1. The woman: Margaret Atwood
The year: 1981
Then 41, Canada’s prolific “Superwriter,” as we dubbed her on our cover, was already the author of four novels and nine books of poetry. Later that year, she’d add the Companion of the Order of Canada to her pile of accolades. But for all her published works, as Chatelaine writer Judith Timson wrote in Atwood’s Woman of the Year profile, “that brilliant, beautiful, man-hating, but well-adjusted, somehow plain (though slightly exotic), happy and successful (albeit weird and pessimistic), but really perfectly normal cultural icon is her own best character.”
2. The woman: Barbara Frum
The year: 1982
The “unbeatable” long-time host of CBC’s As It Happens clinched the coveted WOTY title as she prepared to jump from radio to television (on the Ceeb’s current-affairs serial The Journal). And despite enumerating the many envy-inspiring aspects of Frum’s life — her strong good looks and “exotic African art” collection, for example — profile writer Karen Rand insisted that “it’s in the professional sphere that [Frum’s] bubble really glistens.”
3. The woman: Mila Mulroney
The year: 1986
In her January 1986 editor’s letter, “An accelerating womanpower,” former Chatelaine editor-in-chief Mildred Istona lauded Mulroney’s “conviction and panache” for unapologetically embracing her role as stay-at-home mom — albeit a very visible one. But was Mulroney just a PM’s wife? Nah, said Istona: “No one could ever accuse her of living in her husband’s shadow.”
4. The woman: KD Lang
The year: 1988
The exuberant headline “Yippee-I-O KD!” introduced Chatelaine readers to the pride of Consort, Alta., then a country-style crooner with a “don’t-mess-with-me tomboy alto” trying to break big in Nashville. Also in Lang’s vocal repertoire, according to writer Jay Scott: growling “like a bulldog,” yodelling “like a hillbilly on a Saturday night” and soaring “operatically like a diva.” What range!
5. The woman: Elizabeth Manley
The year: 1989
This “pixie sized package of effervescence” was given the WOTY nod after she rallied from a nasty ankle injury to clinch silver on home turf, at the 1988 Olympic Games in Calgary. According to writer Nora McCabe, after the win, Manley’s unfortunate nickname, “Hard Luck Liz,” was replaced with a new image of her as “the underdog who makes good.”
6. The women: Cabinet ministers
The year: 1991
Pre-empting “Because it’s 2015” by a solid two decades, the NDP hit close-ish to parity by appointing 11 women to its Ontario cabinet. “Politics has been a man’s game for too long — we’re going to change its culture,” said former Premier Bob Rae, whose picks included Health Minister Evelyn Gigantes and the “tall and self-possessed” Zanana Akande for Minister of Community and Social Services. “Other parties will have to sit up and take note of this.” A decade-and-a-half later, Justin Trudeau’s Liberals finally did.
7. The woman: Kim Campbell
The year: 1994
Sure, Campbell was only Canada’s first female Prime Minister for a grand total of 19 weeks, but that didn’t stop Chatelaine’s Charlotte Gray from taking a fine-toothed comb to her “swift rise and hard fall.” Canada’s proto-Hillary was known in political circles for her “star potential,” and her on-the-record sass during her time as defence minister. (One notable barb: “Don’t mess with me; I have tanks.”) As Grey noted, “Kim Campbell did not create her moment in history, but when it came, she seized it.”
8. The woman: Digital
The year: 1997
Chatelaine turned its lens on the women staking their claim in cyberspace just before the turn of the millennium. “She’s logging on and jumping into the world of software and hard drives, Email and the web — she’s us and she’s you,” read the feature. It also (cheekily) went on to point out gender differences in how men and women use the ’net: men as a “toy,” and women as a “tool.” Some things never change.