There is a lot of focus on the men who end up becoming the leaders of Malaysia and elected into power as the Prime Minister but it also takes a certain kind of lady to be able to hold her own next to her husband.
In this article, we’re shifting the focus on the ladies instead as we take a look at the wives of past (and present) Malaysian Prime Ministers to see their impact on our nation’s history.
1. Tun Sharifah Rodziah, the (third) wife of Tunku Abdul Rahman (1st Prime Minister)
Source: Warisan Permaisuri
Her family hails from Alor Setar, Kedah and she was an active PM’s wife from 31st August 1957 to 22nd September 1970.
- Her brother, Syed Omar Barakbah, was college mates with Tunku Abdul Rahman in London.
- Adopted three children together with Tunku – Faridah, Sulaiman, Mariam.
- The first president of the Women Football Association of Malaysia (PBWM) before it was taken over by FAM.
2. Tun Rahah, wife of Tun Abdul Razak (2nd Prime Minister)
Source: New Straits Times
Brought up in Johor by a father who was a respected politician (Tan Sri Haji Mohammad Noah bin Omar), Tun Rahah was active from 22nd September 1970 to 14 January 1976.
- The mother of our former Primer Minister, Najib Razak.
- She was only 19-years-old when she married her husband.
- In an NST article, it was mentioned that she had told others, “When her parents showed her a photograph of her suitor (Tun Abdul Razak), she thought he looked slim and handsome.”
- She was so sure that her fifth child would be a daughter; so much so that Datuk Seri Nazir Razak, the fifth child, only had girl’s clothes to wear for the first few months, as he tells it.
- She is one of the first patrons of the Muslim Women’s Action Organisation (PERTIWI).
3. Tun Suhaila, wife of Tun Hussein Onn (3rd Prime Minister)
Source: The Star Online
She is also the elder sister of Tun Rahah and was active from 15th January 1976 to 16th July 1981.
- She founded The Welfare Association of Wives of Ministers and Deputy Ministers (Bakti) in May 16, 1977. It is a reflection of her commitment to children with special needs.
- She set up a children’s library in 1976 after her visit to Iraq.
- Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz recounts her warm personality, “She loved to laugh, and it was fun to have a conversation with her. She was so friendly that I used to look up to her as my elder sister and, sometimes, would forget that she was the wife of the prime minister,” she says.
- She was considered a wonderful hostess and her Hari Raya events were well-known among her friends, as reported here.
- In her book ‘Legacy of Honour’, Zainah Anwar has this adorable story, as told to The Star, “When Tun Hussein Onn first laid eyes on her, she was sitting on the bridal dais dressed as a man for a mock wedding.”
4. Tun Dr Siti Hasmah, wife of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad (4th and now 7th Prime Minister)
Source: Malay Mail
Siti Hasmah was born in Klang but her family shifted to KL when she was three-years-old. She was active from 16th July 1981 to 31st October 2003 and again from 10th May 2018 onwards.
- She relearnt how to play the violin, so that she could perform at the 2012 PETRONAS Family and Friends Charity Concert, as mentioned in Women’s Weekly.
- In another interview, she tells of how like her beloved husband, she is also fond of writing (hence her book) and was responsible for the class library.
- She has made strides in Medical Sciences by being one of the first few women doctors in the country and the first woman to hold the position of Medical Officer in the Maternal and Child Health Department.
- She has also written papers on family medicine and the socio-economic factors associated with pregnancy and childbearing in Malaysia.
- She played competitive badminton until the age of 75, when they started their own badminton team at Bakti.
5. Tun Endon Mahmood Ambak, (first) wife of Tun Dato’ Sri Haji Abdullah Ahmad Badawi (5th Prime Minister)
Tun Endon was born in Selangor but grew up in Kampar, where her father worked in the mining industry. She was active from 31st October 2003 up until her untimely death due to breast cancer on 20th Oct 2005.
- She and her husband met while they were working in the same civil service office.
- On their first date, Abdullah drove Endon in his Mini to a Quran recital.
- She had once represented her school (SK Methodist) in the 4×100 yards relay.
- She was quite passionate in promoting our local fabrics to the world and held quite a few campaigns to do so.
- There is a species of orchid named after her: Mokara Datin Seri Endon.
6. Tun Jeanne Abdullah née Danker, (second) wife of Tun Dato’ Sri Haji Abdullah Ahmad Badawi (5th Prime Minister)
Source: Singapore Tatler
Tun Jeanne is of Portuguese-Eurasian (aka Kristang) descent and converted to Islam at the age of 23. She was previously married to Othman Mahmood, the brother of the late Tun Endon. She became an active PM’s wife from 9th June 2007 to 3rd April 2009.
- She initiated Landskap Malaysia in 2009 to create more awareness about our natural landscapes and tropical rainforests.
- She worked in the hospitality industry for prestigious hotels like the Kuala Lumpur Hilton and Pan Pacific (Now Seri Pacific) before she went on to become manager of the Seri Perdana complex.
- She is a patron of the Paralympic Council of Malaysia.
- In a 2011 interview, after her husband’s retirement, she tells of a simple thing that many of us take for granted, “Sometimes we grab a light meal and sit and watch TV… we’re so happy… until one of us falls asleep and the other switches off the TV.”
- Her wedding to her husband was the first ever wedding of a PM that the country had ever seen.
7. Datin Paduka Seri Hajjah Rosmah Mansor, wife of Dato’ Sri Najib Razak (6th Prime Minister)
Source: Malay Mail
Rosmah comes from Kuala Pilah, Negeri Sembilan and was active from 3rd April 2009 to 10th May 2018.
- She graduated with a BA in Sociology and Anthropology from University of Malaya.
- She initiated the PERMATA Negara Project to look at how to better tackle social issues affecting Malaysia’s youth such as how to deal with ‘Mat Rempits’.
- In 2011, she became the first Prime Minister’s wife to have her own speech slot for the Hari Raya Speech that the Prime Minister usually does on his own. This was met by criticism from others.
- There is plenty of controversy that surrounds her, from the luxury shopping trips overseas that she takes, to her alleged involvement in the murder of Altantuya Shaaribuu.
- At the time of writing, she is the only former wife of a PM who has not been conferred with the title of Tun.
So, there you have it. A quick glimpse at the former (and current) wives of our Malaysian Prime Ministers. What are your thoughts on these inspiring women and how they’ve helped our nation? Tell us in the comments!