Inducted into the Canadian Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 1997, Marjorie (Marge) Anthony Linden could be called the first lady of Canadian broadcasting. She was the first female all-night disc jockey in Montreal, the first woman to appear in regular programming at CFCF-TV, also in Montreal, the first female vice-president in Canadian television and the first woman president of the Broadcast Executive Society.
Marjorie Anthony Linden, whose roots trace back to rural Nova Scotia, died April 1 in Malibu, Calif., at 77.
In the 1980s, when Ms. Anthony Linden was vice-president of network relations at CTV, the sign on her door read “Vice Princess.” According to Newsworthy: The Lives of Media Women, by Susan Crean, the sign was put up by friendly staffers in order to “soften the blow,” the blow being that she was a woman with power.
In Ms. Crean’s book, Ms. Anthony Linden confesses she was glad when male colleagues finally stopped standing up in deference as she entered a boardroom, where she was the only woman. She was now their equal.
Delegated by CTV to serve on a CRTC task force about sex-role stereotyping, she found the process baffling and annoying. “The other committee members got very angry because I didn’t identify men as the oppressors, and I didn’t see everything as a struggle for women. For me, it is a matter of commitment and maybe women do have to work a little harder to prove themselves. I have seen a lot of women who have done it and succeeded.”
The book also notes that affirmative action was not part of Ms. Anthony Linden’s lexicon; she was a firm believer in hiring for talent and promoting on ability. “You can’t say that because there are only two women doing a particular job that we ought to get another one. I don’t think that way.”
Peter Rehak, executive producer of W5 during Ms. Anthony Linden’s tenure at CTV, recalls a woman both flamboyant and stylish who brought a touch of glamour to the network’s executive ranks: “For me, she was the ‘go-to’ person on the executive floor when there were public relations or even legal problems to deal with. She wielded influence much beyond her title of vice-president, and her support for the news division was crucial.”
“People were attracted to her,” said her husband, Allen Linden, a retired judge of the Federal Court of Appeal. “She had that ability to look in people’s eyes and make them believe she cared – and she did.”
The girl who would go on to have a long and illustrious career in entertainment and broadcasting came from the small town of Mill Village, N.S. Born Oct. 10, 1935, she was the second youngest of eight children. Her mother, Barbara, died following gallbladder surgery when Marjorie was just three. Her father, Roy Anthony, a plumber and jack-of-all trades, struggled to feed his large family. Her elder sister, Barbara, as well as a succession of housekeepers, helped to raise Marjorie. Despite her tough beginning, her life later read like a self-made Cinderella story.
Barbara says her little sister was always a bright girl who, even from an early age, exhibited star quality, not entirely surprisingly, since both her parents were musical. At 13, she sang and tap-danced for a Bridgewater, N.S., radio station. She seemed to have a gift for remaining calm under pressure. Barbara remembers one Christmas concert in which the decorated tree on stage fell in the middle of Marjorie’s performance. She kept on singing as though nothing had happened.
Marjorie originally thought she might become a nurse, but she abandoned the idea for a more alluring job as a script assistant, commentator and singer for CBC-TV in Halifax.
At 24, she sought the brighter lights of Montreal, where she could pursue her natural inclination toward music and entertainment. She performed as a nightclub singer at the Ritz Carlton Hotel. Sounding similar to actress/singer Doris Day, she even produced and recorded an album, Marge Anthony Sings.