,near Watson's Bay. I'm wondering if it was one of the ferry stops. That might be how I heard of it.

Well, no. It's not on the ferry schedule--at least as far as I can see. So, I have no idea why it sounds familiar to me. Oh, maybe I saw it on a bus schedule. That could be it! I did get very lost one day around Double Bay, Rose Bay, etc. I might have run into that area. Maybe.

Howard attended Sydney Girls High School. I'm going to go and read about that place now.

Lord Wiki says it's academically selective. That might mean Howard was smart and talented. It could also mean her parents had enough money to impress the school. Her father was a railway engineer. Do they make lots of money? It's interesting that they started out in a working class neighborhood and then moved to Vaucluse. I just peaked over at Lord Wiki's info about that neighborhood, and he said it's very affluent. Did the family do a social class jump?

Anyway, back to the school. It's located in Moore Park--near Fox Studios and all that.

I'm going to look at the school's website and see if there's anything exciting. The school's location used to be the Sydney zoo. Now, that's a fun history.

Here's something interesting. The school does not list Howard as one of the distinguished alumni....unless I'm missing something. I looked under both Howard and Parker. But she's not there. Why is that? I sense a touch of scandal. Or maybe they just forgot to put her on the list.

OR....maybe Lord Wiki is wrong and she didn't even attend that school.

Howard met her hubby at a liberal party function. They were married in 1971. She was 26. That's how old I was when I got married. We have something in common!

Lord Wiki says Howard kept a low profile while her husband was Prime Minister I'm not sure what that means exactly. I guess maybe she didn't like the spotlight? There was some controversy in 1999--allegations about something concerning an appointment to the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) board.

I'm trying to find more information about this and am not having much luck. I'm thinking perhaps Lord Wiki got his dates wrong or something. Oh well, maybe I'll run into the information later.

Lord Wiki says Howard was diagnosed with Cervical cancer in 1996, but didn't reveal the type of cancer she had until 2006. I wonder why she kept it a secret.

This woman is quite a mystery. Now I'm intrigued.

Well, here's something I know. She was a teacher. I wonder what age she taught. And where did she teach?

I have a feeling this blog entry is going to provide more questions than answers.

I just found a photo of Howard on the White House website. She looks extremely happy to be talking to our George W. Bush. Yikes. It seems she really likes the guy.

I'm now going to read an article in the Herald Sun from 2007. I guess this was close to the election time. It talks about the public's viewpoint of Howard. They say one popular view of her is that she's a politics-obsessed woman pulling her husband's strings and urging him on and up. That sounds a bit like Lady Macbeth.

The newspaper labels her as one of the toughest women in Australia to interview. Wow.

The article makes her sound like a pretty okay woman--someone I could go along with even though I strongly disagree with her political views. She seems private, and wants to keep out of the public eye. Yet, she really loves her children.

Oh and she's a reader! She likes science fiction and historical mysteries. My heart is warming to this woman a bit.

According to this article, a politician named Peter Costello is not too pleased with Howard. I'm not sure I'm understanding this correctly, but it seems Costello wanted to be the one running for the Liberals. He wanted Howard to step down, but Mrs. Howard encouraged her husband to stay in the race. It reminds me a bit of the Hayden/Hawke stuff that I read about in the Hawke Ascendancy. Hayden was going to be the labor candidate, but the party encouraged him to step down, saying he was going to make the party lose. And that's when Hawke took his place. It seems like similar situations. What would have happened if Howard had stepped down? Would Australia have Costello as prime minister instead of Rudd?

Back to the cancer thing. What's interesting is that although Howard had cervical cancer, the cancer she's vocal/active in is breast cancer. I wonder why that is.

Here. This ABC transcript might be interesting. It's an interview with the family. Maybe it will reveal something shocking and interesting. The interview was done in 2001.

Mrs. Howard says in the interview: Crises can drive you apart or they can bring you together. You know, that's the important thing, that you don't close down that talking to each other, and I guess that's what we did. We always did talk, analyze, discuss everything under the sun, and so this became something else.

I agree with this. I feel my own relationships start to break down when there is a break in communication--when I'm given a direct or a subtle message that certain subjects are not allowed into conversation. I'm not saying that at some point we all have our limits. We all have that point where we need to politely say Okay, this has gone on enough. We need to stop talking about it. We're just going to keep fighting. But I think there should be lulls in the conversation, not outright rules against a subject being brought up.

When conversations becomes limited by these spoken or unspoken rules, I feel the relationships become strained and superficial. They lose their substance.

