Academic journal article New Zealand Sociology

Obituary: Claire Toynbee (1936–2017)

Academic journal article New Zealand Sociology

Obituary: Claire Toynbee (1936–2017)

Article excerpt

Claire passed away, peacefully, in Motueka on 23rd August 2017. Our paths first crossed in 1975 when she became a Junior Lecturer in the Sociology Department at Victoria. This now outdated job title always prompted a wry smile from Claire given her wonderfully 'mature' preceding job history in her native Scotland, England, Australia and then New Zealand. Allison Kirkman (2014, p.70) notes in her recent survey of the Sociology Department at 'Vic' that Jim Robb, its founding professor, always stressed that many of the best teachers and researchers in Sociology had lengthy and varied immersions in life outside the university before embarking on an academic career. Claire was a perfect exemplar of this maxim, although gender constraints often narrowed her paths of opportunity. Like many girls in Dalkeith, Scotland, where she grew up, she learnt shorthand and typing. But one suspects relatively few of her female contemporaries used these skills in such varied contexts in so many countries. Claire was variously employed in a poultry research centre and several adult education centres, including one where she was secretary to Edwin Muir, the well-known Scottish poet. She then worked in various colleges and universities either as a secretary or in administration, in Britain, Australia and here in New Zealand. It was working as a secretary in the Russian Department that she was persuaded to attend some lectures in the language and this was her starting point as a student, passing Russian 101 in 1967. Claire began her studies proper at university in 1969 when her family finally put down roots in Wellington. Here, at last, she was able to attend university as a mature student. Her courses in Sociology, Anthropology, Education and History were chosen quite deliberately to fit in with creche hours. Nonetheless, like her early 'career' experiences, this combination of subjects proved eminently fortuitous.

After a brief sojourn at the Department of Social Welfare, while completing a BA(Hons), Claire did an equally short stint as Junior Lecturer in Sociology. She then moved, yet again, to the Department of Labour, where she finished her MA thesis (Toynbee, 1979) with the assistance of Mike Hill and myself. Finally, in 1981, she obtained what proved to be relatively permanent employment as a Lecturer in Sociology at Victoria. …

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