Louise Ryan was a prominent member of the Women's Electoral Lobby (WEL) in the buildup to the introduction of MMP in 1996.
Throughout her working life as a scientist, she was a woman ahead of her time in many ways. She was a tireless worker for numerous women's organisations, causes and community groups, none more so than the WEL.
It is for her association with the electoral lobby group that this incorrigible joiner of committees will perhaps best be remembered.
When a report entitled Towards a Better Democracy was published by the royal commission on the electoral system in December 1986, Dr Ryan was one of a small number of New Zealanders who understood the reform options. She joined the Electoral Reform Coalition (ERC), where she was elected treasurer, to promote the MMP system after gaining the support of MMP from WEL.
As treasurer of the Petone branch of the Labour Party, she was one of several people who provided a platform for the Western Hutt MP at the time, John Terris, to introduce the Proportional Representation Indicative Referendum Bill to Parliament in 1990.
The daughter of a prominent Wellington accountant, Louise Ryan was raised in Kings Cres, Lower Hutt, and educated at Chilton Saint James School. In 1948, she began science studies at Canterbury University.
Her family also had a holiday home in Eastbourne, where summer holidays were spent.
After graduating with a science degree from the Canterbury University in 1952, she travelled to Europe and undertook early studies in bone density and osteoporosis.
She gained a PhD in the Faculty of Medicine (Pathology) from the University of London in 1962. Her doctorate study focused in part on determining the range of normal bone structure at various ages to provide a baseline for the recognition of skeletal diseases such as osteoporosis.
While in Europe, she met her future husband, teacher Dermot Ryan, during a ski trip to Norway. About that time, she was working in Norway at Sykehuset Centrallaboratoriet, at Drammen Kommune, investigating amino acids.
The couple married on December 30, 1961, and on September 27, 1962, twins Bridget and Patrick were born.
After 14 years in Europe, in 1967, Dr Ryan returned to Wellington and Eastbourne in particular with her husband and a family of four young children.
The young family was the obvious reason for her becoming involved in Playcentre as a treasurer, the first of her numerous community commitments to voluntary organisations.
In 1975, when her fifth and youngest child, Andrew, turned 7, Dr Ryan began working on the DSIR's database of rivers and lakes and continued in this work until 1990.
In 1978, she was elected to the Council of the New Zealand Association of Scientists, where she served as secretary and later treasurer until 2005.
She undertook this work alongside her commitment to WEL and the ERC. She served as treasurer for both WEL Wellington (for 27 years) and WEL New Zealand (15 years).
In 1989, she was elected a member of the Eastbourne Community Board.
At the time of her election, she had also served on the executives of the Hutt-Wairarapa Playcentre Association, the Days Bay Playcentre, committees of Muritai Primary School, the East Harbour Environmental Association, Eastbourne Swimming Pool committee and Eastbourne Girl Guides.
She was also a founding member of the SHE Trust, an organisation in the Hutt Valley that helps disadvantaged women into tertiary education by providing scholarships.
In between times, the recipient of numerous awards, including being made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the 2001 New Year Honours, did more than enough to become a life member of Red Cross.
It is no coincidence that the main professional and political issues she dealt with throughout her very active life – including osteoporosis research, the state of the country's rivers and lakes and MMP – all remain important issues for Kiwis today.
Dr Ryan's life was a remarkably full one.
It was little wonder then when callers to the Ryan household in Eastbourne phoned asking to speak to her that her husband, Dermot, who died in 2007, would sometimes jokingly reply: "She is in orbit."
Louise Ryan, b Dunedin, August 18, 1930; m Dermot Ryan, 4s 1d; d Auckland, April 20, 2012, aged 81.
Sources: Ryan family.
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