‘Old Bolshevik’ marks her centenary

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A woman who knows how to fight the good fight has marked her 100th birthday milestone.

Maureen Alexander, of Wanaka, celebrated her centenary last week at Elmslie House, in Wanaka, with her daughter Annette Fliegner, of Melbourne, and grandson Sean Fliegner, of Sydney.

She was born in Timaru in 1918 and her daughter said she had radical views for her time.

“My mother was a very idealistic woman – she was very strong-willed and she was very political.”

She was a “card-carrying member of the Communist Party” and secretary of the Society for Closer Relations with the USSR.

“She still has her socialist beliefs.”

She belonged to Voice for Women and the peace movement, and visited the Greenham Common women’s peace camp which protested the placement of nuclear weapons in England during the 1980s, Mrs Fliegner said.

Travel overseas also featured, including many years in Italy.

“She loved Italy and loved opera. Her father played them all opera records, so she loved opera and she loved literature.”

Her battles on behalf of others continued into her 80s.

While living in Auckland in 2001, she became involved in a struggle to save pensioner housing when the Auckland City Council accepted a recommendation to sell off pensioner units.

Becoming spokeswoman for the Pensioner Housing Action Group, she gave speeches around Auckland, talked to ministers and held out against attempts by then Auckland Mayor John Banks to increase rents and sell pensioner villages, finally winning the battle when the newly elected Labour government bought the units, allowing pensioners to stay in their homes.

“My mother was hated by Banks and considered a damn nuisance and stirrer, but Helen Clark as prime minister listened to my mother and the group that was supporting her, and bought the flats, so John Banks lost.

“That was a big battle that she waged in her 80s and won. I have great respect for her.”

Although Mrs Alexander received a birthday card from the Queen, Mrs Fliegner said her mother was more pleased her daughter and grandson were there for the big day.

“I mean she is an old Bolshevik’ why would she care about the Queen?”