Friday, January 16, 2009

Margeret Whitlam

Margaret Whitlam is the wife of Gough Whitlam. She was a Prime Minister's Wife. Is she still alive? I think she is. I could be wrong.

I read about Whitlam while researching Janette Howard. Susan Mitchell wrote and published a biography about Whitlam in which Whitlam said some negative things about Howard.

It was very weird for me because I'm very much on the left. Whitlam is on the left, or at least her politician husband is. Janette's husband is best buddies with George W. Bush. This should mean I side with Whitlam over Howard. Right?

But it didn't happen that way. I found myself disagreeing with Whitlam. I didn't like how she put Janette down for holding her husband's hand. I don't see the big deal in public hand holding. I think it's kind of sweet. I also didn't like how Whitlam criticized Howard for not being socially involved enough. Is a political spouse obligated to be involved with twenty different charities? Does she have to be in the spotlight? Can she get away with doing the minimal?

What I've learned about politics through the years is that just because someone shares the same political viewpoints as you, it doesn't mean you're going to like them.

I don't know much about Whitlam beyond her feelings regarding Janette Howard. So, now I shall see. Will I find that despite her complaints towards Howard, I like her? Or will she be added to my list of people I politically agree with but personally dislike?

Wow. Lord Wiki doesn't have much to say about her. I wonder why.

She was born on 19 November 1919. Lord Wiki doesn't say she's dead. She's pretty old though--almost ninety.

Birthday Website
time!

She's a Scorpio and a 5 in numerology. The 5 is about freedom. I picture a 5 Scorpio as being a bit ruthless maybe. She is someone who doesn't let other people stand in her way.  Or at least she wishes people wouldn't stand in her way. She needs space.

Who knows if any of that's true for Whitlam. Well, maybe someone does know. I don't know....at least not yet.

I do notice she has a lot of 19's in her birthday...three. I'm not sure what that means. In numerology, the 19 would be reduced to 1. 1's are about leadership, independence, and recognition.

Lord Wiki says she was a swimmer. Before she became a Whitlam, Margaret Dovey competed in what is now called The Commonwealth Games. She came in 6th place for the 200 yards breaststroke.

Whitlam was born in Sydney. Her dad was a judge. She got married in 1942. She would have been twenty-three at the time.

She's had books published and Queen Elizabeth II has blessed Whitlam by including her as an Officer in the Order of Australia.

Whitlam and the hubby have had four kids together--three boys and one girl.

It seems, according to Lord Wiki, I'm not the only person on the left who had problems with Whitlam. He says that she received widespread condemnation from both sides of politics.
And that's it for Lord Wiki.

I'll have to see if there's more stuff elsewhere.

The government Prime Minister site seems to go into more depth.

They say she was an outspoken political wife. I guess this means she didn't keep her feelings to herself.

In the 1990's, Australia's National Trust decided she was a living treasure. The Australian National Trust usually deals with preserving history. They say, the Trust’s role is to safeguard our natural, built and cultural heritage and to encourage Australians to appreciate that each generation has a responsibility to preserve our Nation’s heritage for the next generation.
It's these people who saved the Queen Victoria Building in Sydney. I can't imagine what kind of fool would want to knock that down. But it seems someone wanted that piece of land for a parking garage.

I'm not quite sure what is the point of the whole LIVING treasure thing. Is someone worried these people will be turned into a parking lot or shopping mall? I'm guessing it's a publicity thing; a way to get attention to the organization. And if an organization honors you on their exclusive list, it's pretty likely you might remember them in your will. Right?

I'll list the living treasures I recognize: Nancy Bird Walton (not quite living anymore), Bob Brown, Tim Costello, Russel Crowe, Judy Davis, Dawn Fraser, Malcolm Fraser, Cathy Freeman, Peter Garrett, Germaine Greer, Rolf Harris, John Howard, Robert Hughes, Barry Humphries, Paul Keating, Thomas Kenneally, Cheryl Kernot, Nicole Kidman, (saw part of a really weird movie with her the other night), Michael Kerby, Michael Leunig, Colleen McCollough, Pat O'Shane, Fiona Stanley, Joan Sutherland, Gough Whitlam, and Tim Winton. I need to add some of these people to my list. And some of these names I recognize only for the fact that someone suggested I add them to my list.

