The Australasian Journal of Psychotherapy has just published my article about the history of psychoanalysis in Australia.
The Australasian Journal of Psychotherapy has just published my article about the history of psychoanalysis in Australia.
My interview with George Geroe about his mother, Clara Lazar Geroe, Australia’s first training analyst, appointed thus by the Ernest Jones, president of both the International Psychoanalytic Association and the British Psychoanalytical Society in 1939-40, is posted on the online journal, Psychoanalysis Downunder. The link is here.
Anna Freud, Australasian Journal of Psychology and Philosophy, Australians Abroad, Brain Drain, Child Psychoanalysis, Child Welfare, Children in Care, Curtis Report, Frank Brangwyn, Psychoanalysis in government policy, Psychoanalysis in Perth, Ruth Thomas, Sir Francis Anderson
Ruth Thomas was born in Sydney in 1902. She a graduate of Sydney’s Fort Street School and continued onwards to Sydney University to study psychology and, in 1923, the founding year of the Australian Society of Psychology and Philosophy, runner up in an essay competition adjudicated by Professor Francis Anderson. The winning essay, ‘The Relation of Repression to Mental Development’ by a Mr Cunningham from the University of Melbourne was published in the Association’s journal. Sadly, Ruth Thomas’s essay, nor the title were published. On 3 February 1924 the Social and Gossip Column in Perth’s Sunday Mail announced her impending arrival as a lecturer at Claremont Teacher’s College – also under the directorship of Robert Cameron.By 1933 Perth had claimed her as its own. She was moving further afield, the newspapers announced, she moved to London to take up the post of Principle Lecturer in Education at St Gabriel’s College in Camberwell. ‘Rarely are Australian’s so well treated’ wrote the editor of the Daily News in October 1933. Ruth Thomas had written to her friends who passed her letter to the paper. It was published in full. it is a digression, but reveals some of the liveliness of this woman who seems to be soaking the old world and its beauty into her being..
‘I have just spent a week-end at Cambridge, which is lovely. We went over Trinity and King’s on a wet Sunday afternoon. One or two punts were out on the river in spite of the weather, and the light falling through the woods along the parklands where most of the colleges ‘back’ in (so, Cambridge ‘Backs’ they are called) was almost green as it fell through the bright colors of the new trees. I’ve seen nothing like it before. You’d laugh at it on canvas as unreal. It was fun to see the solemn young undergraduates in grey flannels and brown Norfolk jackets pacing about with the inevitable pipe. I guess they’re luckier than they know.
All was of consuming interest, even where she lived..
‘I have ‘digs’ of my own over-looking a lovely square just off the river and ten minutes from everywhere. I climb solemnly up four flights of very dirty stairs, with the odor of last century’s cooked eggs, and purple wallpaper. At the top I’ve managed to set up some thing like a decent ‘diggings.’ My room is 16ft. by 13 ft., newly done out in cream, and with a built-in wardrobe. Hence it was easy to make it look like it a study. I have a nice Davis carpet, very oriental, in orange and fawn, and ‘ a low divan you’d never recognise as a bed, bookcase and a desk, and other I whatnots, scoured from the Jewish shops in Fulham Road. The scouring required when I got them was another matter.
Perhaps London life at last sated Ruth’s hunger for the arts and culture, and a bit of ‘star spotting’.
‘The other night I went to all night place where artists congregate, for beer and food, and had a table near [the writer] Beverley Nichols. He is what you’d imagine — long and fair and thin — in immaculate evening dress, and with the air of the very modern young man. ‘Alfred Noyes [the poet] is quite different. I went recently to hear him on religion and poetry in a lunch-hour lecture af St Martin’s-in-the-Fields. He has a lovely voice and recites poetry like an angel, but he has also an illogical mind. His matter was horrible. It interested me to hear him say Shakespeare’s greatest line was ‘Ab- sent thee from felicity awhile.’ I shouldn’t have thought it. He is fat and very forty-ish, with a few hairs pulled across a quite bald head, wears large glasses and double-breasted suits. It seems a pity, for the’ author of [the play] ‘Sherwood.’–
For ‘native-born’ Ruth, London was a place of firsts, of seeing sights and artwork hitherto read about in books; the subject of daydreams. There was an exhibition of artwork, murals by Frank Brangwyn commissioned by The House of Lords as a memorial to the Great War ‘Quite the acme of my artistic life here have been the Brangwyn Panels’, Ruth continued. They were, originally painted for the walls of one of the galleries in the House of Lords as a war memorial, and range from ten to twenty feet in height. The Lords could not see that they were a war memorial, and turned them down after the artist, Brangwyn put nearly ten years’ work in them’. Only five of the eighteen proposed were completed. The Brangwyn Murals have been uncovered by devotees of lost art….I have found three – also published via the web.
