Marie Muir joined the Board of the Library as Treasurer in 1995, but her support and membership extends much further back. Her feminism is instinctive. She was an early and then a very senior activist in the NSW Teachers’ Federation. She knew some of the women pioneers of that organization who struggled for equal pay and other rights for women teachers. But it was the case that she, with two other Infants Mistresses, took to the Equal Opportunity Tribunal in 1981 which earned her an enduring place in the history of teaching. It resulted in the eventual reform of the promotions system by the NSW Education Department.
She has been with the Library through very turbulent and uncertain times. And, if you need somebody to blame for my involvement, she is the most outstanding candidate. She cajoled me into joining the Board at a time when the Board Chair was just another name on a Board list invisible to volunteers. But, she also encouraged many other women to join and soothed many a troubled water.
She has a warmth and generosity of spirit which is always welcoming and affirming. She has a strong democratic and inclusive streak, a distinctive and commanding voice and the passion of a good Slav. Above all, she is a good and generous friend to many. I have cherished her friendship over 30 years. It has given me comfort in difficult and traumatic times in my life. I was also incidentally taught a great deal about political movements and their trajectory. To her, they are people’s movements focused on creating better societies. That has been the object also in her life’s work.
Her role on the Annual Fundraising Luncheon Committee gave her the opportunity to make the most important contribution to the Library, to keep it solvent and flourishing. She excelled as the MC at each function rallying the guests into mindless acts of extreme generosity. It also gave them a high profile Board member who was there for the long haul; there for the downs as well as the ups. Her savvy succession planning left the committee with a clear set of rules about how to organize the function with maximum team effort and minimum anxiety. Of course, there are always those who thrive in anxiety and she would not change them. Indeed she knows well how to work with and around people without ever making them feel unwanted or inadequate. That is a quality with great strength. She is humane, warm and respectful of everyone she meets which makes her a seductive and attractive woman! Her relationship with Ken has a long and happy history and he is her strongest supporter.
I will miss her as a friend, though our close friendship will survive this very unwelcome separation. I will miss her as a fellow feminist activist and internationalist. We will all miss her as an enduring and selfless contributor to this women’s institution. Her legacy with that of others is to give us the strength and imbue in us the dedication to continue to build the Library as a treasured and valuable national asset.
Marie I thank you on behalf of us all.