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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

Mayor of Ottawa delights American game show audience


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In 1955, that is. The cranky old eugenicist may have been as racist as the day is long but Ottawa mayor Charlotte Whitton knew how to get a crowd on side with a quip. Here she has the audience, the panel, and the host of the old What’s My Line gameshow absolutely howling simply by affirming her unmarried status. “I’ve made enough mistakes”, she says by way of explaining why she is still a “Miss”, not a “Mrs.”

The trick that makes her so remarkable to this mid-century TV audience is that here she is, a lady -and yet she is the mayor of a city! And not only a city, but a capital city – yes, sure, it is that same strange backwater that James Fitzpatrick was excitedly explaining the existence of to his American audience in 1942 – but a real city nonetheless. Yes, the capital of Canada is run by a woman!

Of course the amazing thing is that she went on to do it again in the mid-60s, even after it making it clear to whoever would listen that she hated Jews, Ukrainians, social programs, the Maple Leaf flag, and pretty much anything or anybody that couldn’t show 100% white British ancestry. Oh, and babies too – check the priceless look on her face when it was suggested she might have kissed one in the course of her duties.

Still, she made full six minutes on U.S. network TV, and we’re willing to bet that’s the last time a mayor of Ottawa managed that.


One comment

  1. At the time of Charlotte Whitton’s tenure as mayor of Ottawa, Margaret Chase Smith was a Senator in Washington for 24 years (1949-1973)!

    Women were indeed “odd birds” in the public forum.