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Sylvia Ashton-Warner Biography

(1908–84), Spinster, Incense to Idols, Bell Call, Greenstone, Three, Teacher, Myself, Spearpoint: ‘Teacher’ in America

novelist story creative educational

New Zealand novelist and educationalist, born in Stratford, a small town in the farming area of Taranki, educated at Teachers' College in Auckland. An educational innovator who taught predominantly Maori children in small rural communities, such as Hawkes and Bay of Plenty, Ashton-Warner utilized her personal theory of a ‘key vocabulary’ as a means of releasing the creative energies of her students. Her attempt was to prize creative individuality amongst the most under-privileged, whom other teachers and educational administrators often neglected. She told the story of these endeavours in her first novel, Spinster (1958), and went on to produce a number of novels including Incense to Idols (1960), Bell Call (1964), Greenstone (1966), and Three (1971), all of which reflect the author's response to education, communication, and the restraints imposed by modern society. Her teaching experiences are recalled in Teacher (1963), Myself (1967), and Spearpoint: ‘Teacher’ in America (1972). An autobiography, I Passed this Way, was published in 1979. The story of her struggle to be taken seriously as both novelist and educator are documented in Lynley Hood's biography Sylvia! (1988).

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