Dame Margaret Laurence Salas DBE, QSO
8 February 1922-26 January 2017
Early this year, members of the NZIIA were saddened to learn that Dame Laurie Salas had quietly passed away in the Wellington rest home in which she had resided for some years. Her death brought to a close her exemplary career as a tireless campaigner for peace, disarmament and women's rights.
Born in Wellington but brought up in Christchurch, Laurie was educated at Fendalton, Rangi Ruru Girls School and Canterbury University College, where she studied for a BA in history and philosophy. She later studied medicine but, after marrying one of the medical students in 1946, Jack Salas --her first husband, Ian Webster, had died of blood poisoning in 1943--she gave up her studies and concentrated instead on bringing up their six children.
Laurie was a member of a distinguished family. Her father, Sir James Hay, founded the department store chain Hays; a councillor and deputy mayor of Christchurch, he was knighted for services to the community. Her younger twin brothers, David and Hamish, were also both knighted; the former established the National Heart Foundation and the latter was a mayor of Christchurch.
Laurie always found time for involvement in community affairs, especially the Playcentre movement, which she represented on the National Council of Woman. She contributed much to numerous other non-governmental organisations, including the Mothers' Helpers Committee, the Federation of University Women, the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom and the National Society for Alcoholism and Drug Addiction. Laurie was secretary of the National Council of Women from 1976 to 1980 and vice president from 1982 to 1986, and would later be made a life member.
Laurie was indefatigable in her opposition to war as a solution to international problems, an approach that was perhaps bolstered by the sacrifice her family had made in the First World War, with two uncles lost at Gallipoli. She was heavily involved in the United Nations Association of New Zealand, and served as its national president. 'Now that we seem to moving towards a more peaceful world...', she wrote in 1988, 'I hope that people realise that we can perhaps do without war altogether. The more people who have faith in the UN and really support their respective governments, the more likely we will have the enduring peace the charter sets out to achieve.' She became a vice-president of the World Federation of...