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In memory: Professor Berry Mayall (1936-2021)

By Blog Editor, IOE Digital, on 24 January 2022

Ann Oakley.

Berry came to the IOE as a researcher in the Thomas Coram Research Unit (TCRU) in 1973. At TCRU she was responsible for a programme of research on children’s and parents’ experiences of health and education services. In 1990 she left TCRU with Ann Oakley to establish the Social Science Research Unit, where she worked, first as Assistant Director and then as Professor of Childhood Studies, until her retirement in 2019.

She held many research grants designed to contribute to our understanding of children’s position in society, and to illuminate the ways in which the perspectives of adults, and especially of policy-makers, have failed to comprehend children’s autonomy, competence, and civic rights. As a scholar in these fields she was unmatched, and rightly unrelenting, though gentle, in her criticism of those within and outside academia who refused to envisage children as independent social actors.

Her last book, Visionary Women and Visible Children, published in 2018, looked at children’s work at home and in schools in the early twentieth century. This was the last of many books, chapters and articles which formed a key part of the scholarship behind the international discipline devoted to the sociology of childhood. Berry was a committed networker, and had many contacts with scholars abroad, particularly in Scandinavia.

To her work at the IOE Berry brought an unusually broad background, which included both teaching English in secondary schools and holding qualifications and positions as a medical social worker. She was committed to both research and teaching: the MA in the Sociology of Childhood at the Institute owes a great deal to her initiative. As a colleague she was supportive and intellectually engaging – collegiate in the true sense of that word. She was never afraid to say what she thought, and what she thought was always worth listening to. Her absence will be felt deeply by many, both in the academic world and beyond. In her last months she was wonderfully cared for at home by her daughter Hannah and her four grandchildren.

Berry Mayall’s 2018 blog post, What happened to the link between the women’s movement and the fight for children’s rights? has been one of the IOE Blog’s most popular.
Obituaries have appeared in The Guardian and on uclpress.co.uk

 

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