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Childless woman dies leaving her million plus fortune to charity

By Nina Steele 

Helen Ruddock

Helen Ruddock

Although Helen Ruddock, who is from the UK, died in 2015, aged 96, her story is only making headline news now, thanks to the fund that has been set up as per her will. She is said to have shown a great deal of passion for improving the lives of poor people in Africa, and was particularly keen to “fund water and sanitation projects to improve the provision of clean water and hygiene practices in Africa”. A music teacher and a farmer for most of her life, her fortune was acquired through living a frugal life and being a keen saver. Her story is all the more remarkable considering that she was widowed in 1970, aged just 51. Instead of letting her loss define the rest of her life, like many women of her generation for whom resilience is a character trait, she bravely carried on with her life. Now with her legacy, she is leaving her mark on the world.

With the world having just celebrated Mother’s Day, the timing of this story could not have been any better in my view. For here is a woman who lived her life to the full and through her teaching and her donation, made a valuable contribution to society both while she was alive and in death. Even though she was not childless by choice (she lost two children in childbirth), her zest for life, even after the tragedies she suffered, is the antithesis of the image of the childless woman we are often fed, as sad and unfulfilled.

Her story reminds me of another woman who used to be our neighbour. She too was in her 90s and lost her husband during the Second World War. As mentioned above, as is typical of women of that generation, she showed a great deal of stoicism when it came to discussing her loss. What was done was done, and nothing was going to change that. She too didn’t have any children and chose not to remarry. She was always a delight to be around. Her positive spirit always shone through.

We are seeing more and more of these remarkable childless women. Women who are proof once again that we are ultimately the masters of our own destinies. With the bias against childless people still heavily tilted against women, I hope that younger generations of women reading these stories, can make better choices for themselves.

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