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An extract from the above private publication, with the kind permission of June's son, Tony Cope who is my 4th cousin.

I am the daughter of William Herbert and Hilda Barlow Pollitt and I was born in Nuneaton, Warwickshire on 23 June 1929. My mother frequently told me that her mother travelled across England at my birth, delighted to have a girl born into the family. Standing at the end of my mother’s bed, she announced, “She shall be named Georgina Edwina”. My grandmother’s name was Georgina, while her father’s name was Edwin, after whom she named her second son. I would have been delighted with one or both those names, but my mother told me that she said, “The month is June. We shall call her June”. 

I was sent to Huyton College as a boarder at the age of six, the youngest girl in the school and had my seventh birthday there. I received a letter from my mother saying that she made a mistake on my birth date and it was changed from the 24th to the 23rd. I enjoyed school, especially when it was evacuated to Rydal in Westmorland for the duration of WWII. As a member of the school climbing club, I grew to know and love the fells and high peaks of Westmorland. However, when I was sixteen I had a course of desensitising injections for allergies, the second of which caused a severe anaphylactic reaction and I was hospitalised for many weeks. I missed two terms of school, only returning to write the final exams. The headmistress spoke to my mother: “June has promise and it is not fair to her that she write after such an absence”. She urged that I repeat the following year. As we went home my Mother commented, “They are only trying to get more money out of us” and I was taken away from the school. 

After eleven years I had been looking forward to my final year, my own study, personal tuition. Education in Switzerland sounded attractive but the entry form required me to enter the name or title of my parents. I was dismayed and did not apply. Interested in law and English, keen to go to university, I was enrolled at the Manchester Foot Hospital to study chiropody. I looked the word up in a dictionary, and stormed around the house once I realised where my future lay. To no avail. I qualified in 1949 and was asked to join the staff. However on the advice of our family doctor to live in a better climate to assist my asthma, I sailed to South Africa. In 1953 I returned to view the Coronation. More pneumonia made my doctor press me to return to South Africa. 

I sailed to Durban where I started a practice and lived a free and interesting life. In 1954 I met Trevor Cope, we fell in love and married in 1955. He was a lecturer in African Languages at Natal University. He became Professor and Head of the Department of Zulu Language and Literature. He was awarded the title of Emeritus Professor for his international contribution to Linguistics. In 1972 I read of the death of a young woman from ‘backstreet abortion’. The paper reported her mother’s words, “My daughter is dead; nothing will bring her back. But maybe her death will make people think about the abortion law.” 

With a legacy of ‘Women’s Rights’ in my Griffin background, I started a lobby group, the Abortion Reform Action Group (ARAG), to change the restrictive law. The group became a national organisation which I headed for years. I was helped in my work by doctors and reformers overseas and was appointed Research Associate in Southern Africa for the Transnational Family Research Institute, and the International Womens Health Coalition, both based in Washington and both voluntary. I was voted as one of South Africa’s top women achievers by Barclays Executive Women’s Club and Fair Lady. Totally unexpected. Encouraged by Anthony who had emigrated to Australia earlier, and who had met and later married Wendy Dare, a fifth generation Australian, and a high school Maths teacher, Trevor and I emigrated from South Africa to Australia in 1985.

In a final effort to change the law I wrote a book exposing the truth behind the political moves of the Nationalist Government to deny women medical help in terminating pregnancy. It detailed the history of the struggle to reform the restrictive abortion law in apartheid South Africa and the law’s disastrous effect on women’s health, and society. The book, A Matter of Choice, was published by Natal University in 1993, the year before the first non-racial general election when Nelson Mandela was elected National President. A copy of my book was given to the new female Minister of Health. The following year the Government passed one of the best abortion laws in the world, which aimed both to help and educate women. It carried the word ‘Choice’ in its title. 

In Australia, we entered a new life. We bought a house on the edge of the bush in Northern Sydney, made friends and, ‘once a teacher always a teacher’, Trevor enrolled as a ‘leader’ at the local branch of the University of the Third Age (U3A) and taught for 16 years on classical music and literature, mostly speaking on his two heroes, Shakespeare and Beethoven. I was his secretary. And for twenty years we were both volunteers in a well run Neighbour Aid Centre in St Ives, which provides great help for local people in need, drivers for medical appointments, shopping for those who are house-bound, and sitting with clients while their carers had a break. And we travelled!

Owner of originalJune Pollitt
Linked toJune Edith Pollitt

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