Hilary Mutch

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Biographical information


Member of the African Resistance Movement, Exile, Author and Educator

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Erith, London
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Hilary Mutch (née Hilary Claire) was born on 4 November 1941 in Erith, south-east London into a Jewish family. Her father, a South African worked as a doctor at the time. Later in 1943 the family moved back to South Africa. Claire went to Johannesburg's Roedean school before proceeding with her studies at the University of Witwatersrand where her mother worked as French lecturer. She graduated in 1960 with a degree in history and politics.

Claire became politically active in the 1960s, when she alongside her husband Ronnie Mutch joined the African Resistance Movement (ARM) taking on the code name "Kate". This was a period of heightened political tension in South Africa as the Apartheid government cracked down heavily on political organizations and activists who opposed its policies. When ARM launched its sabotage campaigns, her work involved driving members of the organization to rural areas where they would set up their sabotage explosives.

When activities of the ARM were discovered, the government launched attack on the organization arresting some its leaders while others fled to exile. Claire and her husband fled to Botswana on a motorcycle before proceeding to London. Upon arrival in the UK she worked as a shop assistant at Heal and also made cushion covers which she sold to earn extra income. Claire later worked part time for Penguin books and at a primary school in Surrey. She then enrolled at Goldsmiths College, London University from 1971 to 1972 for a primary school teaching Diploma. Also from 1972 she taught at Henry Fawcett School in London.

Despite living outside South Africa, her she continued her anti Apartheid political activities in exile. She joined the Defence and Aid Fund working the education committee. Amongst the functions of the committee, one was to deign educational material for children of political prisoners and detainees in South Africa.

Claire took her education further in 1978 by enrolling at London University's Institute of Education for an advanced diploma in the psychology of education finishing in 1980. She also worked at the same institution, and later moved to work at the London Education Authority's centre for urban educational studies from 1981 to 1983. She became the deputy head for Bolingbroke primary school in London, and moved to focus on teacher education at Sussex Institute of Higher Education from 1985 to 1987. She also worked for the Ealing education authority between 1988 and 1989. In 1989 she took a post at the Open University until 1991. The following year (1992) she worked for the South Bank University until 1997 when she joined the London Metropolitan University. Clair also worked for the Qualification and Curriculum Authority (QCA) from 2003 to 2007, and became a founder member of the Primary Educators' Network for the Advancement of Citizenship (Penac). Claire retired from the London Metropolitan University. 

Apart from teaching, Claire also authored a number of books. In 1995 she authored In Reclaiming Our Pasts: Equality and Diversity in the Primary History Curriculum. This was followed by Not Aliens in 2001 and Teaching Citizenship in the Primary School in 2005. She publisher her memoirs The Song Remembers was published in 2006. Just before her death, a book entitled The Challenge of Teaching Controversial Issues was published.

Claire died in France on 26 June 2007 after riding accident. She is survived by Jack Dowie her second husband, her daughter Thembi, son Alexei and her granddaughter Natasha. 

• Holden,  C, (2007), 'Hilary Claire Educationist keen to get schoolchildren thinking about equality and diversity', from The Guardian, 3 September, [online], Available at www.theguardian.com[Accessed 05 August 2013]
• Gunther, M., 'The National Committee on Liberation (NCL)/ African Resistance Movement (ARM)', in The Road to Democracy in South Africa: 1960-1970, Volume 1, (UNISA Press), p.247

Last updated : 15-May-2018

This article was produced by South African History Online on 08-Jun-2013

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