Story: Candy, Alice Muriel Flora

Page 1 - Candy, Alice Muriel Flora

Candy, Alice Muriel Flora

1888–1977

Teacher, university lecturer and warden

This biography was written by W. J. Gardner and was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand BiographyVolume 4, 1998

Alice Muriel Flora Candy was born at West Oxford, Canterbury, on 9 July 1888, the daughter of Alice Hood and her husband, James Candy, a blacksmith. Her mother had hoped to become a teacher and wanted Alice to have the opportunity she herself missed. On the advice of a school inspector, and with scholarships and family help, Alice attended Christchurch Girls' High School from 1903 to 1906. After gaining a university Junior Scholarship in 1907 she enrolled at Canterbury College. There she became an exhibition scholar in economics and political science in 1908 and in economics in 1909. She graduated BA in 1910 and secured a university Senior Scholarship in economics. In 1911 she graduated MA with honours in political science.

From 1912 to 1920 Candy taught in various schools, and in the latter year was senior mistress at Chilton St James School, Lower Hutt. She was appointed assistant lecturer in history at Canterbury College in December 1920. From her experience in schools she brought new teaching skills to the department. Her appointment was also the beginning of a long and fruitful partnership with James Hight, professor of history and political science. Hight was a shy man, and Candy, a lively and outgoing person, did much to break down his reserve – to the great benefit of Hight, the department and the college. Besides carrying a heavy and varied burden of teaching Candy had to fill in for Hight, who was often involved in college, university and government affairs.

To mark the jubilee of Canterbury College in 1923, James Hight and Alice Candy jointly produced A short history of the Canterbury College, which was published in 1927. That this was Candy's only major publication was not surprising, as research was a luxury that could find no settled place in a busy life of teaching, counselling and organising. Nevertheless, the college history included a register of students (graduates and associates) from 1873 to 1923, which was probably largely her work. This list, compiled when it was still possible to consult many of the college's early graduates, has provided unique material for several subsequent surveys, particularly of women graduates.

When Alice Candy began teaching at Canterbury College, the academic staff was, with one exception (Elizabeth Herriott, biology), entirely male. Yet in Candy's time women averaged between a quarter and a third of the student body. College authorities were particularly sensitive to any breath of scandal, but made no general provision for guiding the women who were supposedly in statu pupillari to them. This lamentable gap was informally filled by Candy, who gradually acquired the unofficial status of dean of women – and an influence on college life well above her junior academic status.

As the staff member in close touch with women students and graduates, Alice Candy was well placed to foster the growth of organisations affecting both groups. In 1921 she helped to launch the Canterbury Women Graduates' Association (later the Canterbury branch of the New Zealand Federation of University Women). She became Canterbury president (1926–27), national vice president (1929), and delegate to the National Council of Women of New Zealand (1926–27, 1928–29). She was exchange lecturer at Bedford College for women, University of London, in 1928–29, and from there represented New Zealand at the conference of the International Federation of University Women in Geneva. She also attended the International Student Service conference in Austria.

In 1936 Alice Candy was appointed warden of Helen Connon Hall, a residential hostel for women students. In this capacity she made another valuable contribution to university life. Candy combined firm views on traditional values with perception and tolerance born of long experience. Connon students felt the influence of a strong but not obtrusive personality; many were grateful for her sound advice. The hall had accommodation for about 75 women, and by 1940 had chronic waiting lists. Candy resigned in 1951, having already retired in 1948 from the university college as senior lecturer. From 1954 to 1957 she was a member of the college council.

Alice Candy never married. She died on 18 May 1977 in Christchurch. She was the first New Zealand woman academic staff member to have a distinctive influence on her university.