Dr. Claire French was born in 1924, Claire Anna Maria Margaretha Wieser, “in the backwoods of Bavaria” as she has described, where “pagan beliefs and superstitions were rife” and “so was Communism amongst the factory workers who lived in her neighbourhood.” She described her mother as “a staunch Lutheran”, her father as “a freethinking artist from the Tyrolean mountains”, and her paternal grandmothers and aunts as “bigotted Catholics”. She has said that she received some of all these ideologies right from her earliest childhood, and that “to this were added the experience of fascist and national socialist authoritarianism during her school years.” In early years she was educated by nuns in Italy. For high school her education was in Germany, where the teachers were partly nazi and partly anti-nazi. She has described her education as “pluralistic in the extreme”.
During the war she was conscripted to the German paramilitary organisation for women working for Tyrolean mountain farmers and later in the military hospital. That year of paramilitary service was conditional for enrolment of women at any German University: educated women were seen as dangerous … the authorities wanted “incubators”, as Claire named it. After the war she studied modern languages and politics at the University of Austria, and in 1945 she was conscipted as interpreter to the military government first by the American and then the French Army Forces. She has said: “In 1951 she finally had enough of Europe and embarked for Australia, where she worked as a housemaid, grape picker, and interpreter and finally as a secretary at Melbourne University. There she started her studies from scratch again as a part time student, graduating in 1956. In that year (an Olympic year she noted), she married Jack French, with whom she had a daughter and two sons. Continue reading “Loss of Good Friend and Elder Claire French by Glenys Livingstone”