We’re often asked to identify role models and inspirational individuals that have influenced our lives. International Women's Day has led me to reflect on some of the inspirational women in my family.
As a child I spent many days with my paternal great grandmother, Eva Saxby, listening to tales of times gone by and her adventures of living in Canada as a newlywed in the early 1920s. Having returned to the UK with two young children, her endeavours to improve the health and welfare of her local community were numerous. She became an authorised visitor for the local ‘Good Neighbours Association’, Liaison Officer of the local ‘Tuberculosis Care Committee’, co-opted member of the local ‘Health Committee’, district leader of the Women’s Voluntary Service’ during the war and was a member of the ‘Council of Social Services’ and the ‘Sanitary Inspectors Association’ (now known as the Health Visitors’ Association).
She was received as a guest by the Minister of Health, Aneurin Bevan, in 1947, twelve months before the launch of the NHS in July 1948 (I wonder what they talked about!). In 1950, as a member of the Labour Party, she went on to become an Urban District Councillor.
Following in Eva’s footsteps, the women in my family have continued to dedicate their lives to the health and welfare of the community, with my grandmother and great-aunt qualifying as nurses, my maternal grandmother an ambulance driver, my mother a social worker, my step-mother a physiotherapist and my step-daughter also a paramedic. I have worked as a nurse in both UK and Australia, for the ambulance service, secondary care and primary care and as a health visitor.
I’m proud to say that my own daughters are continuing in the family tradition, my eldest is a qualified paramedic, fighting the daily challenges presented by the population and streets of Birmingham and my youngest daughter is a learning disability support worker with the deaf-blind community and is following in her great-great grandmother’s political footsteps having gained a degree in politics and being elected as President of the Green Party at University.
So all-in-all, the petite, frail, 94-year-old of my childhood was a force to be reckoned with, her influence lives on and I’m honoured to be able to call her Nanna Saxby!