Obituary: Mary Edwardes

MARY EDWARDES made herself the queen scourge of unethical professionals. Whether they were priests, psychotherapists or doctors and whether caught with zips undone or ethics in a twist, Edwardes was remorselessly effective both in supporting their victims and in demanding justice.

Her life closely paralleled the times in which she lived. Having filled the role of full-time executive wife during her marriage to the industrialist Sir Michael Edwardes and having raised three daughters, like so many women of her generation she returned to higher education, was divorced and began a career of her own.

Infuriated by social injustice and prepared to go to any length to right it (she was chucked out of her undergraduate degree course at the University of Cape Town for campaigning against discrimination against black students), after graduating as a psychodynamic psychotherapist at the Lincoln Institute in London, in 1991 she rapidly built up the first major support organisation for sexually and otherwise abused clients, the Prevention of Professional Abuse Network, with Jenny Fasal.

There followed a steady flow of newspaper articles and a BBC documentary publicising the problem. Eventually, the Department of Health was forced to confront it and last year Edwardes established a new charity, Survivors of Professional Abuse National Association (Spana), with a strong emphasis on obtaining legal redress against miscreants.

Edwardes was constantly amazed and outraged at the lengths to which priests, therapists, doctors and their training institutions (especially the Roman Catholic Church) would go in order to silence clients whom they had abused. In the process of proving that they were neither mad nor liars Edwardes employed the skills of a natural advocate, with a keen appreciation of the law, but she would also act as therapist, friend and even mental nurse. Her self- sacrifices would have been beyond the call of duty in a healthy person, which she was not: for the last 16 years she suffered from the exhaustion and depletion of multiple sclerosis.

She was born Mary Finlay in 1938, into a well-to-do family in Johannesburg. After a conventional education (she attended the South African Roedean School) she married young. For the next 20 years she followed her husband Michael from Zimbabwe to Worcester to London as he progressed to the job of running the British car industry which made him famous in the 1980s.

Intensely loyal, discreet and witty, she was a splendid hostess and had no difficulty in holding her own in the exalted company she was now required to keep. Whether it was a weekend at Windsor with the Queen, small talk with Margaret Thatcher or entertaining Jeffrey Archer (about whom she was extremely funny) for supper, she was more than equal to the task.

Had this been the only role she played in her life, it would have been a terrible waste of her quick mind and cunning, pragmatic capacity to make things happen, and in the mid-1980s she suffered two significant reverses: she developed multiple sclerosis and her marriage ended. In recovering from these adversities she carved out her role as a champion of the exploited.

As a person she was always looking for the comical or absurd in any circumstance, be it ever so grand or tragic. She was non-judgemental, so that you could say anything at all to her without shocking, yet she was conscientious and fiercely moral. She hated "bullshit" and prized the truth.

Above all, she was someone who enabled others. Two clients whom she treated as a therapist have told me that their lives were transformed by her; but her helpfulness extended to all her relationships. Few of her friends and family have not been profoundly aided by her in both the most practical and the most psychologically telling ways. Uncomplaining, unselfish but twinkle-eyed, full of fun and never the martyr: it is the small minority of people like her who keep the rest of us on the right track, morally and emotionally.

Mary Margaret Finlay, psychotherapist and campaigner: born Johannesburg 9 March 1938; married 1958 Michael Edwardes (Kt 1979; three daughters; marriage dissolved 1984); died London 13 February 1999.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Arts and Entertainment
William Pooley from Suffolk is flying out to Free Town, Sierra Leone, to continue working in health centres to fight Ebola after surviving the disease himself

music
Arts and Entertainment
The Newsroom creator Aaron Sorkin

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Berry (centre), the star of Channel 4 sitcom 'Toast of London'

TVA disappointingly dull denouement
Arts and Entertainment
Tales from the cryptanalyst: Benedict Cumberbatch in 'The Imitation Game'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pixie Lott has been voted off Strictly Come Dancing 2014

Strictly
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
    La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

    Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

    The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
    10 best high-end laptops

    10 best high-end laptops

    From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
    Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

    Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

    The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
    Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

    Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

    The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
    Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

    'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

    After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
    Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
    Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

    Meet Racton Man

    Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
    Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

    Garden Bridge

    St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

    An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
    Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

    Joint Enterprise

    The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
    Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

    Freud and Eros

    Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum