Exquisite items from Margaret Whitlam's personal collection on public display in Mrs PM exhibition

Date: 10/09/2009

Margaret Whitlam AO, the wife of former Prime Minister, the Hon. Gough Whitlam AC QC, has made a unique personal contribution to the 'Mrs Prime Minister - Public Image, Private Lives' exhibition.

'Mrs Prime Minister', a travelling exhibition from the Museum of Australian Democracy is hosted in Sydney by the Whitlam Institute at the University of Western Sydney. The exhibition provides rare glimpse into the lives of Australia's remarkable 'first ladies' from 1901 to 2007.

The exhibition will be open to the public from 10am on Friday 11 September.

In an extremely generous gesture, Mrs Whitlam has loaned the Whitlam Institute an amazing and historically significant selection of personal mementos for the duration of the Sydney showing of the exhibition, which reveal the interests and experiences of one of Australia's favourite Mrs PMs.

The items on display from Margaret Whitlam include:

* The Prime Minister Visitors Book - the guestbook from the Lodge - with entries from December 1972 to May 1975. For the exhibition the book will be open at the page where H.M The Queen and H.R.H The Prince Philip signed in on their way to a lunch at the Lodge on the 19th of October, 1973. The final entry in the book features signatures from the McMahon family, including the children.

* Gifts from international dignitaries, including a silver clutch purse and an Australian wool kaftan worn by Mrs Whitlam at diplomatic functions

* Blazer pockets for swimming which Mrs Whitlam was awarded during her very successful swimming career - including one from the 1938 Empire Games

Director of the Whitlam Institute, Mr Eric Sidoti, says there is a legacy in Australia for the wives of our Prime Ministers to be independent and successful women, who lead fascinating and influential lives.

"Margaret Whitlam was Australia's 'first lady' from 5 December 1972 to 11 November 1975. During this time, she was a central figure in the most dramatic moments in our nation's history," says Mr Sidoti.

"In her own right, Margaret Whitlam is a swimming champion, a writer, gardener, social worker, traveller, and life-long supporter of the arts.

"As Mrs Prime Minister, she never lived in Gough's shadow but stood alongside him, testifying to us all that our nation is so much the better for the strong, intellectual, spirited women that have shaped it."

Mr Sidoti says the 'Mrs Prime Minister' exhibition is a celebration and recognition of the women who are part of the fabric of our democratic and cultural history.

"'Mrs Prime Minister' is a collection of rarely before seen images and personal documents from Australia's national institutions and from the collections of former prime ministers' wives," says Mr Sidoti.

"The items loaned by Mrs Whitlam make for an exciting addition to the exhibition, and will provide a unique insight into the extraordinary life that this amazing woman has led."

The 'Mrs Prime Minister' exhibition comes to the Whitlam Institute courtesy of the Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House.

Established in 2000, the Whitlam Institute within the University of Western Sydney is a national think tank for the people - a leading national centre for the dialogue and debate on public policy, working to strengthen public discussion and enrich policy development in Australia.

'Mrs Prime Minister - Public Image, Private Lives' is open to the public from Friday 11 September to October 2, 2009. Opening hours are 10am to 4pm, Monday to Saturday, and general admission is $5.00.

WHERE: Female Orphan School Gallery (Building EZ), Parramatta Campus, University of Western Sydney, Corner of James Ruse Drive and Victoria Road

MAP: http://www.uws.edu.au/parramattacampus

BOOKINGS: Amy Sambrooke at the Whitlam Institute on 02 9685 9072 or a.sambrooke@uws.edu.au or visit http://www.whitlam.org



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