Ursula was born in that part of Cheshire, England, across the River Mersey from the great sea-port of Liverpool. In Northern England the commerce engendered by the Industrial Revolution of the 18th and 19th Centuries reached its export markets by way of ships that sailed out of this great seaport which on their return brought back imports from all over the world. Liverpool's history goes back to Roman Times but beginning in the 18th Century, commerce made it a great and thriving city. Alas, in the latter part of the 20th Century, shipping goods by sea yielded to shipping them by road and air and the great sea-port died, but not before THE BEATLES put Liverpool forever on the map of change, CHANGE as Ursula says, being the only constant in life!
In the early part of the 19th Century and strapped for money to conduct his European wars, Napoleon sold what we now refer to as Mid-America, then owned by France, to the founding fathers of the United States of America. Thereafter, Benjamin Franklin and his co-freres turned their attention amongst other things, to putting their thumb prints on international commerce a print that is now larger than life. However, in their time Liverpool was perceived as the epicenter of commerce and so for that reason shortly thereafter America appointed consuls to Liverpool including at one point one of her great scholars, Nathaniel Hawthorne. While there he lived in a house just a few blocks away from the house wherein Ursula was born and given her own proclivity to writing, a fact of history and connection in which she revels.
Nathaniel Hawthorne's writings and musings on that phase of his life make for a historical picture of Liverpool during the 19th Century equal to none. Also no doubt his witness to the suffering of the hordes of people mostly from Ireland that came to that city seeking employment and sustenance and their abysmal living conditions deepened his comparison for humanity and sharpened his spirituality, gifts that have enriched the multitude of his readers. As a very young medical student at the University of Liverpool in the 1950's Ursula personally witnessed the tail end of this human suffering upon which in the 1950's the welfare state of Great Britain attempted to finally put a closure.
But perhaps we are getting ahead of ourselves.
At the outbreak of World War II her parents considered sending her and her two brothers to friends in America where they thought that they would be safe and protected from the Holocaust to come. One of the great passenger ships of the time, "The City of Benares", one of the fleet belonging to the Pacific and Orient shipping line was commandeered by the British Government to carry many children across the Atlantic Ocean to friends, relatives and willing foster parents in the United States and Canada. It was intended that Ursula and her brothers would be on that ship, but at the last moment her parents decided NOT to let them go. Alas, destiny had intervened because in September 1940, "The City of Benares" was torpedoed and sunk in Mid-Atlantic by a German submarine and most of the children were drowned. I am daily reminded of this tragedy because the photograph of my parents that I keep in my living room was taken at a dinner dance held for the shipping community of Liverpool on the "City of Benares" in May of 1939.
In 1940, England was saved from invasion by the dedication and skill of young men in their late teens and early 20's who flew the fighter planes that pounded the German Air Force in what history now refers to as the Battle of Britain; the occasion that led Winston Churchill to observe "Never in the field of human conflict (sic) has so much been owed by so many to so few." Nevertheless shortly thereafter the bombing of British cities started in earnest. After their home took a few hits Ursula and her brothers were evacuated to the mountains in Wales.
For a year Ursula did not go to school because her parents couldn't afford it. Nevertheless she used those lonely days to fine tune her writing skills and now wishes she still had those early manuscripts. Ironically she is still writing on a mountain top- this time in Western New York. Eventually she became a boarder at a school in Llandudno, North Wales where she and the other girls spent many nights in the cellars listening to the armadas of German Bombers droning overhead, flying to their rendezvous with death in Liverpool, Manchester and Birmingham. Most of the parents lived in these cities and when, as so often happened, we didn't hear from them for weeks on end due to disruption of transportation, postal and other services, we were left anxious about their safety and survival.
Ursula was accepted into medical school when she was just 16. Following graduation she engaged Psychiatry and soon deserted it believing it was too much of a mechanical and blinkered approach to what, even then, she believed were the results of blights on the human soul. However, her involvement with psychiatry led her to believe that these disorders of the soul began not only in infancy and childhood, but even before in the lives of their parents and forbears for countless generations before them. Her beliefs of course flew in the face of the commonly held theories about the causes of psychiatric disorders, which at that time were often referred to as madness or craziness. But all of this was good because it led to her romance and still vibrant love affair with Pediatrics, which she has practiced in England, Canada and The United States. Not too long into her Pediatric practice she sensed that it was too focused on the present and not enough on the future. Immunizations and Antibiotics had changed and were continually changing the content of Pediatric practice, while changes in Society were delivering new problems for children and families.
Her research and publications on these burgeoning problems, including learning and behavioral disorders, teen and unwanted pregnancies and the emotional and spiritual damage children were enduring due to the breakdown of so called traditional families, led her in 1965 to ask The American Academy of Pediatrics to take these issues seriously and to create a Section on Community Health. This they did and the many programs deriving from this section are now the most productive programs for children across the USA. The NEW MORBIDITY of which she spoke 35 years ago has now become the most important aspect of collective Pediatric endeavor. Along the way, as noted already, she drew attention to groups at high risk of morbidity and mortality resulting from unequal access to health care, particularly as this pertained to Mothers and Children. These efforts contributed in no small measure to the establishment of the 3-tiered approach to Peri-natal Care that is now accepted practice.
A word now about those who preceded her in their concern for Mothers and Children and on whose magnificent commitment and achievements she built her own brings an interesting historical note to her journey. Amongst the small band of courageous women who pestered and lobbied the United States Congress to establish a Federal Bureau that would overlook the welfare of children was Rose Hawthorne, the daughter of Nathaniel. One of Ursula's first appointments following her years at Yale University was that of Pediatric Consultant for the state of North Carolina, which was funded by The Children's Bureau which Rose Hawthorne and her compatriots founded in 1912. So not only was Ursula born in a house in England near to the one where Nathaniel Hawthorne had lived when he was American Consul in Liverpoo,l but his daughter also tangentially touched her life through the support she received for her work from funds allocated by the Children's Bureau which Rose helped to established.
Ursula lost her parents and biological family at a relatively young age but she exults in the world wide family she has created not only through friends and colleagues but in a very special way with needy children. This latter flows from her own childhood when having lost so much during World War II, her parents could not afford to pay for her schooling, so an arrangement was made with the Loreto Nuns in Wales to take her as a school boarder on a learn now - pay later basis. Also there was an understanding that when her parents regained their financial stability, the Nuns would be reimbursed two-fold, which of course eventually took place (probably four-fold). However, several years later, remembering the anguish this had caused and after she started to earn money following the 13 years of her medical training (and in those days, specialist medical training put us on the poverty line) she started a program of scholarships and bursaries for children whose parents for various reasons, found themselves in the same situation as her Parents had been so many years ago. The first of these went to children attending the Loreto School that had helped her out, subsequently they were given directly to needy and deserving students mostly at the high school and college levels. So far numbering 29 in all. Many of these individuals have and are presently pursuing fulfilling and giving careers in many parts of the world. Additionally she has been surrogate Mum and Home to many troubled children and adults, a reaching out that reflects her belief in the inter-connectedness and inter-dependence of humanity and the LOVE of which she wrote 35 years ago.
When all is said and all is done
There will remain only one thing that matters
To have loved and to have communicated this love
Beyond the barriers of Language, Race or Creed
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