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Sunderland author pens tribute to inspirational grandmother who saved lives in China

A Wearside author has penned a has penned a moving tribute to the beloved grandmother who did so much to inspire her.

By Kevin Clark
Sunday, 5th December 2021, 10:15 am

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Life coach Dr Rebecca Williams Dinsdale, from Penshaw, has previously written two books aimed at helping people seek positivity and reflection.

Now she has delved into her own family history and discovered how her grandmother positively affected the lives of thousands of people across the globe.

Ivy Madeline Williams was born in 1904 into an affluent family on the South coast but she and her five siblings were plunged into severe poverty when their father became an alcoholic.

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In 1927 she trained as a medical and surgical nurse before moving to Glasgow’s Gorbals where she became a midwife.

In the the 1930s, she moved to China and took a position in a Manchurian Mission Hospital.

Rebecca discovered her grandmother went to China with the Irish Presbyterian Church because they were the only people who would take her as she was thought to be too frail to travel.

Having been brought up in poverty and constantly being hungry, she was amazed when she was able to eat freely on the steamship voyage to Shanghai – a city that she said was the wickedest place she’d ever encountered, with child slavery, vice and drugs.

Dr Rebecca Williams Dinsdale, from Penshaw, has previously written two books aimed at helping people seek positivity and reflection.

In Manchuria, she ran a Mission Women’s Hospital in a gated community alongside a school and a church to protect them from local bandits and she enjoyed walks along the Great Wall of China.

“She helped so many people both directly and indirectly,” said Rebecca.

“For instance, in China she trained the local women to be nurses so they could be self-sufficient, and goodness knows how many lives this saved over the years.

“This led to her building beautiful friendships and being trusted by her team to go and deal with the occupying Japanese forces. There were frequent examples of her going to plead for those imprisoned unfairly.

Ivy Madeline Williams

"She was a quiet, devout, and courageous lady who defied convention and lived as a truly emancipated woman.”

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Rebecca, who became seriously ill with Glandular Fever at 17 and is still affected by ME more than two decades later, has spent the last 10 years researching and writing ‘Inspiring Ivy’, which is based on the letters her grandmother sent back home from her adventures.

It is in four sections, covering her life as a trainee nurse in the 1920’s, her time in Manchuria, her wartime marriage and lastly her life with Rebecca as an octogenarian living in Penshaw.

“She truly was a remarkable lady,” said Rebecca.

“She learned the Chinese language in a year and had so many adventures, yet she was a humble and a very giving person.

"I was blessed to have her as my grandmother and best friend. Her goodness needed to be shared.

“The way I look at life stems from her integrity and courage. I felt she deserved a book written about her and as I started researching, I discovered more and more that made me even prouder of her life.”

Inspiring Ivy: Courage and Care in China and Beyond by Dr Rebecca Williams Dinsdale is now available. Visit www.drrrebecca.org.uk for details.

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