Monday, June 8, 2009

Hazel Hawke

Hazel Hawke is the wife of a Prime Minister.....Bob Hawke.

I think I remember reading that she was the most well-liked PM wife. I could be wrong though. I might be confusing her with someone else.

Well, I guess now it's time to find out more.

I'll go talk to Lord Wiki.

Baby Hazel was born on 20 July 1929.

Birthday website

She's a Cancer. Tim's a Cancer. They're known for being moody. Is Tim moody? A little bit. But I don't think it's his trademark or anything. I'm probably much more moody. I think that's because I was born on a cusp. I go back and forth between being my Scorpio self and Sagittarius self.

Hazel Hawke is a 3 in numerology. Someone I wrote about recently was a 3. I can't remember if it was Ernie Dingo or Malcolm Fraser. Maybe it was both? I'll go check.

It was Fraser. And now that I know more about Fraser, I can say I don't think the 3 fits him at all. 3 is about being social and expressive. That doesn't sound like Fraser to me. Maybe it will fit Hazel Hawke though.

We shall see.

Lord Wiki doesn't actually have a lot of information about Hawke. He pretty much skips over her childhood. He does say she was born in Perth.

She met her future husband through church. They got married on 3 March 1956. She would have been about twenty-seven. I wonder if she was older than most brides at that time. I thought people got married at a younger age in those days. My parents got married very young. They were eighteen. But I think that was younger than usual. I got married around the same age that Hawke did. I was twenty-six.

Mr. and Mrs. Hawke lived in Melbourne from 1958 until 1983. Hawke's husband was elected to Parliament in 1980. Lord Wiki says he spent most of his time in Canberra. I'm guessing Hawke might have ended up feeling like a single mom.

In 1983 Hawke became Prime Minister. The whole family joined him in Canberra. They had three living kids, and one child who died in infancy.

Lord Wiki provides the years the children were born. The youngest was twenty when Hawke joined Parliament. So it's not like Hazel was stuck taking care of three young children by herself.

Well, here's something I didn't know. Mr. and Mrs. Hawke are no longer together. They divorced in 1995.

I wonder what happened.

Lord Wiki says Hawke is strongly pro-choice because she had an illegal abortion in 1952. I'm guessing the experience was bad, and she wants other women to have safer choices.

In 2003 Hawke went public with the knowledge that she suffers from Alzheimer's Disease. She and her daughter published a book in 2004 about her experiences.

I wonder how she's doing now.

I think that must be a terrifying diagnosis to get. I can't imagine being aware enough to realize that soon you WON'T be aware. It reminds me of Flowers for Algernon.

All right. I'm done with Lord Wiki.

Where should I go now?

I'll go to the National Archives Prime Minister Site.

She's beautiful. I mean she looks like someone who'd be easy to talk to, and fun to be with. But I guess you shouldn't judge by looks alone.

The website says she was the secretary of the church youth fellowship in which they met. Bob Hawke was the president. They both went to Oxford together. She would type his papers for him.

She raised her three kids pretty much by herself. Her husband was busy working and building his career. I think most mothers feel like single mothers at some point in their lives. Husbands are often very busy with work. If not that, then they have their sport or other hobbies to keep them very busy.

Hazel Hawke did other things besides raising her children. She was a welfare volunteer. She also helped with the election campaigns.

When Bob joined Parliament, Hazel was given six return airfaire tickets a year to visit him. The website says she didn't enjoy the visits. They made her feel like an outsider.

She did however like being a Prime Minister's wife. It seemed she stopped being an outsider and started taking an active role in the community.

Hawke wrote her own speeches at first, but then later became too busy.

She did a lot of work in fixing up the lodge. She had an old piano restored.

Okay. That's nice. But I can't quite get myself very excited about that. It's just not my thing. But I'm glad Hawke found joy and purpose in it.

At one point, she was appointed chair of the New South Wales Heritage Council.

I shouldn't downplay what she's done. She's helping to preserve history. And that IS important. I guess I'm more attracted to causes that help people-in-need, animals, and the environment. But history is important as well.

And besides Hawke DID participate in other community activities. The website says she worked with welfare issues as well as environmental ones.

All right. I'm going to go elsewhere now.....

