Saturday's Child: Memoirs of Canada's First Female Cabinet Minister
Published: December 1995© 1995
252 Pages, 6.00 x 9.00 x 0.50 in, 42 b&w illustrations
Ellen Fairclough is perhaps best known as the first woman in Canada to become a federal cabinet minister. John Diefenbaker appointed her Secretary of State in 1957. In the course of her career she also served as Minister of Citizenship and Immigration and Minister responsible for Indian Affairs, and was in charge of the National Gallery, the National Film Board, the Dominion Archives, and the National Library. She was also a chartered accountant, a business woman, a local politician in Hamilton, and a wife and mother. At a time when many people believed that a woman's place was in the home, she successfully balanced family obligations with a career in the largely male world of federal politics.
Writing with the style and wit for which she was famous as a politician, Ellen Fairclough, now ninety, tells her story. Her reminiscences describe her early life, her efforts to become a business woman, and her experiences as a Progressive Conservative member for the constituency of Hamilton West (1950-63). Fairclough discusses the political factors that led to her appointment to the Diefenbaker cabinet, as well as other factors, including family values and the opportunities available in the bustling industrial city of Hamilton, that served as the context for her successes. While her story focuses on the politics involved, Fairclough also writes extensively about family life, friendships, and domestic detail. She attributes her success to the fact that she was a 'Saturday's child' who worked hard for what she achieved.
The source of much media attention during her political career, Ellen Fairclough was often the only woman in a room full of men and, on one occasion, was asked to leave a cabinet meeting because the topic of discussion – sexual assault – might be too rough for her sensitive ears. Having no female role models to follow, Fairclough made her own rules and charted her own course. These memoirs make a fascinating contribution to the history of women and politics in this country.