Here are three of the murals Ruth saw at the exhibition.
Ruth Thomas continued: “He strikes the note of actual warfare only, in relation to all living. The riot of life, struggle for power, parasitism and greed, sex, mother love, and pleasure are all portrayed in a most exotic symbolism and the brightest and most exhilarating of greens, blues and oranges. He contemplated, too, a modern panel, with industrialism and luxury in contrast, but there is only a rough sketch of it. It is now thought they will be bought by America and the Lords wont wake up until 2050”.
In September 1937 Ruth Thomas returned to Australia to attend the New Education Fellowship Conference then being held across Australia – after an initial stint in New Zealand. Susan Isaacs, a follower of Melanie Klein, was a keynote speaker. By this time Ruth was on the staff of the London Child Guidance Clinic.
When war broke out in 1939 Ruth Thomas was amongst those recruited by Dame Evelyn Fox to advise on the needs of evacuated children. Others included the psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott and John Bowlby. As had Winnicott, Ruth Thomas addressed ‘ordinary mothers’ on the needs of children via the BBC. By 1943 she was in charge of a children’s home in Pusey in Wiltshire. She wrote a memo which was included in the 1946 ‘Curtis Report’ – “Children Without Homes”. Its recommendations instrumental in the development of substitute care in the United Kingdom – and a decade later in Australia, in the Victorian State Government’s 1954 Children’s Welfare Act. after the war. These all brought her into contact with Anna Freud who was also working with displaced children, including a group from European Concentration camps. There were practical considerations alongside the psychological. Money and goods were scarce. Ruth sought contributions from the folk at home. One such was published in 1947.
Miss Thomas desires clothing that may no longer be needed -knitted woollies, jumpers and cardigans, little boys’ trousers, socks, underwear and old cloth ing that could be cut down. Parcels may be sent to “Miss Ruth Thomas, I Cornwall Gar dens, London S.W. 7.” They must not exceed 11pounds ( weight) or £5 in value, must not contain over 21b. of knitting wool, must be clearly marked “Gift” and a statement must be attached giving details and value. The sending of piece goods in parcels to England is prohibited.
When Anna Freud began a training program at her clinic in 1947, Ruth Thomas was appointed as a training analyst and as a lecturer. In an appreciation published in the Journal of Child Psychotherapy after her death in 1983 it was noted that ‘her seminars on ego and ego development were models of clarity’. She was much sought as a supervisor; was tough, kindly with high expectations of her students….
There is always going to be migration to and fro, knowledge transmission leaving and coming to Australian shores. Perhaps it is a manifestation of transnationalism, and, as Australian historians begin to explore the possibilities within this concept, it implies a movement away from a defensively assertive independence as the influence of the mother-country is to be shaken away to recognition that we are part of something rather more global….
Kenneth Brill and Ruth Thomas, Children In Homes, London, Victor Gollancz, 1970.
The Daily News, 30 June 1933, p.8.
The West Australian, 29 October 1933.
The West Australian, 24 September 1937.
The West Australian, 20 February 1948, p.15.
There is relatively little material available in the public domain about Australia’s first training analyst, Clara Geroe. Several online biographies outlining her contribution and influence on psychoanalysis in Australia after her arrival in 1940 tress her professional work while moving swiftly across her ‘refugee story’. These accounts are based on the interviews she gave to Douglas Kirsner in 1977 and 1979 and published in Meanjin in 1983. The impact of Geroe’s arrival, a watershed in the development of the psychoanalytic discipline in Australia, and her longer term influence is still being absorbed. She was a medical practitioner, relating first and foremost to those in that profession. But she also recognised lay professionals and drew these practitioners into her circle. Less conscious perhaps, is the influence not just of her European background in a country which stressed Englishness and upheld the White Australia policy, but also of her refugee/migrant experience. Clara described herself as a ‘reluctant immigrant’: she did not wish to leave Europe and only came to Australia’ because Hitler came to Europe’. Her link with Britain legitimized her status and presence: she was Australia’s first qualified and approved training analyst under the aegis of the British Institute for Psychoanalysis.
During the last two decades historians have been able to provide a good account of the encroachment of Nazism on daily life in Europe; they have been able to investigate the response of governments outside Europe, providing context for the types of decisions, and circumstances people such as Clara Geroe were facing. Let us begin with Kristallnacht.
