On this day in history….14th July 2005

On this day in history : 14th June 2005 – The death of Dame Cicely Saunders – nurse, physician, writer and social worker – who was the founder of the modern hospice….

Dame Cicely Saunders – Fair use

Cicely, who was born on the 22nd of June 1918 in Barnet, Hertfordshire, trained as a nurse at the Nightingale School of Nursing, St. Thomas’s, London, during the Second World War…. Then in 1947 she qualified as a medical social worker….

It was in 1945 that she met and fell in love with Polish-Jewish refugee Ela Majer ‘David’ Tasma, who had escaped from the Warsaw ghetto…. Although managing to work as a waiter David was terminally ill with cancer…. Cicely began to wonder how she could help people such as David – who bequeathed to her £500 (around £18K in today’s terms) to help her realise her dream….

In the late 1940s Cicely began to work part time at St. Luke’s Home for the Dying Poor in Bayswater…. She wanted to learn more about the needs of those who could not be cured…. She began to realise there was no better way to help than to become a physician herself – and so, in 1951, at the age of 33, she became a medical student…. It was also around this time that she met Antoni Michniewizc, a Polish patient whom she became close to….

Cicely qualified in 1957 and became the first doctor in modern times to totally devote them-self to those dying…. Once again this was something to touch her personal life as well as her working life – Antoni died in 1960….

In 1963 she became interested in the paintings of Marian Bohusz-Szyszko, a Polish artist and professor, with a degree in art…. They were to meet and became close friends; however, he was married, with a wife back in Poland, who he continued to support….

Cicely began working at St. Joseph’s Hospice, in the East End of London – and started to put her ideas of palliative care and pain management into practice…. She concentrated on the elements of physical, social, spiritual and emotional needs – including the patient’s family and friends into that care…. Her ideas formed the basis of the philosophy of the modern hospice of today….

In 1967 she realised her own dream….when she established St. Christopher’s Hospice – the world’s first purpose-built hospice combining the principles of teaching and clinical research with the pain and symptom relief of the patient’s needs…. St. Christopher’s was different from other hospitals as it was designed and managed as a home from home environment…. Patients were encouraged to participate in therapeutic activities, such as writing, drawing, gardening, talking – or even just simply getting their hair done…. It was the first hospice to put together expert pain and symptom control and pioneered advanced palliative care….

St. Christopher’s Hospice, Sydenham – Image credit : Stephen Craven CC BY-SA 2.0

Cicely made trips to the United States to teach and to liaise with like minded people – such as Florence Ward, founder of the US hospice movement…. In 1980, five years after the death of his wife, Cicely and Marian were married – by now she was 61 and he was 79…. He died in 1995, aged 94, in St. Christopher’s Hospice…. Cicely developed breast cancer but continued to work….she died at the age of 87 in the hospice that she had founded….

Image credit : History of Modern Biomedicine Research Group

On this day in history….13th July 1911

On this day in history : 13th July 1911 – Suffragette Emily Wilding Davison hides in a broom cupboard in the House of Commons so she can record it as her address on the night of the 1911 Census….

Emily Wilding Davison – Public domain

Emily had hidden herself in a cupboard in St. Mary Undercroft, the chapel of the Palace of Westminster…. She remained there throughout the night to avoid being registered in the Census at any other address…. She was discovered by a cleaner the following morning, who reported her – she was arrested but not charged…. Ironically she ended up being recorded on the 1911 Census twice! Once by the Clerk of Works at the House of Commons and again by her landlady at her lodgings….

Having given up her teaching job to work for the cause Emily was an extremely active suffragette…. She was arrested many times, for acts ranging from causing a public disturbance to setting light to post boxes…. She spent several short terms in prison – and was one of the many suffragettes who went on hunger strike…. She even once barricaded herself in her cell – and the guards flooded it with water, nearly filling the room…. Eventually the door had to be broken down…. In 1912, whilst serving a sentence in Holloway, she jumped from a prison balcony in protest of the abuse and force feeding of suffragettes….

Emily Wilding Davison circa 1912/13 – Public domain

Finally on the 4th of June 1913, Emily committed her final act of suffrage at the Epsom Derby…. She ran out onto the racecourse in an attempt to pin a suffrage flag onto the racehorse belonging to King George V – who was watching the race with Queen Mary…. Emily fell beneath the hooves of the horse….she died in hospital on the 8th of June….

Emily Wilding Davison towards the end of her life – Public domain

On this day in history….12th July 1989

On this day in history : 12th July 1989 – Judy Leden becomes the first woman to cross the English Channel by hang glider – after being dropped from a hot air balloon 13,500ft above Dover….

Judy Leden MBE – Image credit : Tip.Stall – own work CC BY-SA 3.0

Judy’s flying career had begun whilst she was at university in Cardiff in 1979…. She started competing in 1982, turning professional in 1988 – making her the only woman to earn her living through hang gliding and paragliding…. Her work included films and film stunts, flying displays, teaching and writing…. She was to become the Women’s World Hang Gliding Champion….

