More Than a Rose: Prime Ministers, Wives and Other Women


404 pages
Contains Photos, Index
ISBN 0-7704-2460-0
DDC 971.05'092'2





Reviewed by Sarah Robertson

Sarah Robertson is an editor in the College Division of Nelson Canada.


“I’m more than just a rose in my husband’s lapel!” Even before
1976, when Margaret Trudeau uttered these indignant words, the image of
The Dutiful Wife had started to unravel. The wives of Canadian prime
ministers were caught up in a social process that saw increasing numbers
of women assume positions of power and responsibility solely on the
basis of their own merits. The emergence of MPs like Agnes Macphail,
Judy LaMarsh, and Sheila Copps were with cumulative force to render The
Wife “a rather pathetic vestige of another era” as power by
association gave way to the empowerment of the self-made.

Robertson’s engrossing account of prime ministers, their wives, and
the women who were to make those wives politically obsolete traces the
highly individualistic ways in which prime ministers’ wives brokered
the uneasy co-existence of public and private lives. Some fought
bitterly against the incursions of politics into their private domains;
others gritted their teeth and gamely played cheerleader to their
husbands’ careers; a rare and lucky few were born campaigners who
suffered little dissonance between their political and personal roles.

As this book makes abundantly clear, the “onerous and thankless
role” of The Wife has left more victims of emotional breakdown and
drug addiction in its wake than it has happy campers. The current Wife,
Mila Mulroney, a seemingly contented throwback to The Wife as Groupie,
makes one nostalgic for the acid-tongued Maryon Pearson. A reporter on
the campaign trail with Maryon on one occasion ventured to ask if she
was enjoying herself. “No,” came the unWifely reply. More than a
rose indeed.


Robertson, Heather., “More Than a Rose: Prime Ministers, Wives and Other Women,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 23, 2024,