The John Curtin Prime Ministerial Library has a page about her.

On Australia Day in 1984, Hawke did a speech for the National Press Club in Canberra.

The website has a transcript of the speech. I think I'll read it.

She talks about feeling uncomfortable when people asked her, Do you work? I can TOTALLY relate to that.

Hawke says, My reaction in early days was to feel inadequate. The idea of women in careers, doing interesting things made me feel a little defensive about being - just a housewife. It didn't last long. Once I got over my knee jerk reaction to having to declare myself and once I thought more about what I was achieving in my own way. Home making and child raising is a most creative, satisfying job, requiring many skills, much decision making,commitment, self discipline and challenge.

I think the problem is in the actual question. Do you work? Although it's meant as an innocent get-to-know you question, the words are quite insulting. It implies that a mother/housewife doesn't do work. And that's far from the truth.

Hawke talks about the difficulties of being thrust into the political limelight. She talks about how they don't see their friends as much as they used to. And she had to make many life changes. Our lives have become more complicated in some respects, even every day things like logistics and clothes. For instance most of my wardrobe was geared to housework and gardening and welfare work. It's a little different now.

I don't think I could handle that lack of freedom and control. I would hate to have to wear certain clothes and lose so much of my ME time so I could fit into the political world.

She was into yoga. That's interesting. Was it as popular in the early 80's as it is now? I don't think so......

In her speech she says she also embraced meditation and acupuncture.

That's really cool.

I don't know. I feel if a First Lady of the United States admitted to doing stuff like that, they'd probably be ridiculed and/or accused of not being Christian enough.

I can relate a LOT to what she says here about her marriage. The majority of our time was spent on different tracks with different people and with the constraints of money and life in the big city, it was not easy. He missed much of home and much of the children and I began to feel left behind in some respects.

Of course married people are always going to have some amount of separate lives from each other. You can't always share friends. And in a lot of families, one parent is going to stay home to be the parent while the other goes off to work, play golf, hang out with friends, etc. I'm sure it's quite common. But I think it often leaves the parenting spouse as feeling single or widowed at times.

Once I watched this episode of Arthur with Jack. The storyline of one segment featured the child of divorced parents. The single mother and son relationship reminded me so much of my relationship with Jack. I have a husband; but at times I feel I'm like a single mom. And I know I'm not alone. I know some of my friends are in the same situation.

Hawke worked at the Brotherhood of St. Laurence in Melbourne. She did welfare work. She talks about how she worked and kept busy. I think this helps when you have a very busy husband. In some ways, I think it's necessary for your mental health. I know it's helped me to have my own hobbies and interests. When Tim has to leave for the weekend, I don't sit around and fret about him being gone. I work on my blog. I read. I email my friends. And yes, I take care of Jack. We have a great time together. But I think even the best mothers need lives that extend beyond motherhood. I don't think it's healthy to have our entire self-worth dependent on our children and our relationship to them.

In the speech, Hawke says she feels people need to be more aware of what the Aboriginal Australians have been through.

She says, I hope very much that by 1988 when we celebrate the 200th anniversary of white occupancy of Australia, we relative newcomers will have developed a greater understanding of the historical process which has interfered with a viable, strong culture and therefore have a more sensitive and informed set of attitudes instead of knee jerk emotional reaction to a dilemma in the too hard basket.

I think I can guess that her hope didn't come true 100%. Wasn't the bicentennial celebration somewhat controversial?

I'm done reading the speech. Now I'm going to move onto an essay written about Hawke.

The essay talks about how she kept very busy as a Prime Minister wife....busy enough that she was sometimes asked about her own political aspirations.

I like this which was said about her. Hawke's speeches and writings reveal that she did not see things as naturally polarized, or black or white. She recognized that no one solution or answer was usually sufficient. Understanding came from probing and progressive thinking.

I like that type of person, and I try to BE that type of person. Actually, I think it's hard for me to be otherwise. I have a hard time seeing things as black and white. I see the in-betweens. And that has gotten me into trouble because some people DO see the world in black and white terms. For them, there's a right, and there's a wrong. If you don't agree completely with THEIR right, you are absolutely wrong. And you're not just absolutely're the scum of the earth.

