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Health pioneers “meet” at new Liverpool Hotel

THREE health pioneers have been honoured today at Liverpool’s newest hotel.

Following a public vote, meeting rooms at the Novotel Liverpool Paddington Village have been named after three people connected to the city who made their names within the science and health fields.

Liverpool City Council ran an online poll last year and voters were asked to select one pioneer from a group of eight. Almost 900 votes were cast and Kitty Wilkinson, Fanny Calder and Dr Letitia Eva Obeng topped the poll and now each have a high-tech meeting room named after them.

The room plaques were officially installed today, Monday, 10 January, which is also Dr Obeng’s 97th birthday.

Kitty Wilkinson (1786-1860)
Kitty Wilkinson came to Liverpool from Ireland with her parents aged nine. During the cholera epidemic she offered the use of her boiler to neighbours to wash clothes and later campaigned for public baths and washhouses to be established.

Fanny Calder (1838-1923)
Described by Florence Nightingale as the “saint of the laundry, cooking and health”, Fanny Calder was born in Liverpool and was the youngest of 11 children. She started a Ladies Committee that would set up the Liverpool School of Domestic Science followed by the Northern Union of Training Schools of Cookery. The Liverpool school would eventually become part of Liverpool Polytechnic (now Liverpool John Moores University).

Dr Letitia Obeng (1925- )
Dr Obeng was the first Ghanaian woman to gain a doctorate in the sciences. She completed her PhD in freshwater sciences at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine in 1964, after becoming the first Ghanaian woman to earn a BSc in zoology and a MSc in parasitology, both from the University of Birmingham. Her research in Liverpool was into the black fly and its connection to river blindness. After completing her doctorate, Dr Obeng returned to Ghana where she established and directed the Institute of Aquatic Biology for ten years. Prior to her retirement, she served as the first female Regional Director for Africa at the United Nations Environment Programme.

Dr Obeng also holds a DSc from Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology and is a fellow and former president of the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences, is a silver medallist and life member of the Royal Society of Arts and was awarded the Order of the Star of Ghana, the highest award given by the Republic of Ghana.

The 16-storey, 221-bedroomed Novotel Liverpool will be the highest hotel in the city and is part of the £1bn Paddington Village development that is set to become an international hub for life sciences, health care and technology. The council-owned hotel is franchised by Accor Hotels and will be managed by Legacy Hotels and Resorts on the council’s behalf. It will open in summer 2022.

The hotel is being built by Morgan Sindall Construction and was designed by Ryder Architecture.

The other pioneers in the online poll were: Noel Chavasse, Dr William Duncan, Alwen Evans, Mary Kingsley, and Irene Mabel Marsh.

Cllr Sarah Doyle, cabinet member, development and economy, said:

“Naming these rooms has been a real opportunity for us all to learn more about the incredible pioneers who were born in Liverpool or who came to the city to study or work. All three women have had a profound effect on the lives of potentially millions of people across the world.

“It’s humbling to recall that Kitty Wilkinson’s thinking during the cholera epidemic remains sound advice as we continue to fight coronavirus and that Fanny Calder’s domestic science school eventually became part of Liverpool Polytechnic, now Liverpool John Moores University.

“I’m particularly pleased that the public recognised the contribution of Dr Obeng, who took over a third of the votes in our poll. Dr Obeng was not only a trailblazer in her field but was and still is an inspiration both for women in science and also for the people of Ghana. I’m delighted she has given us permission to use her name.”

Dr Letitia Obeng said:

“I am truly surprised, honoured and humbled that the city of Liverpool wants to name a meeting room in the Novotel Liverpool Paddington Village after me!

“I am also delighted that an alumna of the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine will have a room named after her, honouring our famous school.

“What a truly wonderful vision to develop this Knowledge Quarter! When I first went to LSTM to do my PhD way back in the early 60s, Liverpool was on the international music map because of The Beatles. It is my hope that Liverpool will have another international No1 with this focus on the life sciences in Paddington Village. Congratulations, and I wish Liverpool every success!”

Andy Townsend, chief executive officer, Legacy Hotels and Resorts said:

“We are thrilled to be able to name our new three meetings rooms with an appropriate sense of place and purpose on the campus – with stunning views over the city’s skyline, the River Mersey and on to Wirral.

“I have no doubt these pioneering women would be proud to be recognised in this way.”