Wednesday, March 21, 2018


Anne Bieźanek leaving Westminister Cathedral
after confronting Archbishop Heenan on 1 May 1964

I would just like to add a postscript to the recent International Women's Day (8 March 2018). It concerns one of my heroes, Anne Bieźanek.

She was a great woman and a formative influence.

She was a Roman Catholic doctor and married woman who opened a birth control clinic in Liverpool in the early 1960s. She was refused communion at her local church and only succeeded in receiving the sacrament when she took herself to the altar rails at Westminster Cathedral and outfaced Archbishop Heenan (as he then was). You can see her leaving the church after that confrontation in the photo above.

She then wrote a book which was in two parts. The first part detailed her efforts to set up her birth control clinic (St. Anthony of Padua) and her brushes with the RC church. The second part set out the history of the RC church's second class treatment of women down the ages.

The book, which was a Pan paperback, was banned in Ireland (under the contraceptive schedule). I requested a permit from the Department of Justice to import a copy, and, much to my amazement, actually got one. You can see a copy above.

I have referred to Anne a number of times since.

I did a short blog post when I discovered in 2012 that she had died a little over a year earlier.

Then, in February, Four Courts Press were canvassing on Twitter for people's female heroes and I put her forward. I didn't get either of the two prize volumes but at least she got an airing.

I then got to wondering to what extent she was remembered across the channel. I suspected not very much. But working out of the newspaper cutting on her death, and with the help of Google, I traced her grand-daughter and wrote to her to say her grand-mother was not entirely forgotten on this side of the channel.

I have just got a lovely reply from her explaining that she had always loved and admired her grand-mother but that it was only as she grew up and had a family herself that she came to realise the full extent and significance of her grand-mother's bravery and her achievement.

It is heartwarming to read her admiration and praise for her gran.

At prayer

Anne Bieźanek was a pioneer and a person of integrity and deserves to be remembered.

1 comment:

Póló said...

Liverpool Echo report of her death.