New book shares Anna Crighton’s inspiring story

Still Standing: A memoir, by Anna Crighton

Dame Anna Crighton, a steadfast defender of Christchurch's heritage, is sharing her unexpected life journey, developing resilience in the face of adversity.

For decades, Dame Anna Crighton has defended Ōtautahi Christchurch's architectural legacy against the threat of demolition. Yet, beneath her public persona lies an unexpected and extraordinary life story, now shared for the first time in her memoir, 'Still Standing'.

Anna recounts a childhood bereft of parental affection, a turbulent adolescence, and an enforced stay at the Mount Magdala Convent ‘to straighten her out’ – an experience which she still struggles to make peace with.

Despite these and other hardships, including unsuitable relationships and a violent marriage, Anna persevered.

Following the birth of her son, determined to give him a secure and loving start in life, Anna embarks on a remarkable journey of self-discovery.

She rebuilds her life, restoring a magnificent Victorian home and pursuing higher education as an adult at Te Whare Wānanga o Waitaha | University of Canterbury.

Her resilience and determination culminated in her ultimately earning a PhD and later being appointed as a Dame Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2020 in recognition of her contributions to heritage preservation and governance.

By sharing her story, Anna hopes to inspire others to overcome their own challenges and find strength in adversity. Through all the good and bad she has experienced, Anna says she is most proud of her son.

“I didn’t want him to be influenced by the horrors of what we went through, and he’s come out of it a lovely person - he’s my greatest achievement.” 

History, classics, art and architectural history have been at the heart of Anna’s careers in the public and private sector.

Before graduating in these subjects later in life from Canterbury and Otago universities, she was registrar of Christchurch’s Robert McDougall Art Gallery for 20 years. She then embarked on a career in local politics as a Christchurch city councillor for 12 years and a member of the Canterbury District Health Board for a further 12.

Over three decades, she was a trustee and director of many trusts and companies. Anna has lived in Wellington, Sydney and England but has always returned to the city of her birth.

In 2020 she was made a Dame Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to heritage preservation and governance. 

'Still Standing: A memoir' by Anna Crighton, has been published by Canterbury University Press in February 2024, and has 240 pages including 48 pages of photographs.

About the author 

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