Women’s History Month: Professor Dame Elizabeth Anionwu

Professor Dame Elizabeth Anionwu DBE, CBE, FRCN, PhD is the Emeritus Professor of Nursing at the University of West London (UWL). 

Prof. Dame Elizabeth Anionwu (UWL)

Elizabeth was the first UK sickle cell/thalassemia nurse counselor and helped establish the Brent Sickle Cell and Thalassemia Counselling Centre in 1979. Elizabeth has spent her life as a nurse and a tutor, working with black and minority communities in London. She has received a fellowship from the Royal College of Nursing and been named one of the 70 most influential nurses and midwives in the history of the NHS. 

Elizabeth was born in Birmingham in 1947 to an Irish Catholic mother and a Nigerian father who were both students at Cambridge University. Born out of wedlock Elizabeth had a tough childhood living in children’s homes for the first 9 years of her life. At 16 she became a school nurse assistant and at 18 started her training in London. In the 1970s Dame Elizabeth became a health visitor in Brent, London and had her first encounter with sickle cell anemia – a painful disease found mostly in African and Caribbean families – which at the time was often overlooked. 

Prof. Dame Elizabeth Anionwu and Charmagne Barnes, Associate Pro Vice Chancellor and Dean of the College of Nursing, Midwifery and Healthcare (UWL)


Elizabeth lived in Acton for 48 years and taught nursing at the University of West London. She founded the Mary Seacole Centre for Nursing Practice  and prior to retirement in 2007 Elizabeth was University’s Dean of the School of Adult Nursing Studies. 




Mary Seacole Statue at St Thomas’ Hospital (wikimedia: Sumit Surai)

Elizabeth was the vice-chairperson of the successful Mary Seacole memorial statue appeal and helped to raise £750,000 towards the statue which was unveiled in 2016 at St Thomas’s Hospital, London (Jamaican Mary Seacole treated British soldiers on the battlefield in the Crimean War). Elizabeth received the British Journal of Nursing Lifetime Achievement Award in March 2018, along with many other accolades throughout her career.  

Dame Anionwu has written and contributed towards many important works in the field of nursing and sickle cell anemiaElizabeth’s memoirs ‘Mixed Blessings from a Cambridge Union’ were published in 2016 (a copy is available at UWL’s Paul Hamlyn Library in Ealing and the Berkshire Institute for Health ref. 610.73092/ANI)

‘Mixed blessings from a Cambridge union’ by Elizabeth Anionwu, 201












UWL Archives

UWL archives hold some interesting collections of photos of nurses from the 1960s and 1970s within materials from the Wolfson School of Nursing, Westminster as well as various nursing medals from former Reading and Berkshire nursing institutions. For more information contact library@uwl.ac.uk. Here is an example of some of the images mentioned:

Wolfson School of Nursing

Wolfson School of Nursing

Wolfson School of Nursing

London Geller College of Hospitality and Tourism: Mary King

The Acton Hotel and Catering School opened in 1948 and was run by Mary King and Gerry Hudswell. The School became renowned all over the world due to its knowledgeable teaching staff who had experience of working in the hotel and catering industry. After moving to Ealing Technical College in 1957 it then moved to its current premises at St Mary’s Road when it became the Ealing School of Hotel keeping and Catering in 1962. Later that year a restaurant was opened to give the local community an affordable lunch and was named ‘The Mary King room’. The public could eat lunch for 7s 6d (approximately 35p) which was cooked by the School’s trainee chefs. Mary King retired the following year in 1963. The Mary King room was the forerunner to today’s Pillars Restaurant which still offers a fine dining experience cooked by students of the London Geller College of Hospitality and Tourism (LGCHT). Mary King’s memory lives on through The Mary King Award which is awarded annually to deserving students of the College. Below are some photos of Mary King from the LGCHT archive:

Mr Victor Ceserani and Miss Mary King, 1953

1953 staff: Back row, L-R: Mr. P. B. White, Mr. V. Ceserani, Mr. E. Jonckheere, Mr. R. G. Hudswell, Mr. S. Grey, Mr. F. P. Sharman, Mr. B. A. Liebold. Front row, L-R: Mrs. J. Bowes, Miss N. Brien, Mrs. N. Bradley, Miss E.F. M. King, Miss K. Witchell, Miss M. Hisee, Mrs. G.G. Cook

L-R: Miss E. F. M. King, Mrs. Eyinade Omidiora, Margaret Wallbank