The essay says there was drug use within the Hawke family, and that the disclosure was made with dignity. I think it was brave of them to admit something like that.

Okay. I'm going to move onto another website.

Here's a news article about her coming forward with Alzheimer's news. The article, which was written in 2003, says she was diagnosed two to three years ago. I guess that would be in 2000 or 2001. She was around seventy-two when she was diagnosed.

I really hope no one I love ever suffers from that.

Yeah. I'm sure everyone wishes the same thing.

She sounds so brave about it all. I mean she IS angry and sad. But I feel I'd fall apart. I mean it's one thing to lose your arms or your legs....your sight or your hearing. But your mind? I would hate knowing I have this disease that would soon make me not recognize my own child and grandchildren.

The kids do a little dig at their dad. They say their mother had always supported their father. They say, she would have stuck with him to the end of the earth. I guess this means he was the one who walked out on the marriage.

The article ends on a very sorrowful note. It talks about how Hawke wrote in her autobiography about living in a house on a hill with her husband one day. Then it says, The house on the hill and the life-mate are gone and the magic is now a fading memory.

That's very depressing.

Here's a 2003 ABC show transcript about Hawke and Alzheimer's.

Hawke says that the biggest early loss for her was her driver's license. It was taken away. Would early stages of Alzheimer's effect driving?

Here's a website dealing with the issue. They say people with dementia will eventually lose their ability to drive well because of problems with judgment, multi-tasking, reaction times, spatial skills, and a diminished ability to judge one's own driving ability. I guess it would be a little bit like driving under the influence.

The article says she can still do stuff like gardening and other hobbies. She can still talk about intellectual things. But sometimes she'll just stop in mid-sentence.

She has good days and bad days.

The article talks about how Hawke gave so much to her family and community.

She didn't just rescue old pianos.

She worked to help the environment.

She helped children.

She helped women.

The article is painful to read. It talks about what the Hawke and her children have to endure; even this early in the diagnosis.

There's scary stories. One of the daughter's came home and found the stove on; gas going, but flame not. Hawke just sat there in the rocking chair.

Another time, a daughter came to the house and found her mother lying there in bath water that was too hot.

I wonder what's worse; being the person who has Alzheimer's, or being the person who loves someone with Alzheimer's?

Here's an 60 Minutes transcript from 2004. It seems by this time, the disease had progressed. One of her daughter's says, She's a little bit less there more of the time. You can just feel the erosion slowly a bit more.

That's five years ago. I wonder how she's doing now. I'm guessing she's not doing so well.
It seems Hawke is being interviewed along with her daughters. It's sad reading this because she does sound demented. She's not making much sense...well as far as I can tell.

At one point, she blurts out. I have a chapter. Her daughter is confused and says, You have a chapter?

The interview talks about how it was important for Hawke to come out and be public about her disease. It helps other people be less ashamed.

I felt this way in terms of having an eating disorder. Sometimes I feel ashamed. It does make me feel a little better knowing that celebrities I like or admire have the same problem. I think it makes me feel like less of a loser. And it doesn't always have to be a celebrity. Anytime someone comes forward and admits to having a problem, I think it makes other people feel safe in admitting the same thing. But I do think celebrities pull a little more weight in those situations.

Here's a more recent article from 2007. It talks about how Hawke's twenty-two year old granddaughter has become an active advocate for the disease. She lives next door to her grandmother. That's sweet.

What the granddaughter worked on was an educational kit for schools. The article says, The 22-year-old said she was keen to speak on behalf of her grandmother and also young people who were often overlooked or protected from the harsh realities of Alzheimer's.

I do think that's important. I'm sure a lot of kids have to deal with the horrors of all this.

Okay, I was right before. Hazel Hawke was voted as Australia's favorite Prime Minister wife. Janette Howard though came in second. It's hard for me to believe Howard was that popular. I guess maybe people liked her more than her husband. Although I guess we have to admit that some people DID like her husband since he was Prime Minister for so long.

This article , about one of Hawke's daughters, deals with being a carer. It talks about how incredibly hard it is to provide extensive care for someone who is so helpful.