Okay. Back to Whitlam.

After she was married and had two kids, she went back to school. I think that's inspiring.

At the University of Sydney she got a degree in Social Studies.

She was very much involved with her husband's political career. It seems she didn't take a backseat to any of it. She attended many political events. She also was part of the Labor Party Women's Conference. I'm not sure if this group is still around. There's a National Labor Women's Network and they have a conference every three years. They say the conference is open to all members of the Labor Party. I guess Margaret Whitlam would have counted as a member. But their website says the network was started by Kim Beasley in 1996. That means this has to be a different group than what Whitlam had been involved in.

Before her husband became Prime Minister, Whitlam worked as a social worker at Parramatta District Hospital. Oh! I figured social studies related to what we study in school. It's the subject that deals with geography, history, economics, etc. Is it called the same thing in Australia, or is there a different name for it? I guess in the Whitlam's case, this was more like a social work degree.

It seems Parramatta District Hospital is now called Parramatta Community Health Service.

In 1968, Whitlam went with her husband to Vietnam.

This was during the war, right?

Yes. She visited hospitals, orphanages, and schools.

On December 5, 1972, she became a Prime Minister's wife. This was thirteen days after I was born. Frankly, I don't think I noticed back then that this happened.

In those beginning weeks she wrote What am I to do? Stay in a cage – wide open to view, of course – and say nothing? That’s not on but if I can do some good I’ll certainly try. I'm sure that's a common struggle for any spouse of a politician.

Whitlam played the opposite game as Janette Howard. As Howard hid from the spotlight, Whitlam stood right in front of it. She made herself a guest on television and radio shows. She wrote a column for Women's Day Magazine.

Whitlam was appointed to the International Women's Year National Committee. This group helped deal with the United Nation's idea of making 1975 the International Year of Women.

Whitlam worked for the community both during her husband's term as Prime Minister and after. The Prime Minister website lists some of the organizations she's been involved with.

1. Sydney Dance Company
2. Sydney Teacher's College
3. Sydney College of Advanced Education
4. The Law Foundation of New South Wales
5. ACT council of Social Service
6. National Opera Conference
7. Australia Opera
8. Musica Viva
9. International Women's Year
10. International Literacy Year
11. the college of seniors
12. Microsurgery Research council
13. Australian-Ireland Council.

Anyway, her list of organizations is pretty impressive. How much time and energy was she able to give to each of these? I guess if spread out through many years, it would work out all right. But I don't think it's better or worse than someone who sticks to one or two organizations through out their whole life.

From 1983-1987, the Whitlams lived in Paris. I can imagine that must have been fairly nice.

This website reveals what school Whitlam went to. Bondi Public School.

This woman is just not winning me over. As much as I love Australia and almost every little thing associated with it, I'm not a Bondi fan. In fact, I have a confession to make. A while back, I wrote a post about how we're going to give Bondi another chance. The post wasn't a lie. But I ended up changing my mind. I talked to Tim about it and we both decided we've already given Bondi two chances. That place just doesn't fit us well. So, we've decided we won't waste another day on Bondi. I suspect some people might be offended or disturbed by this. Personally, I found the decision very liberating. If you're a Bondi person, it doesn't mean we can't be friends. It just means if we're going to meet, we'll have to do it elsewhere. My feeling is there are SO many places in Australia that I want to see. Why return to a place that we've already been to twice and didn't like?

Whitlam attended the school from 1925-1930. I guess that was ages 6-11. The school is honoring her by naming an art studio after her. The blog entry, that says this, is a bit old so I'm guessing the art studio is already finished. Yes. Okay. The school website has information about it. It sounds pretty cool. Actually, I think it sounds incredibly cool. It's an artist in residency program. It gives young students a chance to see a real artist at work. It seems they not only observe but also work on projects with the artist. The artist benefits by getting free studio space and exposure. I think that idea is brilliant.

This website has a more comprehensive list of the organizations that Whitlam was involved with. I won't go into everything because I'll be here for years. I'm just going to look at a few things.

While her husband was Prime Minister, Whitlam was the director of Commonwealth Hostels Limited. This intrigues me. Is that Hostels as in the inexpensive places backpackers stay? No, maybe not. This site gives me the idea that these hostels were for migrants, not backpackers.

