I met Judy Fryd's daughters, Linda and Pat, to find out more about Judy - who she was, what her hopes and dreams were, and what it was like for them growing up with a sister who had a learning disability.
Caring, witty, loyal: these are just some of the words used by Judy Fryd’s daughters to describe their mother. “She had these very twinkly blue eyes”, says Linda. “Focused” and a “lovely mother”, says Pat. The Fryd sisters paint a picture of a kind-hearted woman; someone who had the spirit and determination needed to make such a huge contribution to the world for people with a learning disability.
Judy’s passion for equality was evident early on in life. “She was involved with the Labour Party in her youth. She’d joined a union, and was photographed at Speakers’ Corner, explaining the importance for women workers, typists, to be in their union”, says Linda. “Daily Express: Judy wows the typists!”, Pat adds excitedly.
In 1946, Judy, frustrated and angry about the lack of support available for her child, Felicity, who had a learning disability, wrote a letter to Nursery World magazine to reach out to other parents. “She was inundated with letters from all over the country, over a thousand!”, says Linda.
The events that led to Judy writing the letter are heartbreaking. Felicity had finally got a place at a suitable school, where Pat says “she was going to get what she needed”. But, sadly, it didn’t last. She continues: “There was a telegram: Felicity is unsuitable...must be removed at once.” It is this cruel decision that inspired Judy to band together with other parents and fight for a better provision that meets the needs of children with a learning disability and their families.
The mention of Felicity’s name brings a huge smile to the faces of the Fryd sisters. “I was very close to her – we sang to each other”, says Pat. “She had a love for words”, adds Linda. People in the village where they grew up were always nice to Felicity, despite this being a difficult time in society for people with a learning disability.
Linda sums up Judy’s biggest achievement with great pride: “She managed to unite so many people all across the land, and across the world, in support of each other to make life decent, dignified and better for people who had a learning disability.”
“Everything that Mencap is doing today is absolutely true to Mum’s vision at the time.”
Talk to other parents and family carers
70 years ago Judy Fryd reached out to fellow parents of children with a learning disability, to share her anger and frustration at the lack of support and provision available. From this, Mencap was born.
To celebrate our 70th birthday, and in honour of Judy, we've launched a new online community for parents of children with a learning disability. Parents, like Judy, who are seeking advice and support from others like them.
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