07/26/2015 14:13 EDT | Updated 07/26/2016 01:12 EDT

Flora MacDonald, former Conservative cabinet minister, dies at 89.

OTTAWA — Flora MacDonald, who served as a senior cabinet member in two Conservative federal governments and made a run for the party's leadership in 1976, has died.  She was 89.

MacDonald's long-time executive assistant Margit Herrman says MacDonald died in Ottawa this morning — the cause of death was not immediately available.

MacDonald was the first woman to hold the foreign affairs portfolio in Joe Clark's government from 1979 to 1980.

She was heading the department during the Iranian hostage crisis when Canadian diplomats gave shelter to six Americans who escaped capture when their embassy was overrun.

MacDonald was first elected to the House of Commons in 1972, after successfully running as the Progressive Conservative party candidate in the Ontario riding of Kingston and the Islands.  She served continually as MP in that riding until her defeat in 1988.

A number of politicians have expressed their condolences on Twitter, including Clark.

"I mourn the passing of Flora MacDonald, whose compassion, leadership & example changed lives across our country & around the world," he wrote. 




The Canadian Press