COMPANION

Irene Tasker

Irene Tasker (1887–1977), British teacher of the Alexander Technique who started the ‘Little School’ and was the first teacher of the Alexander Technique in South Africa.

Life

Irene Tasker was the daughter of Rev. John Greenwood Tasker,  a Wesleyan minister and one time Principal of the Theological College at Handsworth in Birmingham. She went to school in Birmingham and studied at the Girton College, Cambridge 1907–10 when she gained a classical tripos. Although she gained a M.A. the certificate was not issued until 1927. She was governess and taught a little ‘home’ school for 8-14 year-old children. She was selected by the British Montessori Society to travel to Rome to study under Maria Montessori. Tasker translated Dr. Montessori’s Own Handbook into English.[1] It was in Rome that she met Ethel Webb and first read Alexander’s Man’s Supreme Inheritance. In the autumn of 1913 she had her first lessons with Alexander. She taught at one of the first Montessori school in England 1913-14 at the ‘Little Commonwealth’ in Dorset.[2] From 1914 to 1916 she trained teachers in the Montessori method, and when she was teaching in New York, at Magaret Naumburg’s school, in 1916 she resumed contact with Alexander and became assistant to Alexander the following year. She attended a course with John Dewey while in New York. In 1917 she became in effect an assistant to F. M. Alexander, and soon afterwards would help in doing ‘application work’ with some of Alexander’s pupils. She helped Alexander with the MS for MSI, CCC and UoS.

In 1924 she started a school at Ashley Place for children based on the means-whereby principles of the Technique, informally known as the Little School. She left the Little School in 1934 when it moved to Penhill. Between 1929 and 1934 the pupils of the Little School produced a journal, The Alexander Times, which since has been published.[3] Between 1935 and 1949 she taught in South Africa, where she built up a formidable practice. Several letters of appreciation testify to her influence in South Africa in making the Alexander Technique known. She passed on her Johannesburg practice to Elisabeth and Dick Walker in 1949. Upon her return she taught in London, Cheltenham, Cambridge, Hove and retired to Milton Keynes. [4] [5]

Writings

  • She gave a lecture in July 1941, ‘An Unrecognized Need in Education’, which was published in the South African Journal of Science.[6]
  • A talk to STAT was reported by Joyce Warrack and published as ‘Education without endgaining’.[7]
  • Her 1967 talk, ‘Connecting Links’, provides a history of her life with the Technique, as well as a staunch defence of Alexander’s writing style.[8]
  • Her photoalbum, some notes and letters are now in the Walter Carrington Archives.
  • Letters of appreciation in celebration of Irene Tasker’s 80th birthday were published in The Alexander Journal in 1968.[9]
  • Two notebooks from the 1930s cover notes on F. M. Alexander’s teaching in the first training course, a refresher course, and some lessons.[10]

Video

  • Irene Tasker and her little school appears in short film footage shot by Marjorie Barstow around 1934.[11]

Biography

  • Irene Tasker – Her Life and Work with the Alexander Technique by Regina Stratil is a substantial biography of Irene Tasker’s life and work.[12]

Obituary

  • A short obituary was published in The Alexander Journal 1978.[13]

Irene Grace Tasker *19 December 1887 – †21 July 1977.

References

[1] Dr. Montessori’s Own Handbook (William Heinemann, 1914).
[2] A Dorset Utopia by Judith Stinton (Black Dog Books, 2005), p. 55.
[3] The Alexander Times Vol. 1: 1929-1932, Vol. 2: 1933-1934 edited by Jean M. O. Fischer (Mouritz, 2017).
[4] Articles and Lectures by F. Matthias Alexander, edited by Jean M. O. Fischer (Mouritz, 1995), endnote 127, p. 303.
[5] Frederick Matthias Alexander – A Family History by Jackie Evans (Phillimore & Co., 2001), pp. 154-55.
[6] ‘An Unrecognized Need in Education’ by Irene Tasker in the South African Journal of Science, January 1942, vol. 38, pp. 387-95. Also in A Means To An End – Articles and Letters on the Alexander Technique 1909–1955 edited by Jean M. O. Fischer (Mouritz, 2015), pp. 322–29.
[7] ‘Education without endgaining’ in The Alexander Journal No. 2 edited by Edward H. Owen (STAT, 1963), pp. 21-22.
[8] 'Connecting Links' (1967) by Irene Tasker (The Sheildrake Press, 1978).
[9] The Alexander Journal No. 6 edited by Wilfred Barlow (STAT, 1968), p. 2-4.
[10] Irene Tasker – Her Life and Work with the Alexander Technique by Regina Stratil (Mouritz, 2020), pp. 218–69.
[11] F. M. Alexander 1949-50 DVD narrated by Walter Carrington (Mouritz, 2010).
[12] Irene Tasker – Her Life and Work with the Alexander Technique by Regina Stratil (Mouritz, 2020).
[13] The Alexander Journal No. 8 edited by Wilfred Barlow (STAT, 1978), p. 32.