Clark, Helen


Clark, Helen

biographical name

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Helen Clark, 2005.—Sean Gallup/Getty Images

(born Feb. 26, 1950, Hamilton, N.Z.) New Zealand prime minister (1999–2008). She was the first woman in New Zealand to hold the office of prime minister immediately following an election. She received bachelor's (1971) and master's (1974) degrees in political science at the University of Auckland, where she taught from 1973 to 1981. Elected to Parliament in 1981, she held various cabinet portfolios beginning in 1987. She served as deputy prime minister in 1989–90 and was appointed to the Privy Council in 1990, both firsts for a woman in New Zealand. In 1993 she was elected head of the Labour Party, becoming the first woman in New Zealand to head a major party. In 1999, when the Labour Party was able to form a governing coalition, Clark was elected prime minister. She was reelected in both 2002 and 2005, becoming the first New Zealand prime minister to secure three consecutive terms in office. In the 2008 election, however, her party was defeated by the National Party; she subsequently stepped down as Labour leader.

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