Betty Blunden née Barnett
4th July 1912 — 24th June 2002

betty aged 87
betty's signature

Betty was the second daughter of Elizabeth and Oswald Barnett. Os was a lay Methodist preacher, pacifist and social reformer, and Betty idolised him.

While Betty followed her father in his social conscience and humanism, Betty never shared his religious feelings and, after graduating from Swinburne as a commercial artist Betty left the Sunday School milieu of her childhood to join a circle of intellectuals and artists who were members or sympathisers of the Communist Party.

As a Party member she was one of the founders of the Commercial Artists Association which won professional status for her trade.

In 1938, she married the boy who delivered the blocks to the printer, and introduced Ralph to this radical, creative circle. When she became pregnant with her first child at a time when the Party had been made illegal, she resigned from the Party and devoted the next part of her life to bringing up her children, Peter, Ricky and Andy.

The first great tragedy in Betty’s life was the birth of her second boy, Ricky, made spastic as a result of a brain haemorrhage during birth. Medical knowledge at the time was poor; Ricky’s condition was only gradually diagnosed and then Betty was instructed in a useless program of therapy to cure what was incurable. She and Ralph carried the burden of caring for Rick for the remainder of their married life, and yet never allowed the other two boys to want of anything. Rick died in 1972, and Betty cried a little every day for Rick, for the rest of her life.

Betty and Ralph were marvellous parents. They believed that children should be allowed to make up their own minds. For example, Peter and Andy never even knew that their parents had been members of the Communist Party until they were already adults. No noticeable household rules or code of conduct was imposed. The simple rule of “Do as I do not as I say” was sufficient to raise two happy, well-adjusted children with a social conscience and sense of justice match to those of their parents.

Betty was a loyal wife. While laying out Australia Today as a freelance from home, she maintained the house and raised the kids while Ralph built a career. When Ralph went into business on his own in 1959 (Ralph Blunden Pty. Ltd.), Betty stepped into the role of studio manager for Ralph as if she had been doing the job all her life. When Ralph sold the firm and resigned in 1969, he resigned on Betty’s behalf as well, thus ending her career.

The second great tragedy in Betty’s life came soon after, when Ralph walked out on her. Betty then restarted her life, at the age of 57, accepting the exacting position of Studio Manager at Masius, until she retired in 1977, aged 65.

After her children left home, Betty found an outlet for her creativity in writing the outstanding family histories: “In Search of the Hyetts” and “The Blundens”, her father’s biography and a photo album which is itself a pictorial history of her times.

But it is not as a mother or as a professional that Betty will be most remembered, but as a friend, as a friend par excellence. Her humanism, her sense of justice her givingness and acceptance of others, her willingness to be there for you in times of crisis, her ability to open doors for the young creative people around her, to provide a refuge and a comfort for anyone when they needed it most. It is for this that she will be remembered.

Betty was herself a creative person; but her real gift was in discovering and fostering the creativeness of other people.

For this we thank you Betty.


6th July 2002