An extraordinary life: Elizabeth Anionwu

An extraordinary life: Elizabeth Anionwu

Nursing Standard

Thelma Agnew, Commissioning Editor

Elizabeth Anionwu

Celebrated nurse Elizabeth Anionwu spent 9 years in care as a child, and her early life was marked by racism and the stigma of illegitimacy.  In her new book she reveals how she found her Nigerian father, and why being an ‘outsider’ made her a better nurse

Before she sat down to write her autobiography, Elizabeth Anionwu interviewed 30 friends and relatives. There were details she couldn’t remember, gaps she needed to fill.  But she also did it because she was determined that this would not be an ‘I, I, I’ memoir; she wanted other people’s perspectives.

These reflections on Professor Anionwu at different stages in her life – from the thoroughly English nursing student of the 1960s to the ‘radical health visitor’ of the 70s and today’s eminent professor and campaigner, proud of her Nigerian and Irish heritage – are peppered through Mixed Blessings from a Cambridge Union.

People who knew her 50 or 40 years ago recall a bright, politically curious young woman, who, despite her shyness, was prepared to ask difficult questions. She almost failed her health visiting course after daring to challenge a service’s dubious approach to collecting data on patient ethnicity.

The reflections also deliver one of the book’s jolting moments.  A friend, Janet, says: ‘You were doing well in nursing, but I do remember saying to my sister it’s a shame that Elizabeth will never be able to go very far in nursing because of her colour…

Read the entire article here.

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