Judy Fryd

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Judy Fryd (31 October 1909 – October 2000) was a British campaigner for mentally handicapped children and the founder of The National Association of Parents of Backward Children, now Mencap. Throughout her life, she increased awareness around learning disabilities and encouraged for more action to be taken in order to give greater consideration to these individuals. Through the founding of her charity, she cemented this ethos, with the movement for greater aid to be given to those with learning disabilities continuing through the work of Mencap.


Judy was born Caroline Joyce Manning on 31 October 1909 in Hornsey, London. She went to Minchenden Grammar School before going on to study Economics and Political Science at Ruskin College, Oxford. While at Ruskin College Judy met John Fryd who she later married in 1936 before they moved to Leeds. Both Judy and John were very active members of the Labour Party throughout their lives. They were involved in the creation of the charity that is now known as Mencap. They were also associated with many other charities and organisations.

Once relocated to Leeds, Judy and John had four children; Felicity, Patricia, Peter and Linda. Felicity, their oldest (born in 1938), had a learning disability and this sparked Judy's realisation that there was no support systems in place in order to help those with learning disabilities along with their families. When Felicity was around three, Judy and John realised that 'something was not quite right' due to the fact that their daughter wasn't able to use her language to communicate in the way that other children her age were. As a result of this, Felicity was taken to the local Child Guidance Clinic where she was assessed. The doctor concluded that Felicity had an IQ of 43 and seemed content to leave the matter there, not offering support or solutions as to how best to help Felicity. After several failed attempts to put Felicity into regular education, Judy managed to get Felicity a month trial at a boarding school for the "mentally handicapped" in Surrey. Yet on the first day, Judy and John were informed that Felicity was not suitable for the school due to her challenging behaviour and requested her to be removed immediately.

'Judy was deeply angered and frustrated by the lack of support and provision available'.[1] As a result of this, in 1946 Judy wrote a letter to Nursery World Magazine asking all parents also having difficulties with a "backward child" to get in contact. There was a huge response with over 1,000 parents responding and consequently a group was formed of parents who pleaded their cause to local health and education authorities. This group grew into the Association of Parents of Backward Children (APBC), the forerunner of Mencap.

Much of what Judy achieved came too late to directly benefit her own daughter, Felicity.

Felicity began to realise that she struggled in ways that her brothers and sisters did not and this led to increasingly disturbed behaviour. She was admitted to an ill-suited mental hospital in St Albans at the age of 12 which grouped her with other 'psychotic' individuals who in reality had very different problems to her. These issues persisted until late on in her life as doctors were unable to offer the right support for her needs. Felicity died in 1993 from pneumonia aged 55.

Later life[edit]

During the 1950s and 1960s, the Association of Parents of Backward Children led by Judy advocated the need for support and the potential of people with learning disabilities. This was largely through their magazine 'Parents' Voice' which Judy was the editor of. One key achievement for Judy was a campaign which led to the 1964 Education Act. This reversed the previous stance that children with learning disabilities were ineducable, and provided funding for special needs teaching. Since that point, there have been significant improvements in supporting the lives of those with learning disabilities and as put by Mencap's former chief executive Fred Heddell; 'It is possible for an autistic person today to form relationships and to lead a much less isolated life'.[2]

Judy Fryd died during October 2000 at the age of 90. Her work carries on through Mencap.

In October 2009 it was announced that she would feature on a new first class Royal Mail postage stamp.[3]


  • "Judy Fryd". The Telegraph. 23 October 2000. Retrieved 27 October 2009.
  • "Judy Fryd". The Times. 23 October 2000. Retrieved 27 October 2009.
  • "Judy Fryd". The Independent. 23 August 1996. Retrieved 12 March 2014.
  • "Judy Fryd". The Guardian. 24 October 2000. Retrieved 12 March 2014.
  • "Judy Fryd". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. 2004. Retrieved 12 March 2014.
  1. ^ "My Grandma - Judy Fryd CBE and founder of Mencap - her legacy and FamilyHub". Mencap. Retrieved 13 July 2018.
  2. ^ "My Grandma - Judy Fryd CBE and founder of Mencap - her legacy and FamilyHub". Mencap. Retrieved 13 July 2018.
  3. ^ Youde, Kate (7 October 2009). "Mencap founder Judy Fryd to feature on first class stamp". Third Sector. Retrieved 27 October 2009.