Mixed Blessings from a Cambridge Union Paperback – 2 Sep 2016
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"Throughout the memoir, Elizabeth's mother's love and determination are clearly evident. And Elizabeth's first meeting and subsequent relationship with her Nigerian barrister father make for riveting reading. Mixed Blessings is interwoven with Elizabeth's usual humour and insightfulness and I very much enjoyed reading it." Malorie Blackman OBE - writer and Children's Laureate: 2013-2015 "Mixed blessings from a Cambridge Union is a description of a difficult and turbulent life which resulted in significant achievements and a nurse who is an inspiration to so many. Elizabeth wants all nurses - but particularly those from BME backgrounds - to be inspired by her achievements in the profession that she loves. She has certainly achieved that with this book." Professor Jane Cummings, Chief Nursing Officer - England Visiting Professor - Joint Faculty of Health, Social Care & Education Kingston University & St George's University of London "What is this spirit within a young unmarried white girl that is so strong it makes her sacrifice so much, in order to hold on to her mixed-race baby? Elizabeth's autobiography is a well-documented and easy to read story of optimism in the face of adversity. It is also an important social history of an Irish family in the UK dealing with race relations during the 1940s and 50s. This is a very thought-provoking book that is gentle in its prose and riveting in its personal journey and positive message. I highly recommend this very enjoyable memoir." Conrad Bryan - Board member of AMRI (Association of Mixed Race Irish)
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What makes this work really stand out, however, is the story of her career - it was inspiring to find someone who, regardless of her own personal setbacks, found success and happiness through a determination to help others, and an unwillingness to accept the status quo within her profession.
Elizabeth has been diligent in using documentary evidence to craft her story. In searching for photographs of her early childhood she drew a blank but did discover contemporaneous documents which revealed the stigma, prejudice and struggles her mother experienced as a single mother from an Irish, Catholic background with a mixed race child. Her sacrifices were profound but it is clear she was a strong and resilient woman who, confronted with the attitudes of the time, did her best for the young Elizabeth. And, although her father was not part of her early life, Elizabeth discovered him at a time when he was a significant influence on her ambitions as a nurse and health visitor and could introduce her to her Nigerian family and its culture.
Elizabeth’s career in nursing developed rapidly along with her passions for sickle cell disease, thalassaemia and promoting the achievements of the Jamaican Scottish nurse Mary Seacole. She portrays herself with humility but recognises that her experiences are inspiring to others which cast her as a role model for nurses of all complexions.
This book is a fascinating read and gives real insight into this Cambridge union and the mixed blessings it brought.
A wonderful autobiographical work of social history, a woman born of duel heritage in Post-war Britain. An uplifting read. Yes! it includes race, religion, identity, class, prejudice and stigma but within the same pages are resilience, openness, honesty and optimism. It would be an understatement to say Dame Elizabeth stood up to these challenges with determination, as she reflects I detect no anger or self pity, just a fierce determination to channel energy for the greater good. We travel along her lifes journey with Elizabeth Furlong to Elizabeth Nneka Anionwu…Ireland, via Liverpool, via Nigeria, France, Scotland, Stafford, Birmingham, Wolvehampton, London from a union in Cambridge. A hard working woman with a deep sense of justice, morals and ethics and strong nursing vocation.
There is much humour, joy, laughter, sadness and hope within the book and I lost myself within the pages. I have no doubt Dame ELizabeth would never have believed she was inspiring others, tenacious, modest, an inspiration through her values and beliefs. Humble? Eclectic? Catholic? I suspect that sums Dame Elizabeth up, equally broad minded, in thought and attitude, liberal, flexible, personable, tolerant would I be so bold as to say unconventional? Yes! I must confess I long to meet her after reading her delightful, insightful and uplifting memoir.
As a fellow nurse and health visitor, I loved all the NHS and academic career details and learning about her work in sickle cell disease. And the Mary Seacole Memorial Statue Appeal, in which Elizabeth played a pivotal role from start to finish. But it is the underlying story of a mixed-race woman making her way in the world which has captured me most. The cover picture says it all: one small but determined young woman gave birth to a child whose heritage was obvious for all to see. And that child grew into another small, determined woman who forged a career changing lives and standing up to challenge and discrimination, not for herself, but for the benefit of millions of others.
Thank you for sharing such an intimate story, Elizabeth. I could not recommend your lovely book more.