On 6 November 1939, Herschel Grynszpan, aged 17, a young man of Jewish German origin, bought a gun, loaded it with 5 bullets, and walked into the German Embassy in Paris. He shot one of the diplomats Ernst vom Rath three times in the abdomen -an act of revenge for his family’s expulsion from Germany. It was the excuse the German authorities needed, the historian, Martin Gilbert explains. On 9- 10 November, Kristallnacht, Nazi stormtroopers conducted systematic raids in cities and towns across the country. Synagogues were smashed, homes and businesses broken into and looted. Jewish families were rounded up made to stand and wait outside in the cold night for hours. Women and children were separated from their menfolk who were deported to the concentration camps for several weeks. They returned with orders to leave the country, to go to any country that would take them.
The trouble was, as Louise London pointed out in her 2004 book, Whitehall and the Jews, few countries would do so. Great Britain, acting on policies developed in conjunction with the USA in 1933-4, and London shows, fearing that the influx of foreigners would undermine its social fabric, limited its intake essentially to women and children – to be employed in service. Few men were admitted. Many who did make it avoided internment by joining the British Armed Forces. Those who were not of German origin fared better – for a time. Despite this reluctance to accept refugees, members of the psychoanalytic profession, led by Britain’s Ernest Jones, became one of the few professional groups to lobby for European colleagues at risk of Nazi persecution. The Freud family was an exception. Even so when the family arrived in London Anna Freud fearing repercussions for those left behind, asked reporters to stress they had been well treated.
Australia was slow on the up-take and New Zealand, too, was closing its doors. While there had been some co operation between Britain and the Dominions concerning intake during the interwar years, this had dwindled from about 1933 – due to concerns about an influx of undesirables – possibly communists and revolutionaries in the guise of refugees. (London 2000:43).
To leave one’s country of birth with no possibility of return: to relinquish its sights, sounds and smells; to be without the mirroring of one’s self within one’s community is in the realm of accumulating psychic trauma. In their book, Migration and Exile, Lesn and Rebeca Grinberg show how one may respond to such dislocation by becoming frozen in time, relating internally to the culture left behind; becoming, perhaps even more ‘European’ or more ‘English than English’ , more of whatever was part of one’s roots than those that remained behind. For Clara Lazar Geroe, her ultimate arrival in Melbourne was the culmination of a long story of doubt, uncertainty and dislocation. She told some of this in two interviews with Melbourne researcher Douglas Kirsner, the first held in 1977 and second in 1979 – shortly before her death in 1980. This was compiled by Judith Brett these were published in Meanjin in1983.
For Australian psychoanalysts Clara Lazar Geroe effectively parachuted into the local scene. While much of its historiography, including Joy Damousi’s Freud in the Antipodes stresses the activity of medical practitioners. he first two qualified medically trained analysts were Sydney based. Dr Roy Coupland Winn who qualified first as an Associate and then as a full member of the British Psychoanalytical Society set up in private practice in 1931. The second qualified analyst, Dr Fink who arrived in 1938 from Germany – another escapee from Nazi Germany – was a member of the Swiss Psychoanalytic Society. He worked in the New South Wales mental health services before entering private practice. Paul Dane in Melbourne was another key figure. Lay people: educationalists and psychologists – including workers in the child guidance movement, found their way to psychoanalysis through psychology and philosophy studies at the major universities. As in Britain and Europe and building on the work of the Child Study movement, the child guidance movement was developing with psychological clinics as far afield as Perth in Western Australia as well as in the eastern states.
By 1940 the theory and practice of psychoanalysis was a lively arena, of discussion and debate – if the press is any reflection. Psychoanalytic ideas were rubbing shoulders with those from psychology, philosophy and education since the early 1920s – also traced by Damousi. There was Sir Francis Anderson whose leadership of The Australian Association for Psychology and Philosophy and its journal was instrumental in the dissemination of psychoanalytic ideas in the Australian community from 1923. The Association held regular meetings, with branches in the main capital cities. Professor John Anderson also from the University of Sydney combined philosophy and psychoanalysis in his work. At a community level and in regional areas talks were given to through the Workers Education Associations. In 1937 British psychoanalyst Susan Isaacs, an associate of Melanie Klein, visited Australia for the New Education Fellowship Conference which, after preliminary sessions in New Zealand, travelled to each of Australia’s state capitals from 1 August and 20 September 1937. Isaacs was waited upon by senior Canberra women – from the Governor General’s wife down! Ruth Thomas a Western Australian based psychologist returned from England to attend the conference as did educationalist and psychologist Madeleine Ekenberg after a ten year absence. Ekenberg, who took the time to visit her folks in Singleton, New South Wales, warrants a post in this blog in her own right. She was working with child psychotherapist Margaret Lowenfeld at the London Institute of Child Psychology. Clara Geroe’s arrival may have provided locals with the impetus to formalise, and centralise.
