Thanks for posting this Russell, and for your ongoing support of the Access blog site. Hopefully the names Margaret and Hal (Harold) Anyon, and their battles for inclusion of all children, will soon better known as a result of the new focus on teaching our NZ history.
Thanks Hilary. It is never lost on me that there was a time when we would have been under pressure to give up our own children to institutionalisation.
Even more toxic the shame of disability and difference and the prejudice against children and families.
Good to give the Anyons the recognition they deserve for their efforts
These histories are important to remind ourselves that ideas are always a product of their time. And history does not have a no-stopping rule.
Opps sorry my double negatives got the best of me. History has a no-stopping rule.
Although it hasn’t really been covered in either the book or MA thesis on early IHC history (which focussed heavily on the Anyons), I believe (from detailed family knowledge) that my grandmother played a central role in both the intitial organising & lobbying for the IHCPA and was the one who insisted it specifically be set up as a Parents Association.
By the late 40s, she’d been a longtime Labour Party activist (knew all the leading Labour MPs & was especially close to the Wellington ones like Nash & Fraser), was embarking on a career in Wgtn City local body politics for Labour (Hospital Board / City Council), had been active in the PSA Equal Pay Campaign for some years (including lobbying politicians), had been involved in setting up one or two early childcare centres (most notably for Wellington Railway Station staff & passengers) & had been the Secretary of the Wellington School Committees Assn for quite some time.
As with the rest of her politics, she was very progressive & well-read on education issues (& was quite close to Clarence Beeby).
And she’d always believed that kids with intellectual or learning disabilities should be allowed to go to school like every other child. She was very young when she first started thinking along these lines. Poet/Journalist/Novelist Robin Hyde was a close friend of hers when they were growing up in the same street in the southern working-class Wellington suburb of Berhampore before & during WWI. In her semi-autobiographical ‘The Godwits Fly’, Hyde writes (in partly sarcastic / partly endearing terms) about a neighbourhood boy with intellectual disabilities:
"On the upstairs iron balcony of his house, the Silly Boy stood as usual, swaying and smiling, ludicrously polite. His head tipped right back, so that he seemed to have no chin at all, and he always smiled foolishly, bending over double as the children passed him. He was quite grown-up, with curly dark hair, but he didn’t know how to talk. Every morning his parents dressed him and stood him out in the sunshine, where he remained swaying quietly all day. Eliza had never seen him sitting down. He leaned out, as if vainly waiting for someone, and one of the trapped cabbage-palms came just level with his head"
That (teenage) boy was named Seymour & (like Robin Hyde) my Grandmother used to pass him on the way to school every day. He would always remember to say hello to her by name & she later remembered that at about the age of 6 she asked her Mother why Seymour wasn’t allowed to go to school with the rest of the kids. She thought it was grossly unfair … & that idea stuck with her throughout adulthood.
By the late 40s she knew the Anyons quite well from their mutual involvement on the Ngaio School Committee … and the information I have is that the Anyons & other Parents had initially focussed on petitioning or pressuring the Government to set up an organisation itself. My grandmother – with her years of experience in political activism – advised Mrs Anyon that it’d be much better to organise Parents to set up their own organisation. She knew that Governments of both stripes had the ability to put up all sorts of obstacles when it suited them & a Parents group would have much more control over events & also be a much stronger lobby group in sheer numbers.
Both the Anyons & my grandmother did a lot of lobbying of politicians & she was able to advise them given her experience & close contacts in the Labour Party.
Last thing I want to do here is sound like I’m trying to shoe-horn her into the history. But her children have quite a detailed & definite knowledge of events & the Anyons themselves always acknowledged her contribution privately over the following years (even if she’s been somewhat airbrushed from the official story). Then again, she was one of those principled Socialists who believed in doing things for the social good rather than personal glory or prestige … so would’ve said it doesn’t really matter whether or not she made it into an official history. She tended to organise new groups & then rapidly move on to other things once they were set up & running.
None of which is to take away from the central involvement & drive of the Anyons.
Fascinating slice of history. What was her name?