Otago Daily Times

Family background influenced devotion to social progress

- DAME MARGARET LAURENCE ‘LAURIE’ SALAS, DBE, QSO Women’s rights and peace activist.

DAME Laurie Salas, who died in Wellington last week, aged 94, was active in the peace movement throughout her life and was known to many New Zealanders for her longterm activism for human rights.

During her long career, Dame Laurie was involved in countless organisati­ons working towards social progress, such as the Women’s Internatio­nal League for Peace and Freedom and the National Society for Alcoholism and Drug Addiction.

A pastpresid­ent and honorary member of the United Nations Associatio­n of New Zealand, and a life member of the National Council of Women of New Zealand, she was a leader in improving the status, safety and security of women.

Her work for women and peace overlapped at every stage of her long career.

It was work to which she was drawn by her family background — an uncle on either side of her family was lost at Gallipoli — and her own natural inclinatio­n, the NCWNZ said in a tribute to the lifelong peace and human rights activist.

Having worked alongside Dame Laurie on various women’s organisati­ons for almost 50 years, friend and colleague Jean Fuller described her as ‘‘ a gracious and generous person’’ who gave ‘‘immeasurab­le amounts of time to the organisati­ons that she believed in’’.

And NCWNZ national president Rae Duff said Dame Laurie gave many years of distinguis­hed service to the National Council of Women and ‘‘quietly mentored younger women to encourage learning and enhance the lives of women’’.

Born Margaret Laurence Hay in Wellington in 1922, she was one of four children of philanthro­pist James Lawrence Hay and Davidina Mertel Hay (nee Gunn). Two of her siblings were Sir Hamish Hay and Sir David Hay.

Dame Laurie was educated at Rangi Ruru Girls’ School in Christchur­ch, and studied at Canterbury University College, graduating with a bachelor of arts degree in 1942.

On May 17, 1941 she married Ian Halliday Webster at St Ninian’s Church, Riccarton. He died two years later from a sting that became infected.

She later married Jack Reuben Salas, an ENT specialist, who died in 2014. The couple had six children.

Dame Laurie came to the attention of the NCWNZ in 1966, through her work in Wellington with the Mothers Helpers Committee and the Federation of University Women. She was brought into the core of the organisati­on as the national secretary 197680 and the national vicepresid­ent 198286.

President of the United Nations Associatio­n of New Zealand, and vicepresid­ent of the World Federation of United Nations Associatio­ns, Dame Laurie was, for nine years, a member of the public advisory committee for disarmamen­t and arms control.

She was a New Zealand committee member for the Council for Security Cooperatio­n in the Asia Pacific, and was also an honorary vicepresid­ent of the New Zealand Institute of Internatio­nal Affairs.

In 1982, the year she was appointed a Companion of the Queen’s Service Order for community service, Dame Laurie was the only nongovernm­ent representa­tive from New Zealand at the United Nations session on disarmamen­t. She also attended the New York conference of Women of the World.

Six years later, she was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire, for services to the community. She also received the Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal in 1977, and the New Zealand 1990 Commemorat­ion Medal.

By the early 1980s it had become clear to Dame Laurie that although women, in theory, had equal pay, they did not have it in practice. She organised a twoday seminar at the Centre for Continuing Education in Wellington, taking practical steps to make education for women a political priority. — Wikipedia and NCWNZ tribute.

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