24 Oct MARJORIE THATCHER 1940 – 2023 An Obituary by Kim Hunter
Marjorie arrived in this lifetime as a second-born twin on May 15, 1940, in New Zealand. Her twin and she were the oldest siblings of four, another sister and their beloved brother (who crossed the threshold exactly one month before she did).
Marjorie’s childhood was a picture of a wholesome life: a rural environment with orchards and horse-drawn cart rides, sandy hills, windy cliffs, rough-wavy-ocean swims, picnics at the beach and boating. Raised in a happy home where music had a significant place, Marjorie was an avid reader – something that was not lost over time, and even as a child, had a maternal nature, taking care of her siblings, and particularly her brother, who had downs syndrome.
Her aunt studied extensively in Dornach, and then – inspired by the needs of her nephew – founded the first anthroposophical therapeutic home for children with special needs in New Zealand. It was because of her aunt that Marjorie first met Anthroposophy, and at this therapeutic place, Dr. Maria Glas, a medical doctor who had known Rudolf Steiner, inspired her further on this path.
Marjorie’s father died in 1958 when she was seventeen, the same year she began her studies to become a nurse and subsequently, a midwife. After completing her training, she came to Canada and began to work at the hospital in Kamloops, British Columbia. It was here that she met Philip, a clergyman, and they fell in love. A year after they were married, the young couple set off to see the world together with stops in New Zealand, Southeast Asia, Iran, Jordanian Jerusalem, Israel, England and at The Goetheanum in Switzerland. They returned to Canada for the birth of their children, and lived in Prince George, British Columbia for five years before moving Vancouver.
Marjorie’s life took on a strong rhythm around family life. Their home in North Vancouver had a big space set up where many neighbourhood children would come to play; she also held a Sunday School programme in Philip’s parish. In 1977 the Thatcher family moved to England so that both parents could take part anthroposophical studies at Emerson College; Philip took the foundation studies and Marjorie, the education course. During this time Marjorie did practicum work at Michael Hall School and also with Margaret Meyerkort. Years later Marjorie often shared with me stories of her time working in Margaret’s classroom at Wynstones School. The family then returned to Canada, taking an active role in the Vancouver Waldorf School’s early years.
In 1976 Marjorie was invited by Dorothy Olsen to join her as a member of the early childhood faculty at the Vancouver Waldorf School (VWS). Marjorie played a significant role first as one of the early kindergarten teachers and in later years she became the preschool teacher. In the early years the early childhood programs were working out of a church basement (in fact, they moved around to different church basements on the North Shore) prior to the acquisition of space in Lynn Valley, North Vancouver, where the Vancouver Waldorf Elementary School was.
What remained very significant to Marjorie in her work was providing the opportunities for the children to experience real human activity and the arts as appropriate for the early years. To this she brought her love of gardening, cooking and baking – I can still taste her famous honey-salt bread – grinding grain by hand, sewing, story telling and simple songs sang in her lovely soprano voice, sometimes accompanied with a kinderlyre.
In addition to her many years of service at the Vancouver Waldorf School, Marjorie was also a member of the first board of directors of the Waldorf Early Childhood Association of North America (WECAN) and co-founder of the West Coast Institute for Studies in Anthroposophy (WCI). WECAN was first set up to connect the early childhood teachers in North America, and Marjorie jumped aboard with Joan Almon and joined the first meeting. She then started to hold early childhood teachers’ conferences on the west coast to share information and hear lectures (some of the presenters she brought to speak included both Joan and Margaret) to inspire the, mostly untrained, teachers in their work with children. In 1995 Marjorie again joined with Dorothy Olsen to found The West Coast Institute for Studies in Anthroposophy. This is where I first met Marjorie. She interviewed me, and I began my teacher-training with the first group of student-teachers the following year. Marjorie was my mentor. I felt very inspired by Marjorie; she was always supportive and available for conversations – often deep ones – about anthroposophy, education and sometimes questions regarding an individual child’s needs. Since I had a child with downs syndrome in my class, she shared with me her experience with her brother. The love she had for him was palpable in this conversation; it was clear to me that he had a special place in her heart.
Family was very important to Marjorie, and she kept in touch through letters and visits, both ways – with her siblings, mother and aunt coming to visit in Canada and she travelling back to New Zealand when possible. In one conversation I recall, Marjorie announced that she wouldn’t be retiring soon as her first grandchild was expected. In fact, Marjorie stayed teaching long enough to see all three of her grandsons through their preschool years at the Vancouver Waldorf School. In her last years at VWS she spearheaded one other big project: The construction of an early childhood building. It is a lovely place, surrounded by gardens. All the classrooms have windows to bring in natural light, with the prevailing feeling that ‘this is a good place for young children’. Upstairs, there is a room that is called the Marjorie Thatcher Meeting Room.
Marjorie was a woman of initiative, and her contributions will live on for a long time.