My mother, Ann Hales-Tooke, who has died aged 94, was a teacher and child welfare campaigner who strove to see the world from the child’s standpoint.
She developed an interest in child welfare while bringing up her three sons, and in the 1960s wrote articles for the Guardian and the Times, sometimes illustrated with her beautiful photographs of her own children. She also contributed to BBC Woman’s Hour. In 1970, she became a governor of United Cambridge Hospitals.
Two years later she went to work in the Ida Darwin hospital in Cambridge, on a ward for children and young adults with disabilities. During her time there she wrote a passionate plea for people with severe disabilities and learning difficulties, The Children of Skylark Ward, which was published as a book by Cambridge University Press in 1978. It was of great satisfaction to her that the forward thinking in the book was put into practice in Cambridge, with children being moved out of wards in the hospital into small community houses.
After a PGCE at Homerton College in 1978 she taught in a primary school for a short time before resuming teaching children at Rees Thomas special school, where she stayed until retiring in 1990. She then qualified as a psychodynamic counsellor, contributing articles to Cambridge Therapy Notebook. She also qualified as a supervisor and, after retiring as a counsellor, trained as a spiritual guidance director.
Ann was a keen painter of landscapes, with a particular interest in standing stones, and also made paintings depicting dreams she had collected over several years. She exhibited at the Tavistock Foundation in London and the Cambridge Open Studios.
Born in Loddon, Norfolk, to William Petre, a land agent who managed farms in different parts of the country, and his wife, Marjorie (nee Bruce), Ann went to New Hall, a Catholic girls’ boarding school in Essex. From there she went to Somerville College, Oxford, where in 1947 she graduated in philosophy, politics and economics from. In 1949 she joined a progressive Catholic religious order from Europe that had established a base on the outskirts of London. She left the order in 1953 and two years later married John Hales-Tooke.
In 2006, Ann published Journey Into Solitude, about her experience as a devout Catholic leaving her husband, and her life journey afterwards. She and John divorced in 1986. This was followed by The Lost Priory in 2009, a historical novel, and the story of her uncles, pioneer aviators in the early years of flight, in The Family That Flew, in 2017.
Ann was a good listener: present, active and generous, enriched by an intellect that was incisive and interested to the end, and a deep desire to give the best of herself to others.
She is survived by her sons, Jonathan, Giles and me, and three grandsons, Ben, Matthew and Jake.