The article says, There was a recent Australian study conducted that showed "carers as a cohort have the lowest well-being and are at high risk of disease and depression". To combat this "people who are carers need things that stand outside it; faith, their own identity and activities. You can, for example, lose yourself in young motherhood but hopefully there's the compensatory joy of a baby but if you have been caring for someone in decline then it's very natural and easy to be disheartened by that.

I agree with that so much. I found the first few year of motherhood to be very difficult. I lost practically all of my ME time. I felt isolated in many ways. I felt trapped. But it was all okay because I was trapped with this incredibly adorable baby that I loved more than anything in the world. It was a difficult time, but also a wonderful time.

I think it would be very different caring for an adult who is sick or injured. It would be incredibly time consuming with very little emotional reward. And not just that, but the whole idea of the noble sweet sick person is usually a myth. People who are stuck in helpless positions can often be very angry and abrasive. You might make huge sacrifices to help this person, and instead of receiving gratitude, you receive hostility. I can't blame the person who is sick though. It's hard to feel like crap. It's hard to know your memory and brain function is sleeping through your fingers.

The article offers nice advice. Make time for yourself.

But is that always possible? I mean I guess it is to a point. It's hard though. Some people don't have enough support. Some people have multiple jobs. They're not just carers. They have to also work for income. They have WAY too much on their plate.

Most of the article seems to be about Hawke's daughter becoming Buddhist. It seems this was partly influenced by her mother's earlier interests in stuff like Yoga and meditation.

The daughter Sue Pieters-Hawke has a whole website about her spirituality. It looks like she's doing pretty well. She and her children live next door to Hazel. They take care of her, but she also makes time to follow her own interests. She gives to others and she gives to herself. That's a good balance. I think she got that balance from her mother. It seems, from what I read, that Hazel Hawke was able to be both a good mother to her children and a contributer to the wider community.

I can see why she's so well-liked and popular.


  1. Hazel Hawke wasn't just popular she was loved. I think that people admired Janette Howards dignity. But Hazel, she was ours.

  2. Frogpondsrock,

    Yeah. I guess you can be popular without being loved.

    She does sound like a wonderful woman.

  3. Hazel Hawke definately is loved.

    When Bob took off and married his mistress. I think we all loved Hazel a little bit more, and all of us were devestated by her Altzheimer's diagnosis, and definately admiring in the grace in which she has dealt with both issues

  4. M+B,

    She does seem to have a lot of grace. She seems very brave to me.

  5. yes, Hazel is someone really special and she's really loved in Australia by people from all different political persusions.

    Such a hard working, community minded woman who maintained her dignity no mater what was happening.

    Her daughters book is really good for carers.

    I have to tell you though that when I was caring for dad full time I reached the point where I was ready to PUNCH the next person who told me to 'take time for myself'!!! ... however I am taking some time for myself next week :)

  6. Louise,


    Sometimes when you're in that carer situation, there is no time for yourself.

    It's like your trying to stay afloat and someone says something like "Meditate" or "Have a nice long bubble bath". If you can make the time to do that, great. But sometimes there's a million things you need to do that seem more important than a bubble bath. And then how can you truly relax in the bubble bath knowing that?

    I remember the crazy mixed messages I'd get when Jack was an infant. NEVER leave your child unattended. Be careful with babysitters. They might be child molesters. Do NOT use the television as a babysitter. Oh and make sure you take time for yourself. If not you might get depressed and depression in mothers causes psychological problems in children.

    Yeah. Great.

    What the hell is a mother to do?

    I guess the only saving grace in these situations is to repeat the mantra "This too shall pass" Well, hopefully it does.....

    Sometimes it doesn't.

  7. Hazel's fate is a real tragedy just like all the millions of others. I have a small list of genuinely heartfelt wishes that I don't feel embarrassed by for reasons such as being selfish or petty and one of them is that the filthy curse of dementia will be defeated by science.

  8. Retarius,

    I'm totally with you there. I think one of the worst things in life is when people lose who they are....dementia, severe schizophrenia, brain damage....etc.

    You know my sister was brain injured. We were SO lucky because not only did she survive and come out of the coma, she kept her personality. There were some changes...probably mostly from the experience itself and not from the brain changing.

    But we met victims who had radically different personalities after their accidents. It was like they were different people. I think that can be incredibly hard to deal with.

    It's like you have to mourn someone who is still alive.