Clara Lazar Geroe was born on 4 October 1900 in Papa in Hungary, was the daughter of Adolf Adam Lazar, wholesale grocer, and his wife Ilona, née Lusztig. Although Jewish, Clara completed her secondary schooling at the local Calvinist college. During WWI when the psychoanalyst Ferenczi was garrisoned in her town with his regiment she snuck into one of his lectures with her two older sisters who had been invited to the event. By Clara’s own account, she obtained one of his books from the local bookshop -which had brought them in knowing the author was in town, and after reading it felt she had found her vocation. By her son’s account she was little interested in psychoanalysis at that stage. In about 1923 she completed her medical studies in Prague and, back in Budapest in 1925 and working in a hospital for nervous disorders, was accepted for training with the Hungarian Psychoanalytic Society. Seminar teachers included anthropologist Geza Roheim amd Michael Balint on infant development. She said of this period:
One didn’t have as long an analysis as now and the rules were less strict. In Australia today I am the only one of the training analysts who sees trainees only four times a week. The others all keep strictly to five times a week because that is the ruling. And whereas nowadays analysts and trainees avoid meeting at public places or seminars no-one worried about this during my training… Probably some of the complexities of the transference relationship were not recognised then.
In in his 2002 book, The Hitler Emigres, British historian Daniel Snowman has traced the influence of Jewish refugees upon British Culture: the arts, music, literature, the law. He points out that young Jewish people in the late nineteenth into the early twentieth centuries were aware that certain professions were barred from them. Politics, the public service and indeed the Church were closed to Jewish people. They were pushed out. Rather, many gravitated to Law or Medicine or indeed the studies of economics, philosophy, music literature or journalism and publishing. Many thought of themselves as ‘assimilated’, Snowman goes onto say, arguing that those who aspired to culture and sophistication thought of themselves as members of their home country’s culture. It implied rejection of ‘partisan ideology, separatism, exclusivity, dogma- Jewish or any other – and in their place, the aspiration to embrace universal truths and the whole of humanity. These were the sentiments of the press and the academy, not of the army, church or politics’. And it separated them from the the unsophisticated basic lives of Eastern European Jews, those who had not made it, ‘people without a culture who clung to outmoded attitudes’, Snowman continues. Germany stood for urban and urbane life, Snowman continues. Not the fields and the ghetto, but for emancipation and enlightenment rather than atavistic obscurantism. (Snowman 2002: 8). Jews who served in WWI and were awared the Iron Cross felt they belonged; they were German rather than Jews. One can only imagine their profound sense of betrayal on Kristallnacht.
Perhaps this sense of whether or not one belonged was less of an issue in Hungary than Germany. Jewish people assumed they did belong. The Historian Bernard Wasserstein traces these in his 2012 book, On The Eve. From 1867 when acts were passed freeing Jewish people from legal restrictions Jewish people had prospered moving into the professions and into the nobility… Antisemitism seemed to belong to a less civilised past’. They felt at home in Hungarian From 1920, though there was a harbinger of things to come. The reappearance of the numerous clausus, a quota system enacted into law in 1920, restricted admission to university no more than 6 per cent of student of Jewish origin. it was the first anti -semitic law in interwar Europe. ( Wasserstein, 2012: 28).
For Geroe, being a psychoanalyst in Europe was part of being part of cultured community. ‘Analysis was a cultural and vocational interest and not extremely lucrative’, she explained in her interview with Kirsner. ‘You had to be a bit of revolutionary to become interested, to think for yourself and not be with the establishment’. There was no distinction between medical and non-medical people, she continued… Perhaps this was a rather pointed comment. Tension over such distinctions rumble still in the local Australian scene if not elsewhere. And, as if to add to the halcyon days of the past Geroe remembered, ‘No-where were women treated more equally than in analytic circles’. Child analysis was also developing during the 1920s and 1930s. Geroe worked with Alice Balint in a children’s clinic which closed down when the Nazis came. Anna Freud’s work was commencing; there were meetings in Budapest and Vienna. The group also received patronage from leading families. Geroe explained:
The Baroness Herzog endowed the Analytical Society with a villa in a beautiful forest where fifty children, most of whom were in analysis, would come for two to three months in the summer. We would give them sessions once or twice a week to see how they were reacting to the therapeutic milieu.
August Aichhorn, whose work with delinquent children was based in milieu therapy, was very interested in this project, she continued. Aichhorn had begun the first child guidance clinics in Vienna in 1927.
The reason Geroe came to Australia with her family was ‘because Hitler came to Europe’, she said flatly. It had been a good life before that, a ‘happy well-ordered life’. She had had no intention of immigrating. But during the 1930s life had become oppressive, as it had for all Jewish people.
