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Gryphon Gallery: Patricia (Pam) van der Esch (Mitchell)

Patricia Ann Margaret Mitchell grew up in Victoria, attending Glenlyon Norfolk School (Norfolk House School) from 1930 to 1942, becoming a rare “lifer” in those early days. She was an excellent student, using that gift to edit the fledgling NHS Review, as well as being a keen participant in the arts and sport—she won the school’s individual badminton championship in her final year. After graduation, she continued her studies at UBC, Bryn Mawr in Philadelphia, the London School of Economics and the Sorbonne in Paris, completing her PhD. thesis in 1947.

She married towards the end of these studies and as a result of her doctoral thesis, she published her first book: Prelude to War: the International Repercussions of the Spanish Civil War (1936-39). She later raised four children while working as a correspondent for Observateur and Canadian Foreign and living at various times in Paris, Rome, London and Brussels. During this time she became actively involved in women’s issues, attending conferences all over Europe and in 1985 she was invited to speak at the UN Conference on Women’s Issues, which published the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women signed by over 100 nations.

She spoke with fondness about her days at NHS, once telling a story about a grey-haired Scottish lady (Miss Riach) who taught Botany in the Lower Third. 

“She drew the stigma, style and ovaries of a flower on the big, green board, getting redder as she told about the bee who landed on the sticky stigma with pollen on its legs and then she traced the pollen’s progress down the style to the ovaries. It was the nearest thing we ever got in those days to sex education!”

Pam van der Esch-Mitchell passed away in 2011 spending her later years devoted to the Quaker organization Friends World Committee, speaking at conferences, visiting political prisoners, raising funds for humanitarian causes, and joining the “Women in Black” that protested Taliban restrictions in Afghanistan.

“As long as you follow the principles of the school’s motto, as it was or is now, you won’t go far wrong no matter where in the world your talents and aspirations may find you later on.”