Rosemary Crawley obituary

Other lives: Community worker and magistrate who helped young parents and founded a charity to support asylum seekers

My friend Rosemary Crawley, who has died aged 77 of heart failure, worked for many years at Birmingham Friendship housing association, helping to provide accommodation for young single mothers, including as the association’s director of accommodation and care services. She was also a magistrate and the founder of a Birmingham-based charity, Women with Hope, which provides support for female asylum seekers.

Born in Sedgley, Staffordshire, Rosemary was one of the 2,000 “brown babies” of African-American GIs; she never had any contact with her father. Although she was initially expected to be placed in a children’s home, she remained with her mother, Rose-Ellen Cartwright, a domestic servant, and her grandmother. The rest of the family ostracised her.

Growing up in Shenstone, she felt invisible and excluded, as later described in a memoir, Talking About Skin, that she wrote under the nom de plume Rosa Carter. She wrote that her life had been a journey from negative childhood experiences towards feeling happiness as a black woman.

After attending Darlaston grammar school, she was able to gain more positive affirmation when she met other black women during her nursing training (1962-65) at the Radcliffe Infirmary, Oxford. She went on to train as a midwife (1965-67) and then spent three years at the Sorrento Maternity hospital in Birmingham.

Having seen during that line of work the urgent need for social support of single school-age mothers, in 1970 Rosemary gave up midwifery to work for the Birmingham Friendship housing association. In 1984 she became the association’s director of accommodation, holding that post until 1992, when she left to become a self-employed trainer and management consultant for Lemos and Crane.

From 1986 to 1999 she served as a magistrate at the Victoria law courts in Birmingham, and she was also a trustee of the Shaftesbury housing association and the Housing Associations Charitable Trust, as well as a member of the Staffordshire police authority.

In the late 1990s, following organ failure from which she was not expected to survive after surgery, Rosemary suffered from severe depression. In the course of her recovery she found a haven in the Society of Friends (Quakers), whose values resonated with her own.

Her passion for social justice then drew her into championing female asylum seekers and she set up Women with Hope in 2018. She personally supported women when they were summoned for Home Office interviews. Rosemary was also treasurer of the Quaker Asylum and Refugee Network and a member of the national Quaker committee on justice issues. She was clerk to the Staffordshire area Quaker meeting.

At home, Rosemary was a talented craftswoman who enjoyed sewing, knitting, weaving, cooking and gardening. She also had an extensive knowledge of natural history and literature, as well as endless time for her many friends and her children and grandchildren.

Rosemary was married and divorced twice; she kept her second husband’s surname of Crawley. She is survived by her three sons, Christopher, Jonathan and James, from her first marriage, to Henry Coore, and three grandchildren.

Anthony Wilson

The GuardianTramp

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