Spectrum 152. I don't live in a doll's house

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Tono kōrero mai

Spectrum was a long-running weekly radio documentary series which captured the essence of New Zealand from 1972 to 2016. Alwyn Owen and Jack Perkins produced the series for many years, creating a valuable library of New Zealand oral history.

Isobel Murray lives in Hamilton and is four feet tall. At the time of recording she was 59. Murray was born with achondroplasia. She was born and grew up on a farm in Whāngārei.

Isobel shows Jack Perkins around her home. She explains that the only difference in her house is that she uses a stool, and a several sets of steps around her home.

Murray believes that other little people should be encouraged to be active and independent. Although Murray uses the word ‘dwarf’ and ‘dwarfed person’, Perkins note that the preferred term is ‘little people’.

Although her homelife was happy, she struggled at school. Murray was nine years old when she started school. She disliked the attention she received when she was at school or out in public.

Murray’s father was killed in a bush accident when she was very young, so she left school at 15, with only six years of education, to help her mother at home. She explains that education was not seen as necessary for those with disabilities. She was expected to be employed in domestic work.

In her late twenties, Murray left home to find work in Auckland. She initially struggled to find employment. She faced discrimination and the Depression made jobs scarce. She found work as a housekeeper in a boarding house where she met her husband. She had a son who did not inherit achondroplasia. Perkins explains how Murray worked hard to ensure her son didn’t face discrimination because of her.

Living now in Hamilton, Perkins and Murray walk down the main street. Murray speaks with a little girl who is curious about her. Murray appreciates the sincerity of children and their directness.

Perkins and Murray visit a Woolworths store. Murray reflects on the greater range of children’s clothing which she buys for herself. She notes that the mini which is in fashion means she can have a frock which is an appropriate length for her. She no longer has to make her own clothes.

The show ends with Murray offering her advice for others in her position. She stresses the importance of education. She is the president of the Little People’s Association which creates community, which she believes is essential for showing other little people what is possible.

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Year 1975

Reference number 33201

Media type AUDIO

Collection Sound Collection

Credits RNZ Collection
MURRAY, Isobel, Interviewee
Perkins, Jack (b.1940), Producer

Duration 00:29:55

Date 1975

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