A life-coach and author who has inspired hundreds of people with her work has written a book about the remarkable lady who gave her some of the positive traits that have helped her to help others. 

Dr Rebecca Williams Dinsdale from Penshaw has written two books aimed at helping people seek positivity and reflection. Lifejoy ~ Your Manual for Resilient Living and Your Lifejoy Year ~ An Enriching Thought for Every Day. Now however, she has delved into her own family tree and discovered that her grandmother’s life not only provided her with a role model to follow but that she also 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 sadly her father became addicted to alcohol and she and her five siblings were plunged into severe poverty. In 1927 she trained as a medical and surgical nurse in Weymouth Hospital before relocating to Glasgow’s notorious Gorbals where she became a midwife. Her next career move took her to Moorfields Hospital in London to specialise in eyes.

But it was her next move to work in a Manchurian Mission Hospital in the 1930’s that had the most impact on the many hundreds of people she helped during her time in Asia and subsequently Rebecca herself.

“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.”

Rebecca discovered that 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 to other lands. Having been brought up in poverty and constantly being hungry she was amazed at the contrast where 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.

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

Rebecca’s upbringing was far removed from the hardships endured by her grandmother but despite her positive outlook on life, she herself has had to deal with adversity and personal difficulties. At the age of 17, Rebecca was seriously ill with Glandular Fever which meant that she couldn’t function physically. The effects lasted for more than two decades, and she spent many months of each year in bed, housebound or hospitalised. Now she is still affected by ME which has limited the things she can physically do. Despite this, she completed her Degree, Masters and Doctorate; became a successful author and helps other people by offering coaching and counselling sessions.

Rebecca 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.

“I’m blessed to have had such a resilient soul as a grandmother and as well as discovering all about her amazing life, I now know a little bit more about myself which I can use to help others just like she did. I miss her a lot but her spirit lives on and I hope my readers will be inspired by her life just as I was.”

Inspiring Ivy: Courage and Care in China and Beyond by Dr Rebecca Williams Dinsdale is released on 28 November.