The death of Dame Anita Roddick from a brain haemorrhage, after suffering from Hepatitis C for 30 years, was met with great shock by the many she inspired.
Two years after Anita Roddick found out from routine tests that for several decades she’d been carrying a painful and depressive disease, she finally broke the devastating news on her internet blog. “I have Hepatitis C,” she wrote on 14 February this year. “It’s a bit of a bummer but you groan and move on.”
The message’s selflessness defined a woman who devoted her life to ethical causes, dragging the ecological movement into the mainstream and making saving the planet fashionable. “What I can say is that having [the disease] means that I live with a sharp sense of my own mortality, which in many ways makes life more vivid and immediate,” she went on. “It makes me even more determined to just get on with things.” It was characteristic determination and optimism from the early pioneer of the burgeoning eco-movement.
Born in 1942 to an Italian immigrant couple in Littlehampton, Anita Roddick was always a self-described “outsider” with a “strong sense of moral outrage,” awakened when she found a Penguin book about the Holocaust at the age of 10. She trained as a teacher but a captivating opportunity on a kibbutz in Israel “turned into an extended trip around the world,” on which she would represent the UN.
Soon after the kibbutz experience, which ended abruptly after she was expelled for a practical joke, her mother introduced the young Anita to “a Scotsman named Gordon”. Our bond was instant,” Dame Anita wrote later. The pair married and had two daughters and, after opening a restaurant and a hotel in Littlehampton, Dame Anita created The Body Shop in 1976, unveiling the first shop in Brighton.