A woman had an education at a time when that was rare, went on to fight nazis, loved Muriel and set up a London museum – a woman code named Mary.
Mary was in fact Muriel Gardiner, an unsung heroine, saving the lives of countless individuals from the Austrian fascist, and then the Nazi, regime, though frequently in danger herself.
And there’s a new exhibition about her that opened recently.
Born into wealth in the USA, she travelled to Europe in 1920 to study psycho-analysis and be analyzed by Sigmund Freud, and in the 1930s joined underground movements, and under the code name ‘Mary’, she smuggled money and acquired false passports for her comrades. She had to leave when WW2 broke out but remained active in helping Europeans to escape from the Nazi regime.
Later in life, she was unexpectedly thrust into the public after a book, and later film seemed remarkably similar to her life, even though the author denied it. Towards the end of her life, Muriel Gardiner was instrumental in the establishment of the Freud Museum in London.
So it’s fitting that the Freud Museum has an exhibition about her life.
The exhibition, up on the first floor of the house-museum is a mix of mainly large information boards and a collection of letters and documents, plus a few related objects.
However, it’s not entirely obvious how the exhibition starts. Just as a book has a frontispiece to let you know you’re holding it the correct way round, an exhibition needs an introduction sign to let you know you are in the right place. Walking into the unmarked room left me staring at the glass case of objects only to realise partway through that I was going around backwards. It’s easy to realise and then go to the correct start of the display, but still slightly confusing.
That niggle out of the way, the display boards go into detail about Muriel’s remarkable life in Europe, and then later her unexpected cinematic fame and the work she put into supporting the Freud family and setting up the museum.
A visit is to learn about someone who lived a dozen lifetimes in the 84 years she was alive.