Howard's niece talks about her aunt: She's a very clever person and she's exceptionally well-read. Um, probably one of the most well-read people I know. She was the head of an English department at a school. You know, she had a really good career.

It seems Peter Costello is not Janette Howard's only enemy. Gough Whitlam's wife Margaret doesn't seem too fond of her either. According to this article, Whitlam thinks Howard is lacking a sense of humor, isn't involved with the community enough, and shouldn't be holding her husband's hand in public.

I can't believe this, but I actually find myself siding with a Howard over a Whitlam. How the hell can that be? But one of my pet peeves is when someone accuses someone else of not having a sense of humor. We all have a sense of humor--every single human being. It's just sometimes our sense of humor doesn't match another person's sense of humor. What's funny to one person might be stupid or offensive to another. I think it's sweet to hold your husband's hand after thirty years of marriage. I think it's fine not to be visually active in the community. I think it's good to do SOMETHING charitable, but I don't think that has to include attending charity luncheons and having your names on various charity boards.

It does seem Mrs. Howard has her share of critics. Another one to add to the list is Sydney Morning Herald journalist Alan Ramsey. I'm reading one of his articles (editorial?) right now.

Here's something quite fascinating. One of Howard's son's (Richard) worked for the Bush-Cheney campaign of 2004. So, there really is a strong Howard-Bush connection.

Ramsey believes it is Mrs. Howard's fault that the family chose to live in Sydney rather than Canberra. Apparently, this cost the taxpayers mucho amounts of money.

Okay, onto an article in the Canberra Times. This one is three pages long. Maybe it will have some good information.

The article talks about how Howard was less about doing community work in the public and more about doing political work in private. She's like the Lady Macbeth that whispers in her husband's ear--pushing him to further and continue his political career.

As far as I know, the Howards haven't directly murdered anyone though.

So...really. Who is this Janette Howard? Is she a sweet shy bookworm who loves her family, but not the limelight? Does she care about the community, and those less fortunate than herself, in her own quiet way? OR is she a quiet manipulative power hungry bitch who wants to personally benefit from her husband's position of power without giving much back to the community?

I don't know.

Maybe she's a little bit of both.

I do have some sympathy for her. I can imagine myself if Tim sprouted some kind of political career. I wouldn't be happy having to attend political parties, and I wouldn't want to constantly have to dress up for charity balls. But I think since I felt this way, I wouldn't push him to further his career. I think I'd support him and say hey, I'm not going to stand in your way. But I'd also remind him that his wife is a homebody and he will probably be attending a lot of events alone.

In numerology, Janette Howard is a 9. The humanitarian. Yet, it seems on the surface she doesn't do much for charity. Is this an accurate picture? Does she not care? Or does she keep her charitable activities private? And besides cancer, what does she care about]? . Does she have a soft spot for the homeless? Starving children? Animals?

And how much time do you have to give to charity before Margaret Whitlam accepts you? Did Howard really not do enough for the community, or is Whitlam just mad because Howard didn't laugh at her joke?

Really. I want to end this. I've been working on this for hours. But I feel I'm left with more questions than answers.

Maybe I'll look at some blogs. That might give me a little insight.

This blog (which I actually read on a regular basis) says: One of the key participants in the Howard story who would not talk for the cameras was Janette Howard. I wonder what her one word is to describe little Johnny. Obedient? I think he's talking about the recent documentary.

Ah, I think I found a treasure. It's not a blog exactly, but I found it via a blog. It's a very recent editorial written by Susan Mitchell. Mitchell is the author of a recent biographical book that looked at Howard along with Sonia McMahon and Tammy Fraser. She also wrote the biography of Margaret Whitlam. I don't think Mitchell loves Janette Howard that much. She says Howard refused to talk to her for the book. She wasn't a cooperative subject, I guess.

Mitchell says that Howard's staff called Janette Hyacinth Bucket behind her back. I've never heard that name. Is it an Australian thing? Jane Austen? Shakespeare? Ah, now I know. It's a reference to a character in a British sitcom. I'm embarrassed to admit that I don't know much about British television.

Mitchell says Howard called her husband ten or so times a day to give him political advice. Wow. Is that a devoted wife, or a pest? If it wasn't about political advice, I'd probably find it a bit romantic.

