3 May 2015

Free Love, Feminism and Freemans Bay

From Spectrum, 12:10 pm on 3 May 2015

Winn Road Linley Scott and Fern Mercier cropped
Linley Scott (left) and Fern Mercier.

"Here you are in a left wing organisation, supposedly dedicated to the breaking-down of sex roles, and the women were still making the cups of tea!  So we decided to do something about this practically..."

– Linley Scott, a founding member of the Winn Road urban commune in Freemans Bay.

Gallery: Winn Road in the 1970s

Linley Scott and Fern Mercier met as thirteen year olds at Otago Girls High School in the 1960s.Linley is unsure what drew them together in the first place but says it soon became apparent that “you had to leave Dunedin if you were to have a life.”And so having both moved to Auckland separately, they rekindled their friendship and established Women for Equality.

"It was socialist; in fact it was more pink than socialist really,We thought we should try and live our ideals and try and put all the new ideas about sex roles and equal child rearing into practice..."

Winn RoadFreemans Bay early sFreemans Bay early 1970s.

The group set about protesting for equal pay, supporting the pro-choice movement, and educating for an end to gender-role stereotyping.In 1972 Fern and Linley made the move to 8 Winn Road in Freemans Bay, having purchased the historic but run-down property for $14,000, and set about creating an urban commune.

Winn Road Winn Road Early s
8 Winn Road Freemans Bay, early 1970s.

The founding group of eight to 10 members and their children lived at the property for nearly 15 years, establishing a community that would grow to include another property in the street, and two other communal houses on nearby Picton Street.

Winn Road Early members of Winn Road cropped
Early members of the Winn Road commune

"We had a freedom of thought…and hope, we believed we could change society and we were open to so many conceptual thoughts…it was an exciting time to live and to be young."

Over the intervening years, hundreds of people passed through the properties, some only choosing to spend a night, others becoming life-long friends.The commune finally dissolved in 1985 due to diverging views and money issues. But both Fern and Linley remain intensely proud of how their children were raised at Winn Road.

Winn Road pan
Another great Winn Road birthday party.  Fern Mercier and her son Damon Keen.

"The fact that we’ve raised amazing children, well then we’ve done everything we could, there’s nothing more fantastic that you could do really, It’s just a rich tapestry of events and people and to have that tapestry still on the loom with all those people that we’ve known for so long, that is the really rich thing."

Winn Road Winn Road s goat cropped
Winn Road's Goat! (Photos courtesy of Fern Mercier and the Winn Road & Friends Community.)

And the women hope a new generation of grandchildren will take up the mantle, Fern says her days espousing women’s liberation and socialism are far from over.

"We’ll go out protesting!"

Jane Barrett, Linely Scott and Fern MercierJoin Fern and Linley as they share herstories with Spectrum’s Lisa Thompson and take a walk back through 8 Winn Road.

Right: Jane Barrett Linely Scott and Fern Mercier

Nga Taonga Sound VisionArchival audio supplied by Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision.