Florence Isabel Bjelke-Petersen (née Gilmour; 11 August 1920 – 20 December 2017) was an Australian politician and writer. She was a member of the Australian Senate from 1981 to 1993, and was the wife of the longest-serving Premier of Queensland, Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen. She was styled as Lady Bjelke-Petersen upon her husband's knighthood, and was also known informally as Lady Flo.
On her wedding day, 31 May 1952
|Senator for Queensland|
12 March 1981 – 30 June 1993
|Preceded by||Glen Sheil|
|Succeeded by||John Woodley|
|Born||Florence Isabel Gilmour
11 August 1920
Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
|Died||20 December 2017
Kingaroy, Queensland, Australia
|Spouse(s)||Joh Bjelke-Petersen (m. 1952–2005)|
Florence Isabel Gilmour was born in Brisbane, as the eldest of two daughters of James Pollock Gilmour, an accountant and company secretary, and his wife Florence Mabel (née Low). She was raised at the Brisbane riverside suburb of New Farm. She started her schooling at the New Farm State School, and later attended the prestigious Brisbane Girls' Grammar School. She was employed as a private secretary to the Queensland Commissioner for Main Roads when she met Johannes Bjelke-Petersen, who was then a Country Party member of the Legislative Assembly of Queensland. They were married on 31 May 1952.
Bjelke-Petersen was preoccupied with home duties until well after Joh Bjelke-Petersen became Premier in 1968. In the 1970s, however, she assumed an increasingly public role, as part of the Queensland National Party's increasing promotion of a Bjelke-Petersen "personality cult". Her homey sayings and her recipes for pumpkin scones were quoted in the media.
At the 1980 federal election, against the wishes of party president Sir Robert Sparkes, Joh Bjelke-Petersen arranged for his wife to be placed in the number one position on the National Party's Queensland senate ticket, ensuring her election. Her term was due to commence on 1 July 1981, however, on 6 February 1981, Queensland Senator Glen Sheil resigned, creating a casual vacancy. She was appointed on 12 March 1981 for the remainder of Sheil's term, and then continued into her own term. It was speculated that her husband, Joh Bjelke-Petersen, intended entering federal politics, and that at some point Florence would resign from the Senate to allow Joh to be appointed to the vacancy. But Joh Bjelke-Petersen's federal aspirations ended with the failed "Joh for Canberra" campaign in 1987.
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When Joh Bjelke-Petersen was knighted in 1984, Flo Bjelke-Petersen became Lady Bjelke-Petersen, and was officially known as "Senator Lady Bjelke-Petersen".[dubious ] She was frequently, but incorrectly, referred to as "Lady Florence" or "Lady Flo". This usage is for the daughter of a peer, not the wife of a knight. Although the name "Lady Flo" is incorrect, it has been almost universally used in the media and among the general public.
In Canberra Lady Bjelke-Petersen was well liked by politicians of all parties, even those who loathed her husband. Her speeches were usually about local Queensland issues and seldom political in content.
Bjelke-Petersen died in Kingaroy, Queensland, at Orana Aged Care, where she had resided since August 2014, at the age of 97, after suffering a short illness. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk offered to hold a state funeral which was accepted by their son John Bjelke-Petersen. It will be held in the Kingaroy Town Hall.
- ABC Radio interview transcript Archived 22 October 2008 at the Wayback Machine.
- "BJELKE-PETERSEN, FLORENCE ISABEL (1920– )". Australian Senate. Archived from the original on 31 March 2018.
- Lady Florence Bjelke-Petersen, Senate Biography[dead link]
- "Joh and Flo Bjelke-Petersen on their wedding day, 1952". State Library of Queensland. Retrieved 4 June 2016.
- Australian Biography interview with Flo Archived 21 June 2009 at the Wayback Machine.
- Lady Florence Bjelke-Petersen's biodata[dead link]
- "Lady Florence Bjelke-Petersen, former senator and Queensland first lady, dies at 97". ABC News. 20 December 2017. Archived from the original on 20 December 2017. Retrieved 20 December 2017.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 22 December 2017. Retrieved 20 December 2017.
- Bali, Meghna (22 December 2017). "Lady Florence Bjelke-Petersen's family welcomes state funeral offer". ABC News. Archived from the original on 26 December 2017. Retrieved 26 December 2017.
- Lady Flo's simple pumpkin scones Archived 12 October 2017 at the Wayback Machine.