Ashton-Warner was born on 17 December 1908, in Stratford, New Zealand. She spent many years teaching Māori children, using stimulating and often pioneering techniques which she wrote about in her 1963 treatise Teacher and in the various volumes of her autobiography. Her success derived from a commitment to "releasing the native imagery and using it for working material" and her belief that communication must produce a mutual response in order to affect a lasting change. As a novelist, she produced several works mostly centred around strong female characters. Her novel Spinster (1958) was made into the 1961 film Two Loves (also known as The Spinster) starring Shirley MacLaine. She was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire for services to education and literature in the 1982 Queen's Birthday Honours.
Ashton-Warner died on 28 April 1984, in Tauranga. Her life story was adapted for the 1985 biographical film Sylvia, based on her work and writings,
The Ashton School in the Dominican Republic was founded in 1998 and was named in honour of Ashton-Warner, whose teaching methods inspired the school.
"You must be true to yourself. Strong enough to be true to yourself. Brave enough to be strong enough to be true to yourself. Wise enough to be brave enough to be strong enough to shape yourself from what you actually are"
- London Gazette (supplement), No. 49010, 11 June 1982. Retrieved 5 May 2013.
- Sylvia Ashton-Warner Library - Biography - The University of Auckland. Retrieved 5 May 2013.
- The Ashton School - school history. Retrieved 5 May 2013.
- Sylvia Ashton-Warner at the Internet Movie Database
- List of books and published material
- Biographical entry from The Oxford Companion to New Zealand Literature
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