She was director of the Sydney Dance Company from 1977-1982. My sister was born in 1977 and she loves to dance.

From 1990-1999, she was a consultant for the International Studies Program. I'm sure there are a lot of International Studies Programs out there. I'm not sure which one Whitlam was involved with.

This ABC website has some information about Whitlam's comments about Janette Howard. She didn't apologize for what she said; but she did admit to changing her mind. I think it's a little fishy. First of all, she says the comments were made seven years before. Yet, at the time of the article the book is soon to be released. If she really regretted what was said, could she not have asked the author to take it out? I guess maybe she didn't know about the inclusions until after it was too late. In fact, she infers that she doesn't even remember saying the stuff. I mean, I don't even remember when I said it. I imagine I did, or I hope they wouldn't have said so if I hadn't said it, but I can't even remember saying it. It's almost like she's trying to say that maybe someone put words in her mouth. If she really believed this, I think her accusations of media dishonesty would be stronger. I think this is a case of selective memory.

To prove she has changed her mind about Howard, Whitlam made a point of holding her own husband's hand in public.

Both Labor and Liberal people had things to say against what Whitlam did. Peter Costello said, Look, I don't think it does anybody any good for former wives of Prime Ministers, or wives of former Prime Ministers, I should say, to comment on wives of serving Prime Ministers.
Kim Beasley said, The family is off limits as far as I am concerned.
I'm glad to see that people spoke out against what Whitlam did.

A Liberal member of parliament Jackie Kelley said, Look, Margaret is one of those 'pants down' women, Janette is more private. t's unfair to be taking a shot like that — Janette is not elected, she doesn't claim to be. It's rotten to be saying essentially 'I was twice the PM's wife that she is.
I strongly agree with this. I understand that there are aspects of Janette Howard that make her unpopular....her association with her husband, the fact that she didn't want to live in Canberra, etc. But I think Whitlam's comments were rude and unfair. Maybe I feel this way because I know if I was a political wife I'd be more like Howard than Whitlam. I'm a quiet person. I'm not the type to join a bunch of committees. I don't need my name on a bunch of boards. If there's something I feel passion about, I'll get involved. Otherwise, I'd rather stay at home and be a mom.

Here's a video of Whitlam talking about her husband losing his Prime Minister job. This is the part of Australian history that probably boggles my mind the most. It seems crazy that this could happen. I've read a bit about what happened, but I definitely need to read more in depth one day. I think it can feel like a huge betrayal when one party is voted into power and they lose (or are not given) the role.

I can imagine people in the Labor party might have felt similar to how us American Democrats felt when Bush unfairly won the 2000 election. I think you end up feeling a bit powerless. Democracy begins to seem like a farce.

I think I'm going to try and see some reviews for this infamous Whitlam biography. I wouldn't mind reading it. The Random House Australia website says that Whitlam and her biographer ended up becoming friends. I wonder if they're still friends. In my opinion, she made subtle inferences that Mitchell might have misquoted her on the Howard Stuff. That personally would have pissed me off. But I'm very sensitive in that regard.

Here's a review from SMH. It says Whitlam received her share of criticism when she was a Prime Minister's Wife. Some people felt she profited from her husband's career, that she shouldn't have had a column in a magazine. She was also criticized for being on television and this prompted her to donate the money she received to charity. As I defend, Janette Howard, I'll defend Whitlam. I don't think a political spouse is obligated to be in the public eye. But I also don't think they need to shy away from it. I think it's sad that she was attacked for this. Yes, part of the reason she got the opportunity was that she had a famous husband. It's a little unfair. It's unfair that some people have such connections and some don't. But I don't think that should mean such people are banned from the public eye.

When I was trying to write for children, it annoyed me that certain celebrities get their children's book published. Would Julie Andrews, Jamie Lee Curtis, Spike Lee, John Lithgow, Madonna, and Maria Shriver have their books published if they weren't already celebrities? I doubt it. Yes, some of them wrote really good books that deserved to be published. But there's a lot of unknown writers out there who have written spectacular books that never get published. It's really not fair. But it also wouldn't be fair to ban celebrities from getting their books published. It also wouldn't be fair to ban people from getting their books published simply because they have good connections.

