Glenda – born with determination

Story by Lucie Cutting

Growing up in Tasmania’s north-west coastal town of Penguin, Glenda Radcliffe never had reason to think she was anything but an average person.

“Penguin was a great, inclusive town to grow up in. There were people from other countries, Aboriginal people, people with intellectual disabilities, gay people. Everybody just got on well together.”

In the family home, it was no different. Glenda is one of four siblings, with two sisters and a younger brother. As she explains, her mother didn’t have time to give her special treatment, so Glenda simply got on with things.

“I just got used to climbing stools and climbing supermarket shelves back when they made them really strong” says Glenda, “…or tickling items from the top shelf and catching them as they fell. If it was something breakable, I had to make sure I caught it!”.

A change of schools, and a growth spurt that never arrived was Glenda’s indication that she was unlike her peers.

“I went to Ulverstone for high school and that’s where things changed. Everybody knew I was different before I did”.

That difference is that Glenda is short statured. It was a hard discovery to make as a young woman, and Glenda withdrew into herself.

“I spent a lot of time in the library looking for answers. There were no support groups around, no internet or anything then, the only book in the library was Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. There was a lot about Beethoven the composer but nothing about short statured people”.

Glenda continued to feel isolated throughout high school but by the time she finished college an association for short statured people had been established in Australia.

“It was called the Little Peoples Association. Mum and I went to their third convention.” Up until that point, Glenda had only met one other short statured person.

“Mum and I were sitting in this lounge area with about fifty other short statured people. I remember thinking, I don’t look like that when I do up my hair or tie my laces, because I thought I just looked like all the regular-sized people I’d been around all my life. It was pretty amazing”.

Gradually, Glenda came back out of her shell and nowadays is open to sharing her story as a human book for the Hobart Human Library.

“I’ve been a book since the beginning of 2014. I wouldn’t like to count how many talks I’ve done, one day I told my story fifteen times! That was probably a bit much” Glenda laughs.

Hers is a story of persistence, and a reminder that difference is not necessarily limiting.

“The name of my story is Born with Determination. It’s a quote from my mother. When I was growing up I would say to people I was going to do something and most of the time they’d say, ‘you can’t do that! You’re too short!’, I’d think, ‘I’ll show you I can’t do it!’ and I’d go off and give it a go.”

It’s an approach Glenda continues to take, and one that has seen her secure steady employment, attend university, follow creative pursuits, and take on many challenges in life.

She’s achieved all of these things despite many telling her she couldn’t, for Glenda has never let her height get in the way of giving it a go. In her own words,

“A lot of people think they can sum me up just by looking at me, but they have no idea”.

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