Jean Davis obituary

Other lives: Social worker who took up posts as an almoner at hospitals in London

My mother, Jean Davis, who has died aged 93, was a lifelong Marxist and trade unionist. She committed her life and career as a social worker to working against all kinds of inequality.

She was born in Golders Green, north London, to Minnie (nee Lewis), a wartime ambulance driver, and Sidney Jacobs, a director of the Times Furnishing company. When the second world war broke out Jean was boarding at Badminton school, Bristol, and the school was soon evacuated to Devon. She went on to study sociology at the London School of Economics, where she graduated with a first.

Like many young Jewish people at the time, she joined the Communist party, in 1945. Two years later, she hitchhiked across Europe to represent Britain at the International Socialist Student Federation, then spent a year in Hungary building up its ties with the UK. Jean was a great internationalist with an appreciation of other cultures; later, she lived in France and Italy.

She met and married Wally Davis in 1949. They were both active Communist party members in north London, standing in council elections and fighting local battles such as the St Pancras rent strikes of 1960. Jean stopped calling herself a communist in the 1980s when ultra-left factions took over the party. She briefly joined the Labour party, but left in protest against the Iraq war.

In 1955, after having two children, she won a place on the first LSE social work training course, run by Eileen Younghusband. Another two children followed and Jean embarked on a career as a social worker; she took up posts as a “lady almoner” at Westminster Children’s and Great Ormond Street hospitals.

In 1965 Wally, a biochemist, went to work for the World Health Organisation in Lyon, France. Jean accompanied him, but was frustrated by not being allowed to work and returned to London in 1971. The couple divorced the following year.

During the 70s Jean chaired the Camden community health council, which was dedicated to improving the NHS. In the 80s she moved into social work training, running the Student Unit at Hammersmith hospital. She pioneered joint-practice courses for social workers, nurses and doctors, and contributed to journals and textbooks.

When she retired in 2001, she moved to Norwich, where she became active in CND and the Norfolk Jewish peace group, and supported the Palestinian Solidarity campaign. She liked people, culture, food and walking, and was a prodigious embroiderer and knitter.

She is survived by her four children, Judith, Jonny, Laura and me, seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Marian Davis

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
David Davis obituary
Lawyer and journalist forced to flee apartheid South Africa after passing government files to the then banned ANC

Robert Walpole

20, Jun, 2018 @12:28 PM

Article image
David Peryer obituary
Other lives: Chair of the British Agencies for Adoption and Fostering

Adrian Peryer

25, Jan, 2018 @3:38 PM

Article image
Gillian Ballance obituary
Other lives: Social worker and lecturer who did much to help asylum seekers and refugees

Berry Dicker

01, Apr, 2019 @4:25 PM

Article image
Helena Vernon obituary
Other lives: Social worker in Bristol and a committed fan of the Glastonbury festival

Dick Vernon

04, Oct, 2020 @3:55 PM

Article image
Benjamin Lee obituary
Other lives: Dedicated doctor and accomplished musician

Hermione Lee

25, Feb, 2019 @5:30 PM

Article image
Deborah Lavin obituary
Other lives: English teacher who wrote plays and poetry

Elizabeth Berns

09, Jun, 2020 @4:47 PM

Article image
Bertha Sokoloff obituary
Other lives: Political activist who was caught up in the Battle of Cable Street in 1936

Sally Sokoloff

10, Jun, 2018 @4:25 PM

Article image
Max Levitas obituary
Other lives: Lifelong communist who served as a councillor in the East End of London

Emdad Rahman

21, Nov, 2018 @4:20 PM

Article image
Tony Farsky obituary
Other lives: Dedicated teacher and communist activist

Jon Renard

03, Dec, 2018 @6:00 PM

Article image
Margaret Kaye obituary
Other lives: Social worker who was a friend and protector to children from disadvantaged backgrounds

Paul Greengrass

31, Jan, 2020 @11:37 AM