It's not fair to hire someone because they're your nephew. But I think it's also unfair NOT to hire a highly qualified individual because they're your nephew.

The author of the book review says that Whitlam sounds patronizing. She says Whitlam felt she was letting the less unfortunate live vicariously through her. Whitlam said, I came to represent all the ungainly people, the too-tall ones, the too-fat ones, and the housebound, as I had been, who'd never get the chance to go to China or Buckingham Palace, and who experienced it all through me.

The attitude sounds familiar to me. I'm trying to remember if I came across this during previous research or if it was in an episode of Arthur. Or maybe I saw it somewhere else. It's the idea that the rich and famous do us a service simply by being rich and famous. A celebrity might say, We give joy to the community by living in a mansion that people can drive by and take pictures of!

I don't know about that. It seems to me that there might be joy in LIVING in the mansion. I'm not sure there's real joy in driving by the mansion.

A celebrity may spend incredible amounts of money on clothes, accessories, hair appointments, etc. Then we get to enjoy it all by reading about it in our favorite magazines. Does that improve our lives at all? Does it improve society at all?

Whitlam was speaking of things much less superficial than fashion and beauty appointments. She was referring to travel. And also, she did actually do a lot of community work. I think we can cut her some slack. I do think she was a bit patronizing though. But I'm sure that wasn't intentional.

The author of the review says, Mitchell provides banal and tasteless glimpses of her subject's sex life. I'm not sure if this repulses me or intrigues me.

This article talks a little about her swimming days. She was actually sick during the race. Her doctor had told her not to swim, but she did it anyway. It looks like she survived and did pretty well.

She has a passion for traveling. She went to Europe for the first time at the age of 42. It surprises me that she never went when Whitlam was Prime Minister.

Okay, here's something about the International Studies Program. It was for senior travelers. The tours were designed to be learning experiences, but less action packed than tours designed for younger travelers.

Whitlam believes in lifelong learning. I believe in that too. I think it's sad that some people equate learning with only schools and childhood. I believe we should learn everyday--weekends and holidays, every year of our life.

What's her favorite place to travel? Whitlam says, I get asked what my favourite destination or country is, and I say it's always the one to which I've been most recently.

This is like my parents. Almost every time they go on vacation, they say it's the best vacation they've ever gone on. I think that's a great attitude to have....as long as it's honest. And I think my parents are being honest. I can't say I feel the same way. I can be on a holiday and think to myself this wasn't as good as the last one.

 I do feel that way about Jack though. If asked my favorite age he's been, it's always the one he's at now. He just gets more and more awesome to me. Although I'm afraid that might change when he's a teenager. I fear at that point, I might look back with nostalgia and wish he were a little boy again. But I remember when Jack was less than a year old. We went to NYC and visited with one of Tim's old coworkers. I asked the guy what was his favorite age of his child. He said something like the first few days. There was something so sad and pathetic about that.

I'm going to look at Google News now.

Therese Rein looks up to Margaret Whitlam. When she became the Prime Minister's wife, she said she wouldn't mind having a chat with Whitlam. She said, In the past, whenever I have gone into something that was new, foreign territory, I have always gone and talked to people who have done it before. I wonder if they've had that chat yet.

Oh! Whitlam himself is a funny guy. At his 92 birthday party, he talked about how Kevin Rudd speaks fluent Mandarin. Then he added, in the US, they're looking forward to having an English-speaking president. That's a pretty good one. The party, which Whitlam of course attended was held at the Sydney's Museum of Contemporary Art.

This article mentions that Whitlam attended SCEGGS. I guess she went there after she went to the government school in Bondi. Now the school has a swimming prize named after her.

The Whitlams were in an Earthquake. It happened the second time they visited China. The 1976 event killed 248,000 people. Yikes. The article says Margaret was slightly injured. It doesn't give details about that though.

This article ranks the wives of Prime Ministers based on an online poll. Whitlam comes in fourth, behind Sonia McMahon, Janette Howard, and Hazel Hawke. I wonder if in some ways Whitlam helped Howard become more popular? I'm guessing Whitlam's unkind words might have earned her some sympathy.