Fam­ily back­ground in­flu­enced de­vo­tion to so­cial progress

Otago Daily Times - - Obituaries - 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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