I guess the general sense I'm getting here (from Mitchell and others) is that the problem with Janette Howard is not that she was quiet, but that she was quiet and very politically involved. There's something a bit sneaky about the whole thing. Maybe it would be different if she were quiet and kept to herself, but didn't push her ideas on her husband. She sounds like a puppeteer. Is she like what my husband says about Dick Cheney--pulling the strings and running the country without most of us realizing it?


  1. Janette Howard wouldn't be listed as "distinguished" by Sydney Girls High School (a very good selective public school - not impressed by money so she got in there on brains alone) because she has done NOTHING of distinction except marry a short, opinionated irritating little man.

    Rumour has always been that she's a raving alcoholic. Hence the reluctance to talk to press etc. They kept their private family home during the Prime Minister-ship and did not move into Kirribilli House (our equivalent of the White House but residential only and in Sydney) because apparently Janette's illness would have been impossible to hide in such a public environment.

    RUMOUR ONLY people. But I've heard it so many times and from so many people IN THE KNOW in Canberra.

  2. Have you seen "The Howard Years' documentary? It's aired recently on the Abc. Check out the website and see if you can podcast/download it. If not and if you are interested let me know and I'll see if I can send you a copy. We taped it when it was on recently.
    RE the Costello/Howard thing. Peter Costello was the Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party and Treasurer for the duration of Howard's time as PM. There was quite a scandal because apparantly when Howard first took leadership with the Liberals there was a conversation with Howard, Costello and a man named McLachlan where Howard agreed to hand over the leadership to Costello sometime during Howard's second term in return for Costello not challanging him for leadership. Obviously Howard decided not to do this and then McLachlan revealed the whole thing. There was always tension between Howard and Costello because everyone knew (anyway) that Costello wanted to be the party leader. Howard's refusal to stand down eventually was blamed (rightly) for their loss at the last election. Howard didn't know when to quit and so faced the huge embarrasment of not only losing the election but of losing his seat (which had traditionally been a very safe liberal seat). I personally can't stand the man mainly due to his economic and social politics but this is all quite interesting stuff.

    As for Jeanette Howard (as she's always been called, I didn't realise her name was actually Alison) as you said, she was considered to be quiet but heavily involved which was seen as quite sneaky. Didn't like her much either.

  3. Fe: The alcoholic thing would make sense. And I agree with what you said about distinguished. I guess many spouses of political figures DO become distinguished because they use their fame and power to contribute to society. It seems Mrs. Howard did not do that.

    Louisa: No, I haven't seen the documentary. I'll check out the ABC website. That's fascinating about Costello. I can't say I like the Howards much. But they definitely have an interesting story. It DOES almost sound Shakespearean. At least to me. It's better though when those types of people are in fictional plays rather than running your country.

  4. The "Hyacinth Bucket" reference means that she was from a very "normal" working class background (Vaucluse wouldn't have been ALL affluent when she lived there) and has changed her accent and her mannerisms to try to imply that she's very "upper class".

    The class system in Australia is not nearly as bad as it is in the UK, but it does exist. And people who "put on airs and graces" usually get shot down pretty quickly.

    I don't believe that Costello would have won that election for the Liberal party either. Howard had angered the people to a point where the whole party had to go (a bit like Bush has).

    Still, I laughed when Costello was Leader of the Liberal Party and his Treasurer was named Abbot. Abbot and Costello! (UK comedians)

    LOVE your work, Dina! I learn so much from you! xox

  5. Fe,

    I have actually heard of Abbott and Costello. Are you impressed? Aren't they the ones who do the "Who's on First?" routine. And sadly I know that from Rainman.

    I'm so behind on British humor!

    That makes sense about Costello not winning the election. I can see how it would be like the Bush thing.

    Thanks for the compliment : )! That means a lot to me.

  6. Some funny name-pairs occur. We had Hawke and Peacock in the 1980's and early 90's. Both these guys actually had characteristics of their namesake birds. Bob Hawke was compact, fierce-eyed and hot-tempered, Andrew Peacock was an elegant, somewhat vapid dude who received the nickname "Gucci".

  7. Retarius,

    Hawke and Peacock. That's cute!

  8. Your research on the Howards is amazing. I can suggest a book that gives an insight into the early years of Howard and how the religious right has its tentacles in Australian politics - albeit not as heavily as you guys have it.

    The book is: "God under Howard" by Marion Maddox.

  9. Anja,

    Yeah. We got it pretty darn heavy here with the religious right tentacles.

    I'd probably like the book. Thanks for recommending it. Tim read a book
    a few months ago that showed how the war in Iraq is a Christian Holy war. I didn't read it, but I can imagine how that's possible.