Looking back. Millicent Baxter. 1981-01-24.

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RNZ Collection
Baxter, Millicent, 1888-, Interviewee
Radio New Zealand. National Programme (estab. 1964, closed 1986), Broadcaster

Millicent Baxter talks about her life, family, and beliefs.

An unidentified interviewer begins by asking her about her parents. Her mother [Helen Connon] was the first to take her M.A. with Honours in the British Empire.

She could read from an early age and was surprised at other children reading children's books, as she preferred novels.

Her father [John Macmillan Brown] was disappointed that she wasn't 'brilliant' like her parents. Her mother taught her Latin and then she had a governess. She didn't go to school until she was 12 in London. Her mother died when she was 15.

Her father had made a lot of money for a professor, through speculation. Her father expected too much of her academically. However, she graduated from Sydney University in the end, but failed to get a junior scholarship. She went to Sydney's Presbyterian Ladies' College first.
Her father was a professor at Canterbury College but he was at odds with another professor there, so she went to Sydney University and stayed with an aunt instead.

She sailed to England with her father after she graduated. They attended the Darwin Centenary and then her father went to South America and she went to Paris to brush up her French. She used to clash with her father but realises now the strain he must have had raising two daughters on his own.

Her father was unconventional but definitely not a pacifist. She talks about the origins of her pacifist beliefs. Her future husband Archibald Baxter, wrote a letter in 1918 which was published by "Truth" newspaper [on 29 June 1918], which was pacifist in those days. She read the letter, which was very moving and it completely altered her views. All her friends were very patriotic but from that time on she became a pacifist.

She explains Archibald Baxter's letter about his deportation as a pacifist to the western front, where he did not expect to survive. She did not expect to ever meet him. She kept her views to herself, as people were very hostile to pacificst opinions.

She worked for the Red Cross with Lady Liverpool and later for of the Enquiry Bureau, as assistant to its head Mr Howard, an Anglican clergyman. They tried to locate men declared "missing" but generally they were found to be dead.

Then the influenza epidemic came. People simply died and their bodies turned black; she worked at the hospital but afterward felt she should do something for the good of humanity. She read there was a terrible lack of teachers as so many had been killed in the war.

She went to Wellington but despite having a university degree she had no qualifications for teaching. She finally was offered a position teaching languages at Wellington Girls' College. However, her father got a position in Dunedin and wanted her to come down with him. She was very resentful but went with him instead.

In Dunedin she thought she should try and get in touch with Archibald Baxter, as she had heard he was back in New Zealand. They found they had a great deal in common despite coming from very different backgrounds and decided to get married after 4 or 5 months.

Her father tried to persuade her not to marry; she was too cowardly to tell her father her husband had been a conscientious objector.

They bought a farm at Kuri Bush and lived there for 9 years. She had never kept house before, but learnt. They had no electricity or piped water, just a wood-fired stove, but she found the life delightful.

Her husband was harassed by the government for his beliefs, despite the war being long over. They were frequently fined for not carrying out minor regulations that no-one bothered about. There was great fear of Bolshevism and anyone with leftist views were regarded as Communists.

A man from Central Otago called Kenneth Maclean Baxter was a communist and police thought he was a relative of her husband and suspected him as a result.