Influential women throughout 50 years of Leukaemia Care

March 8th is International Women’s Day, and we would like to use this Throwback Tuesday as an opportunity to thank all the fantastic women that have been involved with Leukaemia Care since it began in 1969.

The 8th March marks International Women’s Day and we would like to use this Throwback Thursday as an opportunity to thank all the fantastic women that have been involved with Leukaemia Care since it began in 1969 for their continued loyal service and support. Below are just a few of the influential women that have contributed to Leukaemia Care in the past, helping it to become the national charity that we are familiar with today.

Daphne Brown

Perhaps one of the most influential of our female founding members was Daphne Brown. Daphne was one of four parents involved in the inception of the charity. It was 1966 and in the Royal Marsden Hospital in London where she and her husband, Ken, first encountered the other founding members, Mr and Mrs Annette Norris. Sadly, both couples were visiting their sons who were being treated for leukaemia in the same ward. They quickly bonded and shared the opinion that parents in their situation desperately needed more care and advice at what is such a difficult time.

Not long after this, the very first meeting of the charity in 1967 was held in the kitchen belonging to Daphne Brown in Holland Park, London. There were thirteen founding members at the meeting, amongst which eight were women. Nearly all were mothers to children that either had leukaemia or had sadly lost their lives to the disease.

Daphne was later responsible for providing emotional and practical care to patients and their families during the 70s and early 80s, specifically in the Berkshire and Buckinghamshire areas, helping to pave the way for the charity expansion to all corners of the UK.

Barbara Warburton

Barbara Warburton joined “The Leukaemia Society”, as it was then known, early in 1969 soon after her son Guy, aged 26, had tragically lost his life to leukaemia just one week after being diagnosed.

After the death of her son, she was introduced to Leukaemia Care by a hospital in Birmingham. She was immediately supportive of the charity and volunteered herself as a Regional Co-ordinator or “Area Secretary” for the West Midlands and set about contacting others in a similar situation to hers. As a testament to her commitment to the charity, after Barbara joined, the West Midlands support group quickly grew in numbers from just a handful of people to over 100.

Barbara then moved from Worcester to Devon where she took over responsibility of Devon, Cornwall, the Scilly Isles and the Channel Islands, visiting as many affected people as possible.

In 1981, her involvement with the charity grew even stronger, as she became Fundraising Co-ordinator. Amongst many other wonderful events such as the annual draw, she arranged radio appeals, including an appeal with Paul Daniels in 1983 which raised £7,500, and with Sir Harry Secombe in 1987, which raised £9,000. She also organised a TV appeal in 1989 with Sarah Kennedy which brought in more than £27,000!

After working tirelessly with the charity for nearly three decades, helping countless amounts of families, Barbara sadly passed away in 1996.

“Tireless and apparently ageless, she never spared herself, and was still working and planning at full throttle up to a few weeks before her death. Second only to her three sons (Anthony, John and Richard) and their families, Leukaemia Care was her life.” – Words from Ann Ashley, a fellow colleague and dear friend of Barbara’s speaking about her passing in 1996.

Lady Pamela Hicks

Barbara Warburton was also instrumental in approaching our very first patron here at Leukaemia Care in 1988: The Lady Pamela Hicks.

Born in 1929, Lady Pamela Hicks is the younger sister of Patricia Mountbatten. Through her father, the late Earl Mountbatten of Burma, she is a first cousin of the Duke of Edinburgh and the great-great-grandchild of Queen Victoria.

During our 19th year as a registered charity, Lady Pamela Hicks very keenly accepted to become our first patron. Speaking about her new appointment in 1990, Lady Pamela Hicks said, “I felt very honoured to accept the invitation to become Patron of Leukaemia Care, and in May I was delighted to meet the Committee and many of the Area Secretaries.”

During her time as patron, she was always keen to involve herself with the charity, and helped to raise awareness of our charity, blood cancer and the issues facing patients and their families. She would also frequently write features to be included in the quarterly magazine addressing the good work of the charity and to express her thanks to those raising money for Leukaemia Care.

On 16th May 2006, Lady Pamela proudly opened the doors to our current headquarters here in Worcester, along with our other patron at the time Gary Lineker OBE.

After 18 loyal years of service and support, Lady Pamela Hicks relinquished her role of Patron in 2006.

Ann Ashley

In the 2018 Winter edition of our Leukaemia Matters magazine, we sadly reported the death of long-term friend, volunteer and supporter of Leukaemia Care, Ann Ashley.

Ann was an invaluable member of Leukaemia Care who became involved with the charity in 1975 after losing her husband to leukaemia. She worked tirelessly for over 30 years to provide support and a listening ear to those touched by leukaemia.

In the early days she volunteered to become Regional Co-ordinator, supporting those in her local area in Essex, and kept in touch with them for many years. From there she became a part of the Leukaemia Care team in our old offices in Worcester where she staffed the helpline for many years.

“I certainly believe that there is a place in modern society for a caring person who can perhaps relate to what is going through the mind of another person and offer the hand of friendship.” – Ann speaking about the Leukaemia Care helpline in 2000.

Even after leaving her later role as a trustee, Ann continued to be there for the charity. She would handwrite hundreds of Christmas cards each year, one for each of our volunteers to show her appreciation for everything they were doing. She would also take the time to knit a beautiful pram blanket and send it to Head Office if ever she heard news that a member of staff had become pregnant.

In 2016, Ann was invited to the Queen’s Garden Party as recognition for the number of donations of blood she had made throughout her lifetime. Just a year later, she was also presented with a Mayor’s civic award from the Mayor of Havering, recognising her years of dedicated service in supporting Leukaemia Care.

HRH (Her Royal Highness) the Duchess of Gloucester

In 2019, Leukaemia Care welcomed HRH the Duchess of Gloucester to mark 50 years of supporting those affected by leukaemia and associated blood cancers. Her Royal Highness, who is married to the Queen’s cousin the Duke of Gloucester, met beneficiaries of the charity’s work as well as fund-raisers who have dug deep to ensure the charity can continue its efforts.

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