Uniformed police were always present at our (psychoanalytic) meetings. Their presence was mainly to vex us, but if they could have put their finger on anything they would have suspended the Society immediately. Everything intellectual in which Jews took part was suspicious and persecuted, and perhaps more than half our members were Jews or counted as Jews according to the Nuremberg laws. Still we had our practices and it was a hard decision to leave.
By the end of the 1930s antisemitism was official state policy in Hungary. Many sought escape by converting to Christianity. Others such as Geroe were being forced to face the fact that the future for them if they remained in their homeland was dire. There were visitations and warnings from abroad. In 1937 when Hitler marched into Czechoslovakia she had barely heard of Australia let alone New Zealand. Britain sent someone to help. Geroe explains.
Dr John Rickman of the British Society came to Budapest to advise us how to get out and where we could go. We heard of countries about which we knew almost nothing and New Zealand was one of these. It was suggested to several of us that we should try and get a permit to New Zealand. The emphasis was on those people who were child analysts and interested in education because New Zealand had recently hosted a large international congress on the New Education Fellowship Movement which Susan Isaacs had attended. There was a lot of interest in modern educational ideas in New Zealand, more than in Australia at the time.
What went on at the 1938 -9 Psychoanalytic Congress in Paris, what discussions were had, the emotional atmosphere, and the urgency with which European Jewish Psychoanalysts sought assistance from their international colleagues can only be imagined. A group of Hungarians at the 1938-9 Psychoanalytic Congress in Paris then met with Ernest Jones who, Geroe says, confirmed that there was an interest in Analysis in New Zealand, but mainly child analysis. From initial perusal of the New Zealand’s digitised newspaper collection: Papers Past, this seems not to have been accurate. It may be that the British Rickman, so far away from Australia, had not grasped that his colleague, Susan Isaacs, had spent most of her time in Australia. Perhaps in the way of these things, and not fully apprised of the details he had heard she was leaving for New Zealand… but not much more. It was enough to encourage hope for these people so desperate and far away. Geroe and four or five colleagues applied for admission to New Zealand. Contacts were made and letters written – to Duncan Hall the Colonial Secretary at the League of Nations. The New Zealand Government refused them. Twice.
New Zealand’s refusal of the applications of six prospective analyst refugees, and Australia accepted but two of them is a story in itself. Judith Brett‘s short biography of Geroe published in the Australian Dictionary of Biography which traces these events is a master of understatement:
At the International Psycho-Analytical Congress, held in Paris in 1938, Clara had explored the possibility of six Hungarian analysts emigrating to New Zealand. Their applications were refused. A group of Australians—including Bishop E. H. Burgmann, the doctors R. S. Ellery, R. C. Winn and Paul Dane, and (Sir) Charles Moses—took up their case with the Commonwealth Department of Immigration. Of the six, only Clara was accepted. She later surmised that she was selected because she had a child. With her husband Vilmos Gerö (William Geroe)—whom she had married on 27 August 1927 in Budapest—and their son, she arrived in Melbourne on 14 March 1940.
In Europe things were deteriorating. It became more and more urgent to leave Hungary. Geroe, finally, was able to get a visa – for Australia… perhaps ‘because I had a child and Australia was always keen to get families’. Then the permit was cancelled when war broke out. She was relieved at first. ‘ I was so ambivalent about leaving that I was glad we could stay, but then after some months our permit was renewed because Hungary was not a declared enemy in the war’.
What finally tipped the balance for Geroe is any one’s guess. Daily life for Jewish people was becoming impossible. In May 1938 another anti-jewish law was passed in Hungary cancelling the licenses of Jewish small business owners and subjecting Jewish in the professions to the numerus clausus– a quota. ( Wasserstein, 365). Another law was passed in May 1939 -‘adopting a racial rather than a religious definition of Jewishness. It severely curtailed Jewish economic activity and civil rights, restricted Jewish participation in the professions and required the dismissal of Jewish civil servants ( it was possible in Hungary to be a civil servant until then) theatre directors and editors of the general press. Only those Jews whose ancestors had lived in the country before 1867 retained the vote. The 7,500 foreign Jews in the country were ordered to leave’. ( Wasserstein, 405). Geroe may have had no choice… And then there was Kristallnacht.
Paul Dane was waiting for Geroe when she arrived at Melbourne in March 1940. Again there were promises. There was talk of grants for the establishment of a psychoanalytic organisation… but overseas qualified medical practitioners did not have automatic registration in Australia. Geroe, nevertheless, began work at the Alfred Hospital in Melbourne – the first to do any child psychiatry at all. In October 1940 the Melbourne Institute of Psychoanalysis was opened with money donated by Miss Lorna Traill. There was a lot of interest and good will Geroe remembered, ‘partly because people wanted to help the European refugees and do something against Hitler’. Geroe, appointed as the analyst of the Institute, was to give three hours a day to institute patients – and was paid 4 guineas a week. She was to see every new patient- difficult because all new patients had to be seen by a registered doctor. She wanted to set up a free clinic – for what she called ‘analytic psychotherapy. There was also her children’s clinic. Her project.
