Dame Cicely Mary Strode Saunders

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Cicely Mary Strode Saunders, OM, DBE, FRCS, FRCP, FRCN

Birthplace: Barnet, Hertfordshire, England UK
Death: July 14, 2005 (87)
South London, Middlesex, England UK
Immediate Family:

Daughter of Philip Gordon Saunders and Mary Christian Saunders
Wife of Professor Marian Bohusz-Szyszko
Sister of John Frederick Stacy Saunders and Christopher Gordon Strode Saunders

Occupation: Nurse, social worker, physician, writer
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Dame Cicely Mary Strode Saunders

Cicely Mary Strode Saunders Cicely Saunders was a nurse, social worker who founded the first modern hospice, St. Christopher's Hospice, in 1967 to provide palliative care to those in need. She was born in Barnet, Hertfordshire, in 1918, the eldest of three children, into a well-off but unhappy family.

Her domineering father was an estate agent, and they lived in some comfort in a large house with lawns and tennis courts.

Her mother was cold and withdrawn. She was given into the care of her unmarried Aunt Daisy when she was one, only to be snatched back again through jealousy of Daisy’s influence.

She was sent to Roedean School when she was 10. Taller than the other girls, she felt she never fitted in, which, she said, gave her a feeling for people who were outsiders. She also suffered from a painful and slightly crooked spine, and was made to lie flat on the floor for 40 minutes a day.

There werethree significant relationships with men who were all Poles, two of whom were within sight of death.

One of the terminally ill patients she nursed was David Tasma, a Polish-Jewish refugee who, having escaped from the Warsaw ghetto, had worked as a waiter. She fell in love with him, and he left her his wordly wealth of £500 to be "a window in your home". That act, which helped germinate the idea that became St Christopher's is remembered by a plain sheet of glass in the entrance to the hospice.

In the late 1940s, Saunders began working part-time at St Luke's Home for the Dying Poor in Bayswater

In 1951 she began to study at St Thomas's to be a doctor. She qualified in 1957. A year later, she began working at the Roman Catholic St Joseph's hospice in Hackney, east London, where she was to stay for seven years, and researched pain control.

While there she met a second Pole, Antoni Michniewicz, a patient with whom she fell in love. His death, in 1960, coincided with the death of her father, and another friend, and put her into what she later called a state of "pathological grieving". She had already decided to set up her own hospice, focusing on cancer patients, and said that Michniewicz's death had shown her that "as the body becomes weaker, so the spirit becomes stronger".

She fell in love for a third time with the Polish artist Professor Marian Bohusz-Szyszko. Passing a gallery in 1963, she saw in the window a painting, a sombre blue Crucifixion Of Christ. She went in and bought another painting by the same artist, Christ Calming The Waters. She was so moved by it that she wrote to him, and he wrote back. He was 18 years older than her, but she fell in love with him and covered the walls of St Christopher's, where he came to live and paint, with his pictures. They married in 1980

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Dame Cicely Mary Strode Saunders's Timeline

June 22, 1918
Hertfordshire, England UK
July 14, 2005
Age 87
South London, Middlesex, England UK