In 1989, at the age of 29, she became the first woman to hang glide across the English Channel….a feat first completed in 1977, by Ken Messenger, as the first person ever to do so….

Judy’s flight began at dawn – it was something she had waited a long time to realise as the flight had been postponed for almost a year…. Facing a wind chill factor of -87 degrees centigrade she was launched from a hot air balloon and then made a smooth 30 minute flight across the Channel…. It could be said Judy belongs to a very exclusive club because following her successful crossing the Civil Aviation Authority stated that due to safety reasons it would not allow any further attempts….

Judy is now retired from competitive flying…. In 1989 she was awarded an MBE for services to hang gliding….

On this day in history….11th July 2005

On this day in history : 11th July 2005 – The death of actress and dancer Gretchen Franklin – with a career spanning over 70 years but best known to us as Ethel Skinner in the BBC soap ‘EastEnders’….

Gretchen Franklin as Ethel Skinner in EastEnders : Image from the BBC

Gretchen was born on the 7th of July 1911 in Covent Garden, London, into a theatrical family…. Her father was a singer and dancer and her grandfather had been a famous music hall entertainer…. She was also the cousin of Clive Dunn….

She made her stage debut in a pantomime in Bournemouth, as a chorus girl, whilst still a teenager…. In 1929 she began dancing lessons at ‘The Theatre Girls Club’ in Soho – she was to go on to become a Tiller Girl at the London Palladium….

Gretchen married her husband, John Caswell Garth – a writer, occasional actor and the manager of an acting company – in 1934…. They were to have no children and he died of cancer in 1953; Gretchen never remarried….

Her acting career really took off during World War Two, when she was cast in the West End musical ‘Sweet and Low’…. Her film career began in the mid 1950s and she was then to go on to a long and varied television career…. Her appearances included ‘Crossroads’, ‘George and Mildred’, ‘Rising Damp’, ‘Dixon of Dock Green’ and many, many more – but what we really remember Gretchen for most is her role as Ethel, best friends with Dot Cotton and Lou Beale, in ‘EastEnders’….

Dot Cotton, Ethel Skinner, Lou Beale – Fair use

Ethel Mae Skinner – with her little pug dog ‘Willy’, her love to gossip (although rarely getting the facts right) and the odd tipple or two in the Queen Vic…. Ethel was one of the original characters in the soap when it first appeared on our TV screens in 1985…. She was eventually killed off in a controversial episode in July 2000 – when dying of terminal cancer she asked her life long, closest friend, Dot, to help her end her life with an overdose of morphine tablets….

Gretchen’s departure from EastEnders, at the age of 89, ended her acting career…. She died four days after her 94th birthday at her home in Barnes….

Image : Pinterest

On this day in history….10th July 1040

On this day in history : 10th July 1040 – To help the people of the town Lady Godiva rides naked through the streets of Coventry to force her husband, the Earl of Mercia, to lower taxes….

Lady Godiva by John Collier c.1897 – Herbert Art Gallery and Museum, Coventry – Public domain

Whilst the story is most certainly a myth, Lady Godiva was a real person during the 11th Century…. The name ‘Godiva’ is a Latinised form of the Old English ‘Godgifu’ or ‘Godgyfu’ – meaning ‘gift of God’…. She was known for her kindness and her generosity to the Church – but then, so was her husband…. Together they helped found a Benedictine monastery in Coventry….

In the legend Lady Godiva’s husband, Leofric, Earl of Mercia is portrayed as greedy and money grabbing – which seems rather unjust – as he was part of a husband and wife benefactor team….such slander would not be acceptable today…. The story of her naked horseback ride only appeared a hundred years or so after her death – when it was recorded by English monk Roger of Wendover, who was often known to ‘spin a good yarn’…. But anyhow, somehow it found its way into our history books – and makes a good tale….

The story goes that Lady Godiva was dismayed at the extortionate taxes that the Earl was levying on the good citizens of Coventry…. Time and time again she pleaded with her husband to be reasonable and to lessen the burden…. Eventually he jested that only if she were to ride naked through the town would he lower the taxes….

Lady Godiva by Edward Blair Leighton, 1892 ‘depicts the moment of decision’ – Public domain

Taking him at his word she ordered the people of Coventry to remain indoors and not to look out of their windows…. She then disrobed, mounted her horse and with only her long flowing hair to afford her some modesty she rode through the town…. Only the temptation to peek was too much for one man – a tailor by the name of Tom…. But the second he clapped eyes on Lady Godiva he was instantly struck blind…. He was the original ‘Peeping Tom’….

True to his word Leofric, Earl of Mercia, held up his end of the bargain and reduced the taxes for the people of Coventry….

Lady Godiva – a statue by Sir William Reid Dick – Broadgate, Coventry – Image credit Cmglee – own work CC BY-SA 3.0