This was a bit of a private war of mine. I had made a promise to myself that as I was lucky enough to come away from Hungary safely with my family, I would never turn away from the institute for financial reasons any child who needed help. I kept to it as long as I was physically able.
Perhaps the world Geroe had left so abruptly was always with her. Perhaps she was never entirely reconciled with its loss. Stanley Gold writes sensitively of Geroe’s sadness: ‘She brought with her a great love of psychoanalysis and in particular its application to the education and development of children, and a life-long nostalgia for the early days of the psychoanalytic movement with its camaraderie and intellectual radicalism’. Perhaps a legacy of her European life was her belief that people at all levels of the community should have the opportunity to ‘explore psychoanalysis as a meaningful intellectual and philosophical discipline and to develop techniques for its application within society’.(Meanjin 1983).
Stanley Gold, ‘The Early History’, Meanjin, 3/1983, pp. 342-351
Clara Lazar Geroe, ‘A Reluctant Immigrant’ ( from an interview with Douglas Kirsner compiled by Judith Brett), Meanjin, 3/1983, pp. 352-357.
Joy Damousi, Freud in the Antipodes, A Cultural History of Psychoanalysis in Australia , UNSW Press, 2005.
Martin Gilbert, Kristallnacht: Prelude to Disaster, London, Harper Press, 2006.
Louise London, Whitehall and the Jews: 1933-1948: British immigration Policy and the Holocaust, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2000.
Daniel Snowman, The Hitler migres: The Cultural Impact on Britain of Refugees from Nazism, London, Chatto and Windus, 2002.
Bernard Wasserstein, On The Eve: The Jews of Europe Before the Second World War. New York, Simon and Schuster, 2012.
In 1945 Ivy Bennett won the very prestigious ‘British Council’ Scholarship enabling her to travel to England to study whatever she wished. Her plan was to study child psychology. At the request of her mentor in Australia, Mr Foster, she wrote a long letter reporting on life in London with a view to preparing the next scholarship winner. Londoners were in the early stages of recovery after a long, long war which had finally ended nine months beforehand. Ivy Bennett’s letter was dated 16 March 1946.* Let’s ‘listen’ to her impressions.
In the first place conditions are not as bad as I had been led to expect.In many ways there are a lot of things in shops etc. which we have not been able to get in Australia for years. In other ways the position is very difficult. This applies to all forms of “service” especially transport, accommodation and shopping. All the mechanics of living and getting about are very strenuous and time-consuming; much of London is still running under emergency conditions of staffing etc. and there is very great weariness and fatigue in all the working people.Accommodation is a difficult problem with so much desolation and wreckage everywhere – and such limited staff and skeleton organisation....London is very shabby and grimy and only her essential services operate fully, so that the ordinary person finds life very strenuous. One queues for hours everywhere.
The universities were in chaos. Staffing was low. Experienced teachers were hard to find and demand, intense.
London is so full of foreign students – Poles, Chinese, Dutch, French, South American, Jewish, Turkish, that one is expected to work pretty independently, at least at first. All the postgraduate classes I have seen are terribly overcrowded, carrying on under all kinds of difficult working conditions, and individual supervision is quite impossible.
Day-to-day life was ‘strenuous’. Getting around was hard and clothing nigh impossible to obtain.
I think it will help the next student if [they] remember that London is very shabby and grimy, the soap ration (3 small cakes per person per month for all purposes: household, bath, washing) quite inadequate and all normal laundry services disrupted so that utility factors come first in clothing. Life is very strenuous in London and one’s clothes have to be very comfortable and durable. [The woman scholarship holder] would be wise to equip herself with a full wardrobe in Australia as shopping is very difficult in London, the dressmaking position hopeless and the rationing very severe. I received 10 coupons from my arrival until May, but was fortunate enough in having been given a special grant of 66 coupons to spend in Western Australia on the grounds I was the ambassador for Australian wool! This helped me a lot and I think the next student would be wise to work on the assumption that there is no clothing in England of any description that she can get or is worth getting, and come supplied with winter underclothing and weather-proof clothing, and as full a wardrobe as she can manage.
One’s best investment is a really good weather-proof top coat – one wears it constantly. Shoes are also hard to get in London – especially good walking shoes. I should be extravagant about shoes and coats if I were planning again. And I’d also get a supply of knitted gloves and scarves in wool – one wears them all the time and kid gloves are never warm.
