Anita Roddick, Pioneer Whose Dreams Turned the High Street Green, Dies at 64
Dame Anita Roddick, the ethical beauty pioneer and environmental campaigner who founded the Body Shop and turned it into a global brand, died suddenly yesterday after a brain hemorrhage at the age of 64.
Dame Anita, who combined a passion for social change with a natural business nous to become one of the leading figures in the environmental movement, died at St Richard's hospital, Chichester, surrounded by her family.
In a statement, the family said she collapsed after complaining of a headache on Sunday evening. "Gordon, Justine and Sam Roddick are very sad to announce that, after suffering a major brain hemorrhage, Anita Roddick died at 6.30 this evening at the age of 64," the statement said. "Mrs Roddick was admitted to the hospital's intensive care unit and her husband Gordon and two daughters, Sam and Justine, were with her when she died."
The prime minister paid tribute to Dame Anita last night, calling her one of the country's "true pioneers".
"She campaigned for green issues for many years before it became fashionable to do so, and inspired millions to the cause by bringing sustainable products to a mass market," Gordon Brown said. "She will be remembered not only as a great campaigner, but also as a great entrepreneur."
Tributes also poured in from activists, and environmentalists. John Bird, the founder of the Big Issue magazine sold by the homeless, called Dame Anita the mother of the publication, after she helped to set it up in 1990. "There is absolutely no way the Big Issue would have happened if Anita and her husband Gordon hadn't started a business that created a social engine that drove people like us to get creative," Mr Bird said.
It was also in 1990 that Dame Anita set up Children on the Edge, a charity for children in eastern Europe and Asia affected by conflicts, disabilities and HIV/Aids, after visiting Romanian orphanages.
In February, she called for hepatitis C to be taken more seriously as a "public health challenge", revealing that she had contracted the virus from a blood transfusion while giving birth to her youngest daughter, Sam, in 1971. As a consequence she suffered from cirrhosis of the liver. "What I can say is that having hep C means that I live with a sharp sense of my mortality, which in many ways makes life more vivid and immediate. It makes me even more determined to just get on with things."
A child of Italian migrants, Dame Anita said her sense of natural justice was stirred by reading a book about the Holocaust at the age of 10.
She opened the first Body Shop in Brighton in 1976 with the help of a £4,000 loan, hoping to provide some income for herself and her two daughters while her husband was abroad.
Dame Anita, a former teacher who had also worked for the UN, said she had no training or business acumen, but had decided that the products should be natural, sold in reusable containers and bear handwritten labels. The shop was painted green because it was the only paint that would cover the damp, moldy walls.
Her innovation chimed with the emergence of a global green consciousness. "The original Body Shop was a series of brilliant accidents," she said later. "It had a great smell, it had a funky name ... It was incredibly sensuous. We recycled everything, not because we were environmentally friendly, but because we didn't have enough bottles."
In 1984, when it floated on the London Stock Exchange, the Body Shop was valued at £8m, but that rapidly rose to £300m. By 2004, the chain had more than 77 million customers across the globe and was the second most trusted brand in the UK.
In one of her last interviews, published earlier this month, Dame Anita made light of the idea of retiring, saying: "I don't even understand the word. Campaigning is in my DNA."
© 2007 The Guardian