London is in a chaotic state. eg I can’t use an electtric iron because an incendiary bomb wrecked the wiring of this house four years ago, and as yet there has been no labour to fix it so one is wise to omit the frills and crisp white collars and go in for silk and wool – something which is warm, does not need constant pressing and can be worn under the continual top-coat. Australian winter suits can be worn almost all the year round here…
It is a good idea to arrange to have someone in Australia send parcels of foodstuffs occasionally so that you can go armed with a tin of honey, jam, treacle, sugar, sweets, butter, cheese of meat from Australia. Tea is not short over here. What most people like is some sort of fat, protein food (not canned fish) or something sweet. Personally I find food rationing adequate but to the English after 6 years, it has become very dull and monotonous. They have been living on extracts and powders and condensed foods for so long that plain tinned foods, especially meats, milk and sugar – are precious rubies to them. A tin of condensed milk when added to the eternal semolina packets, will make dessert for a whole family.
* University of Western Australia: UWA Archives Cons 507
My trawl through the National Library’s site, Trove, has enabled some interesting figures to emerge. One of these was the Australian born psychoanalyst Ivy Bennett – now Ivy Gwynne-Thomas. In the 1940s, 50s and probably the 60s scholarships of all kinds enabled country kids to get an education – whether high school or often enough, University. And so it was with Ivy Bennett. Born on 12 August 1919 in Wagin, a small wheat-belt farming community in Western Australia, she was the fifth child in a family of six. She grew up in Lake Grace, was one of seventeen pupils at a one-roomed, one-teacher school before gaining a scholarship to Albany High School in southern Western Australia. On her matriculation she gained a Hackett Bursary to study Modern Literature at the University of Western Australia.
As she related to a journalist at Perth’s Sunday Mail in July 1950 it was ‘out of curiosity’ she picked a psychology unit to round off her degree and fell into a psychology career. A second Hackett award – a postgraduate Scholarship – enabled her to study for a Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology. Plans for further study in the United States were deferred when war was declared. In about 1942 she was tapped to teach psychology to airforce recruits at the University of Western Australia.
In 1946 a British Council Scholarship took her London and eventually enabled study for her Doctorate at The University of London and at the Anna Freud Clinic. The Western Australian press followed this part of her voyage, reporting her progress on each of her annual visits to Australia. She was young, attractive, representative of hope for the future. By 1950 it was clear that she wanted to train as a psychoanalyst and was planning to return home to work in Perth. She was able to extend her scholarship to train as a lay analyst at the British Institute of Psychoanalysis and returned home, finally in January 1953. She established her practice as a psychoanalyst from a house near King’s Park in the centre of the city in August 1953.
Although Ivy Bennett completed her doctorate in 1951 it was not until 1960 that she published it under the title, Neurotic and Delinquent Children (London, Tavistock Publications). Her research project, begun under psychoanalyst Kate Friedlander’s supervision, sought to draw together her experience in experimental psychology and her interest in psychoanalysis. It was one step towards developing, in twentyfirst century parlance, an ‘evidence base’ for psychoanalysis – and understanding the influence of family and social circumstances as cause for mental health problems. For the historian, Ivy Bennett’s lucid exposition of work undertaken in the ‘child guidance’ arena by early practitioners who drew on Freud’s work to develop their programs, shows Freud’s theories to be widening in scope and application during the first half of the twentieth century. W A White’s and Healy’s work with ‘delinquent chidlren’ in the United States aslo drew on that of Freud’s contemporary, August Aichhon, who established one of the first child guidance clinics in Vienna during the 1920s.
In England Ivy Bennet also unequivocably affiliated with Anna Freud. She was the first student at Kate Friedlanders Child Guidance Centre at West Sussex – also under the supervision of Anna Freud. She drew primarily from work of Freud and Anna Freudians Dorothy Burlingham and Kate Friedlander as well as Cyril Burt to formulate her ideas about the causes of delinquency and neuroses in children. Together with psychoanalyst Kate Freidlander Ivy Bennett designed a project aiming to study the factors underlying the presenting problems in a cohort of children she treated at the West Sussex Child Guidance Clinic. Friedlander’s untimely death in 1949 left Ivy Bennett to continue the project alone.
Ivy Bennett’s argument, that understanding the causes of maladjustment was central to treatment, was central to her thesis. In her book an early paragraph reads,
The establishment of greater precision in our psychological understanding of the causation and development of maladjustment will possibly prove more important in the future than the invention and multiplication of remedial measures and new types of “treatment”. All these latter aim, in effect, at giving the child a new kind of human relationship to replace that which has contributed so greatly to the thwarting or distortion of his development in the past. ( Bennett, 1960, pp.3-4).
It was not about moulding a child’s character, Ivy Bennett argued. Research had revealed that developments in early infancy, if not in intrauterine life, were expressed in later stages of a child’s development. Although she does not explicitly acknowledge the work of Melanie Klein whose work was influential in this respect, nor that of John Bowlby or the independent Donald Winnicott, her inclusion of their publications in her bibliography suggests she was well aware of their work. Ivy Bennett was also following developments psychoanalytic thinking as it moved away from psychosexual factors Freud had maintained were central to child development. The capacity to manage aggression was integral to the successful development of a child, Ivy Bennett argued. She wrote,’The problem of delinquency ‘is at bottom, that of dealing with uncivilised aggression beyond the control of society and often under the individual’s own control’. The understanding the phenomenon of Aggression – in delinquency and normal life – was a particular key, far more important than solving the ‘urgent practical clinical problems involving primitive and unsocialised aggression’. ( Bennett, pp.31-33). She stressed the ‘importance of the role of consistency and continuity in the education and training of the child’. It involved understanding and working with the child’s family – parents and grandparents – as well as a child’s teachers and her community.
The War had .seen a shift amongst British psychoanalystsfrom theoretical emphasis on psychosexual factors to aggression in the aetiology of neuroses and delinquency. Although Ivy Bennett was signalling a shift in her thinking away from Freud’s psychosexual theories as central to the aetiology of delinquent and neurotic children, she appears to have been dubious, or at least choosing not to move away from it altogether. There was still more research to be undertaken about the role of aggression. The emerging field of group analysis would contribute. Illumination would come from advancing research in social psychology, cultural anthropology as well as in psychoanalysis. At this stage Ivy Bennett sustained her Freudian roots, writing
A blending, fusion and diffusion of both sexual and aggressive impulses takes place and is always present in the emotional sub-strata of community living. The success or failure of this blending or balance determines the varied nature of social life, both in its constructive and in its negative dissocial forms. (Bennett, 1960, p. 32)
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It may be that Ivy Bennett was part of a larger plan for Western Australians. In the early 1940s there had been a dream for Perth to lead psychoanalysis in Australia. In 1943 the Perth Branch of the British Medical Association apparently drew up plans to establish the largest analytic training institute in the southern hemisphere at the University of Western Australia. This was the outcome of four years work. In 1939 psychologist Bill McCrae, well known to the Australian public as a cricketer, returned from the United States where he had studied psychoanalysis. Perhaps prevented from pursuing training due to the US practice of restricting analytic training to medical practitioners, McCrae began to work to establish a training program for lay psychoanalysts. He began lecturing and writing highlighting the usefulness of psychoanalysis in education and ‘mental treatment’. He worked in conjunction with local medical practitioners, lectured at the Adult Education Board and, with the support of the medical fraternity, encouraged the teaching of psychology at the University from an analytic point of view. Potentially these lay analysts would work along with the medical profession. A journalist from Perth’s Sunday Times newspaper appears to have drawn from the planning documents, writing:
The programme envisaged includes a school with analytically trained teachers from kindergarten to leaving standard, a wide scheme of adult and parent education, a clinic to be conducted on a no profit basis, a maternity hospital and eventually a Psychoanalytic Institute for the training of practitioners.
Further research is needed to understand these events and whether Ivy Bennett had a place in this. After all here was a youngish, attractive, talented and ambitious woman who was potentially well placed to contibute to such developments. At the very least it may well be that the war meant that McCrae’s idea was permanently shelved. It appears though that such was the interest in psychoanalysis at academic and government circles that Ivy Bennett’s proposal undertake training in England was accepted by the British Council who funded her.
Ivy Bennett’s efforts to establish herself as a lay analyst in Australia appear to have been disappointing. She made efforts to connect with colleagues in the Eastern States and was a founding member of the Australian Society of Psychoanalysts. She presented papers at conferences of the Melbourne Insitute of Psychoanalsyis. She left Australia in 1958 to work towards full membership of the International Psychoanalytical Society.
‘I trained to that level so I could have independent recognition in Australia, she told Michelle Slarke. The profession was ‘still dominated by the prejudices I had to fight all the way – the prejudices of medical and insurance authorities against women and lay analysts’. (Slarke, 2003, p. 51). Marriage intevened. I understand that she had thoughts of returning to Australia but it was her husband’s professional opportunities that took her to Kansas in the United States where she was instrumental in the establishment of psychoanalytic training in that state. She also remembered her days at Lake Grace and has established a scholarship at the local high school to enable